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[Markets] Chicago PD Quickly Dump Smollett Hate-Hoax Docs Before Case Sealed By Judge

A last minute FOIA records request in the Jussie Smollett hate-hoax investigation was fulfilled by the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday - shortly before the case was sealed by a Cook County judge

Livid Chicago law enforcement officials were beside themselves on Tuesday after all 16 felony charges were dismissed against Smollett for allegedly staging his own hate crime with two Nigerian-born brothers

"The Chicago Police Department is not happy. Our Superintendent expressed his displeasure about the charges being dropped," one CPD officer told Fox News. "The Department exhausted manpower and numerous hours investigating this case to make sure it was handled properly."

"The police department worked super hard on this. They put a ton of manpower on it because they knew it sounded wrong from the beginning," another Chicago law enforcement source told Fox

"What’s interesting is that the former chief-of-staff of Michelle Obama called the state's attorney about the case, saying the (Smollett) family was concerned. Shortly after, the state's attorney recused herself and now the charges are dropped and the court has sealed the record." 

Except - they didn't seal the record fast enough, as CPD responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by CWB Chicago and other outlets - delivering investigative files on Smollett

While the details are compelling, perhaps the most damning statement is found at the beginning of the report, which states "Investigation revealed that a plan was formulated and put into play by SMOLLETT to conduct a staged incident where SMOLLETT was beaten by [redacted] and [redacted] posing as persons other than themselves. 

The Redacted names are undoubtedly the Osundario brothers - who claim Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack. 

More highlights: 

 

Published:3/27/2019 1:44:17 PM
[Markets] Did Mueller Know There Was No Trump-Russia Collusion Before The Midterms?

Authored by Andrew McCarthy via FoxNews.com,

Almost from the start, Democrats and their media echo chamber have moved the goal posts on collusion. The original allegation – the political narrative that the Clinton campaign, through Obama administration alchemy, honed into a counterintelligence investigation – was that that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s “cyberespionage” attacks on the 2016 election.

But there was no evidence that candidate Trump and his surrogates had anything to do with the Kremlin’s hacking and propaganda schemes. And no supporting logic. The Russians are very good at espionage. They neither needed nor wanted American help, their operations predated Trump’s entry into the campaign, and some of those operations were anti-Trump.

Nevertheless, in short order, that endlessly elastic word, collusion, was being stretched to the breaking point – covering every conceivable type of association between Trump associates and Russia.

Some of these were unseemly, such as the Trump Tower meeting, an apparently unsuccessful effort to obtain campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton. More of them were routine, such as incoming national-security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the post-election transition. But none of these collusion episodes were criminal. The only “collusion” prosecutors care about is conspiracy; a criminal agreement to violate a federal penal statute – such as the laws against hacking.

There was never any such evidence. There was just unverified, sensational, hearsay nonsense – the Steele dossier generated by the Clinton campaign.

Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded that there was no criminal collusion, the question arises: When during their exhaustive 22-month investigation did prosecutors realize they had no case?

I put it at no later than the end of 2017. I suspect it was in the early autumn.

By the time Mueller was appointed on May 17, 2017, the FBI had been trying unsuccessfully for nearly a year to corroborate the dossier’s allegations. Top bureau officials have conceded to congressional investigators that they were never able to do so – notwithstanding that, by the time of Mueller’s appointment, the Justice Department and FBI had relied on the dossier three times, in what they labeled “VERIFIED” applications, to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

And make no mistake about what this means. In each and every application, after describing the hacking operations carried out by Russian operatives, the Justice Department asserted:

The FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Donald Trump’s] campaign.

Yes, the Justice Department continued to make that allegation to the secret federal court for months after Trump was sworn in as president.

Notably, in June 2017, about a month after Mueller took over the investigation, while he was still getting his bearings, the Justice Department and the FBI went on to obtain a fourth FISA warrant. Yet again, they used the same unverified information. Yet again, they withheld from the court the fact that this information was generated by the Clinton campaign; that the Clinton campaign was peddling it to the media at the same time the FBI was providing it to the court; and that Christopher Steele, the informant on whom they were so heavily relying, had misled the bureau about his media contacts.

You know what’s most telling about this fourth FISA warrant? The fact that it was never renewed. The 90-day authorization lapsed in September 2017. When it did, Mueller did not seek to extend it with a new warrant.

Think about that for a moment. President Trump fired FBI Director Comey on May 9, 2017. Eight days later, on May 17, Mueller was named special counsel. This appointment effectively wrested control of the Trump-Russia counterintelligence investigation from acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, transferring it to the special counsel.

By August 2017, Mueller had removed the lead investigator, Agent Peter Strzok over the rabidly anti-Trump texts he’d exchanged with Lisa Page, a top FBI lawyer who served as McCabe’s counsel. Page herself had resigned in May. Meanwhile, the FBI reassigned its top counsel, James Baker (who later resigned); and the bureau’s inspection division referred McCabe to the Justice Department’s inspector general for leaking investigative information and then lying about it (and McCabe was later fired and referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution).

This means that by autumn 2017 when it would have been time to go back to the court and reaffirm the dossier’s allegations of a Trump-Russia espionage conspiracy, the major FBI officials involved in placing those unverified allegations before the court had been sidelined. Clearly up to speed after four months of running the investigation, Mueller decided not to renew these allegations.

Once the fourth warrant lapsed in September, investigators made no new claims of a Trump-Russia conspiracy to the court. The collusion case was the Clinton campaign’s Steele dossier, and by autumn 2017, the investigators now in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation were unwilling to stand behind it.

In order to get the FISA warrants, the Justice Department and the FBI had had to allege that there was probable cause to believe former Trump adviser Carter Page was an agent of Russia. Under FISA law, that requires alleging that he was knowingly involved in clandestine activity on behalf of Russia, and that this clandestine activity involved probable violations of American criminal law – offenses such as espionage. Yet, despite the fact that this representation was made four times in sworn “verified” applications, Mueller never charged Page with a crime – not espionage, not false statements, nothing.

When Special Counsel Mueller closed his investigation last week, he almost certainly knew for about a year and a half that there was no collusion case. Indeed, the indictments that he did bring appeared to preclude the possibility that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin.

Yet the investigation continued. The Justice Department and the special counsel made no announcement, no interim finding of no collusion, as Trump detractors continued to claim that a sitting American president might be a tool of the Putin regime. For month after month, the president was forced to govern under a cloud of suspicion.

Why?

*  *  *

We give Chuck Ross the last word, as his question is perhaps the most critical of all..."Excellent question. Surely it was before Nov 2018. And if Trump is cleared before then, do Dems take over the House?"

Published:3/27/2019 10:15:46 AM
[Markets] Debunking The Disaster Myth Narrative: No One Panics, No One Loots, No One Goes Hungry

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”  ~ George Orwell

I was recently doing some research about the aftermath of some natural disasters that took place here in America. I was shocked to find that the articles I was looking for – ones that I had read in the past – were pretty hard to find, but articles refuting the sought-for pieces were rampant.  Not just one event, but every single crisis aftermath that I looked up, had articles that were written after the fact stating in no uncertain terms that the hunger, chaos, and unrest never happened.

Apparently we, the preparedness community, are all wrong when it comes to the belief that after a disaster, chaos erupts and civic disorder is the rule of the day.

According to “experts” it never happens.

Panic?  What panic?

According to newspaper articles written after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast and after Hurricane Katrina caused countless billions in damage in New Orleans, people were calm, benevolent and peaceful.  Heck, they were all standing around singing Kumbayah around a campfire, sharing their canned goods, calming frightened puppies, and helping the elderly.

Apparently studies prove that the fear of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos is nothing but the “disaster myth”.  Reams of examples exist of the goodness and warmth of society as a whole after disaster strikes. All the stories you read at the time were just that – stories, according to the mainstream media:

Yet there are a few examples stubbornly fixed in the popular imagination of people reacting to a natural disaster by becoming primal and vicious. Remember the gangs “marauding” through New Orleans, raping and even cannibalizing people in the Super-Dome after Hurricane Katrina? It turns out they didn’t exist. Years of journalistic investigations showed them to be racist fantasies. They didn’t happen. Yes, there was some “looting” — which consisted of starving people breaking into closed and abandoned shops for food. Of course human beings can behave atrociously – but the aftermath of a disaster seems to be the time when it is least likely. (source)

The Disaster Myth

The Disaster Myth is a narrative created by the establishment and delivered by their stoolies in the mainstream media.  The Disaster Myth points fingers at many of the things that are commonly believed to be true by the preparedness community.  Included in this narrative:

  • People do not panic after a disaster – instead, they pull together.

  • The official government response is always speedy and appropriate.

  • You will be taken care of if you simply comply peacefully with authorities.

  • There is little increase in post-disaster crime.

Looting?  Only hungry people getting food from unmanned stores. Who wouldn’t do that?

Beatings and assaults?  Didn’t happen. Disturbed people made these stories up for attention.

Gang rapes?  No way. You watch too much Law and Order: SVU.

Murder, mayhem, and gangs of youth on the streets?  Silly readers – we just made that up.

However, these statements all stand in direct opposition to the stories we hear from news sources duringthe crisis.

Remember this?

We heard terrible stories from eyewitnesses who suffered from hunger, thirst, and unsanitary condition in the Superdome after Katrina.  We heard about citizens being robbed of their 2nd Amendment rights by police after the crisis, and we heard about gang rapes, looting, and mayhem.

Fast forward to Sandy where people were defecating in the hallways of their high rise apartments and digging through garbage to find food just a few days after the storm.  As for the official response, who can forget the FEMA shelter that closed because of inclement weather?  Of course, the weather was inclement – it was a freaking weather-related disaster!

Here’s how bad it got.

Mac Slavo of SHTFplan wrote of the unrest, discomfort, and mayhem after Superstorm Sandy ransacked the East Coast:

For tens of thousands of east coast residents that worst case scenario is now playing out in real-time. No longer are images of starving people waiting for government handouts restricted to just the third-world.

In the midst of crisis, once civilized societies will very rapidly descend into chaos when essential infrastructure systems collapse.

Though the National Guard was deployed before the storm even hit, there is simply no way for the government to coordinate a response requiring millions of servings of food, water and medical supplies

Many east coast residents who failed to evacuate or prepare reserve supplies ahead of the storm are being forced to fend for themselves.

Frustration and anger have taken hold, as residents have no means of acquiring food or gas and thousands of trucks across the region remain stuck in limbo.

Limited electricity has made it possible for some to share their experiences:

Via Twitter:

  • I was in chaos tonite tryin to get groceries…lines for shuttle buses, only to get to the no food left & closing early (link)
  • I’m not sure what has shocked me more, all the communities around me destroyed, or the 5 hour lines for gas and food. (link)
  • Haven’t slept or ate well in a few days. Hope things start getting better around here soon (link no longer available)
  • These days a lot of people are impatient because they’re used to fast things. Fast food, fast internet, fast lines and fast shipping etc. (link)
  • Glad Obama is off to Vegas after his 90 minute visit. Gas lines are miles long.. Running out of food and water. Great Job (link)
  • Went to the Grocery store and lines were crazy but nail salon was empty so I’ve got a new gel manicure and some Korean junk food (link)
  • So f*cking devastated right now. Smell burning houses. People fighting for food. Pitch darkness. I may spend the night in rockaway to help (link)

At the time of the event, even the mainstream reported on the affluent East Side residents dumpster diving in search of food. Was this NBC report, complete with video, a work of salacious fiction?

As far as civil unrest is concerned, the “Twittersphere” was jammed with people planning looting spreesin the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.  Those who were already of criminal leanings saw the disaster as a great opportunity. In the great North American Edit, however, these tweets are said to be part of the myth – apparently they were just kids playing around Some reports pooh-poohed the very idea that looters had run amok.

This article from Prison Planet refutes all of the refuting and says that the civil unrest DID occur and that it generally does, given evidence from past events.

Legends from the past? Every single extreme weather event in recent years in the United States has been followed by looting.

As MSNBC reported at the time, looting during Hurricane Katrina was so prevalent that it “took place in full view of police and National Guard troops.”

Residents described the scenes as being like “downtown Baghdad” as looters filled garbage cans full of stolen goods and floated them down flooded streets.

As Forbes’ Erik Kain points out, “looting and rioting…occur after most natural disasters,” including after Hurricane Irene as well as Hurricane Isaac.

Looters also targeted victims of the Colorado wildfires earlier this year.

But again and again, we’re told that none of it happened.

Here’s a sampling of articles and studies supporting the Disaster Myth Narrative:

Does this sound familiar?

This revision of inconvenient history will sound quite familiar to anyone who has read George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984 (which was not meant to be an instruction manual, by the way.)

In the novel, the main character, Winston Smith, worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was actually a department of propaganda whose job it was to rewrite any faction of history that did not make the government look omniscient.

In George Orwell‘s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry of Truth is Oceania‘s propaganda ministry. It is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. The word truth in the title Ministry of Truth should warn, by definition, that the “minister” will self-serve its own “truth”; the title implies the willful fooling of posterity using “historical” archives to show “in fact” what “really” happened. As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, truth is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants.

The Ministry of Truth is involved with news media, entertainment, the fine arts and educational books. Its purpose is to rewrite history to change the facts to fit Party doctrine for propaganda effect. For example, if Big Brother makes a prediction that turns out to be wrong, the employees of the Ministry of Truth go back and rewrite the prediction so that any prediction Big Brother previously made is accurate. This is the “how” of the Ministry of Truth’s existence. Within the novel, Orwell elaborates that the deeper reason for its existence is to maintain the illusion that the Party is absolute. It cannot ever seem to change its mind (if, for instance, they perform one of their constant changes regarding enemies during war) or make a mistake (firing an official or making a grossly misjudged supply prediction), for that would imply weakness and to maintain power the Party must seem eternally right and strong. (source)

But….WHY????

So why the vast effort to expunge tales of mayhem and to make it seem like our own national disasters really weren’t that bad? Why does the government and the media want us to think everything is just fine?

I can think of no other reason than their own irrelevance.

Remember when the Cajun Navy began rescuing people from floods and they ran into all sorts of legal issues? The did a better and more efficient job than officials and the people “in charge” just wouldn’t have it.

If you don’t NEED them, then there is no leverage to force you into compliance.  You don’t NEED to go to Camp FEMA in order to have 3 squares a day.  You don’t NEED to give up your guns in order to have a roof over your head and government-supplied security.  You don’t NEED to get some kind of chip implanted in your arm to be scanned in order to receive “benefits” like medical care, food, and even money.

Self-sufficiency means freedom.  When you can feed yourself, clothe yourself, shelter yourself, and protect yourself, you are far less likely to need to cede your freedoms in order to stay alive. And in a nation governed by those who are frantically trying to withdraw our constitutional rights, this just won’t do.  They need leverage.

So the establishment has created a narrative that tells us what we are doing is silly and unnecessary.

They are rewriting history (and not just about disasters) even though we only lived that history in the past decade.  Even though we know the truth of the matter because we watched it live, they are changing the facts to make us doubt our own perceptions.

To give credit where it’s due, the current head of FEMA seems to be doing things a little differently. But don’t expect the media and Congress to follow suit.

But we know the civil unrest is really occurring.

If this civil unrest is not occurring, why is the National Guard called to keep the peace?  Why are state police riding around on tanks wearing body armor? Why were the guns of law-abiding citizens taken away in the aftermath of Katrina?

My family and I have opted to be prepared with food, water, a self-defense strategy, and home security.  We believe that when bad things happen, worse things often follow before order is restored.  We won’t be lining up to get an MRE and a bottle of water to share amongst us. We won’t require a cot at Camp FEMA.  We won’t need to give up our firearms in order to get our next meal.

Which reality are you going to believe?

Are you going to believe the one that you witnessed or the perverted rewrite that the mainstream media is trying to push upon you?

Published:3/26/2019 10:11:13 PM
[Politics] Obama Warns Freshman Dems About Costs of Proposals Former President Barack Obama cautioned freshman Democrats to look at the costs of their wide-ranging liberal legislative proposals and figure out how to pay for them, The Washington Post is reporting. Published:3/26/2019 12:07:51 PM
[Markets] The Reckoning Finally Arrives For The Trump Resistance

Authored by Eli Lake, op-ed via Bloomberg.com,

With Mueller’s investigation over, Democrats, the news media and the national security state have a lot to answer for...

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

That single sentence, taken from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, calls for a reckoning.

It’s a reckoning for Democrats who saw almost every development in this almost-two-year investigation as another dot connecting a conspiracy Mueller has not found. It’s a reckoning for many in the media that dutifully passed along this theory without scrutiny or context. And it’s a reckoning for many national security officials who abandoned their traditional nonpartisan role as custodians of state secrets to engage in a campaign against a president they loathed.

Their suspicions, I should note, were not unwarranted. During the 2016 election, there was strong evidence that Russia had hacked the emails of leading Democrats, a fact supported by Mueller’s indictments. The country later learned from Mueller that Moscow conducted a social media campaign to flood Twitter and Facebook with fake news and propaganda to discredit Hillary Clinton. Trump, meanwhile, once publicly invited the assistance of the Russians.

But many people who should have known better went beyond suspicion and embraced conspiracy. Remember Senator Harry Reid’s explosive letterto James Comey, released just a few days before the election, alleging that the FBI director possessed devastating information about Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia? Reid did not provide many details. We now know that many of the allegations to which Reid referred echoed an infamous dossier prepared by a former British spy at the behest of an opposition research firm paid by the Democratic Party.

Reid wasn’t the only one. Last year the House Intelligence Committee released memos that showed how this dossier was part of the underlying evidence the FBI provided in a surveillance application to a secret court to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a low-level foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Page has not been charged with a crime, and yet his reputation has been trashed after a top-secret warrant for his surveillance was leaked to the media.

The dossier set the initial narrative for the Trump administration. After CNN reported that it was included as part of a briefing Comey himself provided to Trump and Obama, Buzzfeed published the whole thing with the helpful caveat that it was not verified and was in places incorrect. The most important takeaway so far of the Mueller probe is that this dossier is garbage.

Then there is the matter of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. He was forced from the administration and into a legal nightmareafter his monitored conversations with Russia’s ambassador to Washington leaked a few weeks before Trump’s inauguration. It’s true that Flynn failed to file as a foreign agent for Turkey, a crime that is normally punished as a slap on the wrist. At the time though, the accusation against Flynn was that he was a Russian spy, based on leaked transcripts that are never supposed to see the light of day. How silly do these hyperventilations look today in light of Mueller’s conclusions?

What’s more, it’s a scandal that no one has investigated how those transcripts were leaked in the first place. Given that the FBI’s own inspector general found that leaking with impunity is commonplace, the bureau’s agents should at least be among the suspects.

Finally, there is that handful of former officials who validated the worst fears of Americans about Trump without ever providing actual evidence. The best example is former CIA Director John Brennan. For the last two years, Brennan has been a frequent guest on cable TV to spread the innuendo that Trump is compromised by Russia. Just this month, he speculated that Mueller would be indicting members of Trump world for criminal conspiracy, even as he insisted he had no “inside knowledge” of Mueller’s deliberations. That last part, at least, turns out to have been true.

The saddest part of all of this is that there was a lot of evidence, hiding in plain sight, that could have spared many collusion proponents their embarrassment. Mueller’s indictment of Roger Stone, for example alleged that Stone was tasked by a senior campaign official to find out what was in the emails that Russia hacked from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. If the campaign were coordinating with Russia’s influence campaign, why would Stone need to go to Wikileaks?

There were also the transcripts of interviews before the Senate Judiciary Committee of participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meetings where Donald Trump Jr. and others in the campaign took a meeting with a Russian lawyer who initially promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Under oath, those witnesses said nothing came of the offer.

And Trump, it should be noted, has appointed Russia hawks at the highest levels. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and his predecessor H.R. McMaster, and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis all have long public records when it comes to Russia. If Trump were a Russian stooge, why would he appoint them to such posts? And despite his own baffling sycophancy toward Russian President Putin, Trump has not been weak on Russia in terms of policy.

The end of the Mueller probe is more than just a reckoning. It is also a reminder, if anyone needed another one, that the FBI and the intelligence community can be wrong. And it is a powerful illustration of the importance of keeping spies and lawmen out of politics.

Published:3/26/2019 11:08:28 AM
[Markets] Smollett Charges Dropped After "Emergency Court Appearance" 

Charges were dropped on Tuesday against Empire actor Jussie Smollett for disorderly conduct related to allegedly staging a fake hate crime attack and filing a false police report, according to the Chicago Tribune

A grand jury slapped Smollett with 16 felony counts earlier this month for falsely reporting a hate crime, which his attorney Mark Geragos called "vindictive" and "prosecutorial overkill." 

According to reports, the state of Illinois filed the motion to dismiss the case, which the judge signed off on. The case has also been sealed, according to CBS Chicago's Charlie De Mar. 

"Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment," reads a statement from Smollett's attorneys. 

"Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions," the statement continues. "This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result."

There had been no clue that prosecutors planned the about-face move before the announcement. A publicist for Smollett’s attorney was the first to notify the news media Tuesday morning, issuing an alert that did not elaborate on the nature of the emergency.

The 36-year-old actor, who was free on $100,000 bond, has previously denied lying to police or faking the attack. -Chicago Tribune

Smollett maintains that he was the victim of a predawn hate crime on January 29 in which two men assaulted him while he was on his way home after buying a sandwich; hurling racial and antigay slurs at him, dousing him in a liquid, placing a noose around his neck (which he was still wearing when police arrived later that morning), and punching him in the face. 

The incident sparked national outrage - with the left-leaning mainstream media and prominent Democrats uncritically supporting Smollett's version of events; holding it up as a prime example of violent Donald Trump supporters

Two suspects in the case, Nigerian-American brothers Ola and Abel Osundario - one of whom has been an extra on Empire, told police that Smollett paid them a combined $3,500 to stage the "attack," and that the three of them had practiced it beforehand. They also said that Smollett was involved in creating a racist letter containing a white substance that was sent to the actor on the Chicago set of Empire.

Controversy erupted earlier this month when texts and emails released by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office revealed that Michelle Obama's former Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen, attempted to have the case transferred to the FBI from the Chicago Police. 

"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson," Foxx emailed Tchen on Feb. 1, in reference to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation." 

Foxx also texted with one of Smollett's relatives whose name was redacted from the text release, saying: "Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask ... Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted." 

"OMG this would be a huge victory" the family member texted back. 

"I make no guarantees, but I'm trying" replied Foxx - who recused herself from the case on Feb. 20. 

Looks like none of that was necessary, as Smollett is now in the clear. 

Published:3/26/2019 10:37:26 AM
[World] [Eugene Volokh] Waiting-and-Seeing on the Trump Campus Free Speech Executive Order

It's an order to create policies, not a policy -- so it's hard to tell what it will do until we see what policies various departments create.

I appreciate some of the criticism (e.g., Keith Whittington's and Heather Mac Donald's) of President Trump's Executive Order on campus free speech. Its results certainly could be bad, or good, or neither, or a mix.

But because the order simply instructs various departments to create policies (and coordinate them with the Office of Management and Budget) aimed at protecting speech in federally funded university programs, it's hard to tell what will happen until we see the actual policies. Nor is this uncertainty inherently bad: Ordering your subordinates to use their judgment to come up with something, after some thought, discussion, and coordination is often a pretty sensible way for a superior to act.

Now sometimes when that happens, we can see the writing on the wall, and know that it's bad. But this isn't so here; I don't think any of us can predict with any confidence what the various agencies can do. Of course, if I thought that the federal government just had no business ever requiring free speech protections as a condition of federal university funding, I would fault the order even without knowing just what policies will be implemented. But I don't see any basis for so categorically condeming all possible speech-protective strings on federal grants.

Nor do I think that such policies would necessarily set much of a bad precedent (as Heather Mac Donald suggests might happen); the precedent has already long been set with various conditions attached to federal spending. Trump's actions to protect campus free speech are unlikely, for instance, to be much of a precedent for some future actions (whether by a future President or Trump himself) to restrict campus free speech. Such use of federal funding as a basis for demanding campus speech code already happened during the Obama Administration; I don't see the Trump Executive Order as making that materially more likely.

Finally, if I somehow thought that we were in a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace situation—for instance, if a government action authorizing some future action involved some important grant of power that couldn't easily be taken back (e.g., consider a constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to enact campaign finance laws of its own choice, even if it doesn't specify exactly which laws aut to be enacted)—I could see the value of nipping the proposal in the bud.

But it seems to be that there'll be plenty of time to condemn the actual policies that are proposed when they are proposed, if they need condemning. Indeed, it would be easier to do that precisely because one will then have specific language that one could criticize. Or, of course, if the specific language actually proves to be pretty sensible, one would be spared the need to criticize it.

Published:3/26/2019 10:09:42 AM
[The Blog] Obama: Say, some of these liberal plans look kind of expensive

The man's not wrong

The post Obama: Say, some of these liberal plans look kind of expensive appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/26/2019 9:36:59 AM
[World] [Keith E. Whittington] About that Campus Free Speech Executive Order

A crude tool unlikely to do much good and that might do some harm

During President Donald Trump's appearance at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference, he made a surprise announcement that he would soon be signing an executive order to improve the free speech climate on college campuses. His initial statement was brief and vague, but threatened that if colleges do not allow free speech "it will be very costly" because it would put their federal grants at risk. Last week, the administration finally released the promised executive order, and it was promptly buried by the news that the special counsel had completed his investigation and submitted his report.

The executive order turned out to be a nothingburger, though one with some potential for mischief. As has been so often the case with the Trump administration's policy announcements, the executive order is vague on the specifics and a great deal will turn on the details of implementation to be announced at some unknown future date. Nonetheless, there are a couple of things of note about the order.

Although billed as being about free speech, much of the executive order in fact focuses on a different issue relating to higher education. Both its rhetoric and its operational directives focus on enhancing the "College Scorecard" launched by the Obama administration that provides comparative data on student debts, completion rates, and post-college earnings at various colleges. The Trump executive order calls for some additions to the existing database and encourages some additional study of policies to enhance completion rates. Notably, by adding program-level earning data to the Scorecard, the administration puts a bit more pressure on fields of study that feed into less remunerative careers.

As for free speech, the executive order directs various agencies, with the coordination of the Office of Management and Budget, to

take appropriate steps, in a manner consistent with applicable law, including the First Amendment, to ensure institutions that receive Federal research or education grants promote free inquiry, including through compliance with all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.

The relevant federal grants do not include student financial aid. Institutions are to be encouraged "to foster environments that promote open, intellectually engaging, and diverse debate, including through compliance with the First Amendment for public institutions and compliance with stated institutional policies regarding freedom of speech for private institutions."

This is pretty thin gruel for anyone interested in campus free speech, and that might be the good news. The executive order leverages a big stick, but not as big of one as the president initially implied. Research grants are a significant source of revenue for schools such as the University of California at Berkeley, but they likely have less relevance for places like Liberty University or Middlebury College. The executive order notes the potentially important difference between public universities and private universities, giving the latter more flexibility to adjust its own commitments to free speech given their own institutional mission and values. It also hews closely to better enforcing existing federal law rather than announcing a bold new directive of its own. It is not clear how much this changes the status quo.

There are some troublesome features of the executive order, despite its modesty. The executive order directs the relevant agencies to coordinate their efforts with the OMB, which is more directly responsive to the White House. In doing so, the order opens the door to a greater politicization of any federal intervention in campus free speech issues than might otherwise be the case. Even if you are happy with what that might look like in a Trump administration, you might be less happy with how it might play out under a President Bernie Sanders.

Some have pointed to the Obama-era directives for scientific integrity in the administration of research grants as a model for a free speech directive. If the Trump administration goes through the same lengthy process for drafting a regulation as the Obama administration did, then the result might be more likely to withstand judicial scrutiny than much of the Trump administration's work product but the resulting regulations are also more likely be modest in scope. Taking steps to prevent research misconduct is closely related to the purposes behind giving research grants in the first place, and regulations securing protections for free inquiry in scholarly research might be a relatively easy lift. It does not seem particularly helpful to have agencies mentioned in the executive order like the Department of Energy or the National Science Foundation (the kind of agencies who actually award and oversee research grants) attempting to develop regulations to address the broad scope of campus free speech issues ranging from controversial social media posts by faculty members to treatment of student groups and external speakers to visitors to campus getting into fist fights in the free speech zone.

It would be nice if colleges were to take this opportunity to revisit their policies on the books relating to academic freedom and free speech, but many free speech controversies that arise have less to do with campus policies than with campus culture and the implementation of policies. It is not at all obvious that colleges worried about their research funding can or will do much to prevent such controversies from arising. Some will no doubt try to adopt some strongly worded policies that might not help the educational environment very much but that will hopefully insulate them from the threat of lost funding. The biggest worry is that the executive order will set the conditions for a White House to score some easy political points by taking aggressive action against a university because an incident on that campus has gone viral. The possibility of such politically motivated thunderbolts from above will not foster a better university environment for intellectual debate on difficult and controversial issues.

The campus free speech executive order might have given the administration a brief moment of publicity relating to a hot button issue, but it is unlikely to be particularly useful in improving the free speech culture on college campuses.

Published:3/26/2019 7:36:10 AM
[Markets] Letter From Britain: An Establishment Blinded By Russophobia

Authored by Alexander Mercouris via ConsortiumNews.com,

A British elite challenged by large parts of the British population is rallying around trumped-up fear of Russia as a means of protecting its interests...

Hostility to Russia is one of the most enduring, as well as one of the most destructive, realities of British life. Its persistence is illustrated by one of the most interesting but least reported facts about the Skripal affair.

This is that Sergey Skripal, the Russian former GRU operative who was the main target of the recent Salisbury poisoning attack, was recruited by British intelligence and became a British spy in 1995, four years after the USSR collapsed, at a time when the Cold War was formally over.

In 1995 Boris Yeltsin was President of Russia, Communism was supposedly defeated, the once mighty Soviet military was no more, and a succession of pro-Western governments in Russia were attempting unsuccessfully to carry out IMF proposed ‘reforms’. In a sign of the new found friendship which supposedly existed between Britain and Russia the British Queen toured Moscow and St. Petersburg the year before.

Yet notwithstanding all the appearances of friendship, and despite the fact that Russia in 1995 posed no conceivable threat to Britain, it turns out that British intelligence was still up to its old game of recruiting Russian spies to spy on Russia.

Britain’s Long History of Russophobia

This has in fact been the constant pattern of Anglo-Russian relations ever since the Napoleonic Wars.

Brief periods of seeming friendship – often brought about by a challenge posed by a common enemy – alternating with much longer periods of often intense hostility.

This hostility – at least from the British side – is not easy to understand.

Russia has never invaded or directly threatened Britain. On the only two occasions when Britain and Russia have fought each other – during the Crimean War of 1854 to 1856, and during the Russian Civil War of 1918 to 1921 – the fighting has all taken place on Russian territory, and has been initiated by Britain.

Nonetheless, despite its lack of any obvious cause, British hostility to Russia is a constant and enduring fact of British political and cultural life. The best that can be said about it is that it appears to be a predominantly elite phenomenon.

British Russophobia Peaks

If British hostility to Russia is a constant, it is nonetheless true that save possibly for the period immediately preceding the Crimean War, it has never been as intense as it is today.

Moreover, not only has it reached levels of intensity scarcely seen before, but it is becoming central to Britain’s politics in ways which are now doing serious harm.

This harm is both domestic, in that it is corrupting British politics, and international, in that it is not only marginalising Britain internationally but is also poisoning the international atmosphere.

Why is this so?

Elite British Consensus

For Britain’s elite, riven apart by Brexit and increasingly unsure of the hold it has over the loyalty of the British population, hostility to Russia has become the one issue it can unite around. As a result hostility to Russia is now serving an essential integrating role within Britain’s elite, binding it together at a time when tensions over Brexit risk tearing it apart.

To get a sense of this consider two articles that have both appeared recently in the British media, one in the staunchly anti-Brexit Guardian, the other in the equally staunchly pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph.

The article in the Guardian, by Will Hutton and Andrew Adonis, is intended to refute a narrative of British distinctiveness supposedly invented by the pro-Brexit camp. As such the article claims (rightly) that Britain has historically always been closely integrated with Europe.

However when developing this argument the article engages in some remarkable historical misrepresentation of its own. Not surprisingly, Russia is the subject. Just consider for example this paragraph:

“…..note for devotees of Darkest Hour and Dunkirk: Britain was never “alone” and could not have triumphed [in the Second World War against Hitler] had it been so. Even in its darkest hour Britain could call on its then vast empire and, within 18 months, on the Americans, too.”

Russia’s indispensable contribution to the defeat of Hitler is deleted from the whole narrative. The U.S., which became involved in the war against Hitler in December 1941, is mentioned. Russia, which became involved in the war against Hitler in June 1941, i.e. before the U.S., and whose contribution to the defeat of Hitler was much greater, is not.

Whilst claiming to refute pro-Brexit myths about the Second World War the article creates myths of its own, turning the fact that Russia was an ally of Britain in that war into a non-fact.

The article does however have quite a lot to say about Russia:

“Putin’s Russia is behaving like the fascist regimes of the 1930s, backed by sophisticated raids from online troll factories. Citizens – and ominously younger voters in some European countries – are more and more willing to tolerate the subversion of democratic norms and express support for authoritarian alternatives.

Oleg Kalugin, former major general of the Committee for State Security (the KGB), has described sowing dissent as “the heart and soul” of the Putin state: not intelligence collection, but subversion – active measures to weaken the west, to drive wedges in the western community alliances of all sorts, particularly Nato, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs. To make America more vulnerable to the anger and distrust of other peoples.”

Churchill and Stalin in Moscow in 1942.

History is turned on its head. Not only is the fact that Russia was Britain’s ally in the war against Nazi Germany now a non-fact, but Russia it turns out is Nazi Germany’s heir, a fascist regime like Nazi Germany once was, posing a threat to Britain and the West like Nazi Germany once did.

Moreover who does not agree, and who does not see facing up to Russia as the priority, is at best a fool:

“In Brexit-voting Weymouth, Captain Malcolm Shakesby of Ukip is unruffled by Putin or European populism. He inhabits the cartoon world of British exceptionalism, and his main concern today is Mrs May’s “sellout” of the referendum result.”

Compare these comments about Russia in the staunchly anti-Brexit Guardian with these comments about Russia by Janet Daley in the staunchly pro-BrexitDaily Telegraph.

Janet Daley does not quite say like Hutton and Adonis that Russia is a “fascist regime”. However in her depiction of it she comes pretty close:

“The modern Russian economy is a form of gangster capitalism largely unencumbered by legal or political restraint. No one in the Kremlin pretends any longer that Russia’s role on the international stage is to spread an idealistic doctrine of liberation and shared wealth.

When it intervenes in places such as Syria, there is no pretence of leading that country toward a great socialist enlightenment. Even the pretext of fighting Isil has grown impossibly thin. All illusions are stripped away and the fight is reduced to one brutal imperative: Assad is Putin’s man and his regime will be defended to the end in order to secure the Russian interest. But what is that interest? Simply to assert Russia’s power in the world – which is to say, the question is its own answer.”

Though Moscow has made clear in both word and action that intervention in Syria at Syria’s invitation was to prevent it becoming a failed state and a terrorist haven, Russia it turns out is focused on only one thing: gaining as much power as possible. This is true both of its domestic politics (“gangster capitalism largely unencumbered by legal or political restraint”) and in its foreign policy (“what is that [Russian] interest? Simply to assert Russia’s power in the world – which is to say, the question is its own answer”)

As a result it must be construed as behaving in much the same way as Nazi Germany once did:

“…..we now seem to have the original threat from a rogue rampaging Russia back on the scene, too. A Russia determined to reinstate its claim to be a superpower, but this time without even the moral scruples of an ideological mission: the country that had once joined the respectable association of modern industrialised nations to make it the G8, rather than the G7, prefers to be an outlaw.”

On the question of the threat from Russia both the pro and anti-Brexit wings of the British establishment agree. Standing up to it is the one policy they can both agree on. Not surprisingly at every opportunity that is what they do.

Intolerance of Dissent Construed as a “Threat from Russia”

In this heavy atmosphere anyone in Britain who disagrees risks being branded either a traitor or a fool.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, who is known to favour dialogue with Russia, recently had to endure an ugly media campaign which insinuated that he had been recruited as in effect a Communist agent in the 1980s by Czech intelligence.

That claim eventually collapsed when a British MP went too far and said openly what up to then had only been insinuated. As a result he was forced to retract his claims and pay compensation under threat of a law suit. However the question mark over Corbyn’s loyalty is never allowed to go away.

During last year’s general election Corbyn also had to endure an article in the Telegraph by none other than Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s external intelligence agency MI6 (the British equivalent of the CIA). Dearlove also insinuated that Corbyn had been at least a Communist sympathiser or fellow traveller during the Cold War whose sympathies were with the Eastern Bloc and therefore with the various anti-Western and supposedly Communist backed terrorist groups which the Eastern Bloc had supposedly supported:

“Today, Britain goes to the polls. And frankly, I’m shocked that no one has stood up and said, unambiguously, how profoundly dangerous it would be for the nation if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. So let me be clear, the leader of the Labour Party is an old-fashioned international socialist who has forged links with those quite ready to use terror when they haven’t got their way: the IRA, Hizbollah, Hamas. As a result he is completely unfit to govern and Britain would be less safe with him in No 10.

I can give an indication of just how serious this is: if Jeremy Corbyn was applying to join any of this country’s security services – MI5, GCHQ or the service I used to run, MI6 – he would not be cleared to do so. He would be rejected by the vetting process. Far from being able to get into MI5, in the past MI5 would actively have investigated him. And yet this is the man who seeks the very highest office, who hopes in just 24 hours time to run our security services.

Young people in Britain have been terribly affected by recent terror attacks. It is only natural that they should be desperately worried about security problems, and to me it is just such a great shame that they don’t understand the political antecedents of the Labour leader. It is these young people, in particular, I am keen to address. I want to explain just what Corbyn’s whole movement has meant.

During the Cold War the groups he associated with hung out in Algeria, and moved between East Germany and North Korea. It is hard, today, to understand the significance of that. When I talk to students about the Cold War, they assume I am just talking about history. But it has a direct bearing on our security today. Only a walk along the armistice line between North and South Korea, with its astonishing military build up, might give some idea of what was at stake.

……Jeremy Corbyn represents a clear and present danger to the country.”

In light of this the crescendo of criticism Corbyn came under during the peak of the uproar in March following the

Dearlove: Corbyn is a “clear and present danger” (to the establishment.)

Salisbury poisoning attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal is entirely unsurprising.

Corbyn’s call – alone amongst senior politicians – for the investigation to be allowed to take its course and for due process to be followed, simply confirmed the doubts about his loyalty and his sympathy for Russia already held by the British establishment and previously expressed by people like Dearlove. His call was not seen as an entirely reasonable one for proper procedure to be followed. Rather it was seen as further proof that Corbyn’s sympathies are with Russia, which is Britain’s enemy.

Corbyn is not the only person to be targeted in this way. As I write this Britain is in the grip of a minor scandal because the right-wing businessman Arron Banks, who partly funded the Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum, is now revealed to have had several meetings with the Russian ambassador and to have discussed a business deal with a Russian businessman.

Though Banks claims to have reported these contacts to the CIA, and though there is not the slightest evidence of impropriety in any of these contacts (the proposed business deal never materialised) the mere fact that they took place is enough for doubts to be expressed about Banks’s reasons for supporting the Leave campaign. Perhaps even more worrying for Banks is that scarcely anyone is coming forward to speak up for him.

Even a politically inconsequential figure like the pop singer Robbie Williams is now in the frame. Just over a year ago Williams gained wide applause for a song “Party like a Russian” which some people interpreted (wrongly in my opinion) as a critique of contemporary Russia. Today he is being roundly criticised for performing in Russia during the celebrations for the World Cup.

Russophobia Undermining British Democracy

The result of this intolerance is a sharp contraction in the freedom of Britain’s public space, with those who disagree on British policy towards Russia increasingly afraid to speak out.

Since establishment opinion in Britain conceives of itself as defending liberal democracy from attack by Russia, and since establishment opinion increasingly conflates liberal democracy with its own opinions, it follows that in its conception any challenge to its opinions is an attack on liberal democracy, and must therefore be the work of Russia.

This paranoid view has now become pervasive. No part of the traditional media is free of it. It has gained a strong hold on the BBC and it is fair to say that all the big newspapers subscribe to it. Anyone who does not has no future in British journalism.

This is disturbing in itself, but as with all forms of institutional paranoia, it is also having a damaging effect on the functioning of Britain’s institutions.

Amid Growing Influence of Intelligence 

One obvious way in which this manifests itself is in the extraordinary growth in both the visibility and influence of Britain’s intelligence services.

Historically the intelligence services in Britain have operated behind the scenes to the point of being almost invisible. Until the 1980s the very fact of their existence was in theory a state secret.

Today, as Dearlove’s article about Corbyn in the Daily Telegraph shows, their leaders and former leaders are not only public personalities, but the intelligence services have come increasingly to fill the role of gatekeepers, deciding who can be trusted to hold public office and who cannot.

Corbyn is far from being the only British politician to find himself under this sort of scrutiny.

Boris Johnson, some time before he became Britain’s Foreign Secretary, made what I am sure he now considers the mistake of writing an article in the Telegraph praising Russia’s role in the liberation of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria from ISIS.

The result was that on his appointment as foreign secretary, Johnson had a meeting with British intelligence chiefs who ‘persuaded’ him of the need to follow a tough line with Russia. He has in fact followed a tough line with Russia ever since.

Russophobia Infects the Legal System

Steele: Paid for political research, not intelligence.

Establishment hostility to Russia is also enabling interference by the intelligence services in the British legal process.

There is a widespread and probably true belief that the British intelligence services actively lobbied for the grant of asylum to the fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who they seem to have considered some sort of ‘agent of influence’ in Russia. This despite the fact that it is now widely acknowledged that Berezovsky’s background and activities in Russia should have denied him asylum in Britain.

However what is still largely rumour in Berezovsky’s case is indisputable fact in the Alexander Litvinenko case and in the Skripal cases.

I have previously explained how in the Litvinenko case the claim of Russian state involvement in Litvinenko’s murder made by the British public inquiry is not supported by the publicly available evidence.

What has now become clear is that the main evidence of Russian state involvement in Litvinenko’s murder was not the publicly available evidence, but evidence provided to the public inquiry in private by the British intelligence services. This evidence was seen only by the Judge who headed the inquiry, but seems to have had a decisive effect in forming his view of the case and shaping his report.

American readers may be interested to learn that this evidence was put together by none other than Christopher Steele, the person who gave us the “golden showers” dossier, which has played such an outsized role in the Russiagate affair.

How strong or reliable this evidence is it is impossible to say since, as it is secret, it cannot be independently scrutinised. All I would say is that on two other occasions when Steele is known to have produced similar reports about Russian state activities subsequent enquiries have failed to support them. One is Steele’s “golden showers” dossier, which the FBI has admitted it cannot verify, and which scarcely anyone any longer believes to be true. The other is a report produced by Steele which alleged that Russia had bought the 2018 World Cup by bribing FIFA officials, which subsequent investigation has found was untrue.

It turns out that the evidence used to support the British claim of Russian guilt in the Skripal case is the same: evidence provided in private by British intelligencewhich is not subject to independent scrutiny. As in the Litvinenko case, the British authorities have nonetheless not hesitated to use this evidence to declare publicly that Russia is guilty. This whilst a police investigation is still underway and before any suspect has been identified.

Indeed in the Skripal case the violation of due process has been so gross that it is not even denied. Instead articles have appeared in the British media which say that due process does not apply in cases involving Russia.

That there can be no rule of law without due process, and that excluding cases involving Russia from the need to follow due process is racist and discriminatory appears to concern no one.

Discrimination in Britain Against Russians

Where the intelligence services have led the way, others have been keen to follow.

Recently a House of Commons committee published a report which openly puts pressure on British law firms to refuse business from Russian clients. The best account of this has been provided by the Canadian academic Paul Robinson:

“……that leads me onto the thing which really struck me about this document [The House of Commons committee report – AM]. This was a statement about the British law firm Linklaters, which managed the flotation of EN+. Shortly before this, the report says ‘Both the EN+ IPO [Initial Public Offering] and the sale of Russian debt in London appear to have been carried out in accordance with the relevant rules and regulatory systems, and there is no obvious evidence of impropriety in a legal sense.’Yet, it then goes on to say the following:

“We asked Linklaters to appear before the committee to explain their involvement in the flotation of EN+ … They refused. We regret their unwillingness to engage with our inquiry and must leave others to judge whether their work at ‘the forefront of financial, corporate and commercial developments in Russia’has left them so entwined in the corruption of the Kremlin and its supporters that they are no longer able to meet the standards expected of a UK-regulated law firm.”

This is quite outrageous, and also cowardly. The committee in effect accuses Linklaters of corruption, while avoiding complaints of libel by use of the weasel words ‘we leave to others to judge’ – a way of making an accusation while claiming that one hasn’t. What’s so outrageous about the statement is that comes straight after a confession that the EN+ flotation was completely above board. Linklaters didn’t do anything wrong, and the House of Commons committee knows it. Nevertheless, it sees fit to suggest that the company is ‘no longer able to meet the standards expected of a UK-regulated law firm.’

The implication here is that any company which has extensive dealings with Russian enterprises is ‘entwined in the corruption of the Kremlin’and so unfit to do business. I cannot interpret this as anything other than an attempt by the committee to threaten British companies and intimidate them into dropping their lawful activities. I consider this disgraceful.

The committee’s attitude can be seen again towards the end of the report, when it writes that ‘instead of participating in the rules-based system, President Putin’s regime uses asymmetric methods to achieve its goals, and others – so-called useful idiots – magnify that effect by supporting its propaganda. So, there you have it. People who do with business with Russia are to be publicly shamed as unworthy of the standards expected of the British people, while those who would dare to point this sort of thing out are to be denounced as ‘useful idiots’. Having any dealings with Russia makes one a Kremlin stooge.”

Taking their cue from the House of Commons committee, identical pressure on British law firms to refuse to act for Russian clients is now coming from the media, as explained in this article by the Guardian’s Nick Cohen, which talks of potential Russian clients in these terms:

“In this conflict, it’s no help to think of oligarchs as businessmen. They are closer to the privileged servants of a warlord or mafia boss. Their wealth is held at Putin’s discretion. If they are told to buy influence in the Balkans or fund an alt-news website, they obey. Companies that raise funds on the London markets or oligarchs who move into Kensington mansions may look like autonomous organisations and individuals but, as Garry Kasparov told the committee: “They are agents of a rogue Russian regime, not businessmen. They are complicit in Putin’s countless crimes. Their companies are not international corporations, but the means to launder money and spread corruption and influence.”

To which I would add that in law-governed states even criminals have the right of legal representation and advice. In Britain, if the House of Commons committee and Nick Cohen gets their way, Russians – whether criminals or not – will be the exception.

What is so bizarre about this is that the spectre of massive Russian economic penetration of Britain conjured up by the House of Commons committee is so far removed from reality. The Economist (no friend of Russia) provides the actual figures:

“….the high profile of London’s high-rolling Russians belies the relatively small role that their money plays in the wider economy. Foreigners hold roughly £10 trillion of British assets. Russia’s share of that is just 0.25%, a smaller proportion than that of Finland and South Korea.

Parts of west London have acquired many new Russian residents, and shops to serve them (including an outfitter of armoured luxury cars). Yet even in “prime” London – that is, the top 5-10% of the market – buyers from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union account for only 5% of sales, according to data from Savills, a property firm. Outside the capital’s swankiest districts, Russians’ influence is minuscule. The departure of oligarchs might affect prices on some streets in Kensington, but not beyond.

The same is true of Britain’s private schools. Some have done well out of Russian parents. But of the 53,678 foreign pupils who attend schools that belong to the Independent Schools Council, only 2,806 are Russian. China, by contrast, sends 9,008 pupils from its mainland, and a further 5,188 from Hong Kong.

Looking at these figures it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is the mere presence of Russians, not their number or their wealth or the illicit way in which some of them supposedly came by their money, which for the British establishment is the problem.”

Quite simply, Russians are not welcome, not because they are wealthy or because they are corrupt, but because they are Russians.

Against Russian Media

The same discriminatory approach appears to inform the persistent attacks launched by the British authorities against the Russian television broadcaster RT.

Over the last two years RT has had to repel an attempt by the British authorities to close down its British bank account, has been forced to respond to a succession of complaints from the British media regulator Ofcom, has faced threats of having its British broadcasting licence withdrawn, and has had to endure a campaign of vilification aimed in part at dissuading British public figures from appearing as guests on its programmes.

As to what exactly RT has done – other than vague and unspecific claims that it is a ‘propaganda’ channel – which justifies this treatment, has never been fully explained. 

Again it is difficult to avoid the impression that the British establishment’s fundamental problem with RT is that it is simply a Russian channel broadcasting in Britain that scrutinizes establishment policies and actions – a fundamental responsibility of journalism, which is largely missing in British media. 

Free speech is a human right in Britain except apparently for Russians.

This discriminatory approach towards Russia and Russians replicates the increasingly ugly and frankly racist way in which Russians are regularly depicted in Britain today.

As to the general effect of that on British society, I repeat here what I wrote back in 2016:

“Racial stereotyping is always something to complain about. It is dehumanising, intolerant and ugly. It is racist and profoundly offensive of its target. This is so whenever it is used to mock or label any ethnicity or national or cultural group. Russians are not an exception.

A society that indulges in it, and which tolerates those who do, forfeits its claim to anti-racism and interracial tolerance. The fact that it is treating just one ethnic group – Russians – in this way, denying them the moral and legal protection which it accords others, in no way diminishes its racism and intolerance. It emphasises it.”

British society is not just the poorer for it. It is deeply corrupted by it, and this corruption now touches every aspect of British life.

Britain Becoming Marginalised

If the result of the British establishment’s paranoia about Russia is deeply corrosive within Britain itself, its effect on British foreign policy has been entirely negative. 

At its most basic level it has meant a total breakdown in relations between Britain and Russia.

British and Russian leaders no longer talk to each other, and summit meetings between British and Russian leaders have come to a complete stop. Boris Johnson’s last visit to Russia is universally acknowledged to have been a complete failure, and following the Skripal affair British officials and members of Britain’s Royal Family are now even boycotting the World Cup in Russia.

Indeed British public statements about the World Cup have been all of a piece with the British establishment hostility to Russia, with Johnson recently comparing it to Hitler’s 1936 Olympics and with another House of Commons committee warning British fans of the supposed dangers of going to to Russia to watch them.

This complete absence of dialogue with Russia is a serious problem for Britain as some British officials quietly acknowledge.

Russia is after all a powerful nation and any state which still wishes to exercise influence on world affairs must engage with Russia in order to achieve it. The British establishment’s hostility to Russia however makes that impossible.

The result is that major international questions such as the Ukrainian crisis, the Syrian conflict and the gathering crisis in the Middle East caused by the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal – in all of which Russia is centrally involved – are being handled without British involvement.

May: Becoming a bit player.

Where Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France talk to Russia and have thereby managed to carve out for themselves important roles in world affairs, Britain’s Theresa May is a bit player.

However, instead of drawing the obvious conclusion from this, which is that refusing to talk to the Russians is the high road to nowhere, the British have doubled down, seeking to regain relevance by leading an international crusade against Moscow. 

The strategy – which bears the unmistakeable imprint of Johnson – was set out in grandiose terms in a recent article in The Guardian:

“The UK will use a series of international summits this year to call for a comprehensive strategy to combat Russian disinformation and urge a rethink over traditional diplomatic dialogue with Moscow, following the Kremlin’s aggressive campaign of denials over the use of chemical weapons in the UK and Syria.

British diplomats plan to use four major summits this year – the G7, the G20, Nato and the European Union – to try to deepen the alliance against Russia hastily built by the Foreign Office after the poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March.

“The foreign secretary regards Russia’s response to Douma and Salisbury as a turning point and thinks there is international support to do more,” a Whitehall official said. “The areas the UK are most likely to pursue are countering Russian disinformation and finding a mechanism to enforce accountability for the use of chemical weapons.”

Former Foreign Office officials admit that an institutional reluctance to call out Russia once permeated British diplomatic thinking, but say that after the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, that attitude is evaporating…..

Ministers want to pursue a broad Russian containment strategy at the coming summits covering cybersecurity, Nato’s military posture, sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs and a more comprehensive approach to Russian disinformation.”

It has taken no more than a few weeks since that article appeared on 3 May 2018 for this whole grandiose strategy to fall apart.

Not only have Merkel and Macron each visited Russia since the article was published, but Italy now has a new Russia-friendly government, and Spain may soon do so also. Adding insult to injury, Germany is now casting doubt on Britain’s actions following the Salisbury poisoning attack,

All of this however is eclipsed by Donald Trump’s comments at the G7 saying that Russia should be readmitted to the G7 and having his officials inform the British media that he is becoming increasingly irritated by the British prime minister’s lectures.

In the event not only did Trump fail to meet May one-to-one at the G7 summit, but he refused to agree the summit’s final communique, which criticised Russia.

Needless to say, amidst the collapse of the summit, the plan May had apparently intended to unveil at the summit for anew international rapid response unit to respond to Russian-backed assassinations and cyber attacks fell by the wayside.

Far from gaining relevance by leading an international crusade against Russia, the British are increasingly finding that no one else is interested and that May’s and the British establishment’s obsession with Russia instead of enhancing Britain’s importance is making Britain increasingly irrelevant.

Poisoning the International Atmosphere

The British establishment is in fact making the fundamental mistake of thinking that other countries not only share their obsession with Russia, but that they necessarily value their relations with Britain more than  with Russia.

This is a strange view given that Russia is arguably a more powerful nation than Britain.

It is nonetheless true that the British establishment’s anti-Russian fixation is having an internationally damaging effect.

Many Western governments have their own issues with Russia, and in such a situation it is not surprising that British paranoia about Russia finds a ready echo.

The most recent example of this is of course the orchestrated expulsion by various Western governments of Russian diplomats in the immediate aftermath of the Salisbury poisoning attack.

However the most damage has been done in the U.S.

Britain and Russia-gate

The full extent of the British role in the Russiagate scandal is not yet clear, but there is no doubt that it was both extensive and crucial.

The individual who arguably has played the single biggest role in generating the scandal is Christopher Steele, the compiler of the “golden showers” dossier, who is not only British but who is a former British intelligence officer.

It is now becoming increasingly clear – as Joe Lauria wrote last year in Consortium News– that the dossier has played a key role in the whole scandal, being accepted for many months by U.S. investigators – including it turns out by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators – as providing the ‘frame-narrative’ for the case of alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

The Steele dossier is in fact very much of a piece with the paranoid conception of Russia which has taken hold in Britain, though (as I have pointed out previously) the dossier’s description of how government decisions are made in Russia isabsurd.

Critics of the dossier in the United States rightly draw attention to the fact that it is ‘research’ paid for by Donald Trump’s political opponents in the Hillary Clinton campaign, whilst there is also a view popular amongst some Republicans (wrongly in my opinion) that it is a provocation concocted by Russian intelligence in order to disrupt the U.S. election process and embarrass Trump.

By contrast, insufficient attention is paid, in my opinion, to the fact that it is a British compilation put together in Britain by a former British spy at a time when Britain is in the grip of a particularly bad bout of Russia paranoia.

Steele himself is someone who by all accounts has fully bought into this paranoia. Indeed his previous role in preparing reports about Russia’s supposed role in Litvinenko’s murder and the World Cup bid, and also apparently in the Ukrainian crisis, suggests that he has played no small role in creating it.

Steele is not however the only British official or former official to have played an active role in Russia-gate.

Steele himself is known for example to have a close connection to Dearlove, the former MI6 Director who called Corbyn “a clear and present danger.” It seems that Dearlove and Steele discussed the “golden showers” dossier at a meeting in London’s Garrick Club at roughly the same time that Steele was in contact about it with the FBI.

Another far more more important British official to have taken an active role in the Russiagate affair was Robert Hannigan, the head of GCHQ – Britain’s equivalent to the NSA – who visited the U.S. in the summer of 2016 to brief the CIA about British concerns over alleged contacts between the Russians and Trump’s campaign.

Hannigan: Brought Steele dossier to the CIA.

Though Hannigan’s trip to Washington in the summer of 2016 was first spoken of in April 2017, it has never been confirmed that the Steele dossier, which he brought with him to show to the CIA, was part of the evidence of supposed contacts between the Russians and Trump’s campaign.  That it was, however, is strongly suggested by an article in The Washington Post on June 23, 2017, which amongst other things said the following:

“Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.

But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump…..

The CIA breakthrough came at a stage of the presidential campaign when Trump had secured the GOP nomination but was still regarded as a distant long shot. Clinton held comfortable leads in major polls, and Obama expected that he would be transferring power to someone who had served in his Cabinet.

The intelligence on Putin was extraordinary on multiple levels, including as a feat of espionage.

For spy agencies, gaining insights into the intentions of foreign leaders is among the highest priorities. But Putin is a remarkably elusive target. A former KGB officer, he takes extreme precautions to guard against surveillance, rarely communicating by phone or computer, always running sensitive state business from deep within the confines of the Kremlin.”

This almost certainly refers to the early entries of Steele’s dossier, which is the only report known to exist which claims to have been “sourc[ed from] deep inside the Russian government [and to have detailed] Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the US Presidential race”.

The Washington Post says that the CIA’s report to Obama drew on “critical technical intelligence on Russia provided by another country”.

That points to Hannigan being the source, with Hannigan being known to have visited the U.S. and to have briefed the CIA at about the time the CIA sent its report to Obama.

Hannigan likely provided the CIA with a mix of wiretap evidence and the first entries of the dossier.

The wiretap evidence probably detailed the confused but ultimately innocuous contacts the young London- based Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos was having at this time with the Russians. It is highly likely the British were keeping an eye on him at the request of the U.S., which the British would have been able to do for the U.S. without a FISA warrant since Papadopoulos was based in Britain.

Taken together with the first entries of the dossier, the details of Papadopoulos’s activities could easily have been misconstrued to conjure up a compelling case of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Given the paranoid atmosphere about Russia in Britain it would not be surprising if this alarmed Hannigan.

Needless to say if extracts from the dossier really were provided to the CIA by the head of one of Britain’s most important intelligence agencies, then it becomes much easier to understand why the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community took it so seriously.

Halper: Infiltrated Carter and Trump campaigns.

Then there is the case of Stefan Halper, an American academic lecturing at Cambridge University, who is friends and a business partner with Dearlove.  Halper was inserted by the FBI into the Trump campaign in early July 2016 to befriend Papadopoulos in London.  In 1980, the CIA inserted Halper into Jimmy Carter’s reelection campaign to help the Reagan camp by stealing information, including a Carter briefing book before a presidential debate.

Suffice to say that just as the British origin of the dossier has in my opinion been overlooked, so has the extent to which it circulated and was given credence in top circles within Britain before it made its full impact in the United States.

Overall, though the extent of the British role in the Russiagate affair is still not fully known, what information exists points to it being very substantial and important. In fact it is unlikely that the Russiagate scandal as we know it would have happened without it.

As such the Russiagate scandal serves as a good example of how British paranoia about Russia can infect the political process in another Western country, in this case the U.S.

Campaigning against Russia

Russia-gate is in fact only the most extreme example of the way that Britain’s anti-Russian obsession has damaged the international environment, though because of the effect it has had on the development of domestic politics in the United States it is the most important.

There have been countless others. The British have for example been the most implacable supporters amongst the leading Western powers of the ongoing sanctions drive against Russia. Britain for instance is known to have actively – though so far unsuccessfully – lobbied for Russian banks to be cut off from the SWIFT interbank payments system, which were it ever to happen would be by far the most severe sanction imposed by the West on Russia to date.

Beyond the effect on the international climate of the constant anti-Russian lobbying of the British government, there is the further effect of the ceaseless drumbeat of anti-Russian agitation which pours out of the British media and various British-based organisations and NGO.

These extend from well-established organisations like Amnesty International – which misrepresented the case against the Pussy Riot performers by claiming that they had been jailed for “holding a gig in a church” – to other less established organisations such Bellingcat and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, both of which are based in Britain. As it happens, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is known to have received funding from the British government, as apparently have the White Helmets.

In addition Bill Browder, the businessman who successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, and who has since then pursued a relentless campaign against Russia, is now also based in Britain and has British citizenship.

The great international reach of the British media – the result of the worldwide use of the English language and the international respect some parts of British media such as the BBC still command – means that this constant stream of anti-Russian publicity pouring out of Britain has a worldwide impact and is having an effect that has to be taken into account in any study of current international relations.

Rami Abdul Rahman: The one-man Observatory

The Price of an Obsession

The British establishment’s obsession with Russia is something of a puzzle.

Britain today is not a geopolitical rival of Russia’s as it was in the nineteenth century and as the U.S. is today. British antagonism to Russia cannot therefore be explained as the product of a geopolitical conflict.

Russia is not a military or political threat to Britain. There is no history of Russia threatening or invading Britain. Russia is not an economic rival, and Russian penetration of the British economy is minimal and vastly exaggerated.

It is sometimes said that there are things about modern Russia that the British find culturally, ideologically or politically distasteful, and that this is the reason for Britain’s intense hostility to Russia. However Britain has no difficulty being best of friends with all sorts of countries such as the Gulf Monarchies or China which are culturally, ideologically and politically far more different from Britain than Russia is. Logically that should make them more distasteful to Britain than Russia is, but it doesn’t seem to do so. In these cases economic interests clearly take precedence over any concerns for human rights.

Ultimately however the precise cause of the British establishment’s obsession with Russia does not actually matter. What does matter is that it is an obsession, which should be recognised as such, and that like all other obsessions is ultimately destructive.

In Britain’s case the obsession is not only corrupting Britain’s domestic politics and the working of its institutions.

It is also marginalising Britain, limiting its options, and causing growing exasperation amongst some of its friends.

In addition it blinds the British to their opportunities. If the British were able to put their obsession with Russia behind them they might notice that at a time when they are quitting the European Union Russia potentially has a great deal to offer them.

It is sometimes said that Britain produces very little that Russia needs, and it is indeed the case that trade between Russia and Britain is very small, and that most of Russia’s import needs are met by countries like Germany and China.

However Britain is able to provide Russia with the single thing that Russia arguably needs most at this stage in its development. This is not machinery or technology, all of which it is perfectly capable of producing itself, but the one thing it is truly short of: investment capital.

In the nineteenth century British capital played a key role in the industrialisation of America and in the opening up of the American West. There is no logical reason why it could not do something similar today in Russia. Indeed the marriage between Europe’s biggest financial centre (Britain) and Europe’s potentially most productive economy (Russia) is an obvious one.

In the twentieth century Britain’s long history of economic involvement in the U.S. paid handsome political dividends. Perhaps the same might one day be the case between Britain and Russia. Regardless of that, economic engagement with Russia would at least provide Britain with a plan for an economic future outside the EU, something which because of Brexit it urgently needs but which currently it completely lacks.

For anything like that to happen the British will first have to address the reality of their obsession, and the damage it is doing to them. At that point they might even start to do something about it. Britain’s relative success since the 1960s in overcoming other forms of racism and prejudice which had long existed in Britain shows that such a thing is possible if the problem is recognised and addressed. However I have to say that there is no sign of it happening at the moment.

In the meantime the rest of the world needs to understand that when it comes to Russia, the British are suffering from a serious affliction. Failing to do that risks the infection spreading, with the disastrous consequences we have seen with the Russia-gate scandal in the US.

There is even a chance that refusing to listen to the British about Russia might have a good effect on Britain. If the British realise that the world is no longer listening to them then they might start to understand the extent of their own problem.

If so than the world would be doing Britiain a favour, even if at the moment the British cannot see it.

Published:3/26/2019 1:06:38 AM
[World] [Jonathan H. Adler] Justice Department Revises Its Position in Texas ACA Case

The Trump Administration has decided that the Affordable Care Act should be voided in its entirety.

Last year, the Department of Justice turned heads when it refused to defend the constitutionality of portions of the Affordable Care Act and argued that the courts should invalidate key portions of the law. In a brief filed in Texas v. United States, DOJ accepted the argument made by several states that the so-called "individual mandate" was rendered unconstitutional when Congress zeroed out the tax penalty used to enforce it. More surprisingly, DOJ argued that the mandate's constitutional infirmity also required invalidation of the ACA's insurance market reforms -- guaranteed issue and community rating. In a ruling last year, a federal district court agreed that the penalty-less mandate is unconstitutional and that (as a consequence) the entire ACA must fall.

Under questioning at his confirmation hearing, Attorney General William Barr pledged to reconsider the DOJ's position -- and reconsider the federal government's position AG Barr has certainly done. According to a letter filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, DOJ now believes that the district court's judgment should be upheld. In other words, the Department of Justice has decided not to defend any portion of the ACA.

The Justice Department's change in position is astounding. It was remarkable enough that DOJ failed to question the states' standing to challenge an unenforced and unenforceable mandate, and even more remarkable that the Department failed to defend a readily defensible federal law. It is more remarkable still that the DOJ is abandoning its position -- and the position on severability advanced by the Obama Administration -- in favor of a highly strained and implausible approach to severability with little grounding or precedent.

I was among those who cheered the selection of William Barr as Attorney General and hoped his confirmation would herald the elevation of law over politics within the Justice Department. I am still hopeful, but this latest filing is not a good sign.

Published:3/25/2019 10:04:59 PM
[b68a7f59-b1ef-5188-b34c-81b6deaf79d1] Dan Bongino: These are the people who started phony Russia probe - and must answer for it There are no figures in the Trump campaign that colluded with Russia – but there were at least five in the Obama administration who helped push the bogus narratives of collusion and obstruction, and they have plenty of questions to answer. Published:3/25/2019 1:32:32 PM
[Markets] "It's Coming": Graham Vows To Investigate FBI's "Unprofessional Conduct" And 'Troubling' Behavior By Lynch, Comey

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a Monday press conference that he's going to get to the bottom of "unprofessional conduct" and "shady behavior" by the Justice Department and the FBI surrounding the 2016 US election, and will call on Attorney General William Barr to appoint another Special Counsel "that would look into what happened with the FISA warrant," and "what happened with the counterintelligence investigation.

Graham also laid out that while he hopes AG Barr will release as much of the Mueller report as possible, certain information would need to be redacted. 

"The rule of law applies both to Republicans and Democrats," said Graham, one day after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report cleared Trump and his team of colluding with Russia to win the election, while AG Barr and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein cleared Trump of obstruction. 

Graham says he's going to get to the bottom of former FBI Director James Comey's behavior in regards to the Clinton email investigation, the Weiner laptop, and the infamous "Tarmac" meeting between Bill Clinton and Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which the South Carolina Republican suggested was 'something more' than just a casual encounter.  

On Sunday night, Graham posted an ominous reply to Comey, after the former FBI Director posted a photo of a man in a forest with the caption "So many questions," to which Graham replied "Could not agree more. See you soon." 

Meanwhile in the House, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is reportedly preparing criminal referrals for individuals who "perpetuated this hoax," according to journalist Paul Sperry. 

Watch Graham's entire press conference below:

Published:3/25/2019 12:01:23 PM
[Markets] Glenn Greenwald: Russia Collusion 'Conspiracy' Was "Saddest Media Spectacle I Have Ever Seen"

Offering one of the most scathing responses to the Mueller report summary released Sunday night, Glenn Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and founding editor of the Intercept, appeared on Democracy Now! Monday, where he lambasted the mainstream press for helping to perpetuate the "total fraud" that was the Russia collusion narrative.

The Intercept editor, who lives in Brazil with his partner, has been one of the most consistent voices speaking out about the mainstream press's indulgence in "Russia collusion" conspiracy porn, blaming Rachel Maddow and her ilk for helping to discredit the broader media by spewing alarmist propaganda about the Mueller probe, and getting their audience's hopes up for a major reveal that might ultimately end with Trump being driven from office...possibly in handcuffs.

Greenwald

Greenwald, who appeared on DN alongside former New York Times journalist David Cay Johnston, who argued the other side - that the Mueller report hasn't satisfied questions of collusion or corruption - and that Trump remains a Russian "asset" (though he clarified that he didn't believe Trump was an actual agent in the employ of Russian intelligence).

During a conversation where he compared Maddow to Judy Miller (The disgraced NYT journalist who spread misinformation on behalf of the Bush Administration during the runup to the Iraq War), Greenwald said the media's spinning of Russia conspiracy theories wasn't just incorrect, but also harmful.

"This is the saddest media spectacle I have ever seen since I began practicing journalism in 2005 and what makes it even sadder is to watch all the people who invested their journalistic credibility into what proved to be a complete and total fraud and scam continue to try and cling to some vestige of credibility by continuing to spin conspiracy theories that are even more reckless and more unhinged than those we've been subjected to for the past three years."

The problem with propagating this narrative, Greenwald explained, is that it has helped inflame tensions between the US and Russia, putting both countries in a precarious position regarding the potential for a nuclear conflict. Saying that Trump is beholden to Russia would cut against Trump Administration policies that have actually been more aggressive than those of Trump's predecessor.

"That's the tragedy of everything that just happened...all the things that do deserve attention and investigation have received none...because this idea drowning everything out has been a complete fairy tale...We have the answer...as for him being a Russian asset is it's so irresponsible to say that because the reality is the conflict between the US and Russia has been higher than it has ever been in decades. How can you say Trump is a client of the Kremlin when he's trying to oust one of Russia's most important client states in Venezuela, or when he's pressuring Angela Merkel to stop buying Russian natural gas?"

"Over and over the Trump Administration has taken actions that have been more aggressive than the Obama administration against the Kremlin."

And while allegations of election hacking should absolutely be investigated, treating Russia's interference as unprecedented and nefarious has transformed the US into a laughingstock internationally...because Washington has spent the last 70 years since WWII meddling in the politics of both its neighbors and other countries further afield.

"That any country would dare to interfere in our sacred and glorious democracy when the United States has done very little since the end of WWII but going around the world and interfering in every Democracy they can find...including Brazil the country in which I'm currently living...and even Russia. This doesn't make it right for Russia to do it, but we've never kept it in perspective that meddling in other countries' elections isn't some grave never before seen drama...it's part of regular business."

"All of this outrage...has made the US a laughing stock to the hundreds of millions of people who live in countries where the US has done this and far, far worse."

What's worse, the Russia collusion investigation has distracted from other, more important, wrongs committed by Trump: Namely, the prosecution of Wikileaks and the 'torture' of Chelsea Manning.

"The Trump Administration has made no secret of the fact that they want to prosecute Wikileaks for the crime in their eyes for disclosing confidential documents...one of the gravest threats we can imagine to press freedom. Chelsea Manning is being put back into solidarity confinement to torture her to say things about Wikileaks that aren't true..."

"...I hope that gets way more attention."

His comments during the interview echoed many of the same points Greenwald made during a series of tweets sent earlier Monday morning.

Readers can listen to the full interview below...

...and watch a video clip here.

Published:3/25/2019 10:31:51 AM
[df476b88-5ba2-5d82-804b-3660a4e56a35] Darrell Issa: Transparency? Trump is a model of cooperation compared to Obama's stonewalling and delay Our committee spent six years being told by the Obama White House that they would consider our lawful requests – before denying them. The Trump White House by comparison is a model of cooperation. Published:3/25/2019 10:31:51 AM
[Markets] House Intel Readies Criminal Referrals For Clinton Operatives Who "Perpetuated This Hoax"

Just hours after President Trump proclaimed "It began illegally. And hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed..."

It seems the "other side" may just get what they deserved.

Source: GrrrGraphics

Here is Nunes from Friday...

Rep. Devin Nunes is reportedly referring will make criminal referrals to Attorney General Bill Barr on FBI, DOJ officials who perpetrated this hoax.

Nunes earlier tweeted: "The Russia investigation was based on false pretenses, false intel, and false media reports. House Intel found a yr ago there was no evidence of collusion, and Democrats who falsely claim to have such evidence have needlessly provoked a terrible, more than two-year-long crisis."

And now Sperry is reporting that Nunes is preparing criminal referrals: "House Intel has evidence Clinton operatives & hi-level FBI & DOJ officials started Trump-Russia investigation in "late 2015/early 2016" &that House GOP will be making criminal referrals to AG"

The 'coup' comes full circle...

Source: GatewayPundit

How long before #LockThemUp starts trending?

Published:3/24/2019 8:28:04 PM
[Markets] Trump "Totally Exonerated", Calls For Investigation Into "Illegal Takedown That Failed"

Update 145pmET: President Trump has called for an investigation into the "illegal takedown that failed" - after Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia in the 2016 US election. 

"It was just announced, there was no collusion with Russia. The most ridiculous thing i've ever heard. There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. None whatsoever. It was a complete and total exoneration," Trump told reporters.

"It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest it's a shame that your president had to go through this for - before I even got elected, it began. And it began illegally. And hopefully somebody is gonna look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed, and hopefully somebody is going to be looking at the other side."

Recall that Hillary Clinton's campaign paid an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS - who paid a former UK spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a bogus dossier using Kremlin sources.

Also recall that Maltese professor (and self-admitted Clinton foundation member) Joseph Mifsud seeded Trump aide George Papadopoulos with the rumor that Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. 

Papadopoulos would later drunkenly pass this information to Australian diplomat (and Clinton ally) Alexander Downer, whose report reached the FBI and launched operation crossfire hurricane

The FBI would then employ at least one spy to "infiltrate" (spy on) the Trump campaign. 

Will a second special counsel be created to investigate "the other side" - now that the 'plot' has been exposed and Trump vindicated of collusion?

*  *  *

Update 130pmET: Less than hour after the release of the summary and the DoJ's clearance of obstruction allegations, top Democrat, and chair of the House Judiciary committee, Jerry Nadler, has decided to call AG Barr for testimony...

"In light of the very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department following the Special Counsel report, where Mueller did not exonerate the President, we will be calling Attorney General Barr in to testify before the House Judiciary Committee..."

Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump's lawyer, said:

"It's a complete exoneration of the president. It's quite clear - no collusion -which kind of raises the question why did this all start in the first place? "

*  *  *

As we detailed earlier, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have received a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr which concludes that "The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election."

Of course, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) - who chairs the House Judiciary Committee (and has already fired up the post-Mueller "witch hunt") notes that "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

As far as Obstruction - Mueller has left it to the Attorney General to "determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime."

Except - Barr sees no obstruction - writing in conjunction with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that they "concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

Mueller's team of approximately 40 FBI agents issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed "nearly 500 search warrants," and "obtained over 230 orders for communication records. They also issued 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses

Needless to say, conservatives are considering this a yuge win

While the full report could include damaging elements which don't rise to the level of criminal charges, Trump is certainly projecting the "all clear," tweeting on Sunday "Good Morning, Have A Great Day" - after hitting the links with musician Kid Rock on Saturday at Trump International Golf Club. 

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for the full public release of the long-awaited report, which notably did not include any new indictments - sending Democrats into fits over the weekend as Republicans celebrated what appears to be a big win. 

On Saturday, 18 state attorneys general joined together to urge the Justice Department to publicly release the final report. 

"As the top law officers in states across the country, we strongly urge United States Attorney General Barr to immediately make public the findings of the Mueller investigation," reads the statement. "The American people deserve to know the truth."

It's likely that Democrats want to see the entire report in order to pick up on any wrongdoing that may have occurred, yet did not rise to the level of a chargeable offense. 

While Mueller apparently did not find anything else that rose to the level of a prosecutable crime (or has handed off aspects of the investigation to federal prosecutors), journalist Paul Sperry notes that the Special Counsel investigation also failed to yield any indictments on the left. 

Democrats, meanwhile, are still holding out for the "fat lady" to sing based on the notion that aspects of the investigation were handed over to New York prosecutors. 

The only question - where will the left move the goal posts when this is all said and done?

Published:3/24/2019 4:29:30 PM
[7806946d-823e-5d33-b367-e22e009c6857] Michael Goodwin: Why Obama and Clinton should now be probed What did President Obama and his administration do, and why did they do it? Published:3/24/2019 10:26:14 AM
[Russia investigation] An intelligence failure (Scott Johnson) Appearing on MSNBC a little over two weeks ago, former Obama administration CIA Director John Brennan foresaw a raft of indictments coming out of the heart of Robert Mueller’s investigation. From his position of service at the top of the Obama administration, Brennan was of course a key participant in the peddling of alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Since his departure from office, Brennan has revealed himself as a Published:3/24/2019 9:55:02 AM
[Markets] Taibbi: It's Official - 'Russiagate' Is This Generation's WMD

Authored by Matt Taibbi, excerpted from his serial book Hate Inc.,

The Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press. Russiagate just destroyed it...

Note to readers: in light of news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is complete, I’m releasing this chapter of Hate Inc. early, with a few new details added up top.

Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media.

As has long been rumored, the former FBI chief’s independent probe will result in multiple indictments and convictions, but no “presidency-wrecking” conspiracy charges, or anything that would meet the layman’s definition of “collusion” with Russia.

With the caveat that even this news might somehow turn out to be botched, the key detail in the many stories about the end of the Mueller investigation was best expressed by the New York Times:

A senior Justice Department official said that Mr. Mueller would not recommend new indictments.

The Times tried to soften the emotional blow for the millions of Americans trained in these years to place hopes for the overturn of the Trump presidency in Mueller. Nobody even pretended it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission, instead of an act of faith.

The Special Prosecutor literally became a religious figure during the last few years, with votive candles sold in his image and Saturday Night Live cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” to him featuring the rhymey line: “Mueller please come through, because the only option is a coup.”

The Times story today tried to preserve Santa Mueller’s reputation, noting Trump’s Attorney General William Barr’s reaction was an “endorsement” of the fineness of Mueller’s work:

In an apparent endorsement of an investigation that Mr. Trump has relentlessly attacked as a “witch hunt,” Mr. Barr said Justice Department officials never had to intervene to keep Mr. Mueller from taking an inappropriate or unwarranted step.

Mueller, in other words, never stepped out of the bounds of his job description. But could the same be said for the news media?

For those anxious to keep the dream alive, the Times published its usual graphic of Trump-Russia “contacts,” inviting readers to keep making connections. But in a separate piece by Peter Baker, the paper noted the Mueller news had dire consequences for the press:

It will be a reckoning for President Trump, to be sure, but also for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for Congress, for Democrats, for Republicans, for the news media and, yes, for the system as a whole…

This is a damning page one admission by the Times. Despite the connect-the-dots graphic in its other story, and despite the astonishing, emotion-laden editorial the paper also ran suggesting “We don’t need to read the Mueller report” because we know Trump is guilty, Baker at least began the work of preparing Times readers for a hard question: “Have journalists connected too many dots that do not really add up?”

The paper was signaling it understood there would now be questions about whether or not news outlets like themselves made a galactic error by betting heavily on a new, politicized approach, trying to be true to “history’s judgment” on top of the hard-enough job of just being true. Worse, in a brutal irony everyone should have seen coming, the press has now handed Trump the mother of campaign issues heading into 2020.

Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population, a group that (perhaps thanks to this story) is now larger than his original base. As Baker notes, a full 50.3% of respondents in a poll conducted this month said they agree with Trump the Mueller probe is a “witch hunt.”

Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences “disappointed,” as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news.

Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you’d have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised. To be unaware of this is mind-boggling, the journalistic equivalent of walking outside without pants.

There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…

Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.

For years, every pundit and Democratic pol in Washington hyped every new Russia headline like the Watergate break-in. Now, even Nancy Pelosi has said impeachment is out, unless something “so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan” against Trump is uncovered it would be worth their political trouble to prosecute.

The biggest thing this affair has uncovered so far is Donald Trump paying off a porn star. That’s a hell of a long way from what this business was supposedly about at the beginning, and shame on any reporter who tries to pretend this isn’t so.

The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.

The betrayal narrative was not reported at first as metaphor. It was not “Trump likes the Russians so much, he might as well be a spy for them.” It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump “will die in jail.”

In the early months of this scandal, the New York Times said Trump’s campaign had “repeated contacts” with Russian intelligence; the Wall Street Journal told us our spy agencies were withholding intelligence from the new President out of fear he was compromised; news leaked out our spy chiefs had even told other countries like Israel not to share their intel with us, because the Russians might have “leverages of pressure” on Trump.

CNN told us Trump officials had been in “constant contact” with “Russians known to U.S. intelligence,” and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” committing acts “nothing short of treasonous.”

Hillary Clinton insisted Russians “could not have known how to weaponize” political ads unless they’d been “guided” by Americans. Asked if she meant Trump, she said, “It’s pretty hard not to.” Harry Reid similarly said he had “no doubt” that the Trump campaign was “in on the deal” to help Russians with the leak.

None of this has been walked back. To be clear, if Trump were being blackmailed by Russian agencies like the FSB or the GRU, if he had any kind of relationship with Russian intelligence, that would soar over the “overwhelming and bipartisan” standard, and Nancy Pelosi would be damning torpedoes for impeachment right now.

There was never real gray area here. Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.

#Russiagate debuted as a media phenomenon in mid-summer, 2016. The roots of the actual story, i.e. when the multi-national investigation began, go back much further, to the previous year at least. Oddly, that origin tale has not been nailed down yet, and blue-state audiences don’t seem terribly interested in it, either.

By June and July of 2016, bits of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which had been funded by the Democratic National Committeethrough the law firm Perkins Coie (which in turn hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS), were already in the ether.

The Steele report occupies the same role in #Russiagate the tales spun by Ahmed Chalabi occupied in the WMD screwup. Once again, a narrative became turbo-charged when Officials With Motives pulled the press corps by its nose to a swamp of unconfirmable private assertions.

Some early stories, like a July 4, 2016 piece by Franklin Foer in Slate called “Putin’s Puppet,” outlined future Steele themes in “circumstantial” form. But the actual dossier, while it influenced a number of pre-election Trump-Russia news stories (notably one by Michael Isiskoff of Yahoo! that would be used in a FISA warrant application), didn’t make it into print for a while.

Though it was shopped to at least nine news organizations during the summer and fall of 2016, no one bit, for the good reason that news organizations couldn’t verify its “revelations.”

The Steele claims were explosive if true. The ex-spy reported Trump aide Carter Page had been offered fees on a big new slice of the oil giant Rosneft if he could help get sanctions against Russia lifted. He also said Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers.”

Most famously, he wrote the Kremlin had kompromat of Trump “deriling” [sic] a bed once used by Barack and Michelle Obama by “employing a number of prostitutes to perform a 'golden showers' (urination) show.”

This was too good of a story not to do. By hook or crook, it had to come out. The first salvo was by David Corn of Mother Jones on October 31, 2016: “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”

The piece didn’t have pee, Prague, or Page in it, but it did say Russian intelligence had material that could “blackmail” Trump. It was technically kosher to print because Corn wasn’t publishing the allegations themselves, merely that the FBI had taken possession of them.

A bigger pretext was needed to get the other details out. This took place just after the election, when four intelligence officials presented copies of the dossier to both President-Elect Trump and outgoing President Obama.

From his own memos, we know FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly evincing concern for Trump’s welfare, told the new President he was just warning him about what was out there, as possible blackmail material:

I wasn’t saying [the Steele report] was true, only that I wanted him to know both that it had been reported and that the reports were in many hands. I said media like CNN had them and were looking for a news hook. I said it was important that we not give them the excuse to write that the FBI has the material or [redacted] and that we were keeping it very close-hold [sic].

Comey’s generous warning to Trump about not providing a “news hook,” along with a promise to keep it all “close-held,” took place on January 6, 2017. Within four days, basically the entire Washington news media somehow knew all about this top-secret meeting and had the very hook they needed to go public. Nobody in the mainstream press thought this was weird or warranted comment.

Even Donald Trump was probably smart enough to catch the hint when, of all outlets, it was CNN that first broke the story of “Classified documents presented last week to Trump” on January 10.

At the same time, Buzzfeed made the historic decision to publish the entire Steele dossier, bringing years of pee into our lives. This move birthed the Russiagate phenomenon as a never-ending, minute-to-minute factor in American news coverage.

Comey was right. We couldn’t have reported this story without a “hook.” Therefore the reports surrounding Steele technically weren’t about the allegations themselves, but rather the journey of those allegations, from one set of official hands to another. Handing the report to Trump created a perfect pretext.

This trick has been used before, both in Washington and on Wall Street, to publicize unconfirmed private research. A short seller might hire a consulting firm to prepare a report on a company he or she has bet against. When the report is completed, the investor then tries to get the SEC or the FBI to take possession. If they do, news leaks the company is “under investigation,” the stock dives, and everyone wins.  

This same trick is found in politics. A similar trajectory drove negative headlines in the scandal surrounding New Jersey’s Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who was said to be under investigation by the FBI for underage sex crimes (although some were skeptical). The initial story didn’t hold up, but led to other investigations.

Same with the so-called “Arkansas project,” in which millions of Republican-friendly private research dollars produced enough noise about the Whitewater scandal to create years of headlines about the Clintons. Swiftboating was another example. Private oppo isn’t inherently bad. In fact it has led to some incredible scoops, including Enron. But reporters usually know to be skeptical of private info, and figure the motives of its patrons into the story.

The sequence of events in that second week of January, 2017 will now need to be heavily re-examined. We now know, from his own testimony, that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had some kind of role in helping CNN do its report, presumably by confirming part of the story, perhaps through an intermediary or two (there is some controversy over whom exactly was contacted, and when).

Why would real security officials help litigate this grave matter through the media? Why were the world’s most powerful investigative agencies acting like they were trying to move a stock, pushing an private, unverified report that even Buzzfeed could see had factual issues? It made no sense at the time, and makes less now.

In January of 2017, Steele’s pile of allegations became public, read by millions. “It is not just unconfirmed,” Buzzfeed admitted. “It includes some clear errors.”

Buzzfeed’s decision exploded traditional journalistic standards against knowingly publishing material whose veracity you doubt. Although a few media ethicistswondered at it, this seemed not to bother the rank-and-file in the business. Buzzfeed chief Ben Smith is still proud of his decision today. I think this was because many reporters believed the report was true.

When I read the report, I was in shock. I thought it read like fourth-rate suspense fiction (I should know: I write fourth-rate suspense fiction). Moreover it seemed edited both for public consumption and to please Steele’s DNC patrons.

Steele wrote of Russians having a file of “compromising information” on Hillary Clinton, only this file supposedly lacked “details/evidence of unorthodox or embarrassing behavior” or “embarrassing conduct.”

We were meant to believe the Russians, across decades of dirt-digging, had an emptykompromat file on Hillary Clinton, to say nothing of human tabloid headline Bill Clinton? This point was made more than once in the reports, as if being emphasized for the reading public.

There were other curious lines, including the bit about Russians having “moles” in the DNC, plus some linguistic details that made me wonder at the nationality of the report author.

Still, who knew? It could be true. But even the most cursory review showed the report had issues and would need a lot of confirming. This made it more amazing that the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, held hearings on March 20, 2017 that blithely read out Steele report details as if they were fact. From Schiff’s opening statement:

According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft… Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company.

I was stunned watching this. It’s generally understood that members of congress, like reporters, make an effort to vet at least their prepared remarks before making them public.

But here was Schiff, telling the world Trump aide Carter Page had been offered huge fees on a 19% stake in Rosneft – a company with a $63 billion market capitalization – in a secret meeting with a Russian oligarch who was also said to be “a KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s.”

(Schiff meant “FSB agent.” The inability of #Russiagaters to remember Russia is not the Soviet Union became increasingly maddening over time. Donna Brazile still hasn’t deleted her tweet about how “The Communists are now dictating the terms of the debate.” )

Schiff’s speech raised questions. Do we no longer have to worry about getting accusations right if the subject is tied to Russiagate? What if Page hadn’t done any of these things? To date, he hasn’t been charged with anything. Shouldn’t a member of congress worry about this?

A few weeks after that hearing, Steele gave testimony in a British lawsuit filed by one of the Russian companies mentioned in his reports. In a written submission, Steele said his information was “raw” and “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.” He also wrote that (at least as pertained to the memo in that case) he had not written his report “with the intention that it be republished to the world at large.”

That itself was a curious statement, given that Steele reportedly spoke with multiple reporters in the fall of 2016, but this was his legal position. This story about Steele’s British court statements did not make it into the news much in the United States, apart from a few bits in conservative outlets like The Washington Times.

I contacted Schiff’s office to ask if the congressman if he knew about Steele’s admission that his report needed verifying, and if that changed his view of it at all. The response (emphasis mine):

The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and which was leaked publicly several months ago contains information that may be pertinent to our investigation. This is true regardless of whether it was ever intended for public dissemination. Accordingly, the Committee hopes to speak with Mr. Steele in order to help substantiate or refute each of the allegations contained in the dossier.

Schiff had not spoken to Steele before the hearing, and read out the allegations knowing they were unsubstantiated.

The Steele report was the Magna Carta of #Russiagate. It provided the implied context for thousands of news stories to come, yet no journalist was ever able to confirm its most salacious allegations: the five year cultivation plan, the blackmail, the bribe from Sechin, the Prague trip, the pee romp, etc. In metaphorical terms, we were unable to independently produce Steele’s results in the lab. Failure to reckon with this corrupted the narrative from the start. 

For years, every hint the dossier might be true became a banner headline, while every time doubt was cast on Steele’s revelations, the press was quiet. Washington Post reporter Greg Miller went to Prague and led a team looking for evidence Cohen had been there. Post reporters, Miller said, “literally spent weeks and months trying to run down” the Cohen story.

“We sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there,” he said, “and came away empty.”

This was heads-I-win, tails-you-lose reporting. One assumes if Miller found Cohen’s name in a hotel ledger, it would have been on page 1 of the Post. The converse didn’t get a mention in Miller’s own paper. He only told the story during a discussion aired by C-SPAN about a new book he’d published. Only The Daily Caller and a few conservative blogs picked it up.

It was the same when Bob Woodward said, “I did not find [espionage or collusion]… Of course I looked for it, looked for it hard.”

The celebrated Watergate muckraker – who once said he’d succumbed to “groupthink”in the WMD episode and added, “I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder” – didn’t push very hard here, either. News that he’d tried and failed to find collusion didn’t get into his own paper. It only came out when Woodward was promoting his book Fear in a discussion with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.

When Michael Cohen testified before congress and denied under oath ever being in Prague, it was the same. Few commercial news outlets bothered to take note of the implications this had for their previous reports. Would a man clinging to a plea deal lie to congress on national television about this issue?

There was a CNN story, but the rest of the coverage was all in conservative outlets – the National ReviewFoxThe Daily CallerThe Washington Post’s response was to run an editorial sneering at “How conservative media downplayed Michael Cohen’s testimony.”

Perhaps worst of all was the episode involving Yahoo! reporter Michael Isikoff. He had already been part of one strange tale: the FBI double-dipping when it sought a FISA warrant to conduct secret surveillance of Carter Page, the would-be mastermind who was supposed to have brokered a deal with oligarch Sechin.

In its FISA application, the FBI included both the unconfirmed Steele report and Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo! story, “U.S. Intel Officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The Isikoff story, which claimed Page had met with “high ranking sanctioned officials” in Russia, had relied upon Steele as an unnamed source.

This was similar to a laundering technique used in the WMD episode called “stove-piping,” i.e. officials using the press to “confirm” information the officials themselves fed the reporter.

But there was virtually no non-conservative press about this problem apart from a Washington Post story pooh-poohing the issue. (Every news story that casts any doubt on the collusion issue seems to meet with an instantaneous “fact check” in the Post.) The Post insisted the FISA issue wasn’t serious among other things because Steele was not the “foundation” of Isikoff’s piece.

Isikoff was perhaps the reporter most familiar with Steele. He and Corn of Mother Jones, who also dealt with the ex-spy, wrote a bestselling book that relied upon theories from Steele, Russian Roulette, including a rumination on the “pee” episode. Yet Isikoff in late 2018 suddenly said he believed the Steele report would turn out to be “mostly false.”

Once again, this only came out via a podcast, John Ziegler’s “Free Speech Broadcasting” show. Here’s a transcript of the relevant section:

Isikoff: When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, you know, we have not seen the evidence to support them. And in fact there is good grounds to think some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven, and are likely false.

Ziegler: That’s...

Isikoff: I think it’s a mixed record at best at this point, things could change, Mueller may yet produce evidence that changes this calculation. But based on the public record at this point I have to say that most of the specific allegations have not been borne out.

Ziegler: That’s interesting to hear you say that, Michael because as I’m sure you know, your book was kind of used to validate the pee tape, for lack of a better term.

Isikoff: Yeah. I think we had some evidence in there of an event that may have inspired the pee tape and that was the visit that Trump made with a number of characters who later showed up in Moscow, specifically Emin Agalarov and Rob Goldstone to this raunchy Las Vegas nightclub where one of the regular acts was a skit called “Hot For Teacher” in which dancers posing as college Co-Ed’s urinated – or simulated urinating on their professor. Which struck me as an odd coincidence at best. I think, you know, it is not implausible that event may have inspired...

Ziegler: An urban legend?

Isikoff: ...allegations that appeared in the Steele dossier. 

Isikoff delivered this story with a laughing tone. He seamlessly transitioned to what he then called the “real” point, i.e. “the irony is Steele may be right, but it wasn’t the Kremlin that had sexual kompromat on Donald Trump, it was the National Enquirer.

Recapping: the reporter who introduced Steele to the world (his September 23, 2016 story was the first to reference him as a source), who wrote a book that even he concedes was seen as “validating” the pee tape story, suddenly backtracks and says the whole thing may have been based on a Las Vegas strip act, but it doesn’t matter because Stormy Daniels, etc.

Another story of this type involved a court case in which Webzilla and parent company XBT sued Steele and Buzzfeed over the mention their firm in one of the memos. It came out in court testimony that Steele had culled information about XBT/Webzilla from a 2009 post on CNN’s "iReports” page

Asked if he understood these posts came from random users and not CNN journalists who’d been fact-checked, Steele replied, “I do not.” 

This comical detail was similar to news that the second British Mi6 dossier released just before the Iraq invasion had been plagiarized in part from a thirteen year-old student thesis from California State University, not even by intelligence people, but by mid-level functionaries in Tony Blair’s press office. 

There were so many profiles of Steele as an “astoundingly diligent” spymaster straight out of LeCarre: he was routinely described like a LeCarre-ian grinder like the legendary George Smiley, a man in the shadows whose bookish intensity was belied by his “average,” “neutral,” “quiet,” demeanor, being “more low-key than Smiley.” One would think it might have rated a mention that our “Smiley” was cutting and pasting text like a community college freshman. But the story barely made news.

This has been a consistent pattern throughout #Russiagate. Step one: salacious headline. Step two, days or weeks later: news emerges the story is shakier than first believed. Step three (in the best case) involves the story being walked back or retracted by the same publication.

That’s been rare. More often, when explosive #Russiagate headlines go sideways, the original outlets simply ignore the new development, leaving the “retraction” process to conservative outlets that don’t reach the original audiences.

This is a major structural flaw of the new fully-divided media landscape in which Republican media covers Democratic corruption and Democratic media covers Republican corruption. If neither “side” feels the need to disclose its own errors and inconsistencies, mistakes accumulate quickly.

This has been the main difference between Russiagate and the WMD affair. Despite David Remnick’s post-invasion protestations that “nobody got [WMD] completely right,” the Iraq war was launched against the objections of the 6 million or more people who did get it right, and protested on the streets. There was open skepticism of Bush claims dotting the press landscape from the start, with people like Jack Shafer tearing apart every Judith Miller story in print. Most reporters are Democrats and the people hawking the WMD story were mostly Republicans, so there was political space for protest.

Russiagate happened in an opposite context. If the story fell apart it would benefit Donald Trump politically, a fact that made a number of reporters queasy about coming forward. #Russiagate became synonymous with #Resistance, which made public skepticism a complicated proposition.

Early in the scandal, I appeared on To The Point, a California-based public radio show hosted by Warren Olney, with Corn of Mother Jones. I knew David a little and had been friendly with him. He once hosted a book event for me in Washington. In the program, however, the subject of getting facts right came up and Corn said this was not a time for reporters to be picking nits:

So Democrats getting overeager, overenthusiastic, stating things that may not be [unintelligible] true…? Well, tell me a political issue where that doesn’t happen. I think that’s looking at the wrong end of the telescope.

I wrote him later and suggested that since we’re in the press, and not really about anything except avoiding “things that may not be true,” maybe we had different responsibilities than “Democrats”? He wrote back:

Feel free to police the Trump opposition. But on the list of shit that needs to be covered these days, that's just not high on my personal list.

Other reporters spoke of an internal struggle. When the Mueller indictment of the Internet Research Agency was met with exultation in the media, New Yorker writer Adrian Chen, who broke the original IRA story, was hesitant to come forward with some mild qualms about the way the story was being reported:

“Either I could stay silent and allow the conversation to be dominated by those pumping up the Russian threat,” he said, “or I could risk giving fodder to Trump and his allies.”

After writing, “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic,” poor Blake Hounsell of Politicotook such a beating on social media, he ended up denouncing himself a year later.

“What I meant to write is, I wasn’t skeptical,” he said.

Years ago, in the midst of the WMD affair, Times public editor Daniel Okrent noted the paper’s standard had moved from “Don’t get it first, get it right” to “Get it first and get it right.” From there, Okrent wrote, “the next devolution was an obvious one.”

We’re at that next devolution: first and wrong. The Russiagate era has so degraded journalism that even once “reputable” outlets are now only about as right as politicians, which is to say barely ever, and then only by accident.

Early on, I was so amazed by the sheer quantity of Russia “bombshells” being walked back, I started to keep a list. It’s well above 50 stories now. As has been noted by Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept and others, if the mistakes were random, you’d expect them in both directions, but Russiagate errors uniformly go the same way.

In some cases the stories are only partly wrong, as in the case of the famed “17 intelligence agencies said Russia was behind the hacking” story (it was actually four: the Director of National Intelligence “hand-picking” a team from the FBI, CIA, and NSA).

In other cases the stories were blunt false starts, resulting in ugly sets of matching headlines:

Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility

Washington Post, December 31, 2016.

Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility

Washington Post, Jan. 2, 2017.

Trump Campaign Aides had repeated contacts with Russian Intelligence,” published by the Times on Valentine’s Day, 2017, was an important, narrative-driving “bombshell” that looked dicey from the start. The piece didn’t say whether the contact was witting or unwitting, whether the discussions were about business or politics, or what the contacts supposedly were at all.

Normally a reporter would want to know what the deal is before he or she runs a story accusing people of having dealings with foreign spies. “Witting” or “Unwitting” ought to be a huge distinction, for instance. It soon after came out that people like former CIA chief John Brennan don’t think this is the case. “Frequently, people who are on a treasonous path do not know they’re on a treasonous path,” he said, speaking of Trump’s circle.

This seemed a dangerous argument, the kind of thing that led to trouble in the McCarthy years. But let’s say the contacts were serious. From a reporting point of view, you’d still need to know exactly what the nature of such contacts were before you run that story, because the headline implication is grave. Moreover you’d need to know it well enough to report it, i.e. it’s not enough to be told a convincing story off-the-record, you need to be able to share with readers enough so that they can characterize the news themselves.

Not to the Times, which ran the article without the specifics. Months later, Comey blew up this “contacts” story in public, saying, “in the main, it was not true.“

As was the case with the “17 agencies” error, which only got fixed when Clapper testified in congress and was forced to make the correction under oath, the “repeated contacts” story was only disputed when Comey testified in congress, this time before the Senate Intelligence Committee. How many other errors of this type are waiting to be disclosed?

Even the mistakes caught were astounding. On December 1, 2017, ABC reporter Brian Ross claimed Trump “as a candidate” instructed Michael Flynn to contact Russia. The news caused the Dow to plummet 350 points. The story was retracted almost immediately and Ross was suspended.

Bloomberg reported Mueller subpoenaed Trump’s Deutsche Bank accounts; the subpoenas turned out to be of other individuals’ records. Fortune said C-SPAN was hacked after Russia Today programming briefly interrupted coverage of a Maxine Waters floor address. The New York Times also ran the story, and it’s still up, despite C-SPAN insisting its own “internal routing error” likely caused the feed to appear in place of its own broadcast.

CNN has its own separate sub-list of wrecks. Three of the network’s journalists resigned after a story purporting to tie Trump advisor Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund was retracted. Four more CNN reporters (Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper and Brian Rokus) were bylined in a story that claimed Comey was expected to refute Trump’s claims he was told he wasn’t the target of an investigation. Comey blew that one up, too.

In another CNN scoop gone awry, “Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents,” the network’s reporters were off by ten days in a “bombshell” that supposedly proved the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of Wikileaks dumps. “It’s, uh, perhaps not as significant as what we know now,” offered CNN’s Manu Raju in a painful on-air retraction.

The worst stories were the ones never corrected. A particularly bad example is “After Florida School Shooting, Russian ‘Bot’ Army Pounced,” from the New York Times on Feb 18, 2018. The piece claimed Russians were trying to divide Americans on social media after a mass shooting using Twitter hashtags like #guncontrolnow, #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting.

The Times ran this quote high up:

 “This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”

About a year after this story came out, Times reporters Scott Shane and Ann Blinder reported that the same outfit, New Knowledge, and in particular that same Jonathon Morgan, had participated in a cockamamie scheme to fake Russian troll activity in an Alabama Senate race. The idea was to try to convince voters Russia preferred the Republican.

The Times quoted a New Knowledge internal report about the idiotic Alabama scheme:

We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet…

The Parkland story was iffy enough when it came out, as Twitter disputed it, and another of the main sources for the initial report, former intelligence official Clint Watts, subsequently said he was “not convinced” on the whole “bot thing.”

But when one of your top sources turns out to have faked exactly the kind of activity described in your article, you should at least take the quote out, or put an update online. No luck: the story remains up on the Times site, without disclaimers.

Russiagate institutionalized one of the worst ethical loopholes in journalism, which used to be limited mainly to local crime reporting. It’s always been a problem that we publish mugshots and names of people merely arrested but not yet found guilty. Those stories live forever online and even the acquitted end up permanently unable to get jobs, smeared as thieves, wife-beaters, drunk drivers, etc.

With Russiagate the national press abandoned any pretense that there’s a difference between indictment and conviction. The most disturbing story involved Maria Butina. Here authorities and the press shared responsibility. Thanks to an indictment that initially said the Russian traded sex for favors, the Times and other outlets flooded the news cycle with breathless stories about a redheaded slut-temptress come to undermine democracy, a “real-life Red Sparrow,” as ABC put it.

But a judge threw out the sex charge after “five minutes” when it turned out to be based on a single joke text to a friend who had taken Butina’s car for inspection.

It’s pretty hard to undo public perception you’re a prostitute once it’s been in a headline, and, worse, the headlines are still out there. You can still find stories like “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan” online in the New York Times.

Here a reporter might protest: how would I know? Prosecutors said she traded sex for money. Why shouldn’t I believe them?

How about because, authorities have been lying their faces off to reporters since before electricity! It doesn’t take much investigation to realize the main institutional sources in the Russiagate mess – the security services, mainly – have extensive records of deceiving the media.

As noted before, from World War I-era tales of striking union workers being German agents to the “missile gap” that wasn’t (the “gap” was leaked to the press before the Soviets had even one operational ICBM) to the Gulf of Tonkin mess to all the smears of people like Martin Luther King, it’s a wonder newspapers listen to whispers from government sources at all.

In the Reagan years National Security Adviser John Poindexter spread false stories about Libyan terrorist plots to The Wall Street Journal and other papers. In the Bush years, Dick Cheney et al were selling manure by the truckload about various connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, infamously including a story that bomber Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague.

The New York Times ran a story that Atta was in Prague in late October of 2001, even giving a date of the meeting with Iraqis, April 8, or “just five months before the terrorist attacks.” The Prague story was another example of a tale that seemed shaky because American officials were putting the sourcing first on foreign intelligence, then on reporters themselves. Cheney cited the Prague report in subsequent TV appearances, one of many instances of feeding reporters tidbits and then selling reports as independent confirmation.

It wasn’t until three years later, in 2004, that Times reporter James Risen definitively killed the Atta-in-Prague canard (why is it always Prague?) in a story entitled “No evidence of meeting with Iraqi.” By then, of course, it was too late. The Times also held a major dissenting piece by Risen about the WMD case, “C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports,” until days after war started. This is what happens when you start thumbing the scale.

This failure to demand specifics has been epidemic in Russiagate, even when good reporters have been involved. One of the biggest “revelations” of this era involved a story that was broken first by a terrible reporter (the Guardian’s Luke Harding) and followed up by a good one (Jane Mayer of the New Yorker). The key detail involved the elusive origin story of Russiagate.

Mayer’s piece, the March 12, 2018 “Christopher Steele, the Man Behind The Trump Dossier” in the New Yorker, impacted the public mainly by seeming to bolster the credentials of the dossier author. But it contained an explosive nugget far down. Mayer reported Robert Hannigan, then-head of the GCHQ (the British analog to the NSA) intercepted a “stream of illicit communications” between “Trump’s team and Moscow” at some point prior to August 2016. Hannigan flew to the U.S. and briefed CIA director John Brennan about these communications. Brennan later testified this inspired the original FBI investigation.

When I read that, a million questions came to mind, but first: what did “illicit” mean?

If something “illicit” had been captured by GCHQ, and this led to the FBI investigation (one of several conflicting public explanations for the start of the FBI probe, incidentally), this would go a long way toward clearing up the nature of the collusion charge. If they had something, why couldn’t they tell us what it was? Why didn’t we deserve to know?

I asked the Guardian: “Was any attempt made to find out what those communications were? How was the existence of these communications confirmed? Did anyone from the Guardian see or hear these intercepts, or transcripts?”

Their one-sentence reply:

The Guardian has strict and rigorous procedures when dealing with source material.

That’s the kind of answer you’d expect from a transnational bank, or the army, not a newspaper.

I asked Mayer the same questions. She was more forthright, noting that, of course, the story had originally been broken by Harding, whose own report said “the precise nature of these exchanges has not been made public.”

She added that “afterwards I independently confirmed aspects of [Harding’s piece] with several well-informed sources,” and “spent months on the Steele story [and] traveled to the UK twice for it.” But, she wrote, “the Russiagate story, like all reporting on sensitive national security issues, is difficult.”

I can only infer she couldn’t find out what “illicit” meant despite proper effort. The detail was published anyway. It may not have seemed like a big deal, but I think it was.

To be clear, I don’t necessarily disbelieve the idea that there were “illicit” contacts between Trump and Russians in early 2015 or before. But if there were such contacts, I can’t think of any legitimate reason why their nature should be withheld from the public.

If authorities can share reasons for concern with foreign countries like Israel, why should American voters not be so entitled? Moreover the idea that we need to keep things secret to protect sources and methods and “tradecraft” (half the press corps became expert in goofy spy language over the last few years, using terms like “SIGINT” like they’ve known them their whole lives), why are we leaking news of our ability to hear Russian officials cheering Trump’s win?

Failure to ask follow-up questions happened constantly with this story. One of the first reports that went sideways involved a similar dynamic: the contention that some leaked DNC emails were forgeries.

MSNBC’s “Intelligence commentator” Malcolm Nance, perhaps the most enthusiastic source of questionable #Russiagate news this side of Twitter conspiracist Louise Mensch, tweeted on October 11, 2016: “#PodestaEmails are already proving to be riddled with obvious forgeries & #blackpropaganda not even professionally done.”

As noted in The Intercept and elsewhere, this was re-reported by the likes of David Frum (a key member of the club that has now contributed to both the WMD and Russiagate panics) and MSNBC host Joy Reid. The reports didn’t stop until roughly October of 2016, among other things because the Clinton campaign kept suggesting to reporters the emails were fake. This could have been stopped sooner if examples of a forgery had been demanded from the Clinton campaign earlier.

Another painful practice that became common was failing to confront your own sources when news dispositive to what they’ve told you pops up. The omnipresent Clapper told Chuck Todd on March 5, 2017, without equivocation, that there had been no FISA application involving Trump or his campaign. “I can deny it,” he said.

It soon after came out this wasn’t true. The FBI had a FISA warrant on Carter Page. This was not a small misstatement by Clapper, because his appearance came a day after Trump claimed in a tweet he’d had his “wires tapped.” Trump was widely ridiculed for this claim, perhaps appropriately so, but in addition to the Page news, it later came out there had been a FISA warrant of Paul Manafort as well, during which time Trump may have been the subject of “incidental” surveillance.

Whether or not this was meaningful, or whether these warrants were justified, are separate questions. The important thing is, Clapper either lied to Todd, or else he somehow didn’t know the FBI had obtained these warrants. The latter seems absurd and unlikely. Either way, Todd ought to been peeved and demanded an explanation. Instead, he had Clapper back on again within months and gave him the usual softball routine, never confronting him about the issue.

Reporters repeatedly got burned and didn’t squawk about it. Where are the outraged stories about all the scads of anonymous “people familiar with the matter” who put reporters in awkward spots in the last years? Why isn’t McClatchy demanding the heads of whatever “four people with knowledge” convinced them to double down on the Cohen-in-Prague story?

Why isn’t every reporter who used “New Knowledge” as a source about salacious Russian troll stories out for their heads (or the heads of the congressional sources who passed this stuff on), after reports they faked Russian trolling? How is it possible NBC and other outlets continued to use New Knowledge as a source in stories identifying antiwar Democrat Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian-backed candidate?

How do the Guardian’s editors not already have Harding’s head in a vice for hanging them out to dry on the most dubious un-retracted story in modern history – the tale that the most watched human on earth, Julian Assange, had somehow been visited in the Ecuadorian embassy by Paul Manafort without leaving any record? I’d be dragging Harding’s “well placed source” into the office and beating him with a hose until he handed them something that would pass for corroborating evidence.

The lack of blowback over episodes in which reporters were put in public compromised situations speaks to the overly cozy relationships outlets had with official sources. Too often, it felt like a team effort, where reporters seemed to think it was their duty to take the weight if sources pushed them to overreach. They had absolutely no sense of institutional self-esteem about this.

Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity, Trump or no Trump. Why bother having a press corps at all if you’re going to go that route?

This posture all been couched as anti-Trump solidarity, but really, did former CIA chief John Brennan – the same Brennan who should himself have faced charges for lying to congress about hacking the computers of Senate staff – need the press to whine on his behalf when Trump yanked his security clearance? Did we need the press to hum Aretha Franklin tunes, as ABC did, and chide Trump for lacking R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the CIA? We don’t have better things to do than that “work”?

This catalogue of factual errors and slavish stenography will stand out when future analysts look back at why the “MSM” became a joke during this period, but they were only a symptom of a larger problem. The bigger issue was a radical change in approach.

A lot of #Russiagate coverage became straight-up conspiracy theory, what Baker politely called “connecting the dots.” This was allowed because the press committed to a collusion narrative from the start, giving everyone cover to indulge in behaviors that would never be permitted in normal times.

Such was the case with Jonathan Chait’s #Russiagate opus, “PRUMP TUTIN: Will Trump be Meeting With his Counterpart – or his Handler?” The story was also pitched as “What if Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987,” which recalls the joke from The Wire: “Yo, Herc, what if your mother and father never met?” What if isn’t a good place to be in this business.

This cover story (!) in New York magazine was released in advance of a planned “face-to-face” summit between Trump and Putin, and posited Trump had been under Russian control for decades. Chait noted Trump visited the Soviet Union in 1987 and came back “fired up with political ambition.” He offered the possibility that this was a coincidence, but added:

Indeed, it seems slightly insane to contemplate the possibility that a secret relationship between Trump and Russia dates back this far. But it can’t be dismissed completely. 

I searched the Chait article up and down for reporting that would justify the suggestion Trump had been a Russian agent dating back to the late eighties, when, not that it matters, Russia was a different country called the Soviet Union.

Only two facts in the piece could conceivably have been used to support the thesis: Trump met with a visiting Soviet official in 1986, and visited the Soviet Union in 1987. That’s it. That’s your cover story.

Worse, Chait’s theory was first espoused in Lyndon Larouche’s “Elephants and Donkeys” newsletter in 1987, under a headline, “Do Russians have a Trump card?” This is barrel-scraping writ large.

It’s a mania. Putin is literally in our underpants. Maybe, if we’re lucky, New York might someday admit its report claiming Russians set up an anti-masturbation hotline to trap and blackmail random Americans is suspicious, not just because it seems absurd on its face, but because its source is the same “New Knowledge” group that admitted to faking Russian influence operations in Alabama.

But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, “How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?” How to reverse Rachel Maddow’s spiel about Russia perhaps shutting down heat across America during a cold wave? There’s no correction for McCarthyism and fearmongering.

This ultimately will be the endgame of the Russia charade. They will almost certainly never find anything like the wild charges and Manchurian Candidate theories elucidated in the Steele report. But the years of panic over the events of 2016 will lead to radical changes in everything from press regulation to foreign policy, just as the WMD canard led to torture, warrantless surveillance, rendition, drone assassination, secret budgets and open-ended, undeclared wars from Somalia to Niger to Syria. The screw-ups will be forgotten, but accelerated vigilance will remain.

It’s hard to know what policy changes are appropriate because the reporting on everything involving the Russian threat in the last two to three years has been so unreliable.

I didn’t really address the case that Russia hacked the DNC, content to stipulate it for now. I was told early on that this piece of the story seemed “solid,” but even that assertion has remained un-bolstered since then, still based on an “assessment” by the intelligence services that always had issues, including the use of things like RT’s “anti-American” coverage of fracking as part of its case. The government didn’t even examine the DNC’s server, the kind of detail that used to make reporters nervous.

We won’t know how much of any of this to take seriously until the press gets out of bed with the security services and looks at this whole series of events all over again with fresh eyes, as journalists, not political actors. That means being open to asking what went wrong with this story, in addition to focusing so much energy on Trump and Russia.

The WMD mess had massive real-world negative impact, leading to over a hundred thousand deaths and trillions in lost taxpayer dollars. Unless Russiagate leads to a nuclear conflict, we’re unlikely to ever see that level of consequence.

Still, Russiagate has led to unprecedented cooperation between the government and Internet platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, all of which are censoring pages on the left, right, and in between in the name of preventing the “sowing of discord.” The story also had a profound impact on the situation in places like Syria, where Russian and American troops have sat across the Euphrates River from one another, two amped-up nuclear powers at a crossroads.

As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared to Russiagate. The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it’s led to most journalists accepting a radical change in mission. We’ve become sides-choosers, obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.

We had the sense to eventually look inward a little in the WMD affair, which is the only reason we escaped that episode with any audience left. Is the press even capable of that kind of self-awareness now? WMD damaged our reputation. If we don’t turn things around, this story will destroy it.

Published:3/24/2019 9:55:01 AM
[FBI] Deep thoughts by James Comey (Scott Johnson) Former Obama administration FBI Director James Comey was a protagonist in the investigation of the Trump campaign and the subsequent effort to undermine Trump from inside the Trump administration. In the service of his efforts he put the Clinton campaign’s Steele Dossier to use both before and after the election. It is the biggest political scandal in American political history. Nothing else comes close. On his way out the door Published:3/24/2019 9:24:50 AM
[Markets] With RussiaGate Over Where's Hillary?

Authored by Tom Luongo,

During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.

  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election

  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire

  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system

  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.

  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.

  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that Hillary has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that Hillary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

Published:3/23/2019 7:52:02 PM
[US News] UH OH! Resistance asks for emergency Obama bros podcast in wake of Mueller buzzkill

"NOW you want to wait" until all the facts are in?

The post UH OH! Resistance asks for emergency Obama bros podcast in wake of Mueller buzzkill appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/23/2019 11:24:09 AM
[The Blog] Stacey Abrams as the next Barack Obama?

Joe Biden might think so

The post Stacey Abrams as the next Barack Obama? appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/23/2019 9:18:10 AM
[Markets] SPLC Implodes: President And Legal Director Resign Amid Sexual Misconduct Scandal

The Southern Poverty Law Center - the "vicious left-wing attack dog" used by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon to identify "hate groups" - is unraveling. 

A week after co-founder Morris Dees was ousted over sexual misconduct claims - with two dozen employees signing a letter of concern over "allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism," the head of the SPLC, Richard Cohen, as well as the organization's legal director, Rhonda Brownstein, resigned on Friday. 

Morris Dees, Richard Cohen, Rhonda Brownstein

Cohen had been with the organization 33 years and was one of its most prominent figures. 

At 5:03 p.m. Friday, Cohen sent a message to staff, with the subject line “Stepping Down,” announcing that he, too, would be leaving the organization that he and Dees had turned into a research and fundraising juggernaut.

“Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them,” Cohen wrote, while asking the staff to avoid jumping to conclusions before the board completes an internal review of the Montgomery, Ala., organization’s work culture. -LA Times

Earlier this week, the SPLC board of directors appointed Michelle Obama's former chief of staff, Tina Tchen - who, in an unrelated matter, unsuccessfully tried to pull strings and have the Jussie Smollett case transferred from the Chicago PD to the FBI. Tchen is heading up the inquiry into the sexual misconduct claims.

Tina Tchen

Also out on Friday was Rhonda Brownstein - who had worked with the organization for nearly three decades, according to the Montgomery Advertiser's Melissa Brown. 

Inside the SPLC "Scam"

As the Washington Examiner's Beckett Adams writes, the Southern Poverty Law Center is a "scam," which has taken " no care whatsoever for the reputational and personal harm it causes by lumping Christians and anti-extremist activists with actual neo-Nazis."

As it turns out, the SPLC is a cynical money-making scheme, according to a former staffer’s blistering tell-all, published this week in the New Yorker. The center’s chief goal is to bilk naive and wealthy donors who believe it's an earnest effort to combat bigotry.

The only thing worse than a snarling partisan activist is a slimy conman who merely pretends to be one. -Washington Examiner

"“Outside of work," recalls Bob Moser of his days working for the organization, "we spent a lot of time drinking and dishing in Montgomery bars and restaurants about … the hyperbolic fund-raising appeals, and the fact that, though the center claimed to be effective in fighting extremism, ‘hate’ always continued to be on the rise, more dangerous than ever, with each year’s report on hate groups. ‘The S.P.L.C.—making hate pay,’ we’d say."

"[I]t was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam," added Moser. 

The way Moser tells it, the center’s chief founder, Morris Dees, who was dismissed unceremoniously last week for unspecified reasons, discovered early on that he could rake in boatloads of cash by convincing “gullible Northern liberals that his group is doing the hard work of fighting “hate.”

But the center’s supposed mission of combating bigotry doesn’t actually matter to its top brass, Moser says. It’s just a business choice and one that has been extremely lucrative throughout the years. Moser’s article reminds readers of the time Dees actually said of the SPLC in an interview with then-Progressive magazine reporter John Egerton, “We just run our business like a business. Whether you’re selling cakes or causes, it’s all the same.” -Washington Examiner

Moser claims that the SPLC's business model centers entirely around keeping its precious donors in constant fear using gimmicks such as "hate maps" and "hate lists." 

"[T]he center continues to take in far more than it spends. And it still tends to emphasize splashy cases that are sure to draw national attention,” he writes adding the group’s “central strategy” involves “taking on cases guaranteed to make headlines and inflame the far right while demonstrating to potential donors that the center has not only all the right enemies but also the grit and know-how to take them down." 

Moser adds there is an inescapable sense of “guilt” that comes with thinking about “the legions of donors who believed that their money was being used, faithfully and well, to do the Lord’s work in the heart of Dixie. We were part of the con, and we knew it.”

Who knew you could make the big bucks simply by lumping Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ben Carson with actual, honest-to-God neo-Nazis? -Washington Examiner

Right wing commentator and Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes is currently suing the SPLC for labeling his right-wing fraternal organization, the Proud Boys, a hate group

The SPLC has gone from a noble institution genuinely dedicated to eradicating hate to a hate group in and of itself that pretends this country is frothing with bigots desperate to foment World War III," McInnes said in a press release. 

McInnes has raised nearly $200,000 out of a goal of $250,000 to continue his lawsuit. From his website Defendgavin.com: 

I'm suing the SPLC. And it's not just because they destroyed my career and shattered my reputation. It's because they could do the same to you. Though this group is often cited as a credible source by the media, nobody who actually knows stuff takes them seriously.

No, being called an extremist by the SPLC does NOT mean you're an extremist. No, being called a Hate Group by the SPLC does NOT make you a Hate Group. And no, being called a racist or an anti-Semite or an Islamophobe or a transphobe or a homophobe by the SPLC does NOT make you any of those things. -Gavin McInnes

We wonder if there will even be an SPLC left to sue by the time it reaches a courtroom. 

Published:3/23/2019 9:18:10 AM
[Markets] Watergate - The First Deep State Coup

Authored by Peter Brimelow via The Unz Review,

James Fulford writes: 

The Mueller Report, which was supposed to be about alleged “Russian collusion” with Trump, is due out, and many people in the Democrat/Media conglomerate are hoping for a rerun of Watergate, which they think of as a victory for the Rule of Law. It wasn’t, and we need to have one of those famous “conversations” about what it was, and why it mustn’t happen again.

In 1972, Richard Nixon was reelected with 520 electoral votes. He was running on winning the Vietnam War and also fighting a War on Crime. His opponent, George McGovern (17 electoral votes) was running on a plan to lose the Vietnam War, and surrender on the War on Crime.

But by August 1974, Nixon was removed from office, and in April 1975, Vietnamese Communist troops occupied Saigon. What finished off South Vietnam was the “Watergate Congress” which voted to cut off all supplies. For details see James Webb’s Peace? Defeat? What Did the Vietnam War Protesters Want?American Enterprise Institute, May/June 1997.

Who did this? Well, the Democrat-controlled Senate investigated the hell out of a break-and-enter committed by Republicans, which they never did when LBJ, JFK, Truman, and FDR engaged in similar activities. See It Didn’t Start With Watergate , [PDF]by Victor Lasky, published in 1977. On the Senate investigative staff was a young, far-Left Wellesley graduate named Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic media, which hated Nixon with the same kind of hate they now display towards Trump, did the same thing, led by the famous Woodward and Bernstein, who probably get too much “credit” for this.

Finally, in something that VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow speculated about in his 1981 Policy Review article reposted below, the secret figure of “Deep Throat” (Woodward and Bernstein’s name for an source inside the Government) turned out to Mark Felt, second in command of the FBI. [The Myth of Deep Throat | Mark Felt wasn’t out to protect American democracy and the rule of law; he was out to get a promotion, by Max Holland September 10, 2017]

Peter Brimelow described this phenomenon of using lawfare to overturn elections by trying to criminalize the victors in his post Manafort, Marlborough, And Robert E. Lee: Criminalizing Policy/ Personnel, Differences— U.S. Politics Regressing To The Primitive.

Once again, the Establishment is trying, as they did during Watergate, to overturn the results of an election with the aid of a Deep State, and the “foreign policy” establishment. “Deep Throat” Felt thought Nixon was interfering with the “independence” of the FBI, which he thought should be immune to interference by the President of the United States, and apparently James Comey feels the same way.

If this coup succeeds, instead of the Republic of South Vietnam being overrun by foreign invaders and destroyed, the victim will be the Historic American Nation.

Machiavelli Redux

By Peter Brimelow, Policy Review,Winter 1981

GO QUIETLY . . . OR ELSE. By Spiro T. Agnew. (Wm. Morrow, New York, 1980)

THE TERRORS OF JUSTICEBy Maurice Stans. (New York, Everest House, 1978)

WILL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF G. GORDON LIDDY. By G. Gordon Liddy. (St. Martins Press, New York, 1980)

Machiavelli concluded The Prince by quoting Petrarch in an attempt to inspire the rulers of Italy:

For th’ old Romane valour is not dead
Nor in th’ Italians brests extinguished.

Reading these three books by survivors of the Nixon disaster brings home how totally that Administration, which more than any other in recent history would have welcomed comparisons with Machiavelli, departed from his prescription. The reason was not exactly lack of patriotism, but rather a failure to understand the humane, even idealistic spark that animated Machiavelli’s ironic realism. Indeed, the books raise the broader question of whether American society itself is going through the kind of degeneration Machiavelli decried in Italy, so that it no longer supports what might loosely be called the “Roman” or “military” virtues: courage, loyalty, and personal integrity.

These reflections may seem odd, given that all three authors fought losing bouts with the law. Spiro Agnew resigned the Vice-Presidency and entered a plea of nolo contendere to a charge that he received payments in 1967 which were not expended for political purposes and which were therefore subject to income tax. The prosecution’s statement included forty pages about Mr. Agnew’s alleged bribe-taking while he was Governor of Maryland; Mr. Agnew issued a one-page denial. The judge said, accurately, that both were irrelevant to the case before him, and fined Mr. Agnew $10,000. Maurice Stans, Nixon’s 1972 Finance Chairman, pleaded guilty to two charges of unknowingly accepting illegal contributions and three charges of reporting contributions tardily. He was fined $5,000. Previously Mr. Stans had been found innocent, along with John Mitchell, on ten counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury relating to an alleged attempt by financier Robert Vesco to buy protection from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gordon Liddy was sentenced to twenty years in prison and fined $40,000 for the Watergate burglary, a year and a half for refusing to talk to the Watergate grand jury, and a (suspended) year for contempt of Congress.

With the exception of Mr. Liddy, who merits separate examination, it will immediately be seen that the infractions that were actually proved were basically technical. The connection between them was a hysterical illusion, and the punishments unusually harsh. This is particularly true for Maurice Stans, who was dealing with a complex law which changed in the course of the campaign, and who was also the victim of a quantum jump in public standards. Mr. Stans makes a convincing case that his CREEP stewardship was at least as respectable as the work of his contemporaries in other campaigns. They too had (less publicized) legal difficulties; Edmund Muskie’s fundraiser even volunteered to testify for Mr. Stans at the Vesco trail.

If Mr. Agnew did accept rake-offs, as the prosecutors claimed, it should be asked in all fairness whether his conduct varied substantially from accepted Maryland standards—particularly since there is no evidence that the money influenced his decisions. As always where Watergate is concerned, the real question becomes: Why did such practices excite such abnormal attention under Nixon, when Congress and press have shrugged off similar standards before and since? The many disparate Nixonian problems combined to produce a mixture that makes free-base cocaine look safe as chewing gum in comparison, under the influence of mysterious forces similar to those that produced the Grande Peur, or Salem’s witch trials. An instructive parallel might well be Britain’s 1962-63 Profumo crisis, which likewise enabled hostile opinion to l ink wildly unrelated charges, and incinerated an unpopular government.

As Mr. Agnew has repeatedly pointed out, of course, allegation is not conviction, although it has been treated as such by the media and the IRS, whose demands for back taxes on bribes Mr. Agnew denied taking caused him a cash-flow crisis from which he was rescued by the remarkable generosity of Frank Sinatra. But the irreducible fact of his resignation overshadows any attempted defense. Mr. Agnew ascribes his surrender to the impossibility of receiving a fair trial because of prejudicial publicity, overheated politics, implacably ambitious prosecutors, and impossible costs; and to his own exhaustion and bitterness at his abandonment by Nixon.

Mr. Agnew also says that Alexander Haig implied he might be killed if he did not “go quietly.” However, this may be the token sensational revelation all Watergate memoirs require, like H.R. Haldeman’ s claim of a mooted partition of China, Gordon Liddy’s contemplated assassinations of Jack Anderson and Howard Hunt, and John Dean’s insinuation that Nixon faked Alger Hiss’ typewriter. Other regular features of this new literary form are dramatic opening scenes, followed by flashbacks; and copious direct speech. On the whole, the results have compared very favorably with other native American genres like Westerns and Perry Mason.

Mr. Agnew’s story rings sincere when he writes of “the emotional reaction that made me physically ill” on reviewing the prosecutors’ files on his case (obtained years later), or of his wife’s dead faint when he told her he was capitulating. But even after that, he assured conservatives he would fight to the end, although his lawyers were already negotiating terms. This unedifying betrayal of his loyal supporters renders consideration of his guilt or innocence ultimately irrelevant.

On the other hand, Mr. Agnew had hardly been given a good example by the Nixon White House. Incredibly, President Nixon apparently hoped to induce Mr. Agnew to resign without even discussing the subject face to face. The picture of Mr. Agnew and his staff waiting in his office until 9 p.m. after Attorney General Richardson had revealed the charges to them—hoping desperately for a call from the President or a summons to Camp David (whence, it emerged, he had fled)—is infinitely pathetic. What they got was a meeting with General Haig and Bryce Harlow, who announced that they thought that the President felt that he should resign. Loyalty to Nixon was a one-way proposition. The White House staff was quick to pounce on any of their number who suffered political injury.

This cult of toughness was naive to the point of stupidity. Even elementary precautions like funding the Watergate burglars’ families were reneged on. It is hardly surprising that the front-line troops mutinied, whereupon the whole structure disintegrated. Machiavelli in a famous passage urged rulers to ensure that the interests of their lieutenants were advanced along with their own; this promoted mutual confidence. This seemingly obvious advice was never more needed. In fact, one of the Administration’s subsequent rationales for its detente policies—that Americans were too engrossed in current gratifications to finance any alternative—can probably best be explained as merely a projection of the leaders’ own short-sighted selfishness.

All three books make the point that the guarantees of equal justice, due process, and presumption of innocence—generally thought to be intrinsic to our system of justice—are simply not operative in a modern bureaucratic state. Mr. Stans spent $400,000 to defend himself against the Vesco charges. The prosecution probably spent over $1 million, but that was taxpayers’ money. That both Mr. Stans and Mr. Agnew could afford no more defense at that price is quite plausible. The IRS even threatened to have Mr. Agnew’s passport revoked if he attempted to resist their demands—an unbreakable hold on a man forced to earn his living in international business because of his Untouchable status at home. The three books also establish that there are few real checks on the legal bureaucracy once it is determined to bring home a conviction. Judge Sirica’s excesses in Mr. Liddy’s trial featured his seating of a juror who could not understand English—a mistake arising because Judge Sirica truncated the voir dire to prevent defense questions about pretrial publicity. (Judge Sirica used his powe r to seal the record about that incident, which remained a secret.) Mr. Liddy was amused: “I really had to hand it to the old goat; neither of us ever hesitated to use power.”

Less amusing were the lengths to which the prosecutors went in the Stans and Agnew cases to induce potential witnesses to co-operate. It should be a matter of some concern that Mr. Agnew was brought down by the testimony of men who themselves were guilty of serious crimes, the consequences of which seem to have been palliated by their cooperation. One witness actually had his conviction overthrown because he was able to show that his guilty plea was induced by illegal promises of leniency, which the trial judges chose to ignore. Having indicted Mr. Stans on the basis of two grand jury appearances—which he made after being assured he was not under investigation—the prosecutors launched an incredible nationwide search for evidence. They hauled President Nixon’s brother in from the West Coast ten times, for example, to “review” his testimony on the single point of whether Mr. Stans had asked for Vesco’s contribution in cash. (Answer: No.)

Worst of all were the constant leaks to the press, from Justice Department and grand jury alike. Maurice Stans found that newspapers routinely printed as fact allegations against him that had been disproved, and that major media outlets like Time refused to carry retractions even when caught in indisputable error. Mr. Stans, whose book is a model of reason and comprehensiveness, suggests thoughtfully that maybe the U.S. media should follow the British system of restricting publicity after indictment, and also that the Supreme Court’s Sullivan ruling went too far in depriving public figures of the means to protect their reputation. He even permits himself to wonder why the media should not (voluntarily) retract untruths in the same way that the Federal Trade Commission compels corporations to correct unsupported advertising claims.

This is the problem in a nutshell. All three books make it depressingly clear that, yes, there is a New Class. And that class makes its own rules in the struggle with rival powers like corporations and elected officials—of either party; previous attorney generals would not have been defeated in attempts to suppress Billygate.

Gordon Liddy’s beautifully written book adds a cultural dimension to this struggle within America, although his factual contribution to the Watergate saga appears limited. Mr. Liddy confines himself narrowly to what he personally saw. He says that he waited until the statute of limitations had expired before speaking, to protect his colleagues. (Actually, he is probably still protecting them.) Although he does reveal that the Nixon administration had CIA technical assistance in some operations, he generally supports the thesis that Watergate was after all a second-rate burglary, not a set-up, as some have speculated. The order came from above, he says, and he believes that the purpose was to find out what derogatory material the Democrats had on their opponents. This version is not likely to satisfy everyone. On closer examination, moreover, Mr. Liddy’s account does leave some questions carefully open. Some of these relate to the details of the burglary; others to the extraordinary circumstances that led to the creation of the White House “Plumbers” unit in the first place: the withdrawal (by J. Edgar Hoover) of the FBI cooperation upon which all previous administrations had relied. Mr. Liddy had been proud to be an FBI agent, and stresses his admiration for Mr. Hoover. But he also prints a memo he wrote in late 1971 urging that Mr. Hoover be removed as Director by the end of the year. Mr. Liddy notes laconically that the President praised the memo, but Mr. Hoover survived. As usual, one is left with an eerie feeling that the Watergate affair has a secret history, untold despite the millions of words.

Mr. Liddy is obviously a cultured man, but his preoccupation with matters of honor, strength, and courage—matters that have been traditional male concerns in almost every society except our own—has rendered him about as comprehensible to the average book reviewer as a Martian. Hence he is ridiculed (by Larry L. King in theNew York Times) or ignored (by the Wall Street Journal, the leading conservative newspaper, which has not reviewed his book—or Mr. Stans’s either, for that matter). The situation is complicated because Mr. Liddy is a cultist, one of the tiny minority of conservatives (and others) who are fascinated by the Third Reich. It is hard to know how serious he is about this. Some of his hints are so blatant (he named the Plumbers group ODESSA, after “a World War II German veterans organization belonged to by some acquaintances of mine”—i.e., the Waffen SS) as to recall his celebrated hand-in-the-flame exhibitions of willpower. Professor Alan Dershowitz of Harvard picked up all these hints, and wrote an angry review in The New Republicasking how a card-carrying Nazi went so far in anyone’s White House. But in fact cultism often has about as much relevance to contemporary politics as transvestism, which it rather resembles. Mr. Liddy supported the liberal Republican who beat him in the New York 25th district primary in 1968, to the chagrin of the Conservative Party, which had nominated him on its own line. His White House career showed a similar pragmatism, except perhaps when his G-man instincts were engaged. And Mr. Liddy obviously liked the blacks he met in prison, finding their harsh society a satisfying substitute for the Korean War he missed through illness, and possibly a rest after the Nixon White House. He quietly but systematically supplies much other evidence of lack of prejudice.

However repellant Mr. Liddy’s code may be, it has some strengths, notably his evident pride in his handsome family. Men like Mr. Liddy are the falcons of society, to be kept hooded until needed. James E. Mahon, who became Eli Hazeev and died training his gun on the Palestinians ambushing Meir Kahane’s followers in Hebron, was reportedly another example. Both found no place in modern America. We need look no further to explain the fiasco at Desert One.

Published:3/22/2019 11:45:27 PM
[Markets] 16 Years After Iraq, The US Has Become A Nation Of Passive Neocons

Authored by Whitney Webb via MintPressNews.com,

After Iraq, the neocons began waging another war, one for America’s soul.

Sixteen years have passed and the memory of the Iraq War is distant for many, save for the millions of people — Iraqi and American alike — who saw their lives destroyed by one of the greatest lies ever sold to the American public.

Yet, while plenty of Americans sleep easy thinking that such an atrocity as the invasion and occupation of Iraq could never happen again, the U.S. government has continuously been involved in many smaller, equally disastrous wars — both seen and unseen — largely thanks to the fact that those who brought us the Iraq War remain both respected and still present in the halls of power.

Indeed, the only thing the domestic outrage over the Iraq War seemed to accomplish has been a massive effort waged by the government and the corporate elite to engineer a public that doesn’t complain and doesn’t care when their government meddles or invades another country.

For many Americans today, much like the war itself, the outrage over the Iraq War is a distant memory and comparable outrage has failed to emerge over any other U.S. government crime committed or contemplated on a similar scale — whether it be the “regime change” invasion of Libya, the ongoing genocide in Yemen, or in response to crimes the government is now setting up.

Our forgetfulness has informed our silence and our silence is our complicity in the crimes — past and present — orchestrated by the neocons, who never left government after Iraq but instead rebranded themselves and helped to culturally engineer our passivity. As a consequence, we have again been hoodwinked by the neocons, who have transformed America in their image, creating a nation of neocon enablers, a nation of passive neocons.

Iraq War lies revisited

Though the lies that led the U.S. to invade Iraq are well-documented, they deserve to be remembered. A summary of the many  lies — including those regarding alleged yet false links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as well as Saddam’s alleged links to the anthrax attacks and Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear weapons program — can be found here.

Yet arguably more important than the lies told in the direct lead-up to the war, is the conclusive evidence that key officials in the Bush administration, many of them members of the neoconservative organization known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), had planned and called for an invasion of Iraq long before the September 11th attacks had even taken place.

Some researchers say the plan for the Iraq War began decades before with the drafting of the 1992 Defense Policy Guidance (DPG), which was overseen by Paul Wolfowitz, then Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, who would later become one of the chief architects of the 2003 Iraq War. The DPG spoke of the need to secure “access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil.” It also spoke of the need for the U.S. to develop a protocol for unilaterally pursuing interventions abroad, stating that “the United States should be postured to act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated.”

The DPG would again find prominence among a new group who called themselves the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Founded in 1997 by Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, its first act was to publish a statement of principles that promoted “a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity.” That statement was signed by several politically prominent neoconservatives — Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld among them.

Bush, center, answers questions from the media while standing with, from left to right, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers, about his Iraq War strategy. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

PNAC is arguably best known for publishing the document “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” in September 2000. That document, which cites the DPG as its inspiration, contains many controversial passages, one of which reads:

The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

After George W. Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 election, many PNAC signatories took prominent positions in his administration, including Cheney and Rumsfeld. Other PNAC signatories — including Dov Zakheim, John Bolton, and Elliott Abrams — would also soon find their way into the Bush administration, where they too would become intimately involved in planning and executing the Iraq War. Notably, Bush’s brother Jeb Bush was also a PNAC signatory.

Once the Bush administration took office, planning for the invasion of Iraq quickly moved ahead, with Saddam’s removal the priority topic during Bush’s inaugural national-security meeting. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill later recalled that the meeting “was all about finding a way to do it. The president saying, ‘Go find me a way to do this.’”

Just two weeks later, Vice President Dick Cheney — former Halliburton CEO — took the helm of a newly formed energy task force that began secretly meeting with top oil executives. In a matter of weeks, by March 2001, the Pentagon produced a document called “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts” for Cheney’s taskforce, which included potential areas of Iraq primed for exploratory drilling. Notably, other top Bush officials, such as Condoleezza Rice, were, like Cheney, former petroleum industry executives.

Then, just hours after the 9/11 attacks, a Rumsfeld aid wrote: “Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit SH [Saddam Hussein] @ same time. Not only UBL [Usama bin Laden].”

On September 19, 2001, the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle — another PNAC member — declared that Iraq must be invaded after Afghanistan.

The next day, PNAC, in a letter to Bush, wrote:

Even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power.”

It was not until December 2001 that the administration, led by Cheney, had begun to claim that Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda.

Yet, as outlined above, the war plan by then was already well underway.

As the public outrage over the lies and years-old schemes that led to the Iraq war mounted, it was not the exposure of their crimes that riled neoconservatives. Instead, their concern was over the lingering public outrage that severely limited the U.S.’ ability to intervene militarily abroad, leading them to develop more covert operations and other “regime-change” methods aside from outright military intervention. Indeed, Bush had complained that, after Iraq, his “hands were tied,” a reality that prompted him to push the development of secret cyberwarfare programs and the expansion of the drone war, among other new and quieter arrows in the quiver.

In addition to the rise of more covert “regime-change” operations after Iraq, a concerted effort began that aimed to whitewash neoconservatives, particularly the prominent neocons who had been the architects of the Iraq War. These neocons began to rebrand themselves, dumping the now-tainted PNAC in favor of the Foreign Policy Initiative and several other prominent think-tanks that obfuscate their past. Their rebranding has been so successful that PNAC co-founders like Bill Kristol are now considered a part of the Democratic-led “Resistance” to President Donlad Trump.

Jon Lovett, Bill Kristol, Symone Sanders and Jason Miller attend Politicon at The Pasadena Convention Center on Aug. 29, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. Colin Young-Wolff | Invision | AP

By 2008, the neocons made it clear that rebranding their ideology was the plan, with PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan penning the article “Neocon Nation,” in which, in an effort to whitewash the ideology’s bloodsoaked legacy, he claimed that neoconservatism is “deeply rooted in American history and widely shared by Americans.”

Of course, Kagan’s claim was ironic given that he once criticized Colin Powell for not believing that “the United States should enter conflicts without strong public support,” revealing Kagan’s own disdain for the opinion of the American public. However, his 2008 article shows how, after Iraq, the neocons began waging another war, one for America’s soul.

Obama and “The World the Kagans Made”

After Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election, many Americans felt that the days of “wars for oil” and wars built on lies would end, particularly after then-President-elect Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for his warm rhetoric about the need for world peace. Sadly, to this day, many who viscerally opposed the Bush administration’s Iraq War either fail or refuse to acknowledge that Obama was every bit as murderous as his predecessor, though he did so with smooth words, charm and a media-generated personality cult.

While neoconservatives, particularly those who brought us the Iraq War under Bush, are often associated with the Republican Party, the Obama administration — particularly the Hillary Clinton-led State Department — was plugged directly into the same network of neoconservative actors responsible for the destruction of Iraq.

Indeed, upon becoming secretary of state, Clinton quickly appointed Robert Kagan to her 25-member Foreign Affairs Policy Board, a position he continued to hold after John Kerry took over the State Department. Kagan’s book “The World America Made,” was particularly influential on Obama, who cited the book as having inspired his 2012 State of the Union address as well as his 2012 re-election campaign.

Kagan, one of the most influential and prominent neocons of all, served as a State Department official in the Reagan administration and later went on to co-found PNAC in 1997. As early as 1998, Kagan was calling for the U.S. government to “remove Mr. Hussein and his regime from power.” In 2002, Kagan — along with fellow PNAC member Bill Kristol — claimed that Saddam was supporting “a terrorist training camp in Iraq, complete with a Boeing 707 for practicing hijackings, and filled with non-Iraqi radical Muslims.” He also assertedthat alleged 9/11 “mastermind” Mohammad Atta had met with Iraqi intelligence just months before September 11. Both allegations were extremely influential in promoting the Iraq War, and both are completely false.

However, Kagan’s troubling track record didn’t stop the Obama administration from giving both Kagan and his wife considerable influence over government policy. In 2011, the Obama administration brought on Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, to serve as State Department spokesperson. Nuland was subsequently given the post of Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2013, which she used to engineer the 2014 “regime change” coup in Ukraine — an event that continues to have deadly consequences in that country and has even helped bolster Neo-Nazi elements in the United States.

Nuland is a textbook example of the continuity of the neocons from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. From 2003 to 2005, during the Iraq War and subsequent occupation, Nuland was Dick Cheney’s deputy national security advisor. Cheney, thrilled with her performance, recommended she be appointed to serve as U.S. ambassador to NATO. As the executive branch changed management in 2008, Nuland became the special envoy for conventional armed forces in Europe before becoming the Obama state department spokesperson just three years later.

Trump: “Against” the Iraq War But Willingly Surrounded By Iraq War Criminals

Though Donald Trump blasted the Iraq War, and the Bush administration’s role in creating it, on the campaign trail, he — like Obama before him — has invited neocons into his administration since its inception.

Trump’s first secretary of defense, Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, as well as his first national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, were close to Iraq War architect and influential neocon Paul Wolfowitz — so much so that Wolfowitz was covertly guiding their policy through email correspondence in the early days of the Trump administration.

Mattis’ nomination by Trump was particularly strange given the latter’s frequent criticism of the Iraq War, where Mattis earned his nickname “Mad Dog” after overseeing the 2004 sieges of Fallujah, in which the U.S. military illegally used white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, as well as depleted uranium in the densely populated Iraqi city. As a consequence of the U.S.’ attack over a decade ago, Fallujah’s children continue to be born with horrific birth defects.

While Mattis and McMaster have since departed, the neocons are more powerful than ever in the Trump administration, as seen in the appointment of another PNAC signatory, John Bolton, to the role of national security advisor. In addition, PNAC signatory, Elliot Abrams, was recently named special representative for Venezuela, despite his role in the Iran-Contra affair and in arming Latin American death squads that slaughtered thousands of civilians, and also despite the fact that Abrams is a convicted felon.

A Nation of Enablers

Though they have done their best to hide it, the United States has become a nation governed by and for the neoconservatives and their various corporate clients. The outrage voiced over their crimes in Iraq — to them — was not a call for change but merely an indicator that such outrage must be reduced and silenced, a task since accomplished through cultural engineering and, more recently, censorship.

The bodies of four children killed after their family car came under fire from U.S. troops in Fallujah, Iraq, Sept. 30, 2004. Bilal Hussein | AP

Since the Iraq War, neocons and their allies have used every tool at their disposal to mold us in their image, creating an uncaring nation that feels little or no empathy for the millions murdered and maimed in their name; a nation that is not repulsed by the fact that many of its top public officials are convicted war criminals; a nation that worships war and death and mocks anti-war voices — even when they are themselves war veterans — as “apologists” for foreign leaders who want to keep their countries out of the Pentagon’s crosshairs.

With millions set to die in Yemen from a man-made famine supported by the U.S. and a war being planned for Venezuela, a country that is twice the size of Iraq, our silence and noninterest in these matters is our complicity.

How many millions must neocons and their ilk murder before we say enough is enough? The “War on Terror” alone has already taken an estimated 8 million lives. How many nations will we allow its architects to destroy? We have already laid waste to Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Somalia; engineered the war in South Sudan; supported the war in Yemen and the destruction of Palestine. Would Venezuela be the “last straw” that finally rouses us to action? It seems unlikely.

The hard truth is that, while the Iraq War may be publicly remembered as an “embarrassment” for the neocons, it was the true beginning of our transformation into a nation of their passive enablers. Regular Americans may not plan and plot forever wars or the destruction of nations and innocent lives, but most certainly go along with it, especially when we are told that “Leader X” kills his own people and “Leader Y” represents a threat to “national security.” Our consent to be governed and guided by madmen has led us to become a nation of passive neocons.

The neocons are still in power and still the public face of American policy only because we allow it. That simple fact means that they will remain in power until we say we have had enough. How many years after the Iraq War will it be before that moment finally arrives?.

Published:3/22/2019 10:45:14 PM
[Markets] US Army Major: America Is Exceptional...In All The Wrong Ways

Authored by Major Danny Sjursen (ret.) via TruthDig.com,

I was born and raised in an America far more Orwellian than many now remember.

Matters have gone so far off the rails since 9/11 that few seem to recall the madness of the 1980s. The U.S. had a celebrity actor for president, who railed about America’s ostensibly existential adversary—the Soviet “evil empire.” Back then, Ronald Reagan nearly started a nuclear war during the all-too-real Able Archer war game. He also secretly sold missiles to Iran, and then laundered the windfall to the Contras’ Central American hit squads, resulting in some 100,000 dead.

Looking back from 2019, at least as the contemporary media tell it, those were the good old days. Heck, even Barack Obama—faux liberal that he was—proudly and publicly admired Reagan. Oh, and one of Reagan’s favorite campaign slogans: “Make America Great Again.”

Today, matters seem to be coming farcically full circle, what with Elliott Abrams—convicted in the aforementioned Iran-Contra scandal—being appointed special envoy to Venezuela, and Uncle Sam again bullying a Latin American country. Welcome to America’s own grisly ’80s foreign affairs theme party! Which all got me thinking, again, about the whole notion of American exceptionalism. Only a country that truly, deeply believes in its own special mission could repeat the hideous policies of the 1980s and hardly notice.

Perhaps one expects this absurd messianism from the likes of The Donald, but the real proof is that America’s supposed progressives—like Obama—also obediently pray at the temple of exceptionalism. “Orwellian” is the only word for a nation whose leaders and commentariat were absolutely aghast when candidate Obama was seen without (gasp!) an American flag pin on his lapel. Even more disturbing was how quickly he folded and dutifully adorned his mandatory flair. This sort of nonsense is dangerous, folks: It’s hypernationalism—the very philosophy that brought us World War I.

So it was this week, while sitting on a plane reading my oh-so-bourgeois Economist, and getting infuriated about seeing Elliott Abrams’ war-criminal face, that my thoughts again turned to good old American exceptionalism. My opinions on the topic have waxed and waned over the course of a career spent waging illegal war. First, as a young cadet at West Point, I bought it hook, line and sinker; then, as an Iraq War vet and dissenter, I rejected the entire notion. Only now, observing the world as it is, have I begun to think that America really is exceptional after all—only in all the wrong ways.

Humor me, please, while I run through a brief laundry list of the ways the US of A is wildly and disconcertingly different from all the other “big-boy countries” in the developed world. Let’s start with domestic policy:

  • The U.S. has been the site of exponentially more mass shootings than any other nation. And unlike in New Zealand—where officials took immediate steps to tighten gun control in the wake of its recent tragedy—American politicians won’t do a thing about it. We also own more guns per capita than any other country in the world. In second place is Yemen.

  • The U.S. is essentially alone in the Western world in not guaranteeing health care as a basic human right. It spends much more cash, yet achieves worse health outcomes than its near-peer countries.

  • America is home to some of the starkest income inequality on the globe—right up there with Turkey and South Africa.

  • The U.S. keeps migrant kids in cages at the border, or did until recently. Even more exceptional is that Washington is largely responsible for the very unrest in Central America that generates the refugees, all while American conservatives proudly wear their “Christianity” as badge of honor—but wasn’t Jesus a refugee child? Maybe I read the wrong Bible.

  • America is alone among 41 Western nations in not guaranteeing paid family leave. How’s that for “family values?”

  • As for representative democracy, only the U.S. has an Electoral College. This fun 18th-century gimmick ensures that here in America—in 40 percent of its elections since 2000—the presidential candidate with fewer votes actually won. Furthermore, our peculiar system ensures that a rural Wyoming resident has—proportionally—several times more representative power in Washington than someone who lives in California.

  • Similarly, America counts several non-state “territories”—think Guam, Samoa, Puerto Rico—that don’t even get to vote for the president that it can legally send  to war. But hey, why should we grant them statehood? It’s not as though some of them have higher military enlistment ratesthan any U.S. state … oh, wait.

  • The U.S. is essentially solo in defining corporations as “people,” and thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, has lifted limits on money in politics. Buying elections is officially as American as apple pie.

  • The USA locks up its own people at the highest rate in the world and is nearly alone among developed nations in maintaining the death penalty. Last year, the U.S. was the only country in the Americas to conduct executions and the only Western democracy to do so. But our friends the Saudis still execute folks, so it’s got to be OK. Dostoyevsky famously claimed that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How are we doing there?

Then there’s the foreign policy of the great American empire:

  • The U.S. spends exponentially more on military defense than anyone else, and more than the next seven competitors (most of which are allies) combined.

  • America’s bloated military is all by itself in dotting the globe with hundreds of foreign military bases—by some estimates more than any country or empire in world history. As for our two biggest rivals,  Russia has 21 (mostly close to home); China has maybe three.

  • Benevolent, peaceful, freedom-loving America is also the world’s top arms dealer—even selling death-dealing weapons to famous human rights abusers.

  • After Syria signed on, the U.S. became the last nation on earth not party to the Paris Climate Accord. Heck, the occupant of the Oval Office doesn’t even believe in man-made climate change.

  • Then there’s the discomfiting fact that the U.S.—along with Russia—won’t even make a “no-first-use” pledge regarding nuclear weapons. And that’s reality, not “Dr. Strangelove.”

  • The U.S. was first and, until recently, alone in flying its drone fleet through sovereign national airspace and executing “terrorists” from the sky at will. I wonder how Washington will respond when other countries cite that American precedent and do the same?

  • Only the U.S. Navy patrols all the world’s oceans in force and expects to maintain superiority everywhere. And only the U.S. boasts near total control of the goings-on in two whole continents—unflinchingly asserting that North and South America fall in its “sphere of influence.” Crimea abuts Russia and the people speak Russian—still, the U.S. denies Moscow any sphere of influence there or anywhere else. Ah, consistency.

Of course there is so, so much more, but let’s end our tour of American “exceptionalism” there in the interest of time.

What’s so staggeringly unique about the United States is ultimately this: It stands alone among historical hegemons in denying the very existence of its empire. This, truly, is something new. Kids in 19th-century Great Britain knewthey had an empire—they even colored their colonies red on school maps. Not so here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. No, Washington seems to believe its own lie—and has its people convinced—that the U.S. is no empire at all, but rather a benevolent “democratic” gentle giant.

American colonies were founded from the outset as mini-empires wrested from the natives. Next, the nascent U.S. grew up enough to take what was left of the continent from the Mexicans. Since then, Washington has been trolling the world’s oceans and spreading the gospel of its own hyper-late-stage capitalism and bullying others in order to get its way. Sure, there are countries where worse human-rights abusers and worse authoritarian regimes are in power. But do we really want to be competing for last place? Especially if we’re supposedly so exceptional and indispensable?

Me, I’m sick of patriotism, of exceptionalism, of nationalism. I’ve seen where all those ideologies inevitably lead: to aggressive war, military occupations and, ultimately, dead children. So count me as over hegemony—it’s so 20th-century, anyway—and bring on the inevitable decline of U.S. pretense and power. Britain had to give up most of an empire to gain a social safety net. That was the humane thing to do.

Published:3/22/2019 9:15:12 PM
[Markets] Will The "Little Red App" Destroy Democracy?

Authored by Katusa Research via InternationalMan.com,

You are probably familiar with the most printed book in the world: the Bible.

But you’ve probably never even heard of the second-most printed book. It’s known as the “Little Red Book.”

It’s a collection of statements from the speeches and writings of Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China.

Mao, who once said that “to read too many books is harmful,” had more than one billion copies of this single book printed and distributed.

Its purpose was to force people to internalize Mao’s ideals. This elevated him to the status of deity within China.

The book remained an icon of Mao Zedong’s cult of personality and a mainstay in Chinese culture through the ‘70s.

As a result, an entire generation of Chinese have grown up not knowing anything better than what the Party has to offer them.

And now, the Chinese government is doubling down their efforts to control the thoughts of its 1.4 billion citizens...

The Little Red App - Redefining Propaganda in the Information Age

It’s been called the “Little Red App”.

But the impact it’s having is far from little.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has created a platform much like Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Its purpose is to indoctrinate people with the Party’s ideologies.

The app was released in January 2019. Its official name is “????.” (And pronounced shu-yue--hee--qi-ung--gu-wo).

The title contains a clever pun on Xi Jinping’s name: It can mean either “Study the Great Nation,” or “Learn Xi [Jinping’s] Great Nation.”

And right now, it’s the most-downloaded app in China – but for all the wrong reasons.

Regular usage of this app rewards you with “Xi study points.”

  • Reading an article or watching a video earns you 0.1 points.

  • Commenting earns you 0.1 points, to a maximum of 0.2 points a day.

  • Spending half an hour on the app nets you an entire 1 point.

There are even certain times of day in which your point gain is doubled. For example, if you’re on the app between 8:30-10:00 p.m. on weekdays. This way, you can ensure Xi Jinping’s rhetoric is fresh in your head before going to bed.

Above: Xi Jinping’s Eight Absolutes, from the Study the Strong Nation website.
Note the Little Red Book motif.

If you think you can just open up an article and leave the app open for a few minutes, you’d be wrong.

The app tracks your activity too, like whether or not you’re scrolling through the articles. This ensures that people are actually engaging with the content. And not just faking lip service to the Party.

Scores are shared publicly, and people with low scores are shamed by their friends.

It’s Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” come to life. Only now it’s gamified, and everyone is competing to get a higher score than everyone else.

The Chinese government is using a classic carrot-and-stick treatment. For now, Xi study points are supposed to get you small gifts in future versions of the app.

But you can bet it’s only a matter of time before the study points are tied to Social Credit Scores.

Want to Stay Employed - You Better be on the Little Red App…

Many government departments and workplaces are already making sure employees hit a daily target of Xi study points.

The government is exercising special oversight into how the app is used by Party members and by teachers. Basically, anyone who can ensure the next generation does not step out of line.

It would have been easy to ignore the book form. Or left to collect dust on a shelf somewhere.

It’s an app whose daily use is required in order to keep your job. It means you need to be on it to keep a roof over your head, and food on your table.

Xi Jinping has not only introduced a vehicle for brainwashing the masses…

He’s also created a means to ensure no citizen will ever be able turn a blind eye to it.

The entire Chinese populace will have no choice but to absorb its content.

This is powerful and well thought out. And it has an incredible shot at working.

Brought to You by the Country That Banned Winnie the Pooh

The question of whether such an app – or even its content – is good or bad is not the issue.

The issue is the fact that China, of all countries, is the one implementing it.

And no one is talking about this in the Western world… yet.

Here are a couple of other ways China is “teaching” its citizens:

  • An estimated 1-3 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are being held in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.

  • The recent Christopher Robin movie was banned. Not because of disagreeable material. Because of joke images circulating on the internet comparing Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping to Tigger and Winnie the Pooh, respectively.

Above: the image that caused the movie “Christopher Robin” to get banned in China.

The long-term consequences of forcing more than a billion people to study the same material – no exceptions – should send shivers down anyone’s spine.

The fact that this is happening via the hands of a government like China’s is nothing short of terrifying.

It marks the complete transition of China from an authoritarian government to a very well organized and powerful totalitarian government.

It’s no longer just required submission to the Party line. It’s governmental control over every single aspect of public and private life.

China Will Become the World’s Largest Economy – But is it Ready for Center Stage?

Of course, China is not the only country in the world where the government attempts to influence the people.

The Political parties in control within the U.S. or Canada try. But they have never created a platform that has the potential to succeed at the goal such as what China has created.

The difference is – China is the world’s second largest economy…

Its GDP is projected to surpass the United States’ sometime in the 2020s.

The Chinese Yuan has the third largest weighting in the IMF’s world reserve currency basket.

In 2012, it was the thirteenth-most-used currency. In 2015, it was fourth.

China’s economic might is massive. It has been trying to build its soft power for years.

It both produces and consumes the most food of any country in the world.

Likewise, it tops or is near the top for both production and consumption of resources like gold, coal, copper, aluminum and iron ore.

It’s the world’s largest exporter of goods, ranging from clothing to industrial machinery to consumer electronics.

In the rapidly escalating trade war, it has gone toe-to-toe with the U.S. Every threat of tariffs has been met with another threat of tariffs.

And when Canada drew China’s ire through the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, China responded in a familiar manner.

Recently, China shut down imports of canola from one of Canada’s largest exporters.

Even so, the U.S. and Canadian governments refuse to back down.

The other countries of the world aren’t quite ready to roll over and play dead. Especially not for China.

But this is all part of the Chinese government’s long-term plan. They want the Yuan to be seen as an alternative to the U.S. Dollar as the global currency.

This move wouldn’t just give them greater global clout or support the economic reforms. It would allow them to spread their authoritarianism to the rest of the world… including the U.S.

China is doing many things right and nobody should underestimate their political ability.

More importantly, China has launched what may be the most powerful app ever created.

Are you prepared for a Little Red App in America?

The two blue apps – Facebook and Twitter – already have years of your data and behaviour on their servers.

You wouldn’t want to be influenced or indoctrinated unknowingly, would you?

*  *  *

Clearly, there are many strange things afoot in the world. Distortions of markets, distortions of culture. It’s wise to wonder what’s going to happen, and to take advantage of growth while also being prepared for crisis. How will you protect yourself in the next crisis? See our PDF guide that will show you exactly how. Click here to download it now.

Published:3/22/2019 7:15:05 PM
[Apps] Morphin instantly Deepfakes your face into GIFs Want to star in your favorite memes and movie scenes? Upload a selfie to Morphin, choose your favorite GIF, and your face is grafted in to create a personalized copy you can share anywhere. Become Tony Stark as he suits up like Iron Man. Drop the mic like Obama, dance like Drake, or slap your […] Published:3/20/2019 4:02:39 PM
[World] Solyndra Burns $500 Million of Obama Stimulus Money Ten Years Ago

Sandra Smith looks back Obama's Solyndra debacle on 10-year anniversary.

Published:3/20/2019 11:33:53 AM
[Markets] Empire Of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies

Authored by Major Danny Sjursen (ret.) via AntiWar.com,

There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire.

As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve "enemy" civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

Make no mistake, Washington isn’t done trying; it’s happy to keep throwing good money (and blood) at bad: to the tune of a cool $6 trillion, 7,000 troop deaths, and 500,000 foreign deaths – including maybe 240,000 civilians. But what’s it all been for? The world is no safer, global terror attacks have only increased, and Uncle Sam just can’t seem to achieve any of its preferred policy goals.

Think on it for a second: Russia and Iran "won" in Syria; the Taliban and Pakistan are about ready to "win" in Afghanistan; Iran is more influential than ever in Iraq; the Houthis won’t quit in Yemen; Moscow is keeping Crimea; Libya remains unstable; North Korea ain’t giving up its nukes; and China’s power continues to grow in its version of the Caribbean – the South China Sea. No amount of American cash, no volume of our soldiers’ blood, no escalation in drone strikes or the conventional bombing of brown folks, has favorably changed the calculus in any of these regional conflicts.

What does this tell us? Quite a lot, I’d argue – but not what the neoliberal/neoconservative alliance of pundits and policymakers are selling. See for these unrepentant militarists the problem is always the same: Washington didn’t use enough force, didn’t spend enough blood and treasure. So is the solution: more defense spending, more CIA operations, more saber-rattling, and more global military interventions.

No, the inconvenient truth is as simple as it is disturbing to red-blooded patriots. To wit, the United States – or any wannabe hegemon – simply doesn’t possess the capability to shape the world in its own image. See those pesky locals – Arabs, Asians, Muslims, Slavs – don’t know what’s good for them, don’t understand that (obviously) there is a secret American zipped inside each of their very bodies, ready to burst out if given a little push!

It turns out that low-tech, cheap insurgent tactics, when combined with impassioned nationalism, can bog down the "world’s best military" indefinitely. It seems, too, that other regional heavyweights – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – stand ready to call America’s nuclear bluff. That they know the US all-volunteer military and consumerist economy can’t ultimately absorb the potential losses a conventional war would demand. Even scarier for the military-industrial-congressional-media establishment is the logical extension of all this accumulated failure: the questionable efficacy of military force in the 21st century.

Rather than recognize the limits of American military, economic, and political power, Bush II, Obama, and now Trump, have simply dusted off the old playbook. It’s reached the level of absurdity under the unhinged regime of Mr. Trump. Proverbially blasting Springsteen’s "Glory Days," as its foreign policy soundtrack, the Donald and company have doubled down. Heck, if Washington can’t get its way in Africa, Europe, Asia, or the Mideast, well why not clamp down in our own hemisphere, our traditional sphere of influence – South and Central America.

Enter the lunacy of the current Venezuela controversy. Trump’s team saw a golden opportunity in this socialist, backwater petrostate. Surely here, in nearby Monroe Doctrine country, Uncle Sam could get his way, topple the Maduro regime, and coronate the insurgent (though questionably legitimate) Juan Guaido. It’s early 20th century Yankee imperialism reborn. Everything seemed perfect. Trump could recall the specter of America’s tried and true enemy – "evil" socialism – cynically (and absurdly) equating Venezuelan populism with some absurd Cold-War-era existential threat to the nation. The idea that Venezuela presents a challenge on the scale of Soviet Russia is actually farcical. What’s more, and this is my favorite bit of irrationality, we were all recently treated to a game of "I know you are but what am I?" from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who (with a straight face) claimed Cuba, tiny island Cuba, was the real "imperialist" in Venezuela.

Next, in a move reminiscent of some sort of macabre 1980’s theme party, Trump resuscitated Elliot Abrams – you know, the convicted felon of Iran-Contra infamy, to serve as Washington’s special envoy to embattled Venezuela. Who better to act as "fair arbiter" in that country than a war-criminal with the blood of a few hundred thousand Central Americans (remember the Contras?!?) on his hands back in the the good old (Reagan) days.

Despite all this: America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. This isn’t to say that Venezuelans don’t have genuine grievances with the Maduro government (they do), but for now at least, it appears the military is staying loyal to the president, Russia/China are filling in the humanitarian aid gaps, and Uncle Sam is about to chalk up another loss on the world scene. Ultimately, whatever the outcome, the crisis will only end with a Venezuelan solution.

America’s impotence would almost be sad to watch, if, and only if, it wasn’t all so tragic for the Venezuelan people.

So Trump and his recycled neocons will continue to rant and rave and threaten Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and so on and so forth. America will still flex its aging, sagging muscles – a reflexive habit at this point.

Only now it’ll seem sad. Because no one is paying attention anymore.

The opposite of love is isn’t hate – it’s indifference.

*  *  *

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.comHe served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

Published:3/19/2019 10:58:32 PM
[World] Week 1: The unraveling of Beto O'Rourke

Robert "Beto" O'Rourke had a very (very) bad first week as a presidential candidate.

Right out of the chute, the 46-year-old — who already was being praised as a combination of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama — mocked his wife, and women in general. He created a mini-firestorm Friday ... Published:3/19/2019 7:26:45 PM

[The Blog] SPLC hires Michelle Obama’s former Chief of Staff to investigate workplace environment

"Allegations of harassment and racism within the SPLC’s offices aren’t new..."

The post SPLC hires Michelle Obama’s former Chief of Staff to investigate workplace environment appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/19/2019 2:27:43 PM
[Middle Column] Watch: Morano on Hannity on Fox News: Green New Deal is a ‘solution’ recycled from past eco-scares – ‘It’s always a different environmental scare, the same solution’

Morano: "In the 1960s and 70s the environmental movement became radicalized and you can go back in the 1970s John Holdren Obama's former science was out there promoting redistribution of wealth in order to fight what he saw as the greatest environmental threat -- the existential threat at that time overpopulation. All they've done is replaced global warming or now climate change with what used to such scares as resource scarcity, overpopulation the Amazon rainforest disappearing scare. It's always a different environmental scare, the same solution."

Published:3/19/2019 11:54:10 AM
[] Jewish Voters Nervous About Democrats' Shift to Become the Home of Antisemites Looking back wistfully at the super-pro-Jewish Democrat President Obama. Jewish voters furious at Democrats? defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar say they?re done with the party that has held their support for generations. "We felt we had a home there," said... Published:3/19/2019 11:24:08 AM
[World] Sean Hannity Monologue on Robert Francis Beto O'Rourke Treated Like Obama in 2008

In his Opening Monologue, Sean Hannity pointed out how the media's fawning over former Rep. Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (D-Texas) is reminiscent of the easy treatment given to Barack Obama in 2008.

Published:3/19/2019 10:54:35 AM
[Politics] GOP Voters Strongly Prefer Trump’s Foreign Policy Over Cheney’s

Former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the architects of the war in Iraq, recently criticized President Trump’s foreign policy as being “more like Barack Obama than like Ronald Reagan,” but voters aren’t buying.

When given a choice between Trump’s foreign policy agenda and Cheney’s, 41% of Likely U.S. Voters come down on the side of the current president. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that just 24% prefer Cheney’s brand of foreign policy. Even more (35%), however, are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on March 13-14, 2019 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:3/19/2019 10:54:34 AM
[aebd5c9c-d4f7-5059-97e2-f124fb61ff47] Sean Hannity: The mainstream media falls in love with - and provides cover for - Beto O'Rourke. Sound familiar? Sean Hannity: Beto sends thrills up the mainstream media's legs, like Obama Published:3/19/2019 5:22:52 AM
[Markets] "Dangerous Nuclear Schemes" - Are American Missiles On Hair-Trigger Alert?

Authored by Peter Huessy via The Gatestone Institute,

  • The proposed policies, if adopted by the new leadership in the House, would certainly fracture whatever consensus exists today to modernize America's strategic nuclear deterrent -- and at a time when both Russia and China are charging ahead militarily, and Iran and North Korea are racing toward a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.

  • If the United States chooses to eliminate its land-based missiles, as arms control advocates have proposed, it would dramatically and dangerously simplify an adversary's targeting calculus. The US would be reducing more than 500 distinct American-based nuclear-related targets -- including 450 Minuteman silos and 48 launch control centers spread across five American states -- down to only five continental US targets -- three USAF bomber bases, and two submarines bases -- and only roughly 10 targets if US submarines at sea were included.

  • China's "declared" policy of no first use policy is, in fact, suspect, considering the country's deployed weapons and nuclear threats to the US that involve America's protection of Taiwan. China, needless to say, is being currently exposed for its massive track record of lying, cheating and stealing everything, from their military land-fill bases in the South China Sea to the virtual theft from the United States of China's entire telecom industry.

  • There is no reason whatever to discontinue implementing the traditional three-part nuclear deterrent posture (land, sea and air) endorsed not only by the 2018 nuclear posture review (NPR) but also by the past three nuclear posture reviews (1994, 2001 and 2010). If the proposals above are adopted, two nuclear dangers in particular will be heightened. First, America's allies, no longer credibly protected by the US nuclear umbrella, may seek to build their own nuclear weapons to compensate for the omission. Second, in a crisis, America's adversaries might seek to disarm the US, or coerce it to stand down, especially as US nuclear forces would have been so diminished as to invite aggression, rather than deter it.

In the real world, it is important to remember what President John F. Kennedy said about America's newly built Minuteman missiles: that they were his "ace in the hole" and prevented the Cuban missile crisis from ending in Armageddon. Pictured: An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test on August 2, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (Image source: U.S. Air Force)

Modernization of the US strategic nuclear deterrent, often referred to by those who oppose it as "dangerous nuclear schemes," will require multiple decades to complete. To sustain such an effort, a bipartisan consensus needs to continue annually, regardless of who controls Congress or the presidency.

To succeed at its best, a nuclear modernization effort should be combined with a measurable, but verifiable arms control agenda; either the continuation of existing arms control treaties, expanded arms control efforts, or both.

Russia's violations of the INF treaty, including Russia's deployment of upwards of 100 illegal missiles, led to the INF treaty (unfortunately) becoming defunct. Such violations by Russia obviously make pursuing further or other arms control initiatives extremely difficult.

There are, therefore, growing concerns that with the anticipated demise of the INF treaty, the continuation and extension of the 2010 New START treaty may be adversely affected as well.

Should the 2010 New START treaty not be extended, there will cease to be any arms control limits on the deployment of US and Russian nuclear weapons after February 5, 2021, when New START expires.

Since 1972, beginning with the SALT 1 nuclear arms agreement, the US and Russia have had limits on the deployment of long-range or strategic nuclear weapons. These limits have been deemed important, especially by the American military, to gain a measure of confidence in the nature of any future strategic environment.

Instead of collaborating with US allies to counter new Russian missile deployments, and possibly secure better arms limits, however, opponents of full nuclear modernization are putting forward five highly dubious proposals:

  1. Adopting a statutory requirement on the no first-use of nuclear weapons by the United States.

  2. De-alerting or unplugging all "vulnerable" American missiles armed with nuclear warheads. This means the missiles will not launch even if a command is sent to their computer systems to do so.

  3. Eliminating America's Minuteman land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs ) -- which are what carry nuclear warheads -- and not fielding any replacement system.

  4. Adopting a nuclear deterrent posture, characterized as "minimal deterrence", that would have no more than 200 to 300 deployed warheads in the US arsenal.

  5. Eliminating efforts to field low-yield warheads on the American Ohio class submarine-based D-5 sea-launched ballistic missile.

All five of these initiatives would be unilateral, taken by the United States only, and would reverse the bipartisan consensus secured nearly a decade ago to go forward with the much-needed modernization of America's nuclear deterrent.

In 2010, for instance, the Obama administration and Congress agreed on a jointeffort first to approve the New START nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia, then second, to support on a bipartisan basis a robust nuclear deterrent modernization program of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.

The modernization effort included all elements of the nuclear triad (land, sea and air), nuclear laboratories, warhead production, sustainment infrastructure, and nuclear command and control systems.

The proposed alternative and unilateral policies, if adopted by the new leadership in the House, would certainly fracture whatever consensus exists today to modernize America's strategic nuclear deterrent -- and at a time when both Russiaand China are charging ahead militarily, and Iran and North Korea are racing toward a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.

Just as problematic, such unilateral reduction policies, if adopted by even one chamber of Congress, might very well undermine the sense that the United States could continue to provide the protection of a credible extended nuclear "umbrella" to its allies. The US would no longer be considered a serious guarantor against nuclear aggression, a point already made among senior American nuclear professionals a decade ago, at a 2009 conference in Washington, D.C.

What about No First Use?

The United States, for the record, has never pledged to refrain from using nuclear weapons first in response to a major biological, electromagnetic, chemical or cyber-attack on the US or its allies. US policy has instead reflected a certain ambiguity -- a key factor in any adversary's calculus -- but the deterrent to nuclear war has worked perfectly for more than 70 years.

Why fix it if it is not broken?

What is odd is that some advocates of a global no first use policy (pledging not to use nuclear weapons first) point to the Chinese government's endorsement of it as a good reason to adopt this idea. China, however, is hardly to be trusted as the country to which the United States looks in forming its own nuclear policy.

China's "declared" policy of no first use is, in fact, suspect, considering the country's deployed weapons and nuclear threats to the US that involve America's protection of Taiwan. China, needless to say, is being currently exposed for its massive track record of lyingcheating and stealing everything, from their military land-fill bases in the South China Sea to the virtual theft from the United States of China's entire telecom industry.

As for Russia, military and political officials there have repeatedly and explicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons first against the United States. This threat has become especially irrefutable since then Russian President Vladimir Putin in April 2000 officially announced just such a policy of using nuclear weapons first against the United States in a crisis or conflict.

Are American Missiles on Hair-Trigger Alert?

What about the charge that US land-based Minuteman III missiles are on a "hair trigger alert" and therefore geopolitically unstable?

As the former Commander of the United States Strategic Command, General Kevin Chilton, wrote in the Strategic Studies Quarterly, ("Defending the Record on US Nuclear Deterrence"):

"People who described our ICBMs as being on 'hair-trigger' alert either do not know what they are talking about or are intentionally attempting to frighten the uninformed into calling for the de-alerting of the ICBM leg."

Chilton then further explained how best to appreciate the value of the ICBMs:

"Here is a more accurate analogy that better captures reality: There is a gun, and it has a really big round in the chamber. But the gun is in a holster and that holster has two locks on it. Now the person wearing the holster does not know the combination to either lock — only the president of the United States has the combinations. If the president tells this person to shoot he will, but he cannot do it alone. So nuclear forces are not on hair-trigger alert. They certainly are on alert and at the ready, and this is necessary to provide the strategic stability described above."

In the real world, it is important to remember what President John F. Kennedy said about America's newly built Minuteman missiles: that they were his "ace in the hole" and prevented the Cuban missile crisis from ending in Armageddon. Since 1962, US Minuteman missiles have been on alert for 32 million minutes, but never ordered launched by an American President.

Should the US Keep Its ICBMs or Not?

What, though, if the US goes along with the idea not to keep these land-based missiles?

Here is what happens: If the United States chooses to eliminate its land-based missiles, as arms control advocates have proposed, it would dramatically and dangerously simplify an adversary's targeting calculus. The US would be reducing more than 500 distinct American-based nuclear-related targets -- including 450 Minuteman silos and 48 launch control centers spread across five American states -- down to only five continental US targets -- three USAF bomber bases, and two submarines bases -- and only roughly 10 targets if US submarines at sea were included.

As the former Vice Chief of Staff of the USAF, General Larry O. Spencer told this author, "Why would we make it easy for an adversary to attack us?" Especially if at some point in the future the oceans become transparent and US submarines at sea can be found and destroyed by the force of 100 Chinese and Russian attack submarines.

Should America Take Its Missiles off Alert?

Another idea, unfortunately not the best, is to take American land-based missiles "off alert" (like unplugging an appliance), to lengthen the time between a crisis occurring and when the US commanders can actually launch American ballistic missiles.

The idea behind that suggestion is that, in a crisis, if the American President cannot quickly launch US land-based missiles because they were "unplugged" or de-alerted, the extra time it would take to put US missiles back on alert would supposedly be exactly the time needed for the crisis to be defused. (As it takes only seconds to put a missile back on alert to be ready to fire, such an assumption is, on its face, silly.)

Ideas such as de-alerting has been proposed before -- and have always been determined to be highly risky and dangerous.

First, the "de-alerting," or unplugging of America's missiles, is not verifiable. Even if all nuclear powers de-alerted their missiles, both the US and its adversaries could place their own missiles back on alert in a matter of seconds and no one would be the wiser.

The US would presumably not want American leaders to assume that Russian missiles were unlaunched -- or Russia to assume that America's missiles were unlaunched -- because either side had been "de-alerted". The quiet could easily lead to a misunderstanding. America's guard might be down, and any inaction assumed to reflect US passivity.

Second, in a crisis, the lack of any effective verification for such "de-alerting action" would likely heighten uncertainty. Russia might assume that the United States would rush to put America's missiles back on alert to be able to launch them at Russia. But Russia could not verify whether America's missiles were on alert and ready to launch or not.

Such an uncertainty might easily pressure the Russian national leadership to decide it would be better to launch its missiles at the United States as soon as possible in order to "get the first punch in."

In other words, given that there is no way to verify whether a US missile was on alert or not, or whether it could be launched or not, uncertainty could easily lead a Russian leader to panic and, during a crisis, make a rash decision to launch Russian missiles at America first. The Russians, say, might be hoping to destroy as many American fixed, silo-based land missiles as possible. Their assumption could be that even if the US radars and early warning satellites saw Russian missiles coming at US silos, the Americans would not have time to put their missiles back in launch status because the United States had "de-alerted" its own missiles; therefore American missiles might well be regarded by an adversary as "sitting ducks".

A US "race to re-alert" would hardly be reassuring.

Should the US Cut Its Nuclear Forces to 300 Warheads?

Another idea that seems wanting is for the United States to reduce its strategic nuclear warheads from the 1,550 allowed under the 2010 New START treaty between Russia and the United States to as few as 300 warheads.

That new American posture would mimic the supposed Chinese minimal deterrent posture of having roughly only 300 warheads. Part of the concept of having a "minimal" number of warheads is that if the United States were attacked, it would only retaliate against the aggressor's cities, not its possibly numerous military assets. If the United States limited its targets just to cities, the thinking seems to go, the United States simply would not need many warheads: the threat of wiping out a few dozen Chinese cities would presumably sufficient for deterrence. If the Chinese leaders supposedly believe that having only 300 Chinese warheads is sufficient to deter the United States (or anyone else) from attacking China, then doesn't it make sense that it would only take 300 American warheads striking Chinese cities to deter China from attacking the United States?

The problem is that if the United States had only 300 warheads, that number would amount to roughly 10% of Russia's current deployed nuclear arsenal. This imbalance might cause many of America's allies in Europe and Asia worry that the extended deterrence, or "umbrella," the US provides to its allies was reality just a mere bluff.

What ally could really believe such a US nuclear deterrent was serious if not only described as "minimal" but in reality was vastly out-numbered -- nearly 10-to-1 -- by Russia's nuclear forces? In conversations over the many decades of the nuclear age, America's European and Pacific allies have repeated that the United States had to keep a balance with Russia in nuclear capability. A 10-to-1 ratio simply is not a "balance."

Most importantly, such a small US nuclear arsenal would be totally unable credibly or effectively to hold at risk whole swaths of Chinese or Russian military assets. They would remain free to be used to attack the United States.

US deterrent policy has, for seven decades, meant being able to prevent, or take away, the military ability of an adversary to continue a fight. This capability means that America's long-standing retaliatory policy needs to be to destroy the remaining military weapons and tools an American adversary possesses. Deliberately deciding to leave an adversary's military capability intact makes no sense, and would effectively jettison America's long and successful deterrent strategy.

What about Low-Yield Missile Warheads?

What about deciding not to build a relatively low-yield nuclear warhead for the D-5 missiles to place on American submarines? The problem with this plan would be that without such a weapon, the United States and NATO would be stuck relying upon a low-yield nuclear weapon delivered by American aircraft. Any aircraft, however, would have to take into account Russia's air defenses: it would consequently take multiple hours to arrive at a conflict area. An aerial response, therefore, could be "too slow."

An asset such as an American submarine-launched D-5 missile can get to a conflict zone more quickly and assuredly than an aircraft. Not to have such a credible low-yield warhead capability undermines America's ability to counter Russia's new nuclear doctrine that threatens to use to use low-yield nuclear weapons early in a crisis or a conflict.

Given that, for example, Russian nuclear forces are in close proximity to a potential conflict area such as the Baltics, the United States needs to be able to counter-threaten possible Russian aggression there. As US sea-based missiles would be launched from great distances -- the US has no land-based missiles deployed at this time in that area -- striking back at those forces would have to be done quickly and assuredly.

An American submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead, unlike an American tactical airplane, gives the United States exactly the capability required to match Russian low-yield nuclear threats.

Summary

There is no reason whatever to discontinue implementing the traditional three-part nuclear deterrent posture (land, sea and air) endorsed not only by the 2018 nuclear posture review (NPR) but also by the past three nuclear posture reviews (1994, 2001 and 2010): a robust Triad of nuclear forces that keeps the land-based ICBMs, a built-in nuclear-readiness hedge against an uncertain future that requires a number of warheads that balance Russia's forces, and a forward-looking, realistic and tightly verifiable arms control framework, that would refuse destabilizing strategies such as de-alerting.

The alternative proposals reviewed above are largely based on attractive bumper sticker-types of slogans. If they are adopted, two nuclear dangers in particular will be heightened.

  • First, America's allies, no longer credibly protected by the US nuclear umbrella, may seek to build their own nuclear weapons to compensate for the omission.

  • Second, in a crisis, America's adversaries might seek to disarm the US, or coerce it to stand down, especially as US nuclear forces would have been so diminished as to invite aggression, rather than deter it.

Published:3/18/2019 8:20:40 PM
[Markets] Like AOC's Green New Deal? You'll Love What Illinois Wants To Do!

Authored by Mark Glennon via WirePoints.com,

It’s now moving through the Illinois General Assembly with very broad sponsorship and exceptionally well-organized support. It’s a 365-page monstrosity of bureaucratic overreach, unhinged social engineering, climate extremism and shameless disregard for cost.

It’s called the Clean Energy Jobs Act. It would put specificity and the force of law behind the core concepts of the Green New Deal spearheaded by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez

The Green New Deal has been ridiculed widely even by many on the left and some environmentalists. Primarily, that’s because of the cost of completely eliminating fossil fuels, which unquestionably would be in the trillions for the nation. One estimate puts that cost at $93 trillion. It’s also loaded with pretty much every social justice goal du jour. Democrat presidential possibility Howard Schultz ripped it as “immoral” and “unrealistic.” It would “bring about mass death,” wrote a Greenpeace co-founder.

But others are cheering Illinois’ effort. The Illinois legislation “may serve as a remarkable test case of one of the Green New Deal’s core principles,” says Vox in glowing approval of the bill. And they add, the Green New Deal “is not merely a way to reduce emissions, but also to ameliorate the other symptoms and dysfunctions of a late capitalist economy: growing inequality and concentration of power at the top,” which is why they like the Illinois bill.

The Illinois bill’s central goals are 100% carbon-free electricity production by 2030, and 100% renewable everything across the state by 2050. Importantly, that means the 2050 goal precludes even nuclear energy, which currently accounts for about half of Illinois’ electricity production.

Though the Green New Deal calls for 100% renewables in just ten years, Illinois’ target of 2050 would also be catastrophically expensive. That Greenpeace co-founder wrote recently, “You are delusional if you think fossil fuels will end any time soon, maybe in 500 years.” The idea “excites the left,” wrote a Washington Post Columnist, “but that name is a misnomer. ‘World War G” is more like it because it would mean an “endless, unwinnable global quagmire.”

Under the Illinois bill, natural gas would be history. Rip out all those gas ranges, gas furnaces (that heat 77% of Illinois homes) and the rest over the next 30 years. The entire natural gas infrastructure, pipelines and all, would be abandoned.

The bill calls for 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines alongside $20 billion in new infrastructure over the next decade. One million gas and diesel vehicles would come off Illinois roads.

Meanwhile, record amounts of relatively clean natural gas, produced alongside oil, are already being flared off because it has gotten so cheap. The United States stands poised to displace Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer and become energy self-sufficient.

The Illinois bill is loaded with social justice goals. There are tedious requirements for a Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs Program; “environmental justice communities”job creation for ex-offenders and former foster children; “energy empowerment zones”; workforce and training including soft skills and math to ensure communities of color, returning citizens, foster care communities and others understand clean energy opportunities; stipends for jobs and apprenticeships, including funding for transportation and child care; access to low-cost capital for disadvantaged clean energy businesses and contractors; and much, much more.

What’s most annoying is sheer indifference to cost, which is probably immeasurable anyway given the bill’s vast complexity. Don’t expect to find an estimate anywhere. National critics of the Green New Deal immediately asked about cost, but in Illinois, it just doesn’t matter. Broke Illinois would somehow have to pay a proportionate share of the multi-trillion-dollar cost estimates for the Green New Deal.

Supporters of the Illinois bill typically duck the question of cost by jumping to claims of new job creation in renewables. But their job claims invariably are one sided, ignoring lost jobs in the carbon-based industries they would destroy.

They cite Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act to prove success in job creation. It became law in 2017, imposing less grand targets for renewable energy. It authorized $750 million for job training in that industry. “Now we have a report to prove” how many jobs were created by that earlier law, says Ann Williams (D-Chicago), the new bill’s leading sponsor in the Illinois House. But that’s just 1,500 jobs, she says. That’s success? Watch the whole interview with her to get a sense of the mentality behind this bill.

Supporters like Williams also claim that renewables are simply cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives. What? If the goal were truly to allow the cheapest alternatives to prevail, massive intervention in the marketplace obviously wouldn’t be needed.

The Illinois bill is loaded with mind-numbing complexity to accomplish its social goals. Here’s one example, which is for preferences in giving out renewable energy credits to “Approved Vendors” that meet multiple “Equity Actions:

Could it really pass into law?

Companion bills are now pending in both the Illinois House and Senate. Together, they have over 50 sponsors.

Governor Pritzker has not yet commented on the bill. However, in his first days in office he committed to the goal of 100% renewables by 2050. It was not clear if he intended to exclude nuclear.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill is supported by a juggernaut alliance of the renewable energy industry, climate activists, organized labor, farmers keen on leasing land for wind turbines and social justice warriors. That alliance seems intent on challenging the military industrial complex for clout.

It’s represented by a group called the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition. They’ve already sponsored over 60 community town halls around the state to build support. Supporters include Illinois’ CUB, the Citizens Utility Board, which historically focused on getting lower rates for consumers, but now seems to have been captured by the renewables industry. The renewables industry is heavily unionized in Illinois, so unions like the bill. Its “supporters include Tom Balanoff, president of the powerful SEIU Local 1 labor union, who pledged to do his best to make sure as many union jobs as possible are created, says the Energy News Network.

In short, yes, this looks serious.

Michael Greenstone is a University of Chicago economist who served in the Obama Administration. When asked about the Green New Deal he said, “Wow. Comparisons with New Deal, World War II and remaking American society are not misplaced.”

That’s why the Green New Deal won’t get through Congress.

In Illinois, however, it’s full speed ahead on remaking society through the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

Published:3/18/2019 4:55:52 PM
[Politics] 37% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending March 14.

This week’s finding remains the same for the second week in a row. Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December to 31% by the end of January. It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from March 10-14, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:3/18/2019 10:49:30 AM
[Markets] Alen Krueger, Princeton Economist And Obama's Top Econ Advisor, Dead At 58

Alan Krueger, a regular fixture on financial TV and prominent labor market economist who was James Madison Professor of Political Economy, as well as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Barack Obama from 2011-2013, passed away over the weekend at the age of 58, Princeton announced this morning: "Alan was recognized as a true leader in his field, known and admired for both his research and teaching."

More from the brief Princeton obit published this morning:

In addition to his scholarship, Alan’s life exemplified a commitment to public service.  His contributions to the nation included serving as President Clinton’s Chief Economist at the Department of Labor, and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.

A valued member of the Princeton University community for over three decades, Alan will be deeply missed by his students and colleagues.  The University asks that the privacy of the Krueger family be respected at this difficult time.

Information regarding a public celebration of Professor Krueger’s life and legacy will be released at a future date.

In addition to his extensive academic track record, Krueger was an assistant secretary of the Treasury from 2009 to 2010 during Barack Obama’s administration. Later, he was the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the early days of the economic recovery, from 2011 to 2013.

From 1994 to 1995, he was the Labor Department’s chief economist under President Bill Clinton.

Krueger, a labor economist by training, was known for his early work finding that the minimum wage did not reduce employment among low-wage workers. More recently, he studied the role of the opioids epidemic in reducing employment among men. He also studied less serious topics, including the rising price of concert tickets.

Published:3/18/2019 9:47:55 AM
[Politics] De Blasio Calls Obama's Early Days in Office a 'Lost Window' New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday criticized former President Barack Obama during a small gathering as he mulls a run for president, saying that Obama's early days in office were "a lost window." Published:3/17/2019 8:15:19 PM
[Markets] Boeing's Doomed 737 Max

Authored by Eric Margolis,

I don’t like flying. I consider it unnatural, unhealthy and fraught with peril. But I do it all the time. For me, it’s either fly or take an ox cart.

In fact, I’ve been flying since I was six years old – from New York to Paris on a lumbering Boeing Stratocruiser, a converted, double-decker WWII B-29 heavy bomber. I even had a sleeping berth. So much for progress.

Lots can go wrong in the air. Modern aircraft have thousands of obscure parts. If any one of them malfunctions, the aircraft can be crippled or crash. Add pilot error, dangerous weather, air traffic control mistakes, mountains where they are not supposed to be, air to air collisions, sabotage and hijacking.

I vividly recall flying over the snow-capped Alps in the late 1940’s aboard an old Italian three-motor airliner with its port engine burning, and the Italian crew panicking and crossing themselves.

Some years ago, I was on my way to Egypt when we were hijacked by a demented Ethiopian. A three day ordeal ensued that included a return flight to New York City from Germany, with the gunman threatening to crash the A-310 jumbo jet into Wall Street – a grim precursor of 9/11. My father, Henry Margolis, got off a British Comet airliner just before it blew up due to faulty windows.

Which brings me to the current Boeing crisis. After a brand new Boeing 737 Max crashed in Indonesia it seemed highly likely that there was a major problem in its new, invisible autopilot system, known as MCAS. All 737 Max’s flying around the world should have been grounded as a precaution. But America’s aviation authority, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowed the Max to keep flying. The FAA is half regulator and half aviation business promoter, a clear conflict of interest.

The crash of a new Ethiopian 737 Max outside Addis Ababa under very similar circumstances to the Lion Air accident set off alarm bells around the globe. Scores of airlines rightly grounded their new Max’s. But the US and Canada did not. The FAA continued to insist the aircraft was sound. The problem, it was hinted between the lines, was incompetent third world pilots.

It now appears that America’s would-be emperor, Pilot-in–Chief Donald Trump, may have pressed the FAA to keep the 737 Max’s in the air. Canada, always shy when it comes to disagreeing with Washington, kept the 737 Max’s flying until there was a lot of evidence linking the Indonesia and Ethiopian crashes.

Trump finally ordered the suspect aircraft grounded. But doing so was not his business. That’s the job of the FAA. But Trump, as usual, wanted to hog the limelight.

By now, the 737 Max ban is just about universal.

Interestingly, Ethiopia refused to hand over the crashed 737’s black boxes (actually they are red) to the FAA, as is normal with US-built aircraft. Instead, Addis Ababa sent the data boxes for analysis to BEA, France’s well-regarded aviation accident investigator. Clearly, Ethiopia lacks confidence in the veracity and impartiality of the FAA and the White House.

Today, Trump professes vivid interest in Boeing’s well-being. Last May, however, Trump cancelled an Iranian order to Boeing for $20 billion in airliners which had originally been signed under the Obama administration. Israel’s fingerprints were all over this cancellation. Iran desperately needs new aircraft to replace its fleet of decaying, 1960’s passenger aircraft that have become flying coffins.

Boeing (I am a shareholder) will recover from this disaster unless the 737 Max’s center of gravity is dangerously unstable. The mystery autopilot system will be reconfigured and pilots properly trained to use it. Air France had a similar problem when it introduced the new A320. But Boeing, not third world pilots, is at fault.

There’s another key factor. I’ve been writing for decades that passenger aircraft should return to the three-man crew they had 40-50 years ago. The position of flight engineer was supposedly eliminated by cockpit automation. Today, aircraft are so electronically complex they need a specialist on board who can deal with problems. Pilots should not be expected to be masters of computer technology. A third crew member is essential when things go wrong. But employing one costs money. It seems rock-bottom fares remain more important than safety.

Published:3/17/2019 7:14:08 PM
[Markets] Former Obama Officials Ordered By Judge To Answer Questions Over Clinton Emails

Via SaraCarter.com,

A federal judge ordered multiple senior Obama Administration officials, State Department officials and former Hillary Clinton aides Thursday to provide answers under oath to questions requested by Judicial Watch after a roughly four year court battle.

Judicial Watch, a leading conservative non-profit watchdog group, announced the schedule of depositions in their case in a press release Thursday.  The Judicial Watch questions regard two separate cases regarding the Obama administration’s actions during the Benghazi terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate and CIA Annex in Libya, and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server to send classified government emails.

“Judicial Watch is doing the heavy lifting on the ongoing Clinton email scandal, even as Congress dropped the ball and DOJ and State continued to obstruct our quest for the truth,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, in a press release Thursday.

“The Court in our case wants real answers on the Clinton email scandal which is why our request for basic discovery was granted.”

District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered senior officials — including Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Jacob Sullivan, and FBI official E.W. Priestap – to respond under oath and submit the answers in writing to the questions provided by Judicial Watch. The decision from Lamberth was made this past January.

Lamberth ordered the discovery from the watchdog’s July 2014 FOIA lawsuit,  which was filed after the State Department failed to respond to an earlier request made May 13, 2014.

Judicial Watch requests: 
  • Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

  • Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.

Judicial Watch’s discovery will seek answers to:
  • Whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system;

  • whether the State Department’s efforts to settle this case beginning in late 2014 amounted to bad faith; and

  • whether the State Department adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.

The confirmed discovery schedule now includes:
  • March 12: State Department’s responses to interrogatories and document requests were due.

  • March 14: Deposition of Justin Cooper, a former aide to Bill Clinton who reportedly had no security clearance and is believed to have played a key role in setting up Hillary Clinton’s non-government email system.

  • April 5: Deposition of John Hackett, a State Department records official “immediately responsible for responding to requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act.”

  • April 16: Deposition of Jacob “Jake” Sullivan, Hillary Clinton’s former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff.

  • April 23: Deposition of Sheryl Walter, former State Department Director of the Office of Information Programs and Services/Global Information Services.

  • April 26: Deposition of Gene Smilansky, a State Department lawyer.

  • April 30. Deposition of Monica Tillery, a State Department official.

  • May 7: Deposition of Jonathon Wasser, who was a management analyst on the Executive Secretariat staff. Wasser worked for Deputy Director Clarence Finney and was the State Department employee who actually conducted the searches for records in response to FOIA requests to the Office of the Secretary.

  • May 14: Deposition of Clarence Finney, the deputy director of the Executive Secretariat staff who was the principal advisor and records management expert in the Office of the Secretary responsible for control of all correspondence and records for Hillary Clinton and other State Department officials.

  • June 11: 30(b)(6) Deposition, which will be designated by the State Department.

  • June 13: Deposition of Heather Samuelson, the former State Department senior advisor who helped facilitate the State Department’s receipt and release of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

To Be Determined
  • As yet to be determined is the deposition date for Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell, who wrote a March 2, 2009, internal memorandum titled “Use of Blackberries on Mahogany Row,” in which he strongly advised that the devices not be allowed.

Written questions under oath are to be answered by:
  • Monica Hanley, Hillary Clinton’s former confidential assistant at the State Department.

  • Lauren Jiloty, Clinton’s former special assistant.

  • E.W. Priestap, who is serving as assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division and helped oversee both the Clinton email and the 2016 presidential campaign investigations. Priestap testified in a separate lawsuit that Clinton was the subject of a grand jury investigation related to her BlackBerry email accounts.

  • Susan Rice, President Obama’s former UN ambassador who appeared on Sunday television news shows following the Benghazi attacks, blaming a “hateful video.” Rice was also Obama’s national security advisor involved in the “unmasking” the identities of senior Trump officials caught up in the surveillance of foreign targets.

  • Ben Rhodes, an Obama-era White House deputy strategic communications adviser who attempted to orchestrate a campaign to “reinforce” Obama and to portray the Benghazi consulate terrorist attack as being “rooted in an Internet video, and not a failure of policy.”

Published:3/16/2019 5:12:11 PM
[Media] ‘Did you sleep through the Obama administration?’: Reporter breaks irony meters with take on Christchurch

Aren't we reassured after every terror attack by an extremist Muslim that that's only a very small segment of the population?

The post ‘Did you sleep through the Obama administration?’: Reporter breaks irony meters with take on Christchurch appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/16/2019 2:39:49 PM
[Markets] Pompeo Announces Ban On International Criminal Court Officials Probing US War Crimes

The US has threatened to revoke visas for members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague should they so much as investigate any criminal actions of American military personnel. The United States has never been a member of the ICC and considers it without authority over matters related to Americans or allies conducting joint operations. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a scathing rebuke Friday following ICC statements that it would look into possible US war crimes in Afghanistan, and as pressures mount for the court to bring cases against Israel for human rights crimes against Palestinians. “We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said Friday.

Image source: Reuters

Pompeo went to far as to specifically address ICC members and employees: “If you are responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you still have or will get a visa or will be permitted to enter the United States,” he said.

Washington has long relied on defense of "US sovereignty" when the international court has received allegations of torture by American forces or allies, or other war crimes like "mistaken" coalition bombings of civilians attending wedding parties or funerals in Afghanistan

The US position has been to say American courts and investigators can handle and prosecute if need be any allegations of US misconduct or war crimes, and has for years throughout the "global war on terror" viewed the Netherlands-based ICC with hostility.

During his Friday comments Pompeo said further the restrictions “may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without the allies’ consent,” according to the AP

He also warned about potential economic sanctions against member and host nations "if the ICC does not change its course."

The ICC, for its part, has vowed to continue to operate "undeterred" by any US actions, and articulated that the court "is needed to prosecute cases when a country fails to do so or does an insufficient job of it," as the AP reported. 

Pompeo's words were also widely seen as a threat to the ICC prosecutor and personnel who last year formally requested of the court to open an investigation into war crimes allegations against US forces and intelligence, as well as allied Afghan national security forces, going all the way back to May 2003. 

According to the AP

The prosecution’s request says there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

Among the more shocking actions the US has taken to prevent any attempted prosecution of Americans by the ICC was the Bush administration's American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, popularly derided as the "Hague Invasion Act".

The law was designed to protect all US military and intelligence members on the basis that Washington could at anytime use force to liberate them from ICC incarceration. 

Human Rights Watch described at the time of its being signed into law

U.S. President George Bush today signed into law the American Servicemembers Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the International Criminal Court (ICC). The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the "Hague invasion clause," has caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the Netherlands.  

With such significant threats, the ICC's actions against Americans, Israelis or allied forces will likely only remain symbolic and designed to drive media attention and scrutiny of American actions overseas. 

Meanwhile the pattern will remain of only third world, African, and Balkan warlords actually being brought to justice at the Hague, and never western officials. 

Published:3/16/2019 1:36:21 PM
[Markets] Pity The Nation: War Spending Is Bankrupting America

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars

Whose sages are silenced

And whose bigots haunt the airwaves

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

Except to praise conquerors

And acclaim the bully as hero

And aims to rule the world

By force and by torture…

Pity the nation oh pity the people

who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away…”

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet

War spending is bankrupting America.

Our nation is being preyed upon by a military industrial complex that is propped up by war profiteers, corrupt politicians and foreign governments.

America has so much to offer—creativity, ingenuity, vast natural resources, a rich heritage, a beautifully diverse populace, a freedom foundation unrivaled anywhere in the world, and opportunities galore—and yet our birthright is being sold out from under us so that power-hungry politicians, greedy military contractors, and bloodthirsty war hawks can make a hefty profit at our expense.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your hard-earned tax dollars are being used for national security and urgent military needs.

It’s all a ruse.

You know what happens to tax dollars that are left over at the end of the government’s fiscal year? Government agencies—including the Department of Defense—go on a “use it or lose it” spending spree so they can justify asking for money in the next fiscal year.

We’re not talking chump change, either.

We’re talking $97 billion worth of wasteful spending.

According to an investigative report by Open the Government, among the items purchased during the last month of the fiscal year when government agencies go all out to get rid of these “use it or lose it” funds: Wexford Leather club chair ($9,241), china tableware ($53,004), alcohol ($308,994), golf carts ($673,471), musical equipment including pianos, tubas, and trombones ($1.7 million), lobster tail and crab ($4.6 million), iPhones and iPads ($7.7 million), and workout and recreation equipment ($9.8 million).

So much for draining the swamp.

Anyone who suggests that the military needs more money is either criminally clueless or equally corrupt, because the military isn’t suffering from lack of funding—it’s suffering from lack of proper oversight.

Where President Trump fits into that scenario, you decide.

Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

Rest assured, however, that if Trump gets his way—to the tune of a $4.7 trillion budget that digs the nation deeper in debt to foreign creditors, adds $750 billion for the military budget, and doubles the debt growththat Trump once promised to erase—the war profiteers (and foreign banks who “own” our debt) will be raking in a fortune while America goes belly up.

This is basic math, and the numbers just don’t add up.

As it now stands, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad.

Certainly, nothing about the way the government budgets its funds puts America’s needs first.

The nation’s educational system is pathetic (young people are learning nothing about their freedoms or their government). The infrastructure is antiquated and growing more outdated by the day. The health system is overpriced and inaccessible to those who need it most. The supposedly robust economy is belied by the daily reports of businesses shuttering storefronts and declaring bankruptcy. And our so-called representative government is a sham.

If this is a formula for making America great again, it’s not working.

The White House wants taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, yet the glaring economic truth is that at the end of the day, it’s the military industrial complex—and not the sick, the elderly or the poor—that is pushing America towards bankruptcy.

We have become a debtor nation, and the government is sinking us deeper into debt with every passing day that it allows the military industrial complex to call the shots.

Simply put, the government cannot afford to maintain its over-extended military empire.

Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” remarked a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan. “It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’ And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.” Or as one commentator noted, “Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.”

To be clear, the U.S government’s defense spending is about one thing and one thing only: establishing and maintaining a global military empire.

Although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world's population, America boasts almost 50% of the world's total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.

In fact, the U.S. government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year.

Then there’s the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the worldand policing the globe with 1.3 million U.S. troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

The U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

War is not cheap, but it becomes outrageously costly when you factor in government incompetence, fraud, and greedy contractors.

As The Nation reports:

For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DoD the following year.

For example, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked.

A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government.

Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior.

The U.S. government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the U.S. military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds.

The U.S. government is not making America any safer. It’s exposing American citizens to alarming levels of blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America’s use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback.

Those who call the shots in the government—those who push the military industrial complex’s agenda—those who make a killing by embroiling the U.S. in foreign wars—have not heeded Johnson’s warning.

The U.S. government is not making American citizens any safer. The repercussions of America’s military empire have been deadly, not only for those innocent men, women and children killed by drone strikes abroad but also those here in the United States.

The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomber was blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the U.S. Army, was blowback.

The transformation of America into a battlefield is blowback.

All of this carnage is being carried out with the full support of the American people, or at least with the proxy that is our taxpayer dollars.

The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls.

As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, under a military empire, war and its profiteering will always take precedence over the people’s basic human needs.

Similarly, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us not to let the profit-driven war machine endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?”

We failed to heed Eisenhower’s warning.

The illicit merger of the armaments industry and the government that Eisenhower warned against has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation today.

It’s not sustainable, of course.

Eventually, inevitably, military empires fall and fail by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.

It happened in Rome. It’s happening again.

The America empire is already breaking down.

We’re already witnessing a breakdown of society on virtually every front, and the government is ready.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

For years now, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist.

We’re approaching critical mass.

As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to wage its costly, meaningless, endless wars abroad, the American homeland will continue to suffer: our roads will crumble, our bridges will fail, our schools will fall into disrepair, our drinking water will become undrinkable, our communities will destabilize, our economy will tank, crime will rise, and our freedoms will suffer.

So who will save us?

As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’d better start saving ourselves: one by one, neighbor to neighbor, through grassroots endeavors, by pushing back against the police state where it most counts—in our communities first and foremost, and by holding fast to what binds us together and not allowing politics and other manufactured nonrealities to tear us apart.

Start today. Start now. Do your part.

Literally and figuratively, the buck starts and stops with “we the people.”

Published:3/15/2019 11:03:54 PM
[Markets] Exposing 'The Resistance': The Blind Leading The Deaf And Dumb

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

You had to wonder why it took Nancy Pelosi so long to figure out that maybe impeachment was not the big rock-candy mountain that, for “the resistance,” marked the gateway to a Trump-free nirvana. It became obvious this week, through the release of the Bruce Ohr and Lisa Page transcripts, that RussiaGate was birthed entirely by persons in the employ of Hillary Clintion, with then CIA Director John Brennan as midwife, and the DOJ / FBI avidly assisting - all of them fully aware that the predicate was false. What’s more, the evidence timeline makes it clear that Democratic Party leadership, including Nancy Pelosi, knew it was false. Hence, the pained smile she’s been wearing these many months.

In the event of an impeachment proceeding in the House, all that would be revealed, especially if it got as far as a trial in the US Senate, where the defense is allowed to mount a case under rules of evidence. Imagine the howls of embarrassment on late-night TV when even ex-comedian Stephen Colbert would have to admit that he was gulled into acting as a shill for a seditious con.

I suppose Ms. Pelosi also made the calculation that any impeachment ginned up by the likes of Jerrold Nadler and Maxine Waters would be superseded by a slew of actual indictments among the above-mentioned former law enforcement officialdom, including perhaps former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and persons in the Obama White House. You might even include the enigmatic Robert Mueller, who appears to be liable for the destruction of evidence in his own inquiry, as well as malicious prosecution.

All the actual evidence in the public arena indicates that any “collusion” to interfere with the 2016 election involved agents of the Clinton campaign and US government employees, not Russians. Of course, it will not be so easy for Mr. Nadler and Ms. Waters to call off the committee exercises they’ve been rehearsing, but it will be fun to watch them pissing into the wind as the indictments roll out.

In his new book, Peak Trump, David Stockman called the RussiaGate affair “a Democratic Party Bereavement Ritual,” an excellent diagnosis. The breast-beating and garment-rending has gone on for more than two years, inducing a generalized hysteria that has made it impossible for this country to govern itself, and opening the door to some really serious mischief as the party’s new Jacobin wing sets up for the advent of an American failed state.

All of this is a prelude to equally serious tribulation roaring down the two-lane pike of finance and economy that will combine with the engineered destruction of institutional authority from RussiaGate to bring on the greatest crisis since the Civil War. The money is not there to perform any of the miracles of redistribution promised by AOC and Bernie Sanders — unless the Federal Reserve is coerced into printing a whole lot more money out of thin air, in which case the consequence will be that everybody gets to have a lot of worthless money that has lost its value.

If congress wants to play committee games, it might want to investigate how the USA is going to rack up another $2 trillion in debt to finance its operations before the 2020 election. They’re the ones who will have to vote to allow that to happen. The disorders of money coming down in the months ahead, RussiaGate aside, are sure to discredit both political parties. I doubt that Mr. Trump will survive it politically and the revenant Republican Party behind him is so devoid of credible leadership that it could dissolve altogether like an evening mist preceding the cold darkness of night. By then, the whole American political establishment will be, as Mencken quipped, like a blind man stumbling around a dark cellar looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Hysterias don’t last forever, but the economic depression ahead will last a long, long time, and the nation will have to find some way to adjust to a lower standard of living. None of the nostrums currently in the air — the guaranteed basic income, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal — will avail to alter that fate. The big question is just how disorderly and violent the journey through that will have to be.

Published:3/15/2019 4:30:23 PM
[Politics] Consumer Spending Update: Economic Confidence Springs Forward

The Rasmussen Reports Economic Index climbed to 142.4 in March, up seven points from last month  and ranking with 2018’s highs.

Enthusiasm about the economy started to grow immediately following Donald Trump's election as president in November 2016 and spiked to 145.9 in February 2018. By comparison, in President Obama’s final years in office, this index reached a high of 121.5 in January 2015 and was at 108.1 his last month in the White House.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.   

The survey of 1,500 American Adults was conducted on March 3-4, 2019 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:3/15/2019 11:28:48 AM
[World] [Eugene Volokh] Who Is a Woman for Purposes of Women’s Only Spaces?

It depends.

I close out my visit this week with some thoughts on what we can learn from the analysis of sex in sport about who is a woman for purposes of different women's only spaces and opportunities; and whether these spaces and opportunities can continue to exist if they are not defined on the basis of sex.

Sex segregated spaces remain ubiquitous: bathrooms, locker rooms, dorm rooms, gyms, colleges, shelters, and prisons. Less obvious but still prevalent are sex-linked opportunities in education, employment, and medicine.

They exist as they do for a combination of reasons, some of which are just about tradition and dead or dormant stereotype; others, though, are about inherent differences and still-salient, actively operating stereotypes. Anti-discrimination law as applied to sex is designed to erode the former while retaining the latter. From RBG in VMI:

'Inherent differences' between men and women … remain a cause for celebration, but not for denigration of the members of either sex or for artificial constraints on an individual's opportunity.

Sex classifications may be used to compensate women 'for particular economic disabilities [they have] suffered,' to promot[e] equal employment opportunity,' [and] to advance full development of the talent and capacities of our Nation's people. But such classifications may not be used, as they once were, to create or perpetuate the legal, social, and economic inferiority of women.

Women's sport is an example of a sex classification that is based in inherent differences and that is used to promote equal opportunity and the full development of females' talents and capacities. Thus, from Sex in Sport, "It would be a mistake to assume that [sex] can be read out of elite sport policy without causing a lot of important harm because biology determines competitiveness in this institutional space which is precisely about competition."

So is a STEM-related employment or educational opportunity set aside for females as a way to make up for past subordinations and exclusions and to grow their numbers going forward. Because females were subordinated within and excluded from these fields on the basis of sex and of false stereotypes about the cognitive aptitudes and capacities of females compared to males, it would be a mistake to assume that sex can be read out of the definition of "woman" for these empowerment opportunities if they are to be successful vehicles toward their designated ends.

In contexts like this, where the classifications continue to be necessary or useful as designed, it is right that females are privileged as against transgender women, or that there is a rebuttable presumption that "woman" for purposes of these spaces and opportunities means females. In these contexts, it is not right that if you identify as a woman you are a woman case closed. The classification "women" is not a catch-all or code for male gender non-conforming people. (Deconstructing sex can take you there if you let it.)

Rebuttable presumptions are, by definition, rebuttable. And so transgender girls and women are girls and women for purposes of these spaces and opportunities when their inclusion can be obtained without defeating the classification or category.

The way elite sport currently regulates women's events is again illustrative. Instead of categorically excluding male-bodied athletes from female events, it conditions their inclusion—and thus their classification as "women"—on dropping their T levels into the female range. This levels the playing field precisely according to the single trait that justifies the classification. Elite development sport also approaches the definition of "girls" this way.

(Education-based competitive sport can do the same for pubertal and post-pubertal males who identify as girls and women. See, e.g., the NCAA's eligibility rule. It could also consider unconditional inclusion of transgirls—no physical transition requirement—with offsets that ensure that no otherwise eligible females are themselves excluded as a result. Examples of offsets could be adding a spot to an otherwise numerically restricted team or event that will include a transgirl; and awarding two championships if a transgirl beats a female for the highest prize.

I would agree with the argument that offsets could dilute or at least change the value of the position, lane, or medal somewhat for both athletes; but this effect doesn't go to the core of the institutional mission, and it seems right to me that we should value inclusion in the education space more highly than any incidental discomfort that could arise from this policy choice. This equation would come out differently in the elite sport space since the signaling and economic values associated with being the visible single winner are part of the mission and more than merely incidental.)

In contrast, where inherent differences are not factually relevant, or where the false stereotypes about females derived from those differences have been (at least mostly) vanquished, there is no compelling reason to privilege females over transwomen. For me, these include girls' and women's public restrooms, locker rooms, dormitories, gyms, and prisons.

Exclusions in these categories are primarily justified by tradition and related concerns about privacy and safety. Safety for females in relation to male-bodied people is no small matter, but without a sound evidentiary basis for concluding that trans girls and women are more likely to be problems than other females—for example, more than "the mean girls who have always used [restrooms and related settings] as their safe bullying space"—we can't justify reading them out.

In contrast, physical privacy is a legitimate concern because reasonable expectations are based in community norms and sex-segregated public restrooms and like spaces remain the norm. But this just means that the switch is not cost-free, not that it is cost prohibitive. Having to retrofit restrooms to provide individual spaces won't affect institutional ends.

I do question whether women's only spaces and opportunities can continue lawfully to exist under current doctrine if they are not defined directly or indirectly on the basis of female sex. For example, can they continue to exist if, as some argue, it's no longer acceptable even to speak about female body parts when we define "woman" because doing so is "inherently reductionist and exclusive"? Can they continue to exist if, as the Obama Administration recommended, sex is erased from sex discrimination law and replaced by identity, defined as "[a]n individual's internal [but not necessarily biologically-based] sense of gender"?

I've heard the legal argument derived from these positions, that sex discrimination jurisprudence has evolved away from any (even indirect) focus on inherent differences; that it is now primarily focused on the mutable aspects of gender and the individual's autonomy related to their gender identity. That's not how I read the cases, in no small part because it would require conceiving of VMI as relic.

I'll end with this. If VMI were relic, if there were nothing left to sex in law, I'm not sure that identity—"which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual's sex assigned at birth"—could automatically take its place, at least not as a protected class. Imagine the Olympic podium with three male-bodied athletes in the three medal positions in a women's event. If I'm right, set asides for "women" untethered from female biology would be difficult if not impossible to justify.

Published:3/15/2019 8:01:51 AM
[Markets] Media Hit-Job Continues As Colbert Ambushes Tulsi Gabbard

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

Hawaii Congresswoman and Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where instead of the light, jokey banter about politics and who she is as a person that Democratic presidential candidates normally encounter on late night comedy programs, the show’s host solemnly ran down a list of textbook beltway smears against Gabbard and made her defend them in front of his audience.

Normally when a Democratic Party-aligned politician appears on such a show, you can expect jokes about how stupid Trump is and how badly they’re going to beat the Republicans, how they’re going to help ordinary Americans, and maybe some friendly back-and-forth about where they grew up or something. Colbert had no time to waste on such things, however, because this was not an interview with a normal Democratic Party-aligned politician: this was a politician who has been loudly and consistently criticizing US foreign policy.

After briefly asking his guest who she is and why she’s running for president, Colbert jumped right into it by immediately bringing up Syria and Assad, the primary line of attack employed against Gabbard by establishment propagandists in American mainstream media.

Colbert: Do you think the Iraq war was worth it?

Gabbard: No.

Colbert: Do you think that our involvement in Syria has been worth it?

Gabbard: No.

Colbert: Do you think that ISIS could have been defeated without our involvement and without our support of the local troops there?

Gabbard: There are two things we need to address in Syria. One is a regime change war that was first launched by the United States in 2011, covertly, led by the CIA. That is a regime change war that has continued over the years, that has increased the suffering of the Syrian people, and strengthened groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, because the CIA was using American taxpayer dollars to provide arms and training and equipment to these terrorist groups to get them to overthrow the government. So that is a regime change war that we should not have been engaging.

Colbert: So, but if it is someone like Bashar al-Assad, who gasses his own people, or who engages in war crimes against his own people, should the United States not be involved?

Gabbard: The United States should not be intervening to overthrow these dictators and these regimes that we don’t like, like Assad, like Saddam Hussein, like Gaddafi, and like Kim Jong Un. There are bad people in the world, but history has shown us that every time the United States goes in and topples these dictators we don’t like, trying to end up like the world’s police, we end up increasing the suffering of the people in these countries. We end up increasing the loss of life, but American lives and the lives of people in these countries. We end up undermining our own security, what to speak of the trillions of dollars of taxpayer money that’s spent on these wars that we need to be using right here at home.

Like I said, this is not a normal presidential candidate. How often do you see a guest appear on a network late night talk show and talk about the CIA arming terrorists in Syria and the fact that US military interventionism is completely disastrous? It just doesn’t happen. You can understand, then, why empire propagandist Stephen Colbert spent the rest of the interview informing his TV audience that Tulsi Gabbard is dangerous and poisonous.

Colbert: You got some heat for meeting with Bashar al-Assad. Do you not consider him a war criminal? Why did you meet with that man?

Gabbard: In the pursuit of peace and security. If we are not willing to meet with adversaries, potential adversaries, in the pursuit of peace and security, the only alternative is more war. That’s why I took that meeting with Assad. In pursuit of peace and security.

Colbert: Do you believe he is a war criminal? Do you believe he gassed his own people or committed atrocities against his own people?

Gabbard: Yes. Reports have shown that that’s a fact.

Colbert: So you believe the intelligence agencies on that. Because I heard that you did not necessarily believe those reports.

The reason I call Colbert a propagandist and not simply a liberal empire loyalist who happens to have been elevated by billionaire media is because these are carefully constructed narratives that he is reciting, and they weren’t constructed by him.

Trying to make it look to the audience as though Gabbard is in some way loyal to Assad has been a high-priority agenda of the mainstream media ever since she announced her presidential candidacy. We saw it in her recent appearanceon The View, where John McCain’s sociopathic daughter called her an “Assad apologist” and demanded that Gabbard call Assad an enemy of the United States. We saw it in her recent CNN town hall, where a consultant who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign was presented as an ordinary audience member to help CNN’s Dana Bash paint Gabbard’s skepticism of intelligence reports about an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government as something that is weird and suspicious, instead of the only sane position in a post-Iraq invasion world. We saw it in her appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last month, where the entire panel piled on her in outrage that she wouldn’t call Assad an enemy of the United States. It’s such a common propaganda talking point that the New York Times’ Bari Weiss famously made a laughingstock of herself by repeating it as self-evident truth on The Joe Rogan Experience without having the faintest clue what specific facts it was meant to refer to, just because she’d heard establishment pundits saying it so much.

This is an organized smear by the mass media attempting to marry Gabbard in the eyes of the public to a Middle Eastern leader whom the propagandists have already sold as a child-murdering monster, and Colbert is participating in it here just as much as the serious news media talking heads are. It’s been frustrating to watch Gabbard fold to this smear campaign by acting like it’s an established fact that Assad “gases his own people” and not the hotly contested empire-serving narrative she knows it is. Gabbard is being targeted by this smear because she challenges US political orthodoxy on military violence (the glue which holds the empire together), so no amount of capitulation will keep them from trying to prevent the public from trusting her words.

“I don’t know whether America should be the policemen of the world,” Colbert said after Gabbard defended her position.

“It is my opinion that we should not be,” Gabbard replied, causing Colbert to launch into a stuffy, embarrassing sermon on the virtues of interventionism and US hegemony that would make Bill Kristol blush.

“If we are not, though, nature abhors a vacuum, and if we are not involved in international conflicts, or trying to quell international conflicts, certainly the Russians and the Chinese will fill that vacuum. And we will step away from the world stage in a significant way that might destabilize the world, because the United States, however flawed, is a force for good in the world in my opinion. Would you agree with that?”

Again, this is a comedy show.

Gabbard explained that in order to be a force for good in the world the United States has to actually do good, which means not raining fire upon every nation it dislikes all the time. Colbert responded by reading off his blue index card to repeat yet another tired anti-Gabbard smear.

“You’ve gotten some fans in the Trump supporter world: David Duke, Steve Bannon, and, uh, Matt, uh, Gaetz, is that his name? Matt Gaetz? What do you make of how much they like you?”

This one is particularly vile, partly because Gabbard has repeatedly and unequivocally denounced David Duke, who has a long-established and well-known history of injecting himself into the drama of high-profile conversations in order to maintain the illusion of relevance, and partly because it’s a completely irrelevant point that is brought up solely for the purpose of marrying Tulsi Gabbard’s name to a former Ku Klux Klan leader. Colbert only brought this up (and made Newsweek totally squee) because he wanted to assist in that marrying. The fact that there are distasteful ideologies which also happen to oppose US interventionism for their own reasons does not change the undeniable fact that US military interventionism is consistently disastrous and never helpful and robs the US public of resources that are rightfully theirs.

This interview was easily Colbert’s most blatant establishment rim job I’ve ever seen, surpassing even the time he corrected his own audience when they cheered at James Comey’s firing to explain to them that Comey is a good guy now and they’re meant to like him. Colbert’s show is blatant propaganda for human livestock, and the fact that this is what American “comedy” shows look like now is nauseating.

When Tulsi Gabbard first announced her candidacy I predicted that she’d have the narrative control engineers scrambling all over themselves to kill her message, and it’s been even more spectacular than I imagined. I don’t agree with everything she says and does, but by damn this woman is shaking up the establishment narrative matrix more than anybody else right now. She’s certainly keeping it interesting.

*  *  *

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Published:3/14/2019 9:25:19 PM
[Markets] Basement-Dwelling Millennials Beware: Reverse Mortgages May Evaporate Your Inheritance 

With nearly 90% of millennials reporting that they have less than $10,000 in savings and more than 100 million Americans of working age with nothing in retirement accounts, we have bad news for basement-dwelling millennials invested in the "waiting for Mom and Dad to die" model;

Reverse mortgages are set to make a comeback if a consortium of lenders have their way, according to Bloomberg.

Columbia Business School real estate professor Chris Mayer - who's also the CEO of reverse mortgage lender Longbridge Financial, says the widely-panned financial arrangements deserve a second look. Mayer is a former economist at the Federal Reserve of Boston with a Ph.D. from MIT. 

In 2012, Mayer co-founded Longbridge, based in Mahwah, New Jersey, and in 2013 became CEO. He’s on the board of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. He said his company, which services 10,000 loans, hasn’t had a single completed foreclosure because of failure to pay property taxes or insurance. -Bloomberg

Reverse mortgages allow homeowners to pull equity from their home in monthly installments, lines of credit or lump sums. Over time, their loan balance grows - coming due upon the borrower's death. At this point, the house is sold to pay off the loan - typically leaving heirs with little to nothing

Elderly borrowers, meanwhile, must continue to pay taxes, insurance, maintenance and utilities - which can lead to foreclosure.

While even some critics agree that reverse mortgages make sense for some homeowners - they have been criticized for excessive fees and tempting older Americans into spending their home equity early instead of using it for things such as healthcare expenses. Fees on a $100,000 loan on a house worth $200,000, for example, can total as much as $10,000 - and are typically wrapped into the mortgage. 

"The profits are significant, the oversight is minimal, and greed could work to the disadvantage of seniors who should be protected by government programs and not targeted as prey," said critic Dave Stevens - former Obama administration Federal Housing Administration commissioner and former CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

To support his claims that reverse mortgages are far less risky than they used to be, Mayer cites a 2014 study by Alicia Munnell of Boston College's Center for Retirement Research. Munnell, a professor and former assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in the Clinton Administration (who once invested $150,000 in Mayer's company and has since sold her stake). Munnell concluded that industry changes requiring lenders to assess a prospective borrower's ability to pay property taxes and homeowner's insurance significantly reduces the risk of a reverse mortgage

The number of reverse mortgages, or Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) in the United States between 2005 and 2018 has not shown a recent upward trend - however that may change if Mayer and his cohorts are able to convince homeowners that reverse mortgages aren't what they used to be. 

Cleaning up their image

For years, the reverse mortgage industry has relied on celebrity pitchmen to convince Americans to part with the equity in their homes in order to maintain their lifestyle. 

The late Fred Thompson, a U.S. senator and Law & Order actor, represented American Advisors Group, the industry’s biggest player. These days, the same company leans on actor Tom Selleck.

Just like you, I thought reverse mortgages had to have some catch,” Selleck says in an online video. “Then I did some homework and found out it’s not any of that. It’s not another way for a bank to get your house.

Michael Douglas, in his Golden Globe-winning performance on the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, satirizes such pitches. His financially desperate character, an acting teacher, quits filming a reverse mortgage commercial because he can’t stomach the script. -Bloomberg

In 2016, American Advisers and two other companies were accused by the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of running deceptive ads. Without admitting guilt, American Advisers agreed to add more caveats to its promotions and paid a $400,000 fine. 

As a result, the company has made "significant investments" in compliance, according to company spokesman Ryan Whittington, adding that reverse mortgages are now "highly regulated, viable financial tools," which require homeowners to undergo third-party counseling before participating in one. 

The FHA has backed more than 1?million such reverse mortgages. Homeowners pay into an insurance fund an upfront fee equal to 2?percent of a home’s value, as well as an additional half a percentage point every year.

After the last housing crash, taxpayers had to make up a $1.7 billion shortfall because of reverse mortgage losses. Over the past five years, the government has been tightening rules, such as requiring homeowners to show they can afford tax and insurance payments. -Bloomberg

As a result of tightened regulations, the number of reverse mortgage loans has dropped significantly since 2008. 

Making the case for reverse mortgages is Shelly Giordino - a former executive at reverse mortgage company Security 1 Lending, who co-founded the Funding Longevity Task Force in 2012. 

Giordino now works for Mutual of Obama's reverse mortgage division as their "head cheerleader" for positive reverse mortgages research. One Reverse Mortgage CEO Gregg Smith said that the group is promoting "true academic research" to convince the public that reverse mortgages are a good idea. 

Mayer under fire

University of Massachusetts economics professor Gerald Epstein says that Columbia may need to scrutinize Mayer's business relationships for conflicts of interest. 

"They really should be careful when people have this kind of dual loyalty," said Epstein. 

Columbia said it monitors Mayer’s employment as CEO of the mortgage company to ensure compliance with its policies. “Professor Mayer has demonstrated a commitment to openness and transparency by disclosing outside affiliations,” said Chris Cashman, a spokesman for the business school. Mayer has a “special appointment,” which reduces his salary and teaching load and also caps his hours at Longbridge, Cashman said.

Likewise, Boston College said it reviewed Professor Munnell’s investment in Mayer’s company, on whose board she served from 2012 through 2014. Munnell said another round of investors in 2016 bought out her $150,000 stake in Longbridge for an additional $4,000 in interest.

"Anytime I had a conversation like this, I had to say at the beginning that I have $150,000 in Longbridge," said Munnell. "I had to do it all the time. I’m just as happy to be out, for my academic life." 

Published:3/14/2019 6:55:47 PM
[] 12 Republicans Cross the Aisle to Vote with the Democrats for Open Borders; Trump Promises Veto Here is the Open Borders caucus of the GOP, which only offered talk and more insincere talk against Obama's DACA action, but suddenly turn into strict constitutionalist tough guys when Trump uses his statutory power -- not inherent constitutional power,... Published:3/14/2019 3:23:55 PM
[Markets] Is Income Inequality Fair?

Authored by Walter Williams, op-ed via Townhall.com,

Some Americans have much higher income and wealth than others. Former President Barack Obama explained, "I do think at a certain point you've made enough money."

An adviser to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has a Twitter account called "Every Billionaire Is A Policy Failure" tweeted, "My goal for this year is to get a moderator to ask 'Is it morally appropriate for anyone to be a billionaire?'"

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in calling for a wealth tax, complained, "The rich and powerful are taking so much for themselves and leaving so little for everyone else."

These people would have an argument if there were piles of money on the ground called income, with billionaires and millionaires surreptitiously getting to those piles first and taking their unfair shares. In that case, corrective public policy would require a redistribution of the income, wherein the ill-gotten gains of the few would be taken and returned to their rightful owners. The same could be said if there were a dealer of dollars who -- because of his being a racist, sexist, multinationalist and maybe a Republican -- didn't deal the dollars fairly. If he dealt millions to some and mere crumbs to others, decent public policy would demand a re-dealing of the dollars, or what some call income redistribution.

You say, "Williams, that's lunacy." You're right. In a free society, people earn income by serving their fellow man. Here's an example: I mow your lawn, and you pay me $40. Then I go to my grocer and demand two six-packs of beer and 3 pounds of steak. In effect, the grocer says, "Williams, you are asking your fellow man to serve you by giving you beer and steak. What did you do to serve your fellow man?" My response is, "I mowed his lawn." The grocer says, "Prove it." That's when I produce the $40. We can think of the, say, two $20 bills as certificates of performance -- proof that I served my fellow man.

A system that requires that one serve his fellow man to have a claim on what he produces is far more moral than a system without such a requirement. For example, Congress can tell me, "Williams, you don't have to get out in that hot sun to mow a lawn to have a claim on what your fellow man produces. Just vote for me, and through the tax code, I will take some of what your fellow man produces and give it to you."

Let's look at a few multibillionaires to see whether they have served their fellow man well. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, with a net worth over $90 billion, is the second-richest person in the world. He didn't acquire that wealth through violence. Millions of people around the world voluntarily plunked down money to buy Microsoft products. That explains the great wealth of people such as Gates. They discovered what their fellow man wanted and didn't have, and they found out ways to effectively produce it. Their fellow man voluntarily gave them dollars. If Gates and others had followed President Obama's advice that "at a certain point" they'd "made enough money" and shut down their companies when they had earned their first billion or two, mankind wouldn't have most of the technological development we enjoy today.

Take a look at the website Billionaire Mailing List's list of current billionaires. On it, you will find people who have made great contributions to society. Way down on the list is Gordon Earle Moore -- co-founder of Intel. He has a net worth of $6 billion. In 1968, Moore developed and marketed the integrated circuit, or microchip, which is responsible for thousands of today's innovations, such as MRIs, advances in satellite technology and your desktop computer. Though Moore has benefited immensely from his development and marketing of the microchip, his benefit pales in comparison with how our nation and the world have benefited in terms of lives improved and saved by the host of technological innovations made possible by the microchip.

The only people who benefit from class warfare are politicians and the elite; they get our money and control our lives. Plus, we just might ask ourselves: Where is a society headed that holds its most productive members up to ridicule and scorn and makes mascots out of its least productive and most parasitic members?

Published:3/14/2019 1:26:47 PM
[Markets] Ex-Obama Official Tried Pulling Strings To Have Smollett Case Transferred To FBI; Told To Pound Sand

Michelle Obama's former Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen, attempted to have the Jussie Smollett case transferred from the Chicago Police Department to the FBI, according to texts and emails released by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. 

Jussie Smollett, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx

Tchen, a Chicago-based attorney, reached out on Feb. 1 to Chicago's top prosecutor Kim Foxx - telling her that the "Empire" actor's family had "concerns" about the investigation. 

Smollett was considered at the time to be the victim of an assault, however the actor was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report in connection with a staged hate crime. Last week, a Chicago grand jury slapped Smollett with a 16 count indictment for lying to the police - to which he pleaded not guilty on Thursday. 

"Spoke to the Superintendent Johnson," Foxx emailed Tchen on Feb. 1, in reference to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. "I convinced him to Reach out to FBI to ask that they take over the investigation." 

Foxx also texted with one of Smollett's relatives whose name was redacted from the text release, saying: "Spoke to the superintendent earlier, he made the ask ... Trying to figure out logistics. I’ll keep you posted." 

"OMG this would be a huge victory" the family member texted back. 

"I make no guarantees, but I'm trying" replied Foxx - who recused herself from the case on Feb. 20. 

Foxx recused herself from the investigation before Smollett was charged. Her first deputy, Joe Magats, is overseeing the case.

Foxx said in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that Smollett's family was concerned that aspects of the police investigation were being leaked to media.

They had no doubt about the quality of the investigation, but believed that the FBI would have a tighter lid on the information,” Foxx told the outlet.

Anthony Guglielmi, the police department's chief spokesman, said Foxx conveyed the request to Johnson that Tchen and the Smollett family member wanted the FBI to take over the investigation. -USA Today

Guglielmi said that the case was not moved to the FBI because "there was a lack of evidence" that Smollett was the victim of a federal hate crime

"There was no federal jurisdiction," said Guglielmi, who added that the FBI has been assisting the police investigation. "If there was ever a point where they felt it was within federal jurisdiction, it would have easily gone there."

Smollett claimed that he was the victim of a predawn hate crime on January 29 in which two men assaulted him while he was on his way home after buying a sandwich; hurling racial and antigay slurs at him, dousing him in a liquid, placing a noose around his neck (which he was still wearing when police arrived later that morning), and punching him in the face. 

Police allege that Smollett, who is black and gay, staged a Jan 29 homophobic, racist attack because he was unhappy with his salary to boost his profile. 

The incident sparked national outrage - with the left-leaning mainstream media and prominent Democrats uncritically supporting Smollett's version of events; holding it up as a prime example of violent Donald Trump supporters

Two suspects in the case, Nigerian-American brothers Ola and Abel Osundario - one of whom has been an extra on Empire, told police that Smollett paid them a combined $3,500 to stage the "attack," and that the three of them had practiced it beforehand. They also said that Smollett was involved in creating a racist letter containing a white substance that was sent to the actor on the Chicago set of Empire.

When the letter failed to achieve the desired level of national outrage, the Osundario brothers say Smollett concocted the hate-crime.

 

Published:3/14/2019 11:53:07 AM
[871c22cb-85ce-5046-bc94-453c05b9f0ae] 2020 Democratic candidates here's this veteran's campaign advice: You're not Obama, so don't try to be Let me impart some potentially campaign-saving advice to any Democrat running for president: You are not Barack Obama. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to be. Published:3/14/2019 11:23:14 AM
[2019 News] Hillary Clinton received what amounts to a secret pre-pardon from the Obama DOJ Hillary Clinton received what amounts to a secret pre-pardon from the Obama DOJ. It’s amazing what happens as the result of tarmac meetings where only grandchildren and recipes are discussed. The attorney general at the time was Loretta Lynch. She infamously held a secret tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton just prior to the FBI recommending against charging […] Published:3/14/2019 11:23:14 AM
[Markets] While Everyone Sleeps, The Courts Are Abolishing All Immigration Enforcement

Authored by Daniel Horwitz via ConservativeReview.com,

Congress could never get away with creating constitutional rights for illegal aliens to remain here, yet a single lower court just did so on Thursday. And where Congress would face deep reprisal in the next election, faceless judges will never feel the heat.

Conservatives fear that extreme Democrats might actually abolish ICE and all immigration enforcement, but the lower courts are already systematically abolishing ICE’s authority, nullifying immigration enforcement statutes, violating separation of powers, and constantly increasing the wave of bogus asylum-seekers that they originally spawned with other radical rulings. The latest ruling from the Ninth Circuit demonstrates that unless Republicans and the president begin pushing back against these radical judges and delegitimizing their rulings, Democrats will get everything they want without ever facing electoral backlash or even the need to win elections.

It’s truly hard to overstate the outrageously harmful effects of Thursday’s Ninth Circuit ruling. For the first time in our history, the courts have fabricated a constitutional right for those denied asylum to appeal to federal courts for any reason.

Here’s the background.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants are flooding our border, claiming the formula of “credible fear” of persecution. They get to stay indefinitely while they ignore their court dates in immigration court. Because of an amalgamation of several prior activist court rulings, mainly by this very circuit, roughly 90 percent of credible fear claims are approved by asylum officers and the claimants shielded from deportation, even though asylum status is ultimately rejected almost every time by an immigration judge. Unfortunately, by that point it’s too late for the American people, who are stuck with the vast majority of these claimants remaining indefinitely in the country. Yet rather than ending this sham incentive, the Ninth Circuit drove a truck through immigration law by asserting that there is now a constitutional right for even the few who are denied initial credible fear status and are placed in deportation proceedings to appeal their denials, not just to an administrative immigration judge but to a federal Article III judge for any reason.

In past cases, the courts merely twisted statutes and contorted their plain meaning. In this case, for the first time ever and in direct contrast to a ruling by the Third Circuit in 2016, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the immigration statute that denies the federal courts jurisdiction to hear such appeals is unconstitutional under the constitutional requirement of habeas corpus, thereby giving 7.8 billion people in the world habeas corpus access to our courts. This will allow numerous illegal aliens, including the brand-new ones entering now, to stay indefinitely while they litigate themselves into status. The ACLU, which of course led this lawsuit on behalf of a Sri Lankan migrant denied asylum, wasn’t kidding when it proclaimed, “The historical and practical importance of this ruling cannot be overstated.”

This is one of many recent violations of sovereignty doctrine, known as “plenary power doctrine.” This long-standing principle in the courts is that while aliens have due process rights against criminal punishment, they have no rights to litigate against deportation, which is a mere extension of sovereignty, other than the process laid out by Congress. This principle “has become about as firmly embedded in the legislative and judicial tissues of our body politic as any aspect of our government,” not “merely” by “a page of history … but a whole volume” (Galvan v. Press). The concept is “inherent in sovereignty,” consistent with “ancient principles” of international law, and “to be exercised exclusively by the political branches of government.” (Kleindienst v. Mandel).

What is so outrageous about this case is that Congress explicitly stripped the courts of any jurisdiction to hear such claims. The reason why the district judge, who was an Obama appointee, refused to even hear this case is because 8 U.S.C. §1252(e)(2) prohibits the federal courts (not to be confused with DOJ administrative courts) from hearing habeas corpus claims against expedited removal of those denied their credible fear claims unless of course they have a claim that they are a citizen or a legal permanent resident. In this case, the three Clinton appointees of this Ninth Circuit panel, Wallace Tashima, Margaret McKeown, and Richard Paez, ruled for the first time that this provision is unconstitutional and that the district court must hear the case.

The court used the Boumediene v. Bush decision, which created a right to habeas corpus for enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay, as the basis for its decision. That decision in itself was an egregious warping of the Constitution, a decision that Scalia angrily predicted that “the Nation will live to regret.” However, the important distinction is that Boumediene was a case of indefinite detention, whereas this is a case where we are enforcing our sovereignty and getting rid of the person, who can live freely wherever he wants. Applying habeas corpus to deportation is bonkers even by the Boumediene standard.

Now that there is a circuit split on this revolutionary idea, court watchers on all sides predict the Supreme Court will take up the case. While conservatives are fairly confident that this will be added to the endless list of Ninth Circuit reversals by SCOTUS (although I have my concerns about Gorsuch in this case), conservatives need to realize the factors creating an emergency with sovereignty and the lower courts:

  • We’ve seen over and over again how lower courts create a legal, political, and policy momentum for creating new rights. If they are not nipped in the bud and delegitimized immediately, they wind up growing and eventually being codified, even if initially reversed by the Supreme Court. This has happened with almost every phantom right created by the courts and has already begun with immigration law. We are at the cusp of the courts doing with immigration what they did with abortion and gay marriage, even though it took years for the Left to win in those cases. All of the justices except for Clarence Thomas succumb to pressure to varying degrees and will eventually go along with much of the anti-sovereignty doctrine building in the lower courts.

  • Many conservatives are suggesting that we “fix” our immigration laws to stop the asylum fraud, among other problems at the border. What this case demonstrates is that courts are so radical they are not just twisting the wording of statutes, they are downright invalidating them by creating new constitutional rights to immigrate. They are even brazenly invalidating statutes that block the courts from hearing cases, as we saw with the TPS amnesty case. Keeping out and deporting aliens as well as defining court jurisdiction are two of the most unquestionable and categorical powers of Congress, and they are backed by case law dating back to our Founding. This is no longer about any one statute. There is no statute to fix. Remember, we already fixed our immigration laws in 1996. Many of the things we want to do, including kicking the courts out of these cases, were already done in 1996, including the statute at issue here. This law passed the Senate unanimously! Passing more laws while continuing to legitimize lower court supremacy won’t help. If we continue to agree that lower courts rule over immigration, no amount of congressional changes could help, because the courts will rule the changes unconstitutional. This is why it’s time to grab the bull by the horns and attack the notion of judicial jurisdiction over these issues to begin with. The Trump administration needs to begin pushing back against the courts.

  • There is something much bigger occurring here. Putting aside particular smaller areas of immigration law, the legal profession has now pulled the trigger on a long-standing goal of what they refer to as “applying constitutional norms” to foreign nationals, not just in terms of criminal proceedings, but in the context of immigration claims themselves.

Justice Robert Jackson, the great champion of due process and the dissenter in the Japanese internment case, described it this way: “Due process does not invest any alien with a right to enter the United States, nor confer on those admitted the right to remain against the national will.” Due process for aliens in the context of immigration decisions is whatever Congress says it is. As the court said in Lem Moon Sing v. United States, “The decisions of executive or administrative officers, acting within powers expressly conferred by Congress, are due process of law.” Liberals have been trying to attack this for decades and ensure that even the aliens we successfully deport expeditiously (increasingly a small number) can remain here indefinitely and tie up our courts with lawsuits. If we allow this game to continue, the flow at our border will make what Europe is dealing with look like child’s play.

Every week, we cede another piece of our sovereignty to unelected courts who are actually violating longstanding Supreme Court precedent. The conservative movement needs to push this administration to stand up and put the Supreme Court on notice to guard its own precedents and doctrines and that if it fails to rein in its own quite inferior courts, the administration will certainly not regard those decisions as superior to our own laws. Trump has no other choice.

Published:3/13/2019 10:52:27 PM
[Politics] Obama family’s tennis coach CAUGHT in scumbag college bribery scandal! JUST AS I knew would happen, the Obama’s tennis coach was CAUGHT as one of the scumbags who bribed officials in order to CHEAT their kids’ way into privileged colleges. Watch below: . . . Published:3/13/2019 9:49:31 PM
[US News] THWAP! Dem Rep rolls out tweet about missing Obama & stomps on a HUGE O-care rake

Backfire alert!

The post THWAP! Dem Rep rolls out tweet about missing Obama & stomps on a HUGE O-care rake appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/13/2019 4:18:12 PM
[Markets] Explosive Lisa Page Testimony: Dossier Timeline Contradictions And DOJ Interference

Via SaraCarter.com,

Testimony provided to Congress from former FBI lawyer Lisa Page reveals contradictions as to when she learned about former British spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier, sheds light on the “insurance policy” and exposes the Obama Justice Department’s decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with allegedly violating the Espionage Act.

Page’s testimony, which was delivered behind closed doors last July before a joint task force of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, reveals the internal machinations between senior bureau leadership and the DOJ. Basically, her testimony adds more depth to what happened during the critical months during the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s election campaign and the bureau’s “Midyear Exam” investigation into Clinton.

As for the Clinton investigation, Page said the bureau “did not blow over gross negligence.” She told Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, there were ongoing discussions with former FBI Director James Comey and other senior officials about the issue. She said “on its face, it did seem like, well, maybe there’s a potential here for this to be the charge. And we had multiple conversations, multiple conversations with the Justice Department about charging gross negligence,” she said.

She added “the Justice Department’s assessment was that it was both constitutionally vague, so that they did not actually feel that they could permissibly bring that charge.”

Page’s testimony does coincide with what former FBI General Counsel James Baker’s told the committee on “gross negligence.” In testimony he stated that he originally believed Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of highly classified information was “alarming” and “appalling,”  as first reported at SaraACarter.com. He also believed her use of a private server to send the classified emails was sufficient enough to secure an indictment to possibly charge her for violations under the Espionage Act, for mishandling sensitive government documents.

However, her testimony focuses on the DOJ’s push not to charge Clinton, whereas Baker puts the onus on Comey. He said Comey did not believe the charges would stick and that he argued with Comey until just before the public announcement not to charge Clinton. Baker suggested he changed his mind shortly before Comey announced publicly on July 5, 2016 not to charge the then presidential candidate.

Crossfire Hurricane

Page also expands on the FBI’s controversial “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into members of the Trump campaign and links the investigation to controversial text messages made between her and former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok regarding the “insurance policy” against Trump. Strzok and Page were removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation after their anti-Trump text messages were discovered. Page left the FBI and Strzok was fired shortly after DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz report was made public last year.

Page expresses in her testimony that during the investigation into the Trump campaign there was a sentiment at the time among bureau officials regarding the president’s electability: nobody believed he would win.

“So, upon the opening of the crossfire hurricane investigation, we had a number of discussions up through and including the Director regularly in which we were trying to find an answer to the question, right, which is, is there someone associated with the [Trump] campaign who is working with the Russians in order to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” states Page.

She adds, “and given that it is August, we were very aware of the speed and sensitivity that we needed to operate under.”

“[W]e don’t need to go at a total breakneck speed because so long as he doesn’t become President, there isn’t the same threat to national security, right,” Page added.

“But if he becomes President, that totally changes the game.”

Ohr and Page Testimony On Steele Don’t Match Up

Moreover, Page contradicts Ohr’s testimony regarding when she first knew about former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier. She claims in her testimony that she did not know about the dossier in August 2016, however, Ohr’s testimony reveals that he delivered Steele’s information to the bureau shortly after meeting with Steele. In fact, he met with former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and specifically, Page at the bureau to deliver the information.

Ohr reveals this during an exchange with then-Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Trey Gowdy, R-SC.

“Why? Why did you meet with them,” asks Gowdy.

“To pass the latest information that I had received,” Ohr responds.

“How did you find out who to meet with? Who did you call to find out,” questions Gowdy.

Ohr explains that prior to that meeting with McCabe and Page he had met with Steele on July 30, 2016.

“After the July 30th meeting with Chris Steele, I wanted to provide the information he had given me to the FBI. I reached out for Andrew McCabe, at that time, Deputy Director of the FBI and somebody who had previously led the organized crime, Russian organized crime squad in New York and who I had worked with in the past, and asked if he could meet with me,” he said. 

“I went to his office to provide the information, and Lisa Page was there. So I provided the information to them. And some point after that, I think, I was given Peter Strzok, or somehow put in contact with Peter Strzok.”

Gowdy then asks when exactly did Ohr meet Strzok and Page.

“I don’t recall the exact date,” Ohr says.

“I’m guessing it would have been in August since I met with Chris Steele at the end of July, and I’m pretty sure I would have reached out to Andrew McCabe soon afterwards.”

Published:3/13/2019 11:48:02 AM
[Politics] Trump: Lisa Page Transcripts Prove Obama DOJ Was Corrupt Following the release of hundreds of pages of transcripts from last year's closed-door interview with ex-FBI attorney Lisa Page, President Donald Trump tweeted a rebuke of the corruption of the Obama administration's Justice Department. Published:3/13/2019 10:48:50 AM
[News] President Trump Promotes ‘Jexodus’

President Trump promoted a movement encouraging Jewish voters to leave the Democratic Party on Tuesday over remarks made by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. Trump tweeted: “Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worsts & worse. There is anti-Semitism in ...

The post President Trump Promotes ‘Jexodus’ appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/13/2019 7:20:59 AM
[News] President Trump Promotes ‘Jexodus’

President Trump promoted a movement encouraging Jewish voters to leave the Democratic Party on Tuesday over remarks made by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. Trump tweeted: “Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worsts & worse. There is anti-Semitism in ...

The post President Trump Promotes ‘Jexodus’ appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/13/2019 7:20:59 AM
[Markets] Pentagon To Start Making Banned Cruise Missiles As Treaty Expires 

The Pentagon will begin work on fabricating components for a new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) formely banned under the now-suspended Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, reported Aviation Week & Space Technology (AW&ST). 

The Pentagon “will commence fabrication activities on components to support developmental testing of these systems - activities that until February 2 would have been inconsistent with our obligations under the treaty,” Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza said in a Pentagon statement.

"This research and development is designed to be reversible, should Russia return to full and verifiable compliance before we withdraw from the Treaty in August 2019," Baldanza said.

Pentagon work only covers conventional GLCM technology and excludes nuclear weapons, the spokesperson said.

The INFY Treaty was signed by The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in 1987 to calm nuclear war fears across Europe. The treaty required both countries to dismantle their ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 310 to 3,420 miles.

About a decade ago, the Obama administration believed Moscow was developing and testing a new GLCM with a range forbidden by the treaty. Several years later, the administration announced their concerns about the alleged Russian GLCM program. Then in 2016, Russian officials disclosed the existence of the 9M729 missile (NATO designation: SSC-8) but told the international community it did not violate the treaty.

The Trump administration unleashed a “maximum pressure” campaign on Russia, recruiting allies to pressure Moscow to comply with the INF Treaty despite the Kremlin’s denials that a violation had occurred. The administration then called in 2017 for an authorization bill that would allow the Defense Department to launch research and development on GLCM technologies. 

AW&ST said the first indication that the Pentagon had moved beyond GLCM research and development was in early March. In response to a question by an AW&ST reporter about renewing GLCM systems, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy said he had reviewed a report on such technology but was not sure about the current status. The Office of the Secretary of Defense confirmed to AW&ST that research and development work had started on new GLCMs. 

“Because the United States has scrupulously complied with its obligations with the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages,” the Pentagon spokesperson said.

The INF Treaty will be terminated in August unless Washington and Moscow agree to halt the mandatory, six-month withdrawal process.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to the US dismissed accusations that the missile violated the treaty as a "fairy tale."

Frank Rose, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control now at Washington's Brookings Institution, indicated that the Pentagon's push for GLCM technologies could be a ploy to bate Russia back into the treaty.  

"My best guess is that it is political signaling intended to make it clear the United States is serious about moving forward with the development of a new GLCM (ground-launched cruise missile) unless Russia returns to compliance with the treaty," Rose said.

The United Nations has requested the US and Russia preserve the treaty, warning its termination later this year could make the world a much dangerous place.

Published:3/13/2019 3:46:41 AM
[Markets] The Global Economy Is A Time Bomb Waiting To Explode

Authored by Marshall Auerback via TruthDig.com,

In the aftermath of the greatest financial calamity since the Great Depression, then–chief of staff for the Obama administration Rahm Emanuel made the call for aggressive action to prevent a recurrence of the meltdown of 2008.

Although the U.S. government’s system of checks and balances typically produces incremental reform, Emanuel suggested that during times of financial upheaval, the traditional levers of powers are often scrambled, thereby creating unique conditions whereby legislators could be pushed in the direction of more radical reform. That’s why he suggested that we should never let a crisis go to waste. Ironically, that might be the only pearl of wisdom we ever got from the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Chicago, one of those figures who otherwise embodied the worst Wall Street-centric instincts of the Democratic Party. But give Rahm props for this one useful insight.

But we did let the crisis of 2008 go to waste. Rather than reconstructing a new foundation out of the wreckage, we simply restored the status quo ante, and left the world’s elite financial engineers with a relatively free hand to create a wide range of new destructive financial instruments.

To cite some examples, consider the case of the UK, where England’s local councils have taken on significant risk via structural financial products known as “LOBO loans” (lender option borrower option). Financial blogger Rob Carver explains how they work:

“[Let’s] say I offer to lend you £40 and charge you 3% interest for 5 years. Some other guy comes along and offers you the same deal; but the twist is he will have the option to ask for his money back whenever he likes.

“You wouldn’t borrow money from him because it’s clearly a worse deal. …

“Suppose he sticks to his guns but as a concession he will lend you the money at only 2.9% interest. Would you take that? What about 2.5%? 2%?”

What Carver is describing here is the so-called “teaser”: a seductively low starting interest rate that is sufficiently attractive to induce the buyer to take on the LOBO in the first place. It’s designed to entice someone away from fixed interest rate borrowing (which at least has the virtue of being constant and therefore more readily predictable). The seductive quality of the teaser is that one’s borrowing costs might appear “cheaper” than the higher initial fixed-rate costs offered by the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), a wing of the government. But the troubles become more apparent with the passage of time.

What happens if and when rates unexpectedly move up? In general, as Carver notes, having to suddenly repay your loan when interest rates have risen to 4 percent is the worst possible time for you. It’s akin to taking away the umbrella the minute it starts to pour. Worse, the authority is likely locked into a contract that typically has a lifespan of 40-70 years. (And who can forecast with any degree of certainty the trend of interest rates over that sort of time span? It makes the whole notion of buying an instrument on that premise to be speculative in the extreme.) Banks have the option of raising rates at their discretion, and although the councils are able to opt out of their contract, they will pay huge penalties if they seek to renegotiate or exercise that option to opt out.

So there’s a huge negotiating imbalance built into the contract, and the likely upshot is that the local council ends up paying more in interest charges over the course of the loan. How much more? According to an activist group, #NoLOBOs (created to help housing authorities combat the impact of these instruments), “a substantial number of housing councils are facing 7-9 % interest rates, which is more than twice the current rate of lending at the PWLB.” And in many instances, the municipalities have been burdened with these higher borrowing costs at a time when additional funding from the national government has been cut back, so they are confronted with a double whammy on both sides of the balance sheet.

What was initially sold as a means to manage risk, then, ultimately metamorphoses into a recipe for financial fragility, especially when it occurs at the municipal level with institutions that don’t have the capacity to create new currency (as a federal authority can do). The “teaser” becomes a poison pill. This means a local authority (or level of government that is a user, rather than issuer, of currency) can go bust.

To give some sense of the magnitude of the market, the Independent notes:

“There is around £18bn worth of private sector loans on councils’ books, according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government. … [A]round £15bn of these are Lobos.

“Annual sales to local authorities regularly topped £1bn in the run-up to the financial crisis and peaked at £1.5bn in 2007, before crashing to £600m a year later and then dwindling to nothing in 2012.”

Their revival since 2012 has resulted in hundreds of millions of pounds being skimmed from struggling town hall budgets, which were hit by the double whammy of these toxic instruments, along with austerity-imposed cutbacks from the national government. One particularly egregious example was the cash-strapped town of Newham, which had £398m of exposure to LOBOs back in 2014. Faced as well with cutbacks from the national Tory government, the local council was forced to remove financial support from a homeless hostel, “leading to the eviction of a group of single mothers to save £41,000,” reported British publication Private Eye.

Needless to say, banks and brokers have profited handsomely from the whole exercise, pocketing hundreds of millions of pounds in profits.

Here’s another disaster waiting to happen: Globally, financial markets today are seeing a rebirth of “collateralized loan obligations” (CLOs), instruments broadly similar to the “collateralized debt obligations” (CDOs), which helped to blow up the financial system in 2008. CDOs were asset-backed instruments, a “blended” security comprised of risky mortgage-backed bonds and much of the rest from theoretically safer tranches. The theory underlying them was that the lower the investment quality, the higher the compensating yield, but in reality most turned out to be toxic junk. What distinguishes CLOs from their CDO “cousin” is that instead of repackaging mortgages, subprime and otherwise, CLOs repackage corporate loans, and consumer credit, such as car loans.

Unfortunately, in yet another instance of lessons unlearned from 2008, the collateralized loan obligations, like the CDOs, have virtually non-existent investor protection, “with over 70 percent lacking any covenants that would allow monitoring of financial condition and early intervention to manage problem borrowers. This exacerbates the risk of higher losses,” argues Satyajit Das, a former banker who first identified the risks to financial stability posed by these kinds of instruments back in 2008. In fact, Das elaborates, “relative to mortgages, [CLOs] typically are made up of fewer and larger loans, which increases concentration risk. Leveraged loans are highly sensitive to economic conditions and defaults may be correlated, with many loans experiencing problems simultaneously.” Which intuitively makes total sense: during a slowdown, virtually all economic activity slows down, whether that be housing, car sales, or consumer borrowing. Diversification of risk is therefore more apparent than real.

In an environment of prevailing low interest rates (and, hence, lower yields from conventional instruments), debt investors have been told (again) that they can enhance their portfolio returns, through these higher-yielding CLOs, while mitigating risk simply by diversifying. In theory, the risk is dispersed, but in practice, as Das has pointed out, if you’re simply diversifying different kinds of financial excrement, the end result is more likely to be insolvency for the whole instrument. A common theme is that in spite of the disastrous performance of these instruments during the market crash, many of the underlying loans today still lack standard provisions to protect lenders, such as reporting and requirements to maintain certain income and asset levels. Consequently, more toxic junk is being passed around the system like a hot potato. Last one holding the potato loses.

Given the scale of issuance, all major financial institutions are likely to be left holding these bags. CLOs, notes Das, have been growing at a rate of around $100bn a year for the past decade, and total levels outstanding now approach the size that existed in the CDO market by the time of the 2008 crisis. As the cycle has matured, the quality of the assets of the loans has diminished, and the borrowers have become increasingly leveraged.

This follows a classic pattern of a typical borrowing cycle, as credit structures move from relatively stable “hedge financing” (where the underlying units can meet payment commitments out of income flow) to “Ponzi” finance (borrowing simply to pay interest on the interest), a process originally outlined by the economist Hyman Minsky. Based on the relatively benign conditions of the recent past, both borrowers and lenders are lulled into a false sense of security and increase their respective risk profiles accordingly. Minsky was by no means the only economist whose work has become associated with manias, panic and crash. He built his analysis on the shoulders of analysts of the Great Depression, such as Irving Fisher, John Maynard Keynes, and John Kenneth Galbraith. But what distinguishes Minsky’s scholarship is that he focused it on the “upward” source of the financial instability, as opposed to its disastrous denouement. In relation to today’s CLO market, the parallel is that the decade-long period of stability in the aftermath of 2008 (in reality, faux stability achieved through the injection of trillions of dollars in public sector bailouts) has again given the users a stream of data providing the illusion that leverage is safe.

Rather than respond to each financial meltdown by seeking to curb the activities that led to the crisis in the first place, the sheer ongoing dominance of our financial sector has ensured that policy has merely worked to bail out the big players, and do everything to keep the rigged casino of the economy in their favor. Thus, financial institutions continue to concoct increasingly esoteric and opaque financial instruments that they market to less financially sophisticated counterparties.

Let’s roll back the tape to a few financial crises ago, from the early 1990s. At that time, Bob Citron, the Orange County treasurer, bankrupted his county via leveraged investments he made in structured notes (i.e., customized notes designed to fit the investment wishes and opinions of particular institutional buyers). If you tailor an exotic instrument to fit your investment outlook, you’d better know what you’re doing and appreciate the downside risks. Customization entails a level of financial expertise that Citron later conceded he did not fully possess. He was a sitting duck in a sea of sharks (to mix metaphors). Citron made a bet on the direction of interest rates (he bet they would stay low, which was wrong). As a result of his miscalculation, by 1994 Orange County’s investment portfolio began hemorrhaging hundreds of millions of dollars, ultimately going broke. Without conceding any liability, ultimately Merrill Lynch paid out $400m in penalties to settle the case.

That was an early warning signal, which unfortunately remained unheeded, as it was followed in quick succession by the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the bankruptcy of Long-Term Capital Management and the concomitant Russian debt default in 1998, the dot.com bust, and finally the complete seizure of the global financial system by 2008. Each time, a common foolhardy notion was the idea that higher levels of reward could be achieved without any corresponding increase in risk. All of this occurred against a backdrop of deregulation, minimal transparency and inadequate market supervision.

If you thought the near-breakdown of the global economy in 2008 was enough to make global policymakers and regulators rethink their persistent accommodation of financial innovation and deregulation, think again. Regulators have continued to accommodate this complexity, rather than minimizing it. Complex financial systems beget yet more complex (and ultimately ineffective) regulation. It is better to simplify the system in order to improve the quality of the regulation and the ease of oversight (which the complexity is designed to avoid).

Unfortunately, that’s not what our policymakers have done. Instead of redesigning the system, the monetary authorities have simply inserted themselves in the chain of intermediation that included an ever-evolving variety of books of business without actually considering whether there were too many weak links in the credit chain in the first place. Rather than shorten or redesign the economy’s credit structures, and curb the risks accordingly, central banks instead have simply acted as the ultimate guarantors in a supply chain from money-like instruments to longer-term and riskier credit. Absent any kind of sanction for undertaking more systemically dangerous activities, our policymakers have therefore made the same mistakes that were made in the early 2000s: they are establishing perverse ongoing incentives that increase risk, punishing the timid (prudent?) with low returns. It’s a classic illustration of Gresham’s Law, whereby bad money drives out good.

So here we go again. No less a figure than Claudio Borio, the chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements central, who warned of the dangers of a synchronized housing bubble well before the 2008 crisis, is again sounding the alarm about a recurrence. The crash gave us a chance to downsize finance and restrict its ability to wreak comparable havoc on the economy going forward. Instead, we let the crisis go to waste, which almost certainly means a nasty sequel to 2008 facing us in the near future.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Published:3/12/2019 8:14:24 PM
[Markets] Dick Cheney Argues Foreign Policy With Mike Pence At Leaked "Off the Record" GOP Gathering

What was supposed to be a relaxed conversation between Vice President Pence and former Vice President Dick Cheney quickly turned into a argument over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy at a private gathering last weekend, according to a report from LMTOnline

The gathering was a closed-door retreat hosted by the American Enterprise Institute on March 9 in Sea Island, Georgia. At the meeting, Cheney "respectfully but repeatedly" pressed Pence on concerns like President Trump taking a hard line towards NATO and deciding to withdraw troops from Syria "during the middle of a phone call".

Cheney also said to Pence, "we're getting into a situation when our friends and allies around the world that we depend upon are going to lack confidence in us," according to a Washington Post transcript.

The comments from the gathering were supposed to be "off the record", but a transcript leaked from a person who was "not authorized to share material" from the event. 

"I worry that the bottom line of that kind of an approach is we have an administration that looks a lot more like Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan," the former Vice President continued.



The critique of Pence from former VP Cheney highlights one of the many debates currently ongoing in the GOP party. Many former GOP "hawks", like Cheney have been at odds with Trump's engagement of autocrats like Kim Jong Un and his non-interventionist style in the middle easy. 

Pence reportedly "shrugged off most of Cheney's anxieties" and praised Trump as a "candid and transformational leader."

What was supposed to be a chat at AEI's annual world forum between Pence and Cheney turned into a nearly full blown "academic exercise" with Cheney questioning Pence while the current VP did his best to retort with force. The conversation surprised the conference attendees and caused murmurs in the room throughout the talk. 

After pleasantries were exchanged, Cheney immediately went after Trump, expressing concern about reports that he "supposedly doesn't spend that much time with the intel people, or doesn't agree with them, frequently." He also immediately expressed concern with suspending military activities with South Korea and Trump's handling of North Korea. 

"I don't know, that sounded like a New York State real estate deal to me," Cheney said of Trump's pursuit of a policy to have the Germans, the Japanese, and the South Koreans pay total cost for U.S. deployments there, plus 50 percent on top of that.

"It's a lot more complicated than just, 'Here's the bottom line. Write the check,'" Cheney continued. 

Pence retorted:

"We're going to continue [to] train. We're going to continue to work closely with South Korea. We have a tremendous alliance there. I think there is a tendency by critics of the president and our administration to conflate the demand that our allies live up to their word and their commitments and an erosion in our commitment to the post-World War II order."

The current VP continued, "But we think it's possible to demand that your allies do more to provide for the common defense of all of our nations and, at the same time, reaffirm our strong commitment - whether it be to the trans-Atlantic Alliance or to our allies across the Indo-Pacific."

Cheney again took exception to lack of troop deployments in certain areas and VP Pence finished by assuring the former VP that the Trump administration shared their devotion to defending the country. 

"When the American people elected this president, they elected a president who expressed concern about American deployments around the world," Pence stated. "And they knew this was going to be a president that came and asked the fundamental questions about - you know, where are we deployed and do we really need to be asking men and women in uniform to be deployed in that part of the world? But, you know, it should come as no surprise to anyone: This President is skeptical of foreign deployments, and only wants American forces where they need to be."

Pence concluded: "But you can be confident, as one of my favorite hawks, we're going to continue to stand strong for a strong national defense with President Trump in the White House."

Published:3/12/2019 6:13:40 PM
[Markets] "I'm Giving It A Shot" - Biden Reportedly Confirms Run For Presidency

In perhaps the least-surprising political headline of the day, The Hill reports that a senior Democratic lawmaker told them today that former Vice President Joe Biden will run for president in 2020.

Biden has been leading the polls for months...

“I’m giving it a shot,” Biden said matter-of-factly during a phone call with a House Democratic lawmaker within the past week - a conversation the congressman recounted to The Hill  and interpreted as a sure sign that Biden will run in 2020.

However, Biden spokesman Bill Russo refuted the idea that the former vice president is absolutely running:

“He has not made a final decision. No change.”

But, as The Hill notes, at an event with firefighters Tuesday morning, Biden teased a 2020 presidential run as the crowd chanted, “Run, Joe, run!”

“I appreciate the energy you all showed when I got up here,” Biden told an energetic crowd at the International Association of Fire Fighters' annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Save it a little longer, I may need it in a few weeks. Be careful what you wish for.

His entry into the race has been largely expected. In recent weeks, the 76-year-old Biden (would be the oldest President if elected) has been laying the groundwork for what would be his third and final presidential bid, seeking support from Democratic donors, lawmakers and others in his political circle. Biden, who served as President Obama’s vice president for two terms, also has a team of campaign aides already assembled for the moment he decides to launch a White House bid, which is expected in early April.

We look forward to Trump's tweeted response (and to see whether the liberal cognoscenti goes full Schultz/Gabbard against Biden or supports the septuagenarian's run).

Published:3/12/2019 11:42:36 AM
[Ilhan Omar] Omar explains (Scott Johnson) I don’t think there is anything funny about Ilhan Omar. She’s as funny as a crutch, to borrow the old saying. She is unfunny in manifold ways. One of them is her lying. In her interview with Tim Alberta for “The Democrats’ dilemma,” Omar disparaged the sainted Barack Obama by asserting that in critical respects he was as bad as Trump is. She then denied the accuracy of the quote Published:3/12/2019 7:41:29 AM
[Markets] DHS Facial Recognition Scanners To Be Deployed At Top 20 Airports By 2021

The Department of Homeland Security is rushing to implement a March 2017 executive order issued by President Trump mandating the use of facial recognition to identify "100 percent of all international passengers" - including American citizens, according to BuzzFeed

Originally signed into law by President Obama in 2015, Trump's EO accelerates the program, which will be implemented by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 20 top US airports by 2021 (Of note, seventeen international airports already use facial recognition, including "Atlanta, New York City, Boston, San Jose, Chicago, and two airports in Houston").  

Many major airlines are on board with the idea — Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Lufthansa, and American Airlines. Airport operations companies, including Los Angeles World Airports, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Mineta San Jose International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, are also involved. -BuzzFeed

According to a 346-pages of "as-yet-unpublished" documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and reviewed by BuzzFeed News, US Customs and Border Protection is furiously rushing to meet the deadline for this "biometric entry-exit system" - which will use facial recognition technology on more than 100 million passengers in as little as two years, or roughly 16,300 flights per week. 

As BuzzFeed notes, the biometric systems are being implemented "despite questionable biometric confirmation rates and few, if any, legal guardrails."

What's more, there are no limits to how airlines can use facial recognition data

These same documents state — explicitly — that there were no limits on how partnering airlines can use this facial recognition data. CBP did not answer specific questions about whether there are any guidelines for how other technology companies involved in processing the data can potentially also use it. It was only during a data privacy meeting last December that CBP made a sharp turn and limited participating companies from using this data. But it is unclear to what extent it has enforced this new rule. CBP did not explain what its current policies around data sharing of biometric information with participating companies and third-party firms are, but it did say that the agency “retains photos … for up to 14 days” of non-US citizens departing the country, for “evaluation of the technology” and “assurance of the accuracy of the algorithms” — which implies such photos might be used for further training of its facial matching AI. -BuzzFeed

"CBP is solving a security challenge by adding a convenience for travelers," said an agency spokesperson in an email to BuzzFeed. "By partnering with airports and airlines to provide a secure stand-alone system that works quickly and reliably, which they will integrate into their boarding process, CBP does not have to rebuild everything from the ground up as we drive innovation across the travel experience." 

Meanwhile, it appears that CBP has simply skipped part of the "rulemaking process" - foregoing public feedback prior to implementing the technology. Beyond "privacy, surveillance and free speech implications," this is worrisome according to BuzzFeed, which notes that last summer the ACLU reported that Amazon's facial recognition technology falsely matched 28 members of congress with arrest mugshots. 

According to a Homeland Security OIG reportCBP was able to provide biometric confirmation for just 85% of passengers processed, while mexican and Canadian citizens were "particularly problematic" reports BuzzFeed

"The low 85-percent biometric confirmation rate poses questions as to whether CBP will meet its milestone to confirm all foreign departures at the top 20 US airports by fiscal year 2021," said the audit - while a spokesperson said that the rate has risen to 98.6% since the report. 

"I think it’s important to note what the use of facial recognition [in airports] means for American citizens," said Jeramie Scott - director of EPIC's Domestic Surveillance Project. "It means the government, without consulting the public, a requirement by Congress, or consent from any individual, is using facial recognition to create a digital ID of millions of Americans." 

"CBP took images from the State Department that were submitted to obtain a passport and decided to use them to track travelers in and out of the country," said Scott. 

"Facial recognition is becoming normalized as an infrastructure for checkpoint control," said ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley. "It's an extremely powerful surveillance technology that has the potential to do things never before done in human history. Yet the government is hurtling along a path towards its broad deployment — and in this case, a deployment that seems quite unjustified and unnecessary."

CBP has suggested that privacy concerns are overblown, and that "CBP is committed to protecting the privacy of all travelers and has issued several Privacy Impact Assessments related to [its biometric entry-exit program], employed strong technical security safeguards, and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the transaction," according to an agency spokesperson. 

"THE MOST OPERATIONALLY FEASIBLE AND TRAVELER-FRIENDLY OPTION"

According to CBP's Concept of Operations document released in June 2017, "Airlines, airports, TSA, and CBP are facing fixed airport infrastructure with little opportunities for major investment, increased national security threats with pressures for solutions, and increased traveler volume."

"Collectively, this is a status quo that is not sustainable for any of the main stakeholders, and failure to change will ultimately result in increases in dissatisfied customers, use of alternative modes of travel, and vulnerability to serious threats."

In June 2016, CBP began its first pilot for facial recognition technology in airports at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Once a day, for a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo, Japan, passengers’ passport photos were biometrically matched to real-time photographs. Before travelers proceeded to the passenger loading bridge to board their flight, CBP officers told passengers to scan their boarding passes, then a camera snapped a digital image of the traveler’s face; a CBP-developed back-end system called the Departure Information System used facial recognition to automatically compare photos during boarding against a photo gallery. Everyone between the ages of 14 and 79 was expected to participate. -BuzzFeed

CBP says that the stated goal is to "identify any non-U.S. citizens subject to the exit requirements who may fraudulently present" travel documents, and that the agency has "no plans to biometrically record the departure of U.S. citizens."

That said, the CBP also says that it "does not believe there is enough time to separate U.S. citizens from non-U.S. citizen visitors prior to boarding" … "therefore, facial images will be collected for U.S. citizens as part of this test so that CBP can verify the identity of a U.S. citizen boarding the air carrier."

Once a traveler is identified and confirmed as a US citizen, the CBP claims their image is deleted. 

Three months after the 2016 pilot, CBP switched to monitoring a daily flight from Atlanta to Mexico City. By the end of November that year, the test was being run on approximately seven flights per week

The result of these tests? "CBP concluded that facial recognition technology … was the most operationally feasible and traveler-friendly option for a comprehensive biometric solution," according to a DHS Inspector General audit of the government's facial recognition biometrics program. 

As the system expanded, in June 2017 CBP replaced it's Departure Information System with a more advanced automated matching system known as "Traveler Verification Service" (TVS) which could "[operate] in a virtual, cloud-based infrastructure that can store images temporarily and operate using a wireless network." Once a passenger boarded a plane, TVS transmits confirmation of a biometric match across other DHS systems, according to BuzzFeed

CBP says it allows U.S. citizens to decline facial verification and to instead have their identities confirmed through the usual manual boarding process. “CBP works with airline and airport partners to incorporate notifications and processes into their current business models, including signage and gate announcements, to ensure transparency of the biometric process,” an agency spokesperson said in an email to BuzzFeed News. But of 12 flights observed by OIG during its audit in 2017, only 16 passengers declined to participate.

According to Delta, less than 2% of its weekly 25,000 passengers going through the Atlanta airport’s Terminal F, which features “curb to gate” facial recognition systems, opt out of using the tech. -BuzzFeed

Meanwhile, CBP is allowing people wearing "religious headwear" to pass through security checkpoints at the discretion of airport personnel.  

Read the rest of the report here

Published:3/11/2019 10:08:24 PM
[Politics] WATCH: Ilhan Omar gives HATEFUL response when confronted about her Trump, Obama comparison… Last week we posted on Ilhan Omar’s comments where she threw Obama under the bus, saying that some of his policies were also bad like Trump’s, but that Obama was just more . . . Published:3/11/2019 9:11:07 PM
[Politics] WATCH: Ilhan Omar gives HATEFUL response when confronted about her Trump, Obama comparison… Last week we posted on Ilhan Omar’s comments where she threw Obama under the bus, saying that some of his policies were also bad like Trump’s, but that Obama was just more . . . Published:3/11/2019 9:11:07 PM
[The Blog] Rep. Omar: I wouldn’t equate Trump and Obama because Trump is not human

Isn’t it great that the Democrats passed that resolution about hate last week? You can see what a salutary effect ...

The post Rep. Omar: I wouldn’t equate Trump and Obama because Trump is not human appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/11/2019 9:11:07 PM
[US News] Rep. Ilhan Omar explains the difference between Obama and Trump: ‘One is human, the other is not’

Rep. Ilhan Omar is still learning and growing and understanding the weight of her language.

The post Rep. Ilhan Omar explains the difference between Obama and Trump: ‘One is human, the other is not’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/11/2019 8:39:30 PM
[Markets] Dems' Tit-For-Tat: Gun Violence National Emergency

Authored by Graham Noble via LibertyNation.com,

Why a future Democratic president will never declare a national emergency over gun violence...

President Donald Trump has encountered criticism from both sides over his declaration of a national emergency on border security. Beyond the discussion of whether the situation warrants such action, many in the political world have raised the prospect that Trump is setting a dangerous precedent that will give future chief executives the opportunity to declare national emergencies to address any domestic issue by fiat, bypassing Congress.

It is a weak argument on several levels, but it appears to be the reason why a growing number of Senate Republicans have buckled to objections from Democrats and will support a joint resolution to terminate the president’s declaration. Trump still has the veto, though, so the resolution will prove meaningless and the fight will be taken to the courts, where the president’s clear authority will be upheld.

No Need For A National Emergency

As the president himself pointed out during his CPAC address, he is not setting any precedent because a future Democratic president would invoke national emergency powers if they saw fit to do so, regardless of what Trump does in the present. How quickly people forget that the most stunning example – in recent years – of a president completely bypassing Congress to take action on a major issue of national concern was Barack Obama’s creation of the DACA program. In that instance, the president simply ignored Congress, commandeered its authority to legislate, and changed federal law. Obama did not even declare a national emergency to do so and Congress put up no fight.

The idea, then, that Trump’s national emergency declaration will embolden future presidents to use the same tactic is nonsense. Congressional Democrats have shown that they are willing to simply cede unlimited authority to a president, should they choose to do so.

The argument – strawman that it may be – has been put out there, though. Specifically, Democratic presidential hopefuls have suggested they may use the measure to deal with gun violence. Could a national emergency declaration do anything to reduce gun crime or would it merely be an excuse to further erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens?

Democrats have volunteered no explanation of what the threatened national emergency on gun violence would look like. The truth is, the threat is empty. There is no possible legal basis for a president to unilaterally alter federal firearms laws. National emergency statutes do not grant any authority to impose new laws or to alter existing ones.

Once again, Obama’s creation of the DACA program shows that a future Democratic president need not declare a national emergency to impose draconian new gun restrictions. In fact, using the national emergency statutes would actually limit a president’s power, in this respect.

2A Rights Guaranteed During National Emergencies

In 2006, the 109th Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act which prohibits the confiscation – either permanently or temporarily – of privately-owned firearms during times of national emergency. It also prohibits the establishment of a gun registry and the imposition of restrictions on the carrying of firearms. This law does not, of course, override any existing federal, state or local firearms regulations already on the books, but it explicitly prevents a national emergency declaration being used to justify the creation of new restrictions.

There is certainly an argument to be made that the situation with the influx of illegal aliens across the southern border should never have gotten to this point, but the fault lies squarely with Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans have failed, for decades, to adequately address the issue. The president elevated the problem to the level of national emergency in order to appropriate adequate funds to construct border barriers and provide the resources necessary to expedite the processing of illegal border-crossers.

As with previous national emergencies, however, this latest one does nothing to infringe upon the constitutional rights of American citizens. A dangerous precedent would be to declare such an emergency as a way of depriving Americans of a right protected in the very founding document that forms the basis of all U.S. law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has already hinted at the possibility of a gun-related national emergency and it is clearly a talking point that her party has adopted and intends to promote. Julian Castro, who is competing for the Democratic presidential nomination, told MSNBC: “I will come into office with a strong belief … that the fact that so many people in this country die because of gun violence, that is a national emergency.” Castro has also suggested, in a tweet, that climate change may also be a policy area over which a national emergency could be declared.

Another presidential candidate, California Democrat Kamala Harris, dutifully parroted the party line by hinting that, in addition to gun violence and climate change, healthcare may require a national emergency.

Is any president justified in using executive authority to mold domestic policy without legislation from Congress – even to address a major issue that Congress has consistently proved unwilling and/or unable to deal with? Even to those who view with skepticism any expansion or overreach of presidential authority, it is difficult to dismiss the argument that, where the legislative branch fails to resolve an ongoing national problem, the executive branch should take action. Certainly, those Democrats – and Republicans – who uttered not one word of objection when Obama legalized illegal aliens with the stroke of a pen would agree.

On the other hand, a president has no constitutional or moral authority to deprive citizens of their rights in the name of what they have decided to call an emergency; whether that be the right to own and carry a firearm or the right to choose a health insurance plan.

Defining An Emergency

The second question to consider is: How does one define emergency? The abuse of America’s immigration laws has taken place over several decades, so is it really now an emergency? The same can be said of gun violence, the affordability of healthcare or the effects of climate change. The (Merriam-Webster) dictionary definition of an emergency is “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action,” or “an urgent need for assistance or relief.”

None of the aforementioned situations are unforeseen and whether any of them require urgent relief is an entirely subjective argument. If emergency measures are needed in order to save lives, then why not declare the consumption of alcohol a national emergency – or smoking, for that matter?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, some 88,000 Americans die every year from alcohol-rated causes, making this “the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” Smoking – incidentally – is number two. This figure for alcohol-related fatalities dwarfs the number of annual gun-related deaths, so why would gun violence warrant a national emergency but alcohol consumption not?

Empty Threat

Clearly, a future Democratic president would have no credible basis for declaring gun violence a national emergency and no legal authority to use such a declaration to enact any additional gun restrictions. The threat is empty. Any future president who wants to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights will attempt to do so without invoking national emergency powers.

Democrats using this threat are being outrageously disingenuous. Republicans going along with them are either entirely out of touch with reality or they are willingly perpetrating a ruse and assuming the American people are gullible enough to believe them.

Published:3/11/2019 12:35:54 PM
[Politics] 37% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending March 7.

This week’s finding is down one point from last week. Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December to 31% by the end of January. It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from March 3-7, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:3/11/2019 11:07:39 AM
[Obama] Roseanne Barr Blames Michelle Obama for Getting Her Fired from TV Show

Comedian Roseanne Barr just blamed former first lady Michelle Obama for getting her fired from her hit ABC TV show.

The post Roseanne Barr Blames Michelle Obama for Getting Her Fired from TV Show appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/11/2019 8:04:50 AM
[Obama] Roseanne Barr Blames Michelle Obama for Getting Her Fired from TV Show

Comedian Roseanne Barr just blamed former first lady Michelle Obama for getting her fired from her hit ABC TV show.

The post Roseanne Barr Blames Michelle Obama for Getting Her Fired from TV Show appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/11/2019 8:04:50 AM
[World] [Doriane Coleman] Who Is a “Woman” in Sport

The battle between biology and identity is engaged.

Who would have thought that in the midst of the #MeToo moment, just as a film on menstruation gets an Oscar and we're celebrating RBG's jurisprudential legacy—including the part about celebrating inherent differences, we'd also be debating whether biological sex is a real thing or just a social construct, and whether, if it's real – if there is a "female body" and a "male body" with variations on the themes – it's ok to talk about it and to take it into account in the defense and development of law and policy. But here we are. And what a drama it is, especially in this period in the elite sports space. Martina Navratilova playing doubles with Rich Lowry against Rachel McKinnon and Scott Shackford. The LGBTQI coalition splintering, (I)ntersex versus (T)ransgender. Feminists of one stripe against feminists of another. Conservatives about sex and sexuality actively enjoying our civil war. Sex clearly gets us all exercised.

Using sports as a lens, I've been working to understand whether biological sex continues to be salient as a basis for classification in the institutional settings in which it is used, either as "sex" or by its synonym "gender." Or, was the Obama Administration right that "sex" should be erased from sex discrimination law and replaced by "gender", which it defined non-synonymously: "An individual's internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual's sex assigned at birth."

The development of a really good answer to this question has broad societal significance, but it is most immediately important to two groups. The first is biological females, because we are the intended beneficiaries of the remaining positive sex classifications; and, as continuing disparities and subordinations on the basis of reproductive sex reflect, they're still necessary. The second is biological males who identify as girls and women and so understandably want to be recognized in life and in law as they self-define, rather than according to the ambiguous or incongruent bodies they inhabit.

This is what's on the table:

Who is a woman for purposes of women's only spaces and set asides like women's sport, women's health, women's education, and women's prisons?

Should these spaces and set asides – originally designed "on the basis of sex" or else to remedy the effects of exclusions and subordinations on the basis of stereotypes about sex – continue to privilege female-bodied people, or should they be sex neutral so as not to exclude male-bodied people who identify as women or as gender fluid?

Is there even a winning argument under existing doctrine for a women's only space or set-aside that is not either directly or indirectly based in inherent differences, i.e., that is female sex blind?

If there isn't one, what does the winning argument under a new, gender identity-based doctrine look like, and can it (also) satisfy the goals of the original, i.e., can it protect and empower female-bodied persons who are and probably always will be subject to different treatment precisely because of their reproductive biology, regardless of how they identify?

I have five days to give you a sense of how these issues play out in the conversation about eligibility for the women's category in elite sport. I'll mostly be excerpting from my article Sex in Sport which allows for a deep dive if you're so inclined.

On Tuesday, I'll focus on inherent differences, i.e., on the relevant biology and on arguments about that biology. This includes the process of sex differentiation and arguments about whether sex is binary; and the physiology that drives the performance gap and arguments about whether it's really all about T (testosterone). Here, I'll dismiss the weirdly popular but baseless argument that testes and male T levels are no different than other superior body parts and socioeconomic advantages.

On Wednesday, I'll summarize the case for retaining sex or at least sex-linked traits as the basis for classification into girls' and women's elite sport. I'll focus on defending Title IX, but its goals and the ways it has developed to achieve them have analogues across sport.

On Thursday, I'll tackle sex testing, with a focus on the current iteration which uses testosterone as a way both to distinguish males from females, and to include male-bodied athletes who identify as girls and women into the female category. This approach, which is reflected in the eligibility rule that Caster Semenya has challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has been subject to a years-long, extraordinarily aggressive public assault by academics and advocates who disdain the physical sciences and have deconstructed sex to the point where nothing remains except identity. And yet it actually represents an extraordinary compromise between complete exclusion—which is anathema to progressives, and unconditional inclusion—which would be category defeating.

On Friday, I'll return to the issues I introduced above, with some concluding thoughts on: who is a woman for purposes of women's only spaces beyond sport; whether the classification should be based on identity and not biology; and whether existing doctrine can accommodate female sex blind claims.

Published:3/11/2019 7:34:47 AM
[Markets] Rubio's "Full Gangster" Comments Hinder US-Saudi Relations

Authored by Tim Daiss via Oilprice.com,

It didn’t take long for Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s comments that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had “gone full gangster” to make the news rounds all the way from the U.S. to the Middle East, across the globe and back again. The Republican senator made his controversial comments during Retired Gen. John Abizaid's nomination hearing Wednesday in Washington to be the Trump administration's first ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Despite increasing tensions between the two long-time allies, the U.S. has not had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia since Trump became president in January 2017. Abizaid is a retired four-star Army general who led U.S. Central Command during the Iraq war under the Bush and Obama administrations.

During the hearing, both Republican and Democrats pressed Abizaid over what they said were Saudi domestic repression, including lashings, electrocutions, beatings, whippings, sexual abuse, raids, the alleged detention and torture of activists and royal family members, the likely killing of Saudi dissident journalist, and U.S. resident, Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey last October, as well as the recent alleged torture of a U.S. citizen.

Ruthless and reckless

Republican Sen. Jim Risch, the committee chairman, joined in, stating that “Saudi Arabia has engaged in acts that are simply not acceptable.” Another Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson reiterated Rubio’s “full gangster” remarks. Rubio added that “He [bin Salman] is reckless, he’s ruthless, he has a penchant for escalation, for taking high risks, confrontational in his foreign policy approach and I think increasingly willing to test the limits of what he can get away with the United States.”

Senators also condemned Saudi Arabia’s conduct in the ongoing war in Yemen, which the Crown Prince has been instrumental in. Abizaid, for his part, paid his part skillfully, which should help ease concerns among senators whether he is fit or not for the high-profile diplomatic post. Though defending the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia as strategically important, he also called for accountability for the murder of Khashoggi, and support for human rights.

“In the long run, we need a strong and mature partnership with Saudi Arabia,” Abizaid told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

“It is in our interests to make sure that the relationship is sound.”

Part of the unbridled criticism over recent alleged Saudi misbehavior comes from frustrated American lawmakers that want to see the Trump administration take a harder line over Saudi Arabia, while both the House and Senate have passed resolutions to that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. However, Trump has resisted such resolutions. Abizaid said that continued U.S. support “bolsters the self-defense capabilities of our partners and reduces the risk of harm to civilians.”

Significant take-aways

At the end of the day, several issues have to be examined.

First, though lawmakers have the right to make such assertions at the hearing, the actions of Saudi Arabia are still the actions of a sovereign power beyond the scope of U.S. control. A comparison could even be made over human rights abuse claims, torture and other disconcerting claims in China, particularly in Tibet, where hundreds of thousands of citizens, mostly men, are detained for extended periods of time and endure what Beijing calls re-education. Yet, the U.S. relationship with China operates under different imperatives that the U.S.-Saudi relationship, so pressure over these alleged abuses isn’t being promulgated on the same scale.

The second take away from remarks made at Wednesday's hearing centers on what can be called reality-geopolitics. The more than 70-year alliance between Washington and Riyadh that has survived World War II, being on the same side against Soviet expansion during the Cold War, surviving the fallout from both the 1967 and 1973 Arab oil embargo, managing Saudi angst at continued U.S. support of Israel, as well as now working together trying to reign in Iranian regional hegemony and support of terrorism - this fragile alliance has to be viewed through a different lens than other alliances.

Economic necessity

The U.S.-Saudi alliance is one born of necessity, mostly economic (global oil markets) as well as one of wrestling with middle eastern security. The two nations don’t share common values, like the U.S. does with the U.K. or with much of Western Europe, doesn’t share a similar history, whose values are derived from extremely a different religious history and perspective. The U.S. is the largest democracy in the world, while Saudi Arabia is a top-down authoritarian monarchy influenced in large part by its strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

Just the fact that two radically different nations can exist as allies for so long has to be appreciated. Nonetheless, Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s ranking Democrat, acknowledged the strategic importance of Saudi ties, amid threats from Iran. “But we cannot let these interests blind us to our values or to our long-term interests in stability,” he added.

However, another point to consider is growing U.S. energy independence, particularly as the country recent recently passed the 12 million barrels per day oil production mark, with that production amount projected to increase going forward to next year and beyond. Though U.S. crude is mostly light, sweet as opposed to heavier, sour crude mostly produced and imported from Saudi Arabia by U.S. refineries, growing U.S. global market share, reduced Saudi oil imports, could indeed lead to fracturing on the U.S.-Saudi alliance. It’s oil first and middle eastern security second, which often goes hand in hand, that is the glue that keeps this fragile alliance from falling apart.

Published:3/11/2019 7:34:47 AM
[Markets] Trump's Budget Will Ask Congress For $8.6 Billion For Border Wall

As part of his budget request to be released on Monday, President Trump will ask the Congress for an additional $8.6 billion to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and "stopping an invasion." The demand, which drew swift criticism from Democrats, is more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6% more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.

According to Reuters, the president’s proposal would include $5 billion from the Department of Homeland Security budget and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction budget. The budget proposal will also include another $3.6 million in military construction funding to make up for any projects delayed by the wall. The request is in addition to the funds that Trump is hoping to allocate through executive action after declaring a national emergency in February over the situation on the border, a move that has teed up a new battle with Congress.

In total, the White House looks to secure funding via this year’s budget, Trump’s emergency declaration and previous appropriations, for 722 miles (1,162 km) of border barrier, using an estimated cost of about $25 million per mile of wall or fencing. As Reuters notes, Trump’s wall request is based off a 2017 plan put forward by Customs and Border Protection officials to build or replace the 722 miles of barrier along the border, which in total is estimated to cost about $18 billion.

So far, only 111 miles (179 km) have been built or are under way, officials said. In fiscal 2017, $341 million in funding was allocated for 40 miles (64 km) of wall, and in 2018, another $1.375 billion was directed to 82 miles. For fiscal 2019, Trump demanded $5.7 billion in wall funds, but Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border fencing projects.

Asked on Fox News Sunday about the new wall funding request and if there would be another budget fight, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “I suppose there will be ... He’s going to stay with his wall and he’s going to stay with the border security theme. I think it’s essential” adding that "The whole issue of the wall, of border security, is of paramount importance... We have a crisis down there."

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he’s “stopping an invasion” of the U.S., a comment that was directed at conservative commentator and "whacky nut job" Ann Coulter, whose criticism helped inspire his decision to hunker down for a record-long shutdown.

The White House request represents the first marker in what’s certain to be another protracted battle between the Trump administration and congressional negotiators, particularly Democrats who hold the majority in the House; it is also just a part of the president’s 2020 budget blueprint, which he’s expected to present to lawmakers on Monday.

As Bloomberg adds, it’s the first since Democrats won control of the House in November’s mid-term elections, and it’ll will kick off months of bargaining over his spending requests and proposed funding cuts for many domestic programs.

Of course, the president's budget for the past decade has been nothing more than a charade: while under Obama budgets rarely if ever made it to the light of day, Trump faces a different reality: Democrats who oppose the wall as unnecessary and immoral, control the U.S. House of Representatives, making it unlikely the Republican president’s request will win congressional passage.

The proposal comes on the heels of a bruising battle with Congress over wall funding that resulted in a five-week partial federal government shutdown that ended in January, and could touch off a sequel just ahead of a trifecta of ominous fiscal deadlines looming this fall.

“President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer in a joint statement on Sunday.

“Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson,” said the two top Democrats in Congress.

Regardless of whether Congress passes it - and it won't - the budget request will frame Trump's argument on border security as the 2020 presidential race begins to take shape, with the president seeking re-election.

“Build the wall” was one of his signature campaign pledges in his first run for office in 2016. “Finish the wall” is already a feature of his re-election campaign, a rallying cry plastered across banners and signs at his campaign rallies.

“It gives the president the ability to say he has fulfilled his commitment to gain operational control of the southwest border,” an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the budget request.

“We have provided the course of action, the strategy and the request to finish the job. It’s a question of, will Congress allow us to finish the job,” an administration official told Rueters.

Trump will propose an overall 5 percent increase to the Department of Homeland Security budget over fiscal 2019 appropriations, including $3.3 billion, or 22 percent more, for Customs and Border Protection, and $1.2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 16 percent hike, officials said. The budget proposal also includes a plan to hire more than 2,800 law enforcement and support personnel for the agencies, and 100 immigration judge teams.

Trump faces both political and court battles to free up the money he wants for the current fiscal year. Many lawmakers accused Trump of overstepping his constitutional powers by declaring an emergency to free up the funds. The House has already voted to revoke the emergency, and the Senate is likely to do the same this week. Trump is expected to veto the resolution.

* * *

Separately, the budget will also unveil a 5% cut to non-discretionary domestic spending from the budget caps in fiscal 2019, according to a Bloomberg source.

Last, but not least, the budget will include economic projections for the next decade, with the administration forecasting continued expansion and, amusingly, no recession for the next ten years. The budget will project the economy growing at an average of 3 percent annually over the net decade, including 3.2% growth for 2019, a number that would be virtually unachievable if the first quarter comes in at 0.5% as the Atlanta Fed expects it will. The White House predicts the economy will grow 3.1 percent in 2020, 3 percent in 2021, and 2.8 percent in 2026.

No Wall Street bank is remotely close to such optimistic projections: a Bloomberg survey puts the consensus U.S. GDP forecast for 2019 at 2.5 percent, trailing off to 1.9 percent in 2020 as the impact of the 2017 Republican tax cuts fades.

Published:3/10/2019 8:02:36 PM
[Markets] Eric Peters: "Everyone Is Wondering What Exactly Is Wrong With Europe"

Submitted by Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management

“Significant monetary policy stimulus will continue to be provided by forward guidance on the key ECB interest rates, reinforced by the re-investments of the sizable stock of acquired assets and the new series of TLTROs,” said Mario Draghi, tightening his neck brace and abruptly throwing Europe’s central bank into reverse.

Just 2 months after ending 4yrs of quantitative easing, Europe’s central bank flipped back into easing mode. With overnight interest rates still at -0.40% no one quite knows why the policies of the past didn’t work, or what will happen next. And everyone is wondering what exactly is wrong with Europe?

* * *

“They just were more polished than he is,” said Ilhan Omar, describing the American Presidents that came before Trump, critical of them all.

“And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore,” she continued. “We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished,” she said, attacking Obama and his 542 drone strikes that killed an estimated 3,797 (including 324 civilians).

“We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.” Ilhan was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, 1981. Fled the civil war for Kenya, spent 4yrs in a refugee camp. Emigrated to the US, naturalized in 2000. She’s a Millennial, a Muslim, an American, and now a Congresswoman, committed to speaking her truth to power.

And with that unique life experience, you can be sure her truth will collide with much that is commonly held in today’s America. The debates she’ll spark will be ferocious. But such conflict is of course the greatest strength of our union, the wellspring of introspection, inspiration, transformation, evolution. Our salvation.

“There is limited support for strict enforcement of the stability and growth pact among member states in the European Council,” reported the frustrated Dutch finance minister to his government, objecting to Brussel’s deceptive leniency toward Italy’s deficit overshoot. But you see, no one in Europe is being honest.

The truth is that a currency union is destined to fail without fiscal union. And fiscal union is doomed without political union.

Europe’s architects believed their citizens couldn’t handle that truth. So they locked themselves into a structurally flawed currency union almost impossible to exit, hoping to backdoor their way into fiscal and political union without their subjects quite realizing it. It’s the lie at the heart of Europe. Debilitating, cancerous. And all the polish in the world will not conceal the deception.

* * *

Bringing Them Home

US military spending exceeds the next 12 largest spenders combined. 165k military personnel are deployed at US bases in 150 countries – it’s a practice started after WWII. Germany pays the US $1bln/year (28% of the cost of hosting our 33k troops). Some others share a bit of the load.

America has been eager to share the burden for decades. Seems fair. Successive presidents asked nicely. They were all ignored.

Then came Trump. He’s considering demanding they pay the US 150% of our cost to deploy troops on their soil.  

* * *

Anecdote

“See that hotel?” I asked the kids, driving. They unentangled themselves from iPads. In the distance was a sprawling relic, nestled in New Hampshire’s vast wild.

“It’s one of the world’s most historic places - The Mount Washington Hotel, in Bretton Woods.” Charlie asked for the story.

In the closing year of World War II, we knew we’d win. With the rest of the globe demolished, destitute, desperate, we’d have free reign to do whatever we wanted. Through the ages, victors took treasure, territory, taxes, tribute. This naturally fueled the never-ending cycle that defines humanity’s bloody history.

With the war still raging, we secretly invited 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations to Bretton Woods to agree to our plan to redesign the world. They were nervous, proud nations. Many had built and lost empires. But each knew that without America’s support, they were now finished. “Guess what we did?” I asked. We guaranteed global security, the free movement of goods across the world’s oceans, and free access to our market to sell their goods, rebuild their wealth.

“What did we ask from them?” asked Teddy. Nothing but allegiance. We paid for it all. We even let them protect their industries at our expense. Over 11 days in the Mount Washington Hotel, we agreed on the details. Every nation signed and bolted before we changed our minds. It was the boldest geopolitical bet in human history. It yielded an era of global peace and prosperity previously unimaginable, an anomalous period, with America as the indispensable center.

“Sounds like the cleverest thing we could’ve done. We made everyone completely dependent on us,” said Olivia. I smiled. And now, 75yrs after Bretton Woods, we’re reconsidering that agreement. Renegotiating, withdrawing. Things will change in ways no one can know. And this is the world you will all inherit.

Published:3/10/2019 2:30:02 PM
[Markets] The Rise Of Totalitarian Technology

Authored by Neil Howe via Forbes.com,

Is technological progress bad for human autonomy? That’s the question posed by Shoshana Zuboff in “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” a book that recounts the ways in which corporations and governments are using technology to influence our behavior. Zuboff is just the latest to chime in on “totalitarian technology” (or “total tech”), a term that describes devices and algorithms by which individuals forfeit their privacy and autonomy for the benefit of either themselves or some third party.

In the United States, total tech can be sorted into three different categories, or “spheres” of life: consumer services, the workplace, and government and politics.

Is there such a thing as too much technology?

Total tech is pervasive in the increasingly data-driven world of retail. Many shopping apps tap into your phone’s GPS to access your location, allowing retailers to send you advertisements the moment you’re walking past their storefront. Personalized pricing enables retailers to charge you the exact maximum that you would be willing to pay for a given product. Your personal data isn’t safe at home, either: Digital assistants like Amazon Alexa store your query history, meaning they know everything from your unique shopping history to your travel patterns to your music preferences.

Employers are also using total tech to track and monitor their workers. A growing number of companies use biometric time cardsthat scan an employee’s fingerprint, hand shape, retina, or iris. UPS outfits its trucks with sensors that track the opening and closing of doors, the engine of the vehicle, and the clicking of seat belts. Amazon is patenting an electronic wristband that would be used to track hand movements—making sure, for instance, that a warehouse worker stays busy moving boxes. Global freelancing platform Upwork runs a digital “Work Diary” program that counts keystrokes and takes screenshots of workers’ monitors.

Uptake of total tech has been particularly striking in government and politics. The New Orleans Police Department runs a “predictive policing” program that uses Big Data to compile a heat list of potential criminal offenders. The TSA operates its own total tech program, called Quiet Skies, which monitors and flags travelers based on “suspicious” behavior patterns. Travelers can land themselves on the Quiet Skies list by changing their clothes in the restroom, being the last person to board their flight, or even inspecting their reflection in a terminal window. More nefariously, software developed at Stanford University enables anyone to manipulate video footage in real time. Now, anyone with a grudge could alter the facial expressions of a prominent politician making a speech, and then dub in new audio that completely changes the speech’s contents.

Abroad, China is the poster child for extreme total tech programs. By 2020, China’s “social credit system” will monitor the behavior of each and every citizen, keeping tabs on everything from speeding tickets to social media posts critical of the state. Everyone will then be assigned their own unique “sincerity score”; a high score will be a requirement for anyone hoping to get the best housing, install the fastest Internet speeds, put their kids into the most prestigious schools, and land the most lucrative jobs.

Why has total tech picked this moment to explode onto the scene? Because the public demands it. Throughout history, the application of technology has been shaped by our wants and needs as a society.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, as the world moved broadly toward individualism, free-agency, smaller government, and globalism, the tech breakthroughs of that era were mainly deemed supportive of such libertarian trends. Just after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Ronald Reagan declared that “the Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip.” But in recent years, the world has been moving in a very different direction—toward community, populism, centralized control, and nationalism. Not coincidentally, today’s tech breakthroughs are again moving in tandem—toward empowering the group, not the individual (who now understands he is the product, not the customer).

Generational dynamics augment this shift toward group-minded total tech systems. While older generations feel that sacrificing their privacy is inherently risky, Millennials naturally see the safety-enhancing implications of total tech. They are also naturally optimistic about the potential of technology: According to a 2015 survey, 25% of 18- to 24-year-olds believe technology has a “mostly positive” impact on their privacy, the highest share of any age group. (The figure is just 12% for 60- to 64-year-olds.) What’s more, Millennials implicitly trust large institutions to safeguard their personal data. Some Millennials even view personal autonomy as a burden to be offloaded rather than a benefit to be protected.

Most of the objections against total tech today are voiced by older consumers. A 2017 report by Pew Research Center finds that 60% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 56% of the 65+ say their data are less secure today than five years ago—compared to just 41% of the under-50 crowd. Older Americans are also far more likely to report varying their passwords across sites and keeping them secret from friends and family to avoid compromising their data.

The future of total tech in America and elsewhere in the west will be a battle between the drive for efficiency and the preservation of privacy and autonomy.

How will this battle shake out?

We can look to history for the answer. The last time we saw a mood shift toward national community assisted by promethean new technologies was the 1930s, when in the midst of the Great Depression, beleaguered citizens empowered FDR and his New Deal Democrats to make sweeping changes to society. Back then, government harnessed huge technological breakthroughs to arm the nation and vanquish the enemy (in this case, fascism) - from mass radio broadcasts to mass assembly lines, from radar and code-breaking computers to proximity fuses and atomic fission.

National leaders backed by a resolute public used new technology to achieve a peaceful and democratic world in which dangerously authoritarian regimes could be kept in check. Today, the players may be different - but the story could wind up the same.

Published:3/10/2019 12:28:56 PM
[House of Representatives] What Bruce Ohr said (Scott Johnson) On Friday Rep. Doug Collins released the transcript of Bruce Ohr’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee this past August. I have embedded the 268-page transcript below via Scribd. Ohr appeared before the committee voluntarily, not under subpoena, in connection with its investigation of bias within the Department of Justice and the FBI. He is a key participant in the Obama administration activities that, taken together, amount to one helluva Published:3/10/2019 8:31:33 AM
[Markets] Mueller's Manafort Scam: 4 Years In The Slammer For Helping Ukraine Against Russia!

Authored by Andrew McCarthy via The National Review,

Paul Manafort Was an Agent of Ukraine, Not Russia

He is a scoundrel, but he was never a Kremlin operative.

Paul Manafort, the clandestine agent of Russia at the heart of the Trump campaign’s “collusion” scand - oh, wait.

Have you ever noticed what Paul Manafort’s major crime was? After two years of investigation, after the predawn raid in which his wife was held at gunpoint, after months of solitary confinement that have left him a shell of his former self, have you noticed what drew the militant attention of the Obama Justice Department, the FBI, and, ultimately, a special counsel who made him the centerpiece of Russia-gate?

According to the indictment Robert Mueller filed against him, Manafort was an unregistered “agent of the Government of Ukraine.” He also functioned as an agent of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president from 2010 to 2014, and of two political parties, the Party of Regions and its successor, the Opposition Bloc.

Manafort was not an unregistered agent of Russia. Mueller never alleged that Manafort was a clandestine operative of the Kremlin. He worked for Ukraine, not Putin. Indeed, for much of his time in Ukraine, he pushed his clients against Putin’s interests.

Mueller’s prosecutors looked on glumly Thursday as Manafort was sentenced to a mere 47 months’ imprisonment by Judge T. S. Ellis III of the federal court in Alexandria, Va. After rescinding the cooperation agreement they had extended Manafort following his convictions at trial, Mueller’s team had pressed for a sentence of up to 24 years for the 70-year-old former Trump campaign chairman. The judge demurred, pointedly observing that Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence [the 2016] election.”

The prosecutors won’t be chagrined long, of course. Against Manafort, one case with a potential century of jail time was not enough. There’s a case in Washington, too. There, Manafort will be sentenced next week, by a different judge who will surely impose a sentence more to the special counsel’s liking. The knowledge of that, more than anything else, explains Judge Ellis’s comparative wrist-slap, which ignored sentencing guidelines that called for a severe prison term.

Those guidelines were driven by prodigious financial fraud, not espionage. No one has even alleged espionage — even though the investigation was aggressive, even though the two indictments charge numerous felonies, and even though Mueller has had as his star informant witness Manafort’s longtime sidekick, Richard Gates, a fellow fraudster who was deeply involved in his partner’s work for foreign governments.

Understand:

Paul Manafort would never have been prosecuted if he had not joined Donald Trump’s campaign. He would not have been prosecuted if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election and spared Democrats the need to conjure up a reason to explain their defeat - something other than nominating a lousy candidate who stopped campaigning too early.

Manafort’s Ukrainian work was not a secret. By the time of the 2016 campaign, he’d been at it for over a dozen years. He wasn’t alone. Not even close. An array of American political consultants flocked to post-Soviet Ukraine because that’s where the money was. Manafort worked for the Party of Regions, led by Yanukovych. The Obama consultants worked for Yanukovych’s rival, Yulia Tymoshenko — the populist-socialist who sometimes colluded with Putin and other times posed as his opponent. The Clinton consultants lined up with Viktor Yuschenko, Putin’s generally pro-Western bête noire, who was nearly assassinated by Kremlin operatives and who navigated between east and west.

What you may already notice is that Ukraine is complicated. That collusion narrative you’ve been sold since November 8, 2016? It’s a caricature.

The people peddling it know that Americans are clueless about the intricacies of politics in a former Soviet satellite and the grubby bipartisan cesspool of international political consultancy. You are thus to believe that the Party of Regions was nothing but a cat’s paw of Moscow; that Manafort went to work for Yanukovych, the party’s Putin puppet; and that Manafort’s entrée into the Trump campaign was a Kremlin coup, a Russian plot to control of the White House.

Sure. But then . . . where’s the collusion charge? If that’s what happened, where is the special counsel’s big indictment of a Trump–Russia conspiracy, with Manafort at its core?

There is no such case because the collusion narrative distorts reality.

Manafort is not a good guy. He did business and made lots of money with Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs who, largely through their organized-crime connections, made their fortunes in the post-Soviet gangster-capitalism era, when the spoils of an empire were up for grabs.

Manafort got himself deeply in hock with some of these tycoons. He may owe over $25 million to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum magnate. Deripaska, you’ve repeatedly been told, is Putin’s oligarch. That may be true — they are close enough for Putin to have intervened on his behalf when the U.S. government imposed travel restrictions. But former senator Bob Dole intervened on Deripaska’s behalf, too. So did the FBI, when they thought Deripaska could help them rescue an agent detained in Iran. So did Christopher Steele, the former British spy of Steele-dossier infamy.

Having business with Deripaska did not make Manafort a Russian spy. No more than taking $500,000 from a Kremlin-tied bank made Bill Clinton a Russian spy. For a quarter century, the United States government encouraged commerce with Russia, notwithstanding that it is anti-American and run like a Mafia family. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton worked with the Putin regime to develop Moscow’s version of Silicon Valley. Business with Russia was like what the Clintons used to tell us about lies about sex: Everybody does it.

Manafort’s business eventually soured. There is good reason to believe that, once he was installed as chairman of the Trump campaign — when Trump looked like a sure GOP-nomination winner and general-election loser — Manafort tried to monetize his position of influence. He hoped to make himself “whole,” as he put it, by demonstrating that he was once again a political force to be reckoned with — offering Deripaska briefings on the campaign, offering his Ukrainian oligarch benefactors polling data showing that Trump had a real chance to win.

Manafort likes the high life. Running with this crowd helped him live it, and helped him hide most of his money overseas, in accounts he could stealthily access without sharing his millions with the taxman.

But all that said, Manafort was not a Russian agent. Even Robert Mueller, who went after him hammer and tongs, never accused him of that.

When his Ukrainian oligarch sponsors asked him to take Yanukovych on as a client, Manafort was reluctant. Yanukovych was essentially a thug who grew up in the Soviet system. The corruption of the 2004 presidential election, which Yanukovych’s Kremlin-backed supporters tried to steal, ignited Kiev’s Orange Revolution. Manafort, a cold-blooded Republican operative who had cut his teeth fighting off the Reagan revolution in the 1976 Ford campaign, calculated that Yanukovych was damaged goods.

But in the shadowy world of international political consultancy, money talks and scruple walks. Manafort’s oligarch patrons made the Regions reconstruction project worth his while. He remade Yanukovych from the ground up: Learn English, warm to Europe, embrace integration in the European Union, endorse competitive democracy, be the candidate of both EU-leaning Kiev and Russia-leaning Donbas.

This was not a Putin agenda. It was an agenda for Ukraine, a country with a split personality that needs cordial relations with the neighborhood bully to the east as it fitfully lurches westward. Regions was a pro-Russia party, but that is not the same thing as being Russia. What the oligarchs want is autonomy so they can run their profitable fiefdoms independent of Kiev. They leverage Moscow against the EU . . . except when they talk up EU integration to ensure that they are not swallowed up by Moscow. What the oligarchs mainly are is corrupt, which suited Manafort fine.

The unsavory business was successful for a time. Regions returned to power. Yanukovych finally won the presidency and immediately announced that “integration with the EU remains our strategic aim.” It was a triumph for Manafort, but a short-lived one. While Yanukovych rhapsodized about rising to Western standards, he ran his administration in the Eastern authoritarian style, enriching his allies and imprisoning his rivals.

The latter included Tymoshenko, who was prosecuted over a gas deal she had entered when she was prime minister — with Putin. Russia bitterly criticized her prosecution, and when she was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, the Kremlin blasted Yanukovych’s government for pursuing her “exclusively for political motives.” Manafort, meanwhile, continued to airbrush Yanukovych’s image in the West, scheming with lobbyists and a law firm to help him defend the controversial Tymoshenko trial — a scheme abetted by lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who eventually pled guilty to making false statements to Mueller’s investigators.

Yanukovych’s moment of truth came in late 2013. He was poised to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, a framework for integration. Putin furiously turned up the heat: blocking Ukrainian imports, drastically reducing Ukrainian exports, bleeding billions of trade dollars from Kiev’s economy, threatening to cut off all gas supplies and drive Ukraine into default. Manafort pleaded with his client to stick with the EU. Yanukovych caved, however, declining to enter the Association Agreement and making an alternative pact with Putin to assure gas supplies and financial aid.

It was over this decision that the Euromaidan protests erupted. Yanukovych fled the country in early 2014, given sanctuary in Moscow. Subsequently, Regions renounced Yanukovych, blaming him for the outbreak of violence and for looting the treasury. The party disbanded, with many of its members reemerging as the Opposition Bloc, the party to which Manafort gravitated — along with his partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, and his lobbyist associate, W. Samuel Patten. (Like Manafort, Patten has pled guilty to working as an unregistered agent of Ukraine; Kilimnik, who is in Russia, was indicted by Mueller for helping Manafort tamper with witnesses.)

Paul Manafort is a scoundrel. He was willing to do most anything for money - even offering to burnish Putin’s image as he burnished Yanukovych’s. But Manafort was never a Kremlin operative working against his own country, except in the fever dreams of the Clinton campaign’s Steele dossier. And his crimes notwithstanding, he’d be a free man today if Mrs. Clinton had won. Instead, he’ll be sentenced yet again next week. And this time, he’ll get slammed.

Published:3/9/2019 9:56:09 PM
[Ilhan Omar] Omar Throws In the Towel on Obama (John Hinderaker) The arrogance of the Democrats’ first-term socialists, who have now been in Congress for a little under two months, continues to amaze. Ilhan Omar–in the news again, to the dismay of the Democrats’ cooler heads–ripped Barack Obama yesterday, contending in a Politico interview that Obama is just “a pretty face” and that he “got away with murder,” specifically mentioning “caging of kids” at the Mexican border and the “droning of Published:3/9/2019 7:25:20 PM
[Markets] Lindsey Graham Doubles Down On FISA Abuse Probe As House Democrats Fire Up Post-Mueller Investigations

Days after the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee fired off 81 document requests for their post-Mueller investigations (in anticipation of a 'disappointing' Mueller report) - Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham has revived his committee's probe into potential surveillance abuse by the FBI. 

In a Thursday letter to Attorney General William Barr - just three weeks on the job, Graham asked for all FBI and DOJ documents which would explain what steps were taken to verify the Steele dossier before it was used by the FBI to obtain a surveillance warrant on a Trump campaign staffer. 

The FBI relied heavily on Steele’s report to obtain four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Republicans investigated whether the FBI misled the FISA court by relying on the dossier even though its allegations about Page were unverified. They also asserted the FBI failed to tell surveillance court judges that Steele was working on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign on an investigation of Donald Trump. -Daily Caller

Graham also notified Barr that he is investigating the FBI's original decision making process behind opening up investigations of Trump campaign associates in 2016 - including, we assume, the decision to infiltrate the campaign using Stefan Halper - a former Oxford University professor and longtime intelligence asset who was paid over $1 million by the Obama Department of Defense between 2012 and 2018, with nearly half of it surrounding the 2016 US election. 

Furthermore, Graham has requested: 

  • All documents and communications originally shared with the Gang of Eight in May 2018 related to the Russia investigation. 
  • All "FD-302" forms for former DOJ #4 Bruce Ohr and any other individual at the Department, the FBI, or elsewhere in the federal government who received information from individuals outside the Department or the FBI that was used in the Carter Page FISA applications

A "302" serves to "report or summarize" witness interviews involved in FBI investigations - while Ohr's testimony was recently found to have contradicted that of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson.

Read Graham's letter below: 

Published:3/9/2019 2:54:11 PM
[Markets] Beijing Demands Its Own Enforcement Of Any Trade Deal

Now that President Trump's insistence that he and President Xi would need to meet to finalize a sweeping US-China trade deal has been exposed as empty talk - since Beijing absolutely refuses to send Xi all the way to Florida only to risk him returning empty handed - traders are finally being forced to accept the harsh reality: That a US-China trade deal is far from assured.

Trump

As the Wall Street Journal said last night in a report that lays out, in broad strokes, the current state of the talks, Beijing - which has reportedly removed a tentative summit at Mar-a-Lago from Xi's calendar - wants a summit between the leaders of the world's two largest economies to be more of a signing ceremony than a final round of negotiations. Trump's decision to abruptly abandon talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month has opened old wounds dating back to the Clinton administration of political embarrassments suffered at the hands of US presidents dating all the way back to the Clinton administration, as WSJ reminds us.

Looming over the summit negotiations is the history of the late-1990s negotiations over Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization. In 1999, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji traveled to Washington for final negotiations for a WTO deal and came up empty-handed after President Bill Clinton judged it wasn’t the right time politically to conclude a deal, say former advisers of Mr. Clinton.

A humiliated Mr. Zhu faced a chorus of criticism at home that threatened to derail talks.

On Saturday, Bloomberg offered some more details about one of the purported sticking points to a final deal: The issue of enforcement. According to BBG, China wants the US to lift sanctions on $200 billion of Chinese goods (constituting the bulk of the new levies imposed since the dawn of the trade war)...

Tariffs

...while also seeking some mechanism for holding the US accountable for holding up its end of the deal. But the real takeaway here is that Beijing wants Trump to simply trust that it will follow through with the changes promised by the deal.

Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said during a Saturday press conference that enforcement of a deal must be "two way, fair and equal."

Speaking Saturday at a press conference in Beijing, Wang said he “feels hopeful” about the prospects for the negotiations, which are nearing completion amid pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to seal a deal. Wang is China’s deputy international trade representative and also leads the Chinese working team in the trade talks with the U.S.

While U.S. negotiators led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have insisted on a mechanism - that could include a regular schedule of meetings - to enforce the terms of their agreement, that prospect has raised alarm in Beijing. Former high ranking officials have said that the deal will be seen as lopsided unless it also binds the U.S. to address China’s own grievances.

The U.S. and Chinese leaders agreed in December to work toward removing all additional tariffs, Wang said, adding that they’ve made substantial progress in the talks since then. He didn’t elaborate further on the enforcement mechanism or respond to a question on whether he expects that a deal can be signed this month.

But here's the key detail from the story:

Chinese officials have made clear in a series of negotiations with the U.S. in recent weeks that removing levies on $200 billion of Chinese goods quickly was necessary to finalize any deal, according to people familiar with the discussions. But the U.S. wants to continue to wield the threat of tariffs as leverage to ensure China won’t renege on the deal, and only lift the duties fully when Beijing implemented all parts of the agreement.

Of course, Beijing has already broken many promises to past US administrations, particularly on ceasing its cyberespionage activities (they actually increased after Beijing promised the Obama administration that it would cool it). That leaves very little room for trust.

While President Trump tried to gas the markets on Friday by talking up the "very big" spike in stocks that would result from a deal being finalized, if anything, the widening US-China trade deficit revealed earlier this week will only make things more difficult for him. While China has reportedly promised to buy an absurd amount of US agricultural products (and whiskey) to help close the gap, abandoning the US's insistence on enforcement and the other major asks of the China hawks (structural reforms, commitments to curb IP theft, ceasing its cyberespionage efforts, etc.) may risk making him look weak. Add to that the fact that, at this point, the possibility that a deal would result in the market "selling the news", leaves very little upside for just taking whatever deal is presented in hopes of curbing anxieties about the prospect for slowing global growth.

That doesn't mean that a deal won't happen - it just means that we're still a long way from a signing ceremony.

Published:3/9/2019 1:26:13 PM
[Media] Circle of self-ownage COMPLETE! Ilhan Omar’s tweet accusing Politico of distorting her criticism of Obama seems to be missing

"Guess Nancy Pelosi was right..."

The post Circle of self-ownage COMPLETE! Ilhan Omar’s tweet accusing Politico of distorting her criticism of Obama seems to be missing appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/9/2019 10:55:08 AM
[Markets] Syria Accuses US Of Stealing Over 40 Tons Of Its Gold

Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The Syrian National News Agency headlined on February 26th, “Gold deal between United States and Daesh” (Daesh is ISIS) and reported that,

Information from local sources said that US army helicopters have already transported the gold bullions under cover of darkness on Sunday [February 24th], before transporting them to the United States.

The sources said that tens of tons that Daesh had been keeping in their last hotbed in al-Baghouz area in Deir Ezzor countryside have been handed to the Americans, adding up to other tons of gold that Americans have found in other hideouts for Daesh, making the total amount of gold taken by the Americans to the US around 50 tons, leaving only scraps for the SDF [Kurdish] militias that serve them [the US operation].

Recently, sources said that the area where Daesh leaders and members have barricaded themselves in, contains around 40 tons of gold and tens of millions of dollars.

Allegedly, “US occupation forces in the Syrian al-Jazeera area made a deal with Daesh terrorists, by which Washington gets tens of tons of gold that the terror organization had stolen, in exchange for providing safe passage for the terrorists and their leaders from the areas in Deir Ezzor where they are located.”

ISIS was financing its operations largely by the theft of oil from the oil wells in the Deir Ezzor area, Syria’s oil-producing region, and they transported and sold this stolen oil via their allied forces, through Turkey, which was one of those US allies trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government and install a Sunni fundamentalist regime that would be ruled from Riyadh (i.e., controlled by the Saud family). This gold is the property of the Syrian Government, which owns all that oil and the oil wells, which ISIS had captured (stolen), and then sold. Thus, this gold is from sale of that stolen black-market oil, which was Syria’s property.

The US Government claims to be anti-ISIS, but actually didn’t even once bomb ISIS in Syria until Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, and the US had actually been secretly arming ISIS there so as to help ISIS and especially Al Qaeda (and the US was strongly protecting Al Qaeda in Syria) to overthrow Syria’s secular and non-sectarian Government. Thus, whereas Russia started bombing ISIS in Syria on 30 September 2015, America (having become embarrassed) started bombing ISIS in Syria on 16 November 2015. The US Government’s excuse was "This is our first strike against tanker trucks, and to minimize risks to civilians, we conducted a leaflet drop prior to the strike.” They pretended it was out of compassion — not in order to extend for as long as possible ISIS’s success in taking over territory in Syria. (And, under Trump, on the night of 2 March 2019, the US rained down upon ISIS in northeast Syria the excruciating and internationally banned white phosphorous to burn ISIS and its hostages alive, which Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had routinely done to burn alive the residents in Donetsk and other parts of eastern former Ukraine where voters had voted more than 90% for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama’s coupin Ukraine had replaced. It was a way to eliminate some of the most-undesired voters — people who must never again be voting in a Ukrainian national election, not even if that region subsequently does become conquered by the post-coup, US-imposed, regime. The land there is wanted; its residents certainly are not wanted by the Obama-imposed regime.) America’s line was: Russia just isn’t as ‘compassionate’ as America. Zero Hedge aptly headlined “'Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”. Nobody exceeds the United States Government in sheer hypocrisy.

The US Government evidently thinks that the public are fools, idiots. America’s allies seem to be constantly amazed at how successful that approach turns out to be.

Indeed, on 28 November 2012, Syria News headlined "Emir of Qatar & Prime Minister of Turkey Steal Syrian Oil Machinery in Broad Daylight” and presented video allegedly showing it (but unfortunately providing no authentication of the date and locale of that video).

Jihadists were recruited from throughout the world to fight against Syria’s secular Government. Whereas ISIS was funded mainly by black-market sales of oil from conquered areas, the Al-Qaeda-led groups were mainly funded by the Sauds and other Arab royal families and their retinues, the rest of their aristocracy. On 13 December 2013, BBC headlined “Guide to the Syrian rebels” and opened “There are believed to be as many as 1,000 armed opposition groups in Syria, commanding an estimated 100,000 fighters.” Except in the Kurdish areas in Syria’s northeast, almost all of those fighters were being led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian Branch, al-Nusra. Britain’s Center on Religion & Politics headlined on 21 December 2015, “Ideology and Objectives of the Syrian Rebellion” and reported: “If ISIS is defeated, there are at least 65,000 fighters belonging to other Salafi-jihadi groups ready to take its place.” Almost all of those 65,000 were trained and are led by Syria’s Al Qaeda (Nusra), which was protected by the US

In September 2016 a UK official "FINAL REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON COMBATING TERRORIST AND FOREIGN FIGHTER TRAVEL” asserted that, “Over 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to the battlefield to enlist with Islamist terrorist groups, including at least 4,500 Westerners. More than 250 individuals from the United States have also joined.” Even just 25,000 (that official lowest estimate) was a sizable US proxy-army of religious fanatics to overthrow Syria’s Government.

On 26 November 2015, the first of Russia’s videos of Russia’s bombing ISIS oil trucks headed into Turkey was bannered at a US military website “Russia Airstrike on ISIS Oil Tankers”, and exactly a month later, on 26 December 2015, Britain’s Daily Expressheadlined "WATCH: Russian fighter jets smash ISIS oil tankers after spotting 12,000 at Turkish border”. This article, reporting around twelve thousand ISIS oil-tanker trucks heading into Turkey, opened: “The latest video, released by the Russian defence ministry, shows the tankers bunched together as they make their way along the road. They are then blasted by the fighter jet.” The US military had nothing comparable to offer to its ‘news’-media. Britain’s Financial Times headlined on 14 October 2015, ”Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists”. Only America’s allies were involved in this commerce with ISIS — no nation that supported Syria’s Government was participating in this black market of stolen Syrian goods. So, it’s now clear that a lot of that stolen oil was sold for gold as Syria’s enemy-nations’ means of buying that oil from ISIS. They’d purchase it from ISIS, but not from Syria’s Government, the actual owner.

On 30 November 2015 Israel’s business-news daily Globes News Service bannered "Israel has become the main buyer for oil from ISIS controlled territory, report”, and reported:

An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization. The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.

After all, Israel too wants to overthrow Syria’s secular, non-sectarian Government, which would be replaced by rulers selected by the Saud family, who are the US Government’s main international ally.

On 9 November 2014, when Turkey was still a crucial US ally trying to overthrow Syria’s secular Government (and this was before the failed 15 July 2016 US-backed coup-attempt to overthrow and replace Turkey’s Government so as to impose an outright US stooge), Turkey was perhaps ISIS’s most crucial international backer. Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader, had received no diploma beyond k-12, and all of that schooling was in Sunni schools and based on the Quran. (He pretended, however, to have a university diploma.) On 15 July 2015, AWD News headlined "Turkish President’s daughter heads a covert medical corps to help ISIS injured members”. On 2 December 2015, a Russian news-site headlined “Defense Ministry: Erdogan and his family are involved in the illegal supply of oil”; so, the Erdogan family itself was religiously committed to ISIS’s fighters against Syria, and they were key to the success of the US operation against Syrians — theft from Syrians. The great investigative journalist Christof Lehmann, who was personally acquainted with many of the leading political figures in Africa and the Middle East, headlined on 22 June 2014, “US Embassy in Ankara Headquarter for ISIS War on Iraq – Hariri Insider”, and he reported that the NATO-front the Atlantic Council had held a meeting in Turkey during 22-23 of November 2013 at which high officials of the US and allied governments agreed that they were going to take over Syria’s oil, and that they even were threatening Iraq’s Government for its not complying with their demands to cooperate on overthrowing Syria’s Government. So, behind the scenes, this conquest of Syria was the clear aim by the US and all of its allies.

The US had done the same thing when it took over Ukraine by a brutal coup in February 2014: It grabbed the gold. Iskra News in Russian reported, on 7 March 2014, that “At 2 a.m. this morning ... an unmarked transport plane was on the runway at Borosipol Airport” near Kiev in the west, and that, “According to airport staff, before the plane came to the airport, four trucks and two Volkswagen minibuses arrived, all the truck license plates missing.” This was as translated by Michel Chossudovsky at Global Research headlining on 14 March, “Ukraine’s Gold Reserves Secretly Flown Out and Confiscated by the New York Federal Reserve?” in which he noted that, when asked, “A spokesman for the New York Fed said simply, ‘Any inquiry regarding gold accounts should be directed to the account holder.’” The load was said to be “more than 40 heavy boxes.” Chossudovsky noted that, “The National Bank of Ukraine (Central Bank) estimated Ukraine’s gold reserves in February to be worth $1.8 billion dollars.” It was allegedly 36 tons. The US, according to Victoria Nuland (Obama’s detail-person overseeing the coup) had invested around $5 billion in the coup. Was her installed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk cleaning out the nation’s gold reserves in order to strip the nation so that the nation’s steep indebtedness for Russian gas would never be repaid to Russia’s oligarchs? Or was he doing it as a payoff for Nuland’s having installed him? Or both? In any case: Russia was being squeezed by this fascist Ukrainian-American ploy.

On 14 November 2014, a Russian youtube headlined “In Ukraine, there is no more gold and currency reserves” and reported that there is “virtually no gold. There is a small amount of gold bars, but it's just 1%” of before the coup. Four days later, Zero Hedge bannered “Ukraine Admits Its Gold Is Gone: ‘There Is Almost No Gold Left In The Central Bank Vault’". From actually 42.3 tons just before the coup, it was now far less than one ton.

The Syria operation was about oil, gold, and guns. However, most of America’s support was to Al-Qaeda-led jihadists, not to ISIS-jihadists. As the great independent investigative journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva reported on 2 July 2017:

“In December of last year while reporting on the battle of Aleppo as a correspondent for Bulgarian media I found and filmed 9 underground warehouses full of heavy weapons with Bulgaria as their country of origin. They were used by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria designated as a terrorist organization by the UN).”

The US had acquired weapons from around the world, and shipped them (and Gaytandzhieva’s report even displayed the transit-documents) through a network of its embassies, into Syria, for Nusra-led forces inside Syria. Almost certainly, the US Government’s central command center for the entire arms-smuggling operation was the world’s largest embassy, which is America’s embassy in Baghdad.

Furthermore, On 8 March 2013, Richard Spenser of Britain’s Telegraph reported that Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper had reported that “3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia have been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels, largely via Jordan since November. … The airlift of dated but effective Yugoslav-made weapons meets key concerns of the West, and especially Turkey and the United States, who want the rebels to be better armed to drive out the Assad regime.”

Also, a September 2014 study by Conflict Armaments Research (CAR), titled “Islamic State Weapons in Iraq and Syria”, reported that not only east-European, but even US-made, weapons were being “captured from Islamic State forces” by Kurds who were working for the Americans, and that this was very puzzling and disturbing to those Kurds, who were risking their lives to fight against those jihadists.

In December 2017, CAR headlined “Weapons of the Islamic State” and reported that “this materiel was rapidly captured by IS forces, only to be deployed by the group against international coalition forces.” The assumption made there was that the transfer of weapons to ISIS was all unintentional.

That report ignored contrary evidence, which I summed up on 2 September 2017 headlining "Russian TV Reports US Secretly Backing ISIS in Syria”, and reporting there also from the Turkish Government an admission that the US was working with Turkey to funnel surviving members of Iraq’s ISIS into the Deir Ezzor part of Syria to help defeat Syria’s Government in that crucial oil-producing region. Moreover, at least one member of the ‘rebels’ that the US was training at Al Tanf on Syria’s Jordanian border had quit because his American trainers were secretly diverting some of their weapons to ISIS. Furthermore: why hadn’t the US bombed Syrian ISIS before Russia entered the Syrian war on 30 September 2015? America talked lots about its supposed effort against ISIS, but why did US wait till 16 November 2015 before taking action, “'Get Out Of Your Trucks And Run Away’: US Gives ISIS 45 Minute Warning On Oil Tanker Strikes”?

So, regardless of whether the US Government uses jihadists as its proxy-forces, or uses fascists as its proxy-forces, it grabs the gold — and grabs the oil, and takes whatever else it can.

This is today’s form of imperialism.

Grab what you can, and run. And call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption’. And the imperial regime’s allies watch in amazement, as they take their respective cuts of the loot. That’s the deal, and they call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world’. That’s the way it works. International gangland. That’s the reality, while most of the public think it’s instead really “fighting for freedom and democracy and human rights and against corruption around the world.” For example, as RT reported on Sunday, March 3rd, about John Bolton’s effort at regime-change in Venezuela, Bolton said: “I’d like to see as broad a coalition as we can put together to replace Maduro, to replace the whole corrupt regime,’ Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper.” Trump’s regime wants to bring clean and democratic government to the poor Venezuelans, just like Bush’s did to the Iraqis, and Obama’s did to the Libyans and to the Syrians and to the Ukrainians. And Trump, who pretends to oppose Obama’s regime-change policies, alternately expands them and shrinks them. Though he’s slightly different from Obama on domestic policies, he never, as the US President, condemns any of his predecessors’ many coups and invasions, all of which were disasters for everybody except America’s and allies’ billionaires. They’re all in on the take.

The American public were suckered into destroying Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011, Syria in 2011-now, and so many other countries, and still haven’t learned anything, other than to keep trusting the allegations of this lying and psychopathically vicious and super-aggressive Government and of its stenographic ‘news’-media. When is enough finally enough? Never? If not never, then when? Or do most people never learn? Or maybe they don’t really care. Perhaps that’s the problem.

On March 4th, the Jerusalem Post bannered "IRAN AND TURKEY MEDIA PUSH CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUT US, ISIS: Claims pushed by Syrian regime media assert that US gave ISIS safe passage out of Baghuz in return for gold, a conspiracy picked up in Tehran and Ankara", and simply assumed that it’s false — but provided no evidence to back their speculation up — and they closed by asserting “The conspiracies, which are manufactured in Damascus, are disseminated to Iraq and Turkey, both of whom oppose US policy in eastern Syria.” Why do people even subscribe to such ‘news’-sources as that? The key facts are hidden, the speculation that’s based on their own prejudices replaces whatever facts exist. Do the subscribers, to that, simply want to be deceived? Are most people that stupid?

Back on 21 December 2018, one of the US regime’s top ‘news’-media, the Washington Post, had headlined "Retreating ISIS army smuggled a fortune in cash and gold out of Iraq and Syria” and reported that “the Islamic State is sitting on a mountain of stolen cash and gold that its leaders stashed away to finance terrorist operations.” So, it’s not as if there hadn’t been prior reason to believe that some day some of the gold would be found after America’s defeat in Syria. Maybe they just hadn’t expected this to happen quite so soon. But the regime will find ways to hoodwink its public, in the future, just as it has in the past. Unless the public wises-up (if that’s even possible).

Published:3/8/2019 11:20:01 PM
[Politics] Ilhan Omar says Obama ‘got away with MURDER’ because of his ‘pretty face’! Ilhan Omar is so crazy that she even went after Obama for probably the only good thing he did as president – kill terrorists!!! From the New York Post: “We can’t be . . . Published:3/8/2019 9:20:07 PM
[Politics] Ilhan Omar says Obama ‘got away with MURDER’ because of his ‘pretty face’! Ilhan Omar is so crazy that she even went after Obama for probably the only good thing he did as president – kill terrorists!!! From the New York Post: “We can’t be . . . Published:3/8/2019 9:20:06 PM
[Markets] Fake Money's Face Value Deceit

Authored by MN Gordon via EconomicPrism.com,

Shane Anthony Mele stumbled off the straight and narrow path many years ago.  One bad decision here.  Another there.  And he was neck deep in the smelly stuff.

These missteps compounded over the years and also magnified his natural shortcomings.  Namely, that he’s a thief and – to be polite – a moron.  Recently the confluence of these two failings came together like a sewage spill to a river draining through the center of town.

Mele made a dishonest mistake.  He failed to recognize that he’s not the only dishonest soul operating in a dishonest world.  That is, he failed to comprehend the difference between face value and real value.

So it was, with dishonest intentions, that he burgled a rare coin collection with no clue what it was that he’d taken.  To his soft and greedy mind all he saw was a hoard of coins with a face value of One Dollar.  Thus, he redeemed them for cash.  Zero Hedge offers the details:

“After stealing a rare coin collection from an elderly and disabled retiree, Shane Anthony Mele, dumped what their owner said was at least $33,000 worth of collectible coins down a Coin Star machine at a Florida supermarket and collected their face value, receiving about $30 – enough for a couple of 12 packs.”

A Downright Disgrace

Mele, no doubt, is a thief and a moron.  He’s also a thief and a moron that got caught up in something he doesn’t understand.  He may be dishonest.  But the world he’s operating in is also dishonest.

Stealing someone else’s property and then reducing the spoils valued at $33,000 to a payout of about $30 is a remarkable achievement.  Mele’s Coin Star transaction delivered a loss of over 99.9 percent.  But he’s not alone…

The Federal Reserve, in concert with the U.S. Treasury, has been part of an extensive currency debasement program for over a century.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics very own inflation calculator, the Fed has succeeded at reducing the dollar’s value by about 96 percent.  In other words, it takes a dollar today to buy what $0.04 could buy roughly 100 years ago.

This track record of wealth destruction, on a percent basis, is nearly equivalent with Mele’s Coin Star transaction.  However, on a total basis, the Fed’s program to debase the dollar’s value is the greatest act of thievery the world’s every known.

Whereas Mele’s just a thief and a moron, the Fed’s action is taken with the purpose and full knowledge that it’s thieving and transferring wealth to the U.S. government and the big banks.  This, without question, is a downright disgrace.

The Fed’s currency debasement program, in addition to thieving the bank accounts of Americans and dollar holders the world over, is also extremely disruptive to commerce and personal wealth building.  Consider the condition that derived Mele’s face value blooper…

Fake Money’s Face Value Deceit

The Morgan dollar was minted in the U.S. from 1878 to 1904 and again in 1921.  The coin has a face value of $1 – on its tails side it explicitly says One Dollar.  But it has a silver content of 0.7734 ounce.  At today’s silver price, of roughly $15.14 per ounce, the Morgan dollar has a melt value of $11.70.  Of course, collectible Morgan dollars are worth much more.

The point is the Morgan dollar’s real money.  It has real value.  It cannot be created at will.

Over issuance of dollars by the Fed, and the forced use of legal tender, have replaced real money with fake money.  The fake money’s still called dollars.  The One Dollar bill says it is One Dollar.  Yet it’s really just $0.04.  The other $0.96 has been confiscated by the Fed for Washington’s bidding.

Mele, the thief and moron, didn’t stand a chance against the Fed’s dishonest shenanigans.  But, alas, the honest and upright also don’t stand a chance.

Washington’s spending habits, egged on by the Fed, slipped into decay many decades ago.  The decline towards insolvency has accelerated as the thin façade of fiscal rectitude has crumbled.  The national debt is going parabolic.

For example, the national debt doubled from roughly $5.5 trillion at the turn of the new millennium to roughly $11 trillion when President Obama took office.  From there, it doubled again to roughly $22 trillion today.  Over $1 trillion is being added to the debt each year, and we expect we’ll see $2 trillion deficits when the economy slips into decline possible later this year.  Here’s why…

Congress prioritizes the expedient, and reelection, over responsible governance.  Their modus operandi for the last 50 years – or more – has been to kick the can down the road.  To punt the debt problem into the future.

As the economy slows, new stimulus will be piled upon the deficit with reckless abandon.  Nothing but complete collapse will halt the expansion of government and runaway debt growth.

In the interim, like an encounter with a war veteran with missing limbs, fake money’s face value deceit imparts a daily reminder of the wickedness today’s monetary order has wrought.

Published:3/8/2019 7:49:54 PM
[Markets] Government-To-Facebook Pipeline Reveals A Corrupt Mix Of Social Media & The State

Authored by Matt Agorist via TheFreeThoughtProject.com,

The next time someone tells you that "Facebook is a private company" ask them if they know about the dozens of government employees who fill its ranks...

As the Free Thought Project has previously reported, the phrase “Facebook is a private company” is not accurate as they have formed a partnership with an insidious neoconservative “think tank” known as the Atlantic Council which is directly funded and made up of groups tied to the pharmaceutical industry, the military industrial complex, and even government itself. The Atlantic Council dictates to Facebook who is allowed on the platform and who is purged.

Because the Atlantic Council is funded in part by the United States government—and they are making decisions for Facebook—this negates the claim that the company is private.

Since our six million followers and years of hard work were wiped off the platform during the October purge, TFTP has consistently reported on the Atlantic Council and their ties to the social media giant. This week, however, we’ve discovered something just as ominous—the government to Facebook pipeline and revolving door.

It is a telltale sign of a corrupt industry or company when they create a revolving door between themselves and the state. Just like Monsanto has former employees on the Supreme Court and Pharmaceutical industry insiders move back and fourth from the FDA to their companies, we found that Facebook is doing the same thing.

Below are just a few of corrupt connections we’ve discovered while digging through the list of current and former employees within Facebook.

Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy—aka, the man who doles out the ban hammer to anyone he wishes—is Nathaniel Gleicher. Before Gleicher was censoring people at Facebook, he prosecuted cybercrime at the U.S. Department of Justice, and served as Director for Cybersecurity Policy at the National Security Council (NSC) in the Obama White House.

While Facebook may have an interest in seeking out Gleicher’s expertise, this man is an outspoken advocate of tyranny.

After deleting the pages of hundreds of antiwar and pro-peace media and activist outlets in October, last month, Facebook made another giant move to silence. This time, they had no problem noting that they went after pages whose specific missions were “anti-corruption” or “protest” movements. And it was all headed up by Gleicher.

“Some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption,” Gleicher wrote in a blog post.

“We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”

Seems totally legit, right?

The list goes on.

In 2017, as the Russian/Trump propaganda ramped up, Facebook hired Joel Benenson, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama and the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant.

While filling team Zuck with Obama and Clinton advisers, Facebook hired Aneesh Raman, a former Obama speechwriter who now heads up Facebook’s “economic impact programming.”

Highlighting the revolving door aspect of Facebook and the US government is Sarah Feinberg who left the Obama train in 2011 to join Facebook as the director of corporate and strategic communications. She then moved on after and went back to Obama in 2015 to act as the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

David Recordon also highlights the revolving door between Facebook and the government. Recordon was the former Director of IT for Obama’s White House. He was also Engineering Director at Facebook prior to his role at the White House, and returned to the position after the 2016 election. He is currently Engineering Director for the Chan-Zuckerberg initiative.

Starting to see a pattern of political influence here? You should. But just in case you don’t, the list goes on.

Meredith Carden—who, you guessed, came from the Obama administration—joined the Facebook clan last year to be a part of Facebook’s “News Integrity Team.” Now, she’s battling fake news on the platform and as we’ve shown, there is a ridiculous amount of selective enforcement of these so-called “standards.”

In fact, there are dozens of former Obama staffers, advisers, and campaign associates who quite literally fill Facebook’s ranks. It is no wonder the platform has taken such a political shift over the past few years. David Ploufe, Josh W. Higgins, Lauryn Ogbechie, Danielle Cwirko-GodyckiSarah Pollack, Ben Forer, Bonnie Calvin, and Juliane Sun, are just some of the many Facebook execs hailing out of the Obama era White House.

But fret not right wingers, Facebook likes their neocons too.

Jamie Fly, who was a top adviser to neocon Florida Senator Marco Rubio and who started his career in US political circles as an adviser to the George W. Bush administration, actually took credit for the massive purge of peaceful antiwar pages that took place last October.

“They can invent stories that get repeated and spread through different sites. So we are just starting to push back. Just this last week Facebook began starting to take down sites. So this is just the beginning,” Fly said in December.

Fly backs up his words with the fact that he works with Facebook’s arm of the Atlantic Council to ensure those dangerous antiwar folks don’t keep pushing their propaganda of peace and community.

And yes, this list goes on.

Joel David Kaplan is Facebook’s vice president of global public policy. Prior to his major role within Facebook, Kaplan took the place of neocon extraordinaire Karl Rove as the White House Deputy Chief of Staff for George W. Bush. Before that, from 2001 to 2003 he was Special Assistant to the President for Policy within the White House Chief of Staff’s office. Then he served as Deputy Director of the Office of Management And Budget (OMB).

Myriah Jordan was a special policy assistant in the Bush White House, who was hired on as a policy manager for Facebook’s congressional relations team—aka, a lobbyist. Jordan has moved back and forth between the private sector and the US government multiple times over his career as he’s made millions greasing the skids of the state for his corrupt employers.

So there you have it. Facebook, who claims to be a private entity, is quite literally made up of and advised by dozens of members of government. We’re ready for a change, are you?

Published:3/8/2019 5:49:32 PM
[The Blog] Ilhan Omar’s newest target: Barack Obama?

"We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.”

The post Ilhan Omar’s newest target: Barack Obama? appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:3/8/2019 5:49:32 PM
[Democrats] Ilhan Omar: Obama was just a pretty face; “hope and change” was an illusion (Paul Mirengoff) Having escaped condemnation for her anti-Semitic remarks, and indeed having avoided even a straight resolution condemning anti-Semtism itself, Rep. Ilhan Omar has gone on the attack. That’s not surprising, but some might be surprised at the target of her latest attack. This time, it’s not Jews. This time the target is former president Barack Obama. The New York Post reports: Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar ripped former President Barack Obama in Published:3/8/2019 5:18:44 PM
[Media] SELF-OWN: Ilhan Omar releases audio of Politico interview to show she was misquoted, ends up proving she was quoted accurately instead

Rep. Ilhan Omar accused Politico’s Tim Alberta of distorting her words in an article that went live this morning and she posted the audio of the interview to prove it: Exhibit A of how reporters distort words. I’m an Obama fan! I was saying how Trump is different from Obama, and why we should focus on […]

The post SELF-OWN: Ilhan Omar releases audio of Politico interview to show she was misquoted, ends up proving she was quoted accurately instead appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/8/2019 5:18:44 PM
[] Ilhan Omar: Let's Face It, Trump Is Only Continuing The Terrible Policies of Barack Obama Geez, now she's attacking Muslims. https://t.co/7E84vHe3V7— John Ekdahl (@JohnEkdahl) March 8, 2019 Even Barack Obama was a captive of Jewish mind-control rays, opines the illiterate: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) trashed former President Barack Obama in a new profile of... Published:3/8/2019 5:18:44 PM
[Democrats] Democrat Muslim Rep. Omar Calls Barack Obama a ‘Pretty Face’ and Murderer

Minnesota Democrat and Muslim Ilhan Omar went on the attack against Barack Obama this week calling him a "pretty face" who "got away with murder."

The post Democrat Muslim Rep. Omar Calls Barack Obama a ‘Pretty Face’ and Murderer appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/8/2019 3:19:47 PM
[Democrats] Democrat Muslim Rep. Omar Calls Barack Obama a ‘Pretty Face’ and Murderer

Minnesota Democrat and Muslim Ilhan Omar went on the attack against Barack Obama this week calling him a "pretty face" who "got away with murder."

The post Democrat Muslim Rep. Omar Calls Barack Obama a ‘Pretty Face’ and Murderer appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:3/8/2019 3:19:47 PM
[Trump Administration] Trump’s Labor Department Rewrites Obama Rule On Guaranteed Overtime Pay

By Tim Pearce -

OVertime pay

The Labor Department proposed a rule Thursday that would expand guaranteed overtime pay laws over roughly 1.1 million workers. The rule would raise the threshold of overtime pay protection from workers making under $23,660 a year to workers making $35,308 a year, regardless of whether they are paid salary or ...

Trump’s Labor Department Rewrites Obama Rule On Guaranteed Overtime Pay is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:3/8/2019 2:19:46 PM
[World] [Eugene Volokh] Georgia Universities Entitled to Reject Illegal Alien Applicants (Including DACA Recipients)

So holds the Eleventh Circuit, I think quite correctly.

From Wednesday's decision in Estrada v. Becker:

[A] Georgia Board of Regents ... Policy requires Georgia's three most selective colleges and universities to verify the "lawful presence" of all the students they admit. Under the Policy, applicants who received deferred action pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum ("DACA Memo") cannot attend Georgia's selective schools.

Appellants are students who are otherwise qualified to attend these schools, and they filed suit to challenge the Policy. At the heart of their suit is whether they are "lawfully present" in the United States. They say they are lawfully present based on the DACA Memo. Thus, appellants claim the Regents' Policy is preempted by federal law, and they argue the Policy violates their equal protection rights.

The court concluded that the policy was consistent with federal law, and didn't violate the Equal Protection Clause. That strikes me as quite right, for the reasons the court gave.

I should say that illegally coming to a country strikes me as no serious sin; most people who come here illegally just want a better life, and generally work hard to try to get it. Certainly people who were brought here as children weren't at fault for coming here; and while the law may in essence require them to leave, I can certainly see why it would be a hardship for them to leave what for most is the only country they've known. Breaking the law is illegal (whether it involves criminal entry or merely violating civil immigration restrictions), but it doesn't make it particularly immoral. If circumstances were different, I'd feel little moral compunction about illegally immigrating to a country to improve my and my family's lot in life -- not zero moral compunction, but little.

But illegal presence remains illegal presence, even if the President has chosen to exercise his discretion not to enforce the law. The State of Georgia has no obligation, I think, whether under the Constitution or federal law, to spend money to educate people who are illegally here. It may choose to do so, if it thinks that this is the moral or humanitarian or economically wise thing to do; but it has no legal duty to do so, as the Eleventh Circuit holds.

For those who track such things, I should note that the panel consisted of a Ford Court of Appeals appointee, an Obama Court of Appeals appointee, and a Clinton District Court appointee.

Published:3/8/2019 12:17:16 PM
[In The News] Ilhan Omar Trashes Obama On Immigration

By Henry Rodgers -

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar heavily criticized former President Barrack Obama for his stance on immigration, saying he was responsible for the “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border. In an interview with Politico magazine released Friday, Omar also said Obama’s “hope and change” slogan turned out to be a delusion. Omar ...

Ilhan Omar Trashes Obama On Immigration is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:3/8/2019 11:47:29 AM
[Politics] Chicago Veering Leftward One of the signs of the many seismic shifts in American political life is the collapse, at least tentatively, after 88 years, of the Democratic Party machine in Chicago. There is a good deal of celebration in the leftist circles that seem to be sweeping the Democratic Party nationally, as Rahm Emanuel, the quintessence of Clinton and Obama Democrats (he served both presidents in high and close office), is retiring after two terms as mayor. The Left sees this as the rejection and retreat of... Published:3/8/2019 9:47:12 AM
[Markets] "America First": A Stronger Monroe Doctrine

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The previous articles (firstsecond) examined what appears to be a coordinated strategy between Moscow and Beijing to contain the damage wrought by the United States around the world. This strategy’s effectiveness relies heavily on the geographical position of the two countries vis-a-vis the United States and the area of contention. We have seen how the Sino-Russian strategy has been effective in Asia and the Middle-East, greatly stemming American disorder. Moscow and Beijing have less capacity to contain the US and influence events in Europe, given that much depends on the Europeans themselves, who are officially Washington’s allies but are in reality treated as colonies. With the new “America First” doctrine, it is the central and southern parts of the American continent that are on the receiving end of the US struggling to come to terms with the diminishment of its hitherto untrammelled influence in the world.

South and Central American countries blossomed under the reign of socialist or leftist anti-imperialist governments for the first decade of this century. Such terms as “21st-century socialism” were coined, as was documented in the 2010 Oliver Stone documentary film South of the Border. The list of countries with leftist governments was impressive: Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Lula da Silva (Brazil), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua) and Hugo Chávez (Venezuela).

We can establish a close correlation between Washington’s actions since 1989 and the political roller-coaster experienced in South America in the ensuing thirty years.

Washington, drunk on the experience of being the only superpower in the post-Soviet period, sought to lock in her commanding position through the establishment of full-spectrum dominance, a strategy that entails being able to deal with any event in any area of ??the globe, treating the world as Washington’s oyster.

Washington’s endeavor to shape the world in her own image and likeness meant in practical terms the military apparatus increasing its power projection through carrier battle groups and a global missile defense, advancing towards the land and sea borders of Russia and China.

Taking advantage of the US dollar’s dominance in the economic, financial and commercial arenas, Washington cast aside the principles of the free market, leaving other countries to contend with an unfair playing field.

As later revealed by Edward Snowden, Washington exploited her technological dominance to establish a pervasive surveillance system. Guided by the principle of American exceptionalism, combined with a desire to “export democracy”, “human rights” became an enabling justification to intervene in and bomb dozens of countries over three decades, aided and abetted by a compliant and controlled media dominated by the intelligence and military apparatuses.

Central and South America enjoyed an unprecedented political space in the early 2000s as a result of Washington focusing on Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Somalia, Georgia and Ukraine. The Latin Americans exploited this breathing space, with a dozen countries becoming outposts of anti-imperialism within a decade, advancing a strong socialist vision in opposition to free-market fundamentalism.

Both Washington and Moscow placed central importance on South America during the Cold War, which was part of the asymmetric and hybrid war that the two superpowers undertook against each other. The determination by the United States to deny the Soviet Union a presence in the American hemisphere had the world holding its collective breath during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As any student of international relations knows, the first objective of a regional power is to prevent the emergence of another hegemon in any other part of the world. The reason behind this is to obviate the possibility that the new power may venture into other regions occupied by other hegemonic powers, thereby upsetting the status quo. The second primary objective is to prevent access by a foreign power to its own hemisphere. Washington abides by this principle through its Monroe Doctrine, set forth by President James Monroe, with the United States duly expelling the last European powers from the Americas in the early 19th century.

In analyzing the events in South America, one cannot ignore an obvious trend by Washington. While the United States was intent on expanding its empire around the world by consolidating more than 800 military bases in dozens of countries (numbering about 70), South America was experiencing a political rebirth, positioning itself at the opposite end of the spectrum from Washington, favoring socialism over capitalism and reclaiming the ancient anti-imperialist ideals of Simon Bolivar, a South American hero of the late 18th century.

Washington remained uncaring and indifferent to the political changes of South America, focusing instead on dominating the Middle East through bombs and wars. In Asia, the Chinese economy grew at an impressive rate, becoming the factory of the world. The Russian Federation, from the election of Putin in 2000, gradually returned to being a military power that commanded respect. And with the rise of Iran, destined to be the new regional power in the Middle East thanks to the unsuccessful US intervention in Iraq in 2003, Washington began to dig her own grave without even realizing it.

Meanwhile, South America united under the idea of a common market and a socialist ideology. The Mercosur organization was founded in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. But it was only when Venezuela, led by Chavez, became an associate member in 2004 that the organization assumed a very specific political tone, standing almost in direct opposition to Washington’s free-market template.

Meanwhile, China and Russia continued their political, military and economic growth, focusing with particular attention on South America and the vast possibilities of economic integration from 2010. Frequent meetings were held between Russia and China and various South American leaders, culminating in the creation of the BRICS organization (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Brazil, first with Lula and then with Dilma Rousseff, was the unofficial spokesperson for the whole of South America, aligning the continent with the emerging Eurasian powers. It is during these years, from the birth of the BRICS organization (2008/2009), that the world began a profound transformation flowing from Washington’s progressive military decline, consumed as it was by endless wars that ended up eroding Washington's status as a world power. These wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have deeply undermined US military prestige, opening unprecedented opportunities for alliances and future changes to the global order, especially with the rise of Iran’s influence in the region as a counterweight to US imperialism.

China, Russia and the South American continent were certainly among the first to understand the potential of this political and historical period; we can recall meetings between Putin and Chavez, or the presence of Chinese leaders at numerous events in South America. Beijing has always offered high-level economic assistance through important trade agreements, while Moscow has sold a lot of advanced military hardware to Venezuela and other South American countries.

Economic and military assistance are the real bargaining chips Moscow and Beijing offer to countries willing to transition to the multipolar revolution while having their backs covered at the same time.

The transformation of the world order from a unipolar to a multipolar system became a fact in 2014 with the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation following the NATO coup in Ukraine. The inability for the US to prevent this fundamental strategic defeat for Brussels and Washington marked the beginning of the end for the Pentagon still clinging on to a world order that disappeared in 1991.

As the multipolar mutation developed, Washington changed tactics, with Obama offering a different war strategy to the one advanced during the George W. Bush presidency. Projecting power around the globe with bombs, carrier battle groups and boots on the ground was no longer viable, with domestic populations being in no mood for any further major wars.

The use of soft power has always been part of the US toolkit for influencing events in other countries; but given the windfall of the unipolar moment, soft power was set aside in favor of hard power. However, following the failures of explicit hard power from 1990 to 2010, soft power was back in favor, and organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) set about training and financing organizations in dozens of hostile countries to subvert governments by underhanded means (colour revolutions, the Arab Spring, etc.).

Among those on the receiving end of this soft-power onslaught were the South American countries deemed hostile to Washington, already under capitalist-imperialist pressure for a number of years in the form of sanctions.

It is during this time that South America suffered a side effect of the new multipolar world order. The United States started retreating home after losing influence around the globe. This effectively meant focusing once again on its own backyard: Central and South America.

Covert efforts to subvert governments with socialist ideas in the hemisphere increased. First, Kirchner's Argentina saw the country pass into the hands of the neoliberal Macri, a friend of Washington. Then Dilma Rousseff was expelled as President of Brazil through the unlawful maneuvers of her own parliament, following which Lula was imprisoned, allowing for Bolsonaro, a fan of Washington, to win the presidential election.

In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, the successor of Correa, betrayed his party and his people by being a cheerleader for the Pentagon, even protesting the asylum granted to Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London. In Venezuela following Chavez's suspicious death, Maduro was immediately targeted by the US establishment as the most prominent representative of an anti-imperialist and anti-American Chavismo. The increase in sanctions and the seizure of assets further worsened the situation in Venezuela, leading to the disaster we are seeing today.

South America finds itself in a peculiar position as a result of the world becoming more multipolar. The rest of the world now has more room to maneuver and greater independence from Washington as a result of the military and economic umbrella offered by Moscow and Beijing respectively.

But for geographic and logistical reasons, it is more difficult for China and Russia to extend the same guarantees and protections to South America as they do in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We can nevertheless see how Beijing offers an indispensable lifeline to Caracas and other South American countries like Nicaragua and Haiti in order to enable them to withstand Washington's immense economic pressure.

Beijing’s strategy aims to limit the damage Washington can inflict on the South American continent through Beijing’s economic power, without forgetting the numerous Chinese interests in the region, above all the new canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific that runs through Nicaragua (it is no coincidence that the country bears the banner of anti-imperialist socialism) that will be integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Moscow’s objective is more limited but just as refined and dangerous to Washington’s hegemony. A glimpse of Moscow's asymmetrical military power was given when two Russian strategic bombers flew to Venezuela less than four months ago, sending an unmistakable signal to Washington. Moscow has the allies and the technical and military capacity to create an air base with nuclear bombers not all that far away from the coast of Florida.

Moscow and Beijing do not intend to allow Washington to mount an eventual armed intervention in Venezuela, which would open the gates of hell for the continent. Moscow and Beijing have few interlocutors left on the continent because of the political positions of several countries like Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, which far prefer an alliance with Washington over one with Moscow or Beijing. We can here see the tendency of the Trump administration to successfully combine its “America First” policy with the economic and military enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, simultaneously pleasing his base and the hawks in his administration.

Leaving aside a possible strategy (Trump tends to improvise), it seems that Trump’s domestic political battle against the Democrats, declared lovers of socialism (naturally not as strident as the original Soviet or Chavist kind), has combined with a foreign-policy battle against South American countries that have embraced socialism.

The contribution from China and Russia to the survival of the South American continent is limited in comparison to what they have been able to do in countries like Syria, not to mention the deterrence created by Russia in Ukraine in defending the Donbass or with China vis-a-vis North Korea.

The multipolar revolution that is changing the world in which we live in will determine the rest of the century. One of the final battles is being played out in South America, in Venezuela, and its people and the Chavist revolution are at the center of the geopolitical chessboard, as is Syria in the Middle East, Donbass in Central Europe, Iran in the Persian Gulf, and the DPRK in Asia. These countries are at the center of the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world order, and the success of this shift will be seen if these countries are able to resist US imperialism as a result of Moscow and Beijing respectively offering military help and deterrence and economic survival and alternatives.

Russia and China have all the necessary means to place limits on the United States, protecting the world from a possible thermonuclear war and progressively offering an economic, social and diplomatic umbrella to those countries that want to move away from Washington and enjoy the benefits of living in a multipolar reality, advancing their interests based on their needs and desires and favoring sovereignty and national interest over bending over to please Washington.

Published:3/7/2019 11:13:52 PM
[Markets] Obama Wants To Train "A Million Baracks And Michelles" To Create Progressive Utopia

Former President Barack Obama said this week that despite the "challenging times" we face, he remains hopeful that the future will be OK thanks to an army of young activists that will create a progressive utopia, reports the Washington Examiner

"If we could form a network of those young leaders, not just in the United States, but around the world, then we got something," said Obama, adding: "if we can train a million Baracks and Michelles who are running around thinking they can change the world," they will fulfill the 'hope and change' agenda, said Obama - echoing a similar statement he made in Japan last year.

Speaking at a packed arena at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada on Monday, Obama explained how he plans to create a "university for social change" that will act as a jumpoff for young people in the US and around the world who don't believe in the "old institutions." 

"If we train them — if we give them skills, support, financing, media training, spotlights, then they're the ones that are going to carry forward the solutions that we so desperately need," he said. 

Obama also spoke about his two terms as president and his relationship with Canada and its leaders during hour-long-plus discussion with moderator Michael Burns, the former CEO of the Invictus Games.

He didn't talk directly about his successor in the White House, President Trump, or the 2020 election, but he did take a jab at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., provided a clue about how soon he might complete his first book since leaving office, and shared his admiration of Joe Biden, who was his vice president and is now looking at a bid for president. -Washington Examiner

Obama's training center sure sounds a lot like the embattled Obama Presidential Center - a sprawling complex slated for construction in a park beside Lake Michigan, which is currently being sued for an illegal transfer of park land to The Obama Foundation. 

Published:3/7/2019 8:40:03 AM
[World] Former Obama-Era Border Patrol Chief: Trump Is Right About Border Crisis

A former Border Patrol chief who served during the Obama administration says President Trump is absolutely correct that there's a crisis at the southern border.

Published:3/7/2019 8:11:06 AM
[Markets] America And Europe: Growing Differences Over Iran

Authored by Ezra Friedman via GlobalRiskInsights.com,

The United States’ and Poland’s co-hosted conference in Europe was a controversial event. It has united some American allies around President Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-Iran posturing while alienating some others.

The Summit demonstrated divisions amongst European Union member states on the current American administration’s foreign and security policies. It also exhibited new budding relations between various states in the region. Furthermore, it showed the growing polarity between America and the EU on issues concerning the Middle East, especially the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran: Consensus achieved? Or division on display?

The Trump Administration’s publicised Warsaw Middle East Summit intended to unify American allies in pursuit of Middle Eastern peace and security. The two-day eventbrought together representatives from 60 countries where they publicly discussed geopolitical issues facing the region. This included promoting America’s current policy toward Iran. Nonetheless, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denied claims that the conference was singularly aimed at Tehran despite the antagonistic rhetoric employed during the event.

Speeches by the US and high-level allied officials showed a united front through anti-Iran posturing. Both Secretary Pompeo and Vice President Pence railed against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They demanded Europe support the US and withdraw from negotiations. The landmark Obama era agreement placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program while guaranteeing relief from American, European, and UN sanctions. However, not all traditional US allies have supported President Trump’s actions of withdrawal and the subsequent return of sanctions. The makeup of states present at the Summit highlighted these differences. Other than the UK, no other major European ally sent high-level representation. Turkey, a major NATO member and regional force also chose not to attend.

The lack of support for the US’ Iran policy is emphasised as Russia and China, parties to the JCPOA did not engage with the conference agenda. This is a break from the Obama era trend, where they largely endorsed American intentions towards Iran. The unpopularity of President Trump’s policy can further be witnessed by the refusal of the EU delegate to join the summit. The underlying divisions of various states on whether to support or oppose the JCPOA as well as disagreement on how best to engage with the Islamic Republic seem to have led to a lack of tangible results at the end of the meetings.

Europe maintains unity – for now

The Trump Administration’s reinstituted extraterritorial sanctions against Iran have led to uncertainty for many European countries. These states have attempted to remain allied with the US and follow its Middle East policy while also supporting the EU’s united front on the JCPOA. Germany, France, the UK, amongst several others, withstood mounting pressure by the Americans to scrap the deal. Contrary to US’ expectations, the EU has rolled out INSTEX in an attempt to circumvent American sanctions and extend normalcy in relations with Tehran.

It is important to note that Eastern European states continue to diverge from the EU on several critical fronts. These states are increasingly finding affinity with the US in light of security issues vis-à-vis Russia. Poland is a strong example of a state that is trying to encourage an increased domestic presence of American troops while still supporting the EU’s stance on the JCPOA. Policy issues, including the erosion of democratic institutions, and differences on migration policy may create disunity within the EU. Member states may look increasingly to partisan interests over time.

Unknowns

Several factors may upend the status quo. This would allow for the Trump Administration to make some progress on its aggressive anti-Iran policies.

The United Kingdom: There is a possibility that Brexit may result in the UK leaving EU without a deal. In light of this, the UK is attempting to shore up its relationships with non-EU states, especially the US and Israel. If Brexit results in a no deal, the UK could seek to leverage withdrawing from the JCPOA to gain favour with the US. Though this outcome is unlikely as Brexit may be delayed, such a development could upend the current state of affairs.

Turkey-Iran- Russia: During the summit, Turkey, Iran and Russia held trilateral talks on developments in Syria. The three states are united on their opposition to US troops in Syria-albeit for different motivations. Turkey, a NATO member, is increasingly aligned with Russia and Iran on geopolitical issues, placing it at odds with the US, the Gulf States, and Israel. The US withdrawal from Syria is imminent and this will lead to an increased role for Turkey on the ground. Such a development could lead to direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian regime forces. If this were to happen, the current alignment of states risks facing changes. If Iran and Russia violently support of Assad could place Turkey squarely in support of the US anti-Iran policy in the region. However, the likelihood of this is negligible.

Iran’s considerations

The Islamic Republic is currently staying in the JCPOA. Tehran has weighed the stakes and believes it has much to gain under current conditions. The cost-benefit analysis shows that Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional activities are benefiting from the current disagreements between the world powers on the JCPOA. The European states, Russia and China’s continued support for the deal in opposition to the US and the return of sanctions will allow this situation to continue. This has furthered Iran’s standing within the international community. However, Iran is going through an intense economic crisis which is only intensifying with the return of US sanctions. If conditions continue to worsen, Tehran may have to reconsider its position on remaining in the agreement.

Winners and losers

The biggest winner is Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu. It is election season in Israel and Bibi is currently under an immense amount of pressure. Netanyahu has long touted warming ties with Arab Sunni states, especially in the Gulf. Clear agreement on policy issues, specifically on Iran’s role in the region, will likely win him much needed support within the Israeli public as he further brandishes the image of ‘Mr. Security’.

Another major winner is the EU which demonstrated yet again its resilience under American pressure. Under the leadership of Federica Mogherini, the EU continues to maintain its position on the agreement. This is while it continues to keep its member states in line with the official position on the nuclear deal process.  This is no small featgiven the diplomatic blitz of the Trump Administration. The JCPOA is also a winner when reflecting on these developments. An American withdrawal from the deal in May last year had significantly raised the risks of the agreement collapsing. However, its continuedsurvival places it in the winner’s category. The JCPOA survival continues to provide some measurement of hope that military conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is not imminent.

Two major losers are evident. Firstly, the Trump Administration’s Iran policy continues toremain largely unsupported by crucial players needed for its success. Following Warsaw, it is unlikely this is going to change in the short term. Secondly, Arab states who attended may suffer from a public relations crisis at being seen so friendly in public with Israel.

Predictions for the future

In the short to medium term, Iran will likely continue to adhere to the JCPOA. Its continued compliance has allowed Tehran to intensify its powerful ballistic missile program, support proxies and project its influence across the region. This includes the deployment of troops and economic projects. President Trump’s continued insistence on global compliance to US extraterritorial sanctions is causing serious friction between the US and countries around the world; thereby lending the regime in Tehran the legitimacy it covets.

A serious change likely in the status quo would be if the economic crisis in Iran worsens. Such a development would change the calculations of the Iranian government. It can lend domestic hardliners the upper hand in their argument for withdrawal from the agreement. Given the rampant corruption and stagnation in the Iranian economy, it is not an impossibility. When coupled with a severe water crisis and the return of US sanctions, such an outcome is plausible. Nonetheless, the government in Tehran may attempt to continue under current circumstances in an attempt to outlast President Trump who faces reelection in 2020.

Published:3/7/2019 1:08:32 AM
[Markets] Russiagate Grand Wizard Deceives Audience About Assange

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

When it was first revealed in November that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is under secret charges by the Trump administration, I spent the next few days being told by Russiagaters that this was proof that I have been wrong about their demented cold war cult all along, because #MuellerTime is fast approaching. At long last, they vehemently assured me, Assange was going to prison for working with Russia to deprive Queen Hillary of her rightful throne.

None of those people have come back to apologize or admit that they were wrong when subsequent evidence disproved their claims. None of them ever do.

As it turns out, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in a secret case investigating Assange for his 2010 role in the WikiLeaks publication of military war logs and diplomatic cables. Manning served seven years in prison for leaking those documents to the transparency advocacy outlet before her sentence was commuted by President Obama, meaning, obviously, that this sealed case has nothing to do with the 2016 leaks Russiagaters have been fiendishly obsessing over. Indeed, the Washington Post reported yesterday that “U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, say the case is based on [Assange’s] pre-2016 conduct, not the election hacks that drew the attention of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.”

So there you have it. Democrats like Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden who have been cheering for Assange’s arrest have actually been cheering on the Trump administration’s prosecution of a journalist for publishing facts about Bush administration war crimes. They thought they were supporting the agenda to punish Assange for publishing leaks that hurt the Hillary campaign, but in reality they were defending two Republican administrations while helping to manufacture support for a prosecution that would set a devastating precedent for press freedoms throughout the entire world.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Russiagate Grand Wizard Rachel Maddow, you might think she would report the revelation that an unfounded belief held by many of her acolytes has been completely and thoroughly disproven once and for all. If you are a bit more familiar with her, you might assume that she would completely ignore this revelation like she normally does when her conspiratorial ramblings are disproven by facts and evidence. But if you know Rachel really, really well, you might guess what she actually did on her show last night.

That’s right, she flat out lied about it.

On last night’s episode of MSNBC’s most popular show, Maddow blatantly deceived her audience by weaving this story about the Chelsea Manning subpoena into her conspiratorial Russiagate ramblings about Roger Stone, despite those stories having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with one another.

Maddow began by gushing about investigations into Roger Stone’s alleged connections to WikiLeaks, of course not mentioning the fact that the only known interactions between Stone and WikiLeaks consist of WikiLeaks telling Stone to stop lying about having connections to them. Maddow smoothly weaved this into the news that the House Judiciary Committee has formally requested documents pertaining to WikiLeaks (among many other things) from dozens of Trump associates, with a gigantic grin on her face and a tone of immense significance in her voice. Then, without pausing, Maddow began talking about the sealed case against Assange and the Manning subpoena, falsely suggesting that these had something to do with the things she’d just been speaking about.

“And because of the criminal case against Roger Stone, you should also know that today, in federal court in Virginia, little bit of drama,” Maddow said.

“Today in federal court in Virginia, the US attorney himself, the top of that prosecutor’s office, the EDVA US attorney himself, personally turned up in court for a sealed hearing today that appears to be about some sort of legal case potentially involving WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange.”

Maddow then went on to describe November’s revelation via court filing error about Assange’s sealed criminal complaint with her trademarked conspiratorial “you can’t tell me this is a coincidence” histrionics. She then cited a Daily Beast report that former WikiLeaks volunteer David House had accepted an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony before this grand jury, completely omitting the fact that the report explicitly states that this testimony pertained to the 2010 leak drop and not anything to do with 2016.

“Late Thursday, Manning revealed that she’s fighting a subpoena to testify before a grand jury that’s been investigating Julian Assange for nearly nine years,” the Daily Beast article reads in its second paragraph.

“But Manning isn’t the only one being dragged into the aging probe of WikiLeaks’ first big haul. A former WikiLeaks volunteer who was also personal friends with Manning was subpoenaed last May.”

Maddow knew this, and willfully distorted it to fit her narrative.

“So, all of this to say between that court filing error in November, the reporting around that error that suggested that it was weird that he was in that case and it was a mistake but the information was true, and then what we saw today in Virginia, something appears to be happening in federal court that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And this is happening as the president’s longtime advisor Roger Stone goes to trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, allegedly, about his supposed communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign. It happens potentially as he’s going to jail for violating the gag order in that case. It happens as tons of people associated with the president and his campaign are being asked detailed questions by the Judiciary Committee about their interactions with WikiLeaks, including during the campaign, and it happens within a week of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifying before Congress that the president, himself, was personally notified by phone in advance about WikiLeaks’ plans to dump stolen material that Russia hacked from the Democrats during the campaign.”

So she just plain lied. By suggesting that the Virginia grand jury has anything at all to do with Roger Stone’s walking clickbait shenanigans, the House Judiciary Committee’s investigations into possible Trump malfeasance, and Cohen’s testimony that Trump had advance knowledge of the (already publicly announced) upcoming WikiLeaks drops, Maddow knowingly deceived her tinfoil pussyhat-wearing audience into holding out hope that legal proceedings will soon be vindicating their cult.

Maddow then kicked it up into ultra-mega-Super-Saiyan-galaxy-brain Russiavaping by telling her audience not to Google any of the things she was telling them, because they’ll get computer viruses if they try.

“Now I will warn you,” Maddow said with a laugh, “if you are an interested news consumer who is interested in following this part of the story, I will warn you: just about everything that pertains to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Roger Stone is basically un-Googleable. All the online trash that relates to these characters, put your virus protection on. But something does appear to be happening there in federal court.”

Needless to say, this also is completely false. Google algorithms are slanted in favor of mainstream news media, not toward websites that will give you a “virus”, so the top results you get when you type in WikiLeaks or Assange’s name will always be news stories from conventional sites, many of which today refute Maddow’s claim that the Manning subpoena and grand jury have anything to do with the 2016 Trump campaign.

And of course, that’s the point. Narrative management is Rachel Maddow’s job, for which she is extremely well-compensated, and the more isolated she can keep her audience within a tight, narrow echo chamber, the better she can do that job. Rachel Maddow is nothing other than a cold war propagandist, rewarded like all her colleagues for promoting falsehoods to keep mainstream liberals supporting longstanding US government agendas against noncompliant nations while still letting them feel like rebels.

In today’s media landscape, powerful and opaque government agencies are scrutinized and criticized far, far less than a lone political prisoner in an embassy who revealed inconvenient facts about those agencies. The campaign to smear, silence and imprison Assange tells you all you need to know about the governments that WikiLeaks has exposed, and the mass media’s complicity in that campaign tells you all you need to know about them as well.

*  *  *

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Published:3/6/2019 5:37:53 PM
[Politics] DNC Chair bans Fox News from hosting Democratic debates! Here’s more ridiculousness from Democrats trying to make Fox News look like it’s somehow worse than every other MSM media company in the country that sucked up to Obama for eight years. . . . Published:3/6/2019 5:16:34 PM
[Politics] DNC Chair bans Fox News from hosting Democratic debates! Here’s more ridiculousness from Democrats trying to make Fox News look like it’s somehow worse than every other MSM media company in the country that sucked up to Obama for eight years. . . . Published:3/6/2019 5:16:34 PM
[Markets] American Civil War 2: US Media Will Have Only Itself To Blame If All Hell Breaks Loose

Authored by Robert Bridge,

For the first time in years, the drumbeat of civil war has become audible across the United States. The nation looks destined to repeat history thanks to a media that is no longer able to objectively perform its job.

The predominantly left-leaning US media has just entered its third consecutive year of open warfare against Donald Trump. This non-stop assault risks aggravating political passions to the point where ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ snowballs into something completely beyond our ability to control. Like full-blown Civil War.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post, one of most prominent serial producers of partisan agitation, published an article entitled, ‘In America, talk turns to something unspoken for 150 years: Civil War’. The piece, which deftly places Democrats above the fray, opens with the following whiff of grapeshot:

“With the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reportedly nearly complete, impeachment talk in the air and the 2020 presidential election ramping up... there’s talk of violence, mayhem and, increasingly, civil war,” the Bezos-owned paper forewarned.

With a level of audacity and self-righteousness that has become a trademark of the Left, not once did the article float the possibility that just maybe the mainstream media is complicit in the ongoing deterioration of political discourse, or that the Democrats are just as much to blame as the Republicans for the political fallout that now presents a grave risk to the Republic.

As many knowledgeable Americans will openly admit, battle lines have been drawn across the political and cultural frontier. This division is perhaps most conspicuous on social media, where friends and family who disagree with our political worldview get the ‘nuke option’ and are effortlessly vanquished (‘unfriended’) with the push of a button. This is a worrying development. The real danger will come when Americans from both sides of the political divide stop talking and start erecting electronic barriers around their political belief systems. Not even family members are spared from the tumult; just because people share the same bloodline does not automatically mean they share the same political views. America, though still green behind the ears, may understand that fact better than many other countries.

The United States has taken part in its fair share of military conflicts over the years, but its deadliest war to date has been the one that pitted Americans against each other. The so-called Civil War (1861-1865), waged between the North and South over the question of Southern secession from the Union, resulted in the death of some 620,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies (and possibly as high as 850,000, according to other estimates).

Put another way, more Americans died in the Civil War than in all of the country’s other conflicts combined. For a country that has been at war for much of its existence that is a sobering fact.

With that historical footnote in mind, the mainstream media should better appreciate its responsibility for presenting an objective and balanced depiction of modern events. Yet nothing today would suggest that is the case. One need only look at the way it has blotched recent politically charged events – like the Covington High School and Jussie Smollett scandals, not to mention the ‘Russia collusion’ hoax – to say that something is seriously out of whack inside of the Fourth Estate. The muzzled mainstream media has simply lost its mind over Donald Trump and can no longer perform its duties with any discernible amount of objectivity.

Indeed, the US leader continues to serve as a piñata for the agenda-driven media, which takes daily swings at him and his administration – and despite the fact that his popularity remains very high among voters. Only on the fringes of the media world, in the far away land of Fox News and Breitbart, will the reader find level-headed reports on the American president. This is not to suggest, of course, that Trump is beyond criticism. Not at all. There is a lot not to like about the 45th president. At the same time, however, to assume that Trump and his administration is the root of all evil, as the media would lead us to believe, is not only ridiculous, it is outright dangerous.

With no loss of irony, a good example of the media bias against Trump can be found in the very Post article that frets over the outbreak of another Civil War. While everyone knows that it takes two to tango, you would never guess that by reading this piece. In the sheltered world of the Liberal-dominated media, ‘tango’ is a solo event where the political right is portrayed as engaged in a dance with itself, while the political left watches – innocuously, of course – from the sidelines.

Michael Cohen, for example, Trump’s turncoat personal lawyer who committed perjury by lying to Congress, was quoted high in the article as saying“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Now that is certainly rich. Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Washington has been consumed by the Mueller investigation, and amid mindless chatter that Trump is an illegitimate president slated for impeachment. In other words, the last thing that can be said about the Democrats is that they facilitated a “peaceful transition of power.” In fact, they have hobbled Trump and his administration ever since he entered the Oval Office.

Another pro-Liberal voice dragged into the Civil War story was Robert Reich, who served on Barack Obama's economic transition advisory board. The Post linked to an article Reich wrote last year where he posited the fictional scenario where an impeachment resolution against the president is enacted, thus kicking off mass civil strife on the direct command of dear leader.

“Trump claims it's the work of the ‘deep state’”, according to Reich’s febrile imagination. “Sean Hannity of Fox News demands that every honest patriot take to the streets. Right-wing social media call for war. As insurrection spreads, Mr. Trump commands the armed forces to side with the ‘patriots.’”

“The way Mr. Trump and his defenders are behaving, it’s not absurd to imagine serious social unrest,Reich continued. “That’s how low he’s taken us.”

Now that is some world-class chutzpah. In fact, it is the same self-righteous, ingratiating tone that weaves itself throughout the Post article. In keeping with the mainstream media’s non-stop narrative, Trump and the Republicans are blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the country, while the Democrats come off as little angels trying to piece the fractured country back together.

As already mentioned, Donald Trump is certainly not above criticism. Far from it. But for the mainstream media to place all of the blame for the current political malaise at the Republican’s door is about as responsible as lighting up a cigarette inside of a Chinese fireworks factory. The US media has an unmistakable agenda, and that is to make damn sure Trump is not reelected to another term in 2020. To that end, it has shown a devious willingness to betray all journalistic ethics and standards, which has the effect of increasing the political temperature to boiling point. It then points the finger of blame at the political right for the accumulated pile of pent-up tensions, which are ready to ignite at the first spark.

If the mainstream media continues to slavishly serve just one political master over another, it will only have itself to blame for what comes next. Its prejudiced and agenda-based reporting is a disgrace and really nothing short of a bona fide national security threat.

Published:3/6/2019 3:35:53 PM
[Customs, Border and Immigration News] Another Judge Has Ruled Trump’s Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities To Be Illegal

By Jason Hopkins -

A California judge has ruled President Donald Trump cannot withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that harbor illegal aliens, the latest in a string of court defeats against the administration’s effort to crackdown on sanctuary cities. Judge William Orrick III — a Obama-appointed judge serving on the U.S. District Court for the ...

Another Judge Has Ruled Trump’s Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities To Be Illegal is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:3/6/2019 2:06:06 PM
[Markets] Goldman: This Was The Sharpest Rally Since The Financial Crisis... It's Now Over

One can't say they didn't warn you:

  • On December 23, with the S&P points away from a bear market, Steve Mnuchin called the Plunge Protection Team, i.e. President's Working Group on capital markets, with one clear message - stop the plunge.
  • On December 25, Trump pulled an Obama, and told Americans to buy stocks: "We have companies, the greatest in the world, and they’re doing really well," the president told reporters at the White House on Christmas Day. "They have record kinds of numbers. So I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to buy. Really a great opportunity to buy." (Pension funds heard him loud and clear, unleashing the biggest stock buying spree in history the very next day).
  • On January 4, just two weeks after Fed Chair Powell hiked rates by 25bps and said the Fed's balance sheet was on "autopilot", and tightening would continue, the former Carlyle lawyer, sitting between Bernanke and Yellen capitulated, and for the first time said that the Fed would be patient, effectively ending the Fed's rate hike posture.

What has transpired since then is nothing short of breathtaking, with the S&P rebounding from the mid-2,300 to 2,800 (and on same days rising above it), in what Goldman dubbed "one of the sharpest rallies in history." Indeed, as shown below, the rolling 67-day price return of the S&P is the 3rd fastest rally this century, perhaps ever. In other words, there are bear market rallies and then there are bear market rallies, and what we have just experienced was, according to Goldman, "the sharpest rally since the global financial crisis recovery, and sharp valuation re-rating alongside negative earnings revisions"...

... one which was accompanied by one of the largest declines in realized vol since 1928.

Alas, with the S&P now clearly unable to breach 2,800 and stay comfortably above this "quad resistance" level, the rally appears to be over, and as Goldman wrote over the weekend, "there is now a material disconnect between Fed pricing and the S&P 500... as not only are markets pricing no hikes in the next 12 months, but they are pricing a cut in the next 2 years."

Updating this gloomy take, overnight Goldman's Ian Wright doubles down on the bank's bearishness and notes that "the macro backdrop of growth moving down but inflation moving up is far from consistent with a sustained low vol regime, and vol of vol remains high, and so higher volatility will likely return before too long."

Therefore, Goldman thinks periodic corrections are more likely than a sustained bear market (as part of a “skinny and flat” range), and US skew has returned, and as a result the world's most influential FDIC-backed hedge fund think that it is time to start hedging for the coming mean reversion lower.

Published:3/6/2019 12:06:26 PM
[Markets] Regulators Consider Banker Pay Limits As Bonuses Hit Post-Crisis Highs

Jamie Dimon has officially been put on notice: A group of federal regulators staffed by Trump appointees is reportedly taking another look at tightening restrictions on Wall Street executive pay.

According to the Wall Street journal, three bank regulators are discussing whether now would be a good time to revive a crisis-era proposal that would require the biggest banks to delay some executive compensation, and even claw back some of their bonuses if losses start piling up. The three regulators involved, per WSJ, are the Fed, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Surprisingly, some bank executives have warmed to the idea, believing it would be better for such restrictions to be enacted now under Trump than later should Democrats retake the White House.

Dimon

Jamie Dimon

Whether or not the rules are enacted this year or next, executives have probably accepted the fact that, more likely than not, they will take effect at some point: The Dodd-Frank financial oversight law passed in the wake of the crisis requires that curbs on executive pay be enacted. Discussions that took place during the Obama administration were eventually scrapped amid widespread industry opposition.

Spokesmen for the Fed and OCC said their agencies are committed to finishing the rule, while the FDIC didn't comment. The SEC and two other banking regulators would also have a vote on the proposal.

When it comes to executive compensation, much has changed since the crisis. Instead of receiving their bonuses in cash, most executives are paid in stock to keep their interests "aligned" with those of the bank's shareholders. And while their overall compensation hasn't quite returned to pre-crisis highs, as bank profits have climbed (bolstered by President Trump's tax reform law), compensation - particularly bonuses -  has also risen.

Chart

Last year, Jamie Dimon was paid more than $30 million, becoming the first Wall Street executive to earn more than $30 million in a single year since 2007.

The Dodd-Frank law, passed a year later, mandated new rules to limit payouts and more closely align them to firms’ long-term financial health. Pay fell sharply in the postcrisis years, in part because of this backlash and in part because bank profits sank.

As those profits have rebounded, pay is starting to tick back up, although pressure from shareholders has led banks to replace big cash bonuses with more stock awards and performance-based metrics.

When last proposed in 2016, the rules would have required the biggest financial firms to defer payment of at least half of executives’ bonuses for four years, a year longer than common industry practice. It also would have established a seven-year clawback period, in which executives would be required to return their bonuses if their actions hurt the institution or if a firm had to restate financial results.

And already, the regulators are behind the ball: As Bloomberg pointed out, the original Dodd-Frank deadline passed eight years ago. Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles told lawmakers at a recent hearing that he had no schedule for finishing the required rule, but he called it "an important issue, and it’s something that we will be discussing."

Published:3/6/2019 5:34:03 AM
[Markets] Democrats Search For A Crime To Punish Trump And Americans Who Voted For Him

Authored by Sara Carter,

The House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler is a man in search of a crime. Nadler and his colleague House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have moved the conversation from Russian collusion and are now promising to investigate virtually everything connected to President Donald Trump.

Mind you, we the tax payers will be paying for these investigations and it will drag America and the administration into another two years of endless witch hunts.

Yes, a witch-hunt.

Can you imagine if someone despised you so much that all they did day in and day out was search for something, anything, that would get those around you to doubt your intentions. Imagine having to fight every single day of your life against never ending accusations. Even when those accusations are later proven false it won’t matter because the original lie has already been thoroughly disseminated far and wide among the population.

Why are Nadler, D-NY, and Schiff, D-CA, promising these investigations? Because they want to impeach Trump. It’s just that simple. They also want to send a message to the American people: your vote really didn’t matter because in the end it’s Congress that holds the power.

Think about that. There was never any evidence of crime that called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to establish a special counsel. Yet, he did. In fact, he wrote the letter authorizing Trump to fire former FBI Director James Comey. Comey would’ve been fired the first day had Hillary Clinton been president.

However, obstruction charges are at the top of the Nadler’s list of investigations. He also promises to investigate all of Trump’s financial dealings and past business associations.

Nadler and Schiff are creating their own special counsel.

Why? The pair realize that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report will not do the damage they were hoping it would. Both Democratic leaders, supported by their party, realize that Mueller has found no evidence of a conspiracy with the Russians.

It has left believers like Schiff, Nadler and many former Obama Administration officialswho’ve worked diligently over the past several years to destroy Trump, seething.

They do not want to go on the defensive.

Nadler and Schiff don’t want to explain that their narrative has been debunked. They do not want Americans to look too close because in the end what will be discovered is that the crimes they are accusing others of committing are the ones they themselves have committed.

So what do they do? They fish for a crime, use the media to propagate their lies and spread malicious rumors. Those crimes can be anything from obstruction of justice, process crimes or financial crimes. The lawmakers will use the power of America’s purse. They will investigate Trump’s children, those who support him and those who work closely with him at the White House.

However, remember this: It is the American people, liberty and the principals endowed in our Constitution that will pay the heaviest burden.

Nadler announced his probe on Monday into potential “obstruction of justice.” He will lob accusation, after accusation, against the Trump administration and his family. He will seek documents and communications from over 60 individuals connected with the White House. He will look for that needle in a haystack for as long as it takes.

Nadler and Schiff will conduct what they describe as thorough investigations. They will keep these lengthy investigations going to buy time on the clock until they get close to the Democratic National Convention.

Nadler will do so at the cost of our nation. Don’t be fooled. He doesn’t care about the American people or justice. In the end, this all about ‘getting back’ for the Democrats.

Not getting back at Trump but at the American people who voted for Trump. This isn’t about truth and justice – those who oppose Trump don’t care about those fundamental principals.

Nadler is already setting the stage.

“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” said Nadler.

“It’s our job to protect the rule of law.”

This isn’t about the rule of law.

If the rule of law was important to the Democrats, they should be aghast at the abuse of power that has occurred within the Obama Administration.

The weaponization of the intelligence community, leaking of highly classified information to the press, gross negligence in the handling of classified information by Hillary Clinton, unmasking of Americans, malfeasance within the FBI, abuse of power within the Justice Department, plans by Rosenstein to wear a wire to record the president and the proposed plan to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from power.

Instead this is what Nadler is accusing the president of:

“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice...

Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.”

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy said it himself on Monday, “they’re setting a whole new course because there’s no collusion so they want to build something else.”

They do want something else: they want to find a way to coup the president before the eyes of the American people.

Possibly only future historians will truly understand what is happening to our nation. But for now, we sit on a precipice of a divided nation. This division is being egged on by lawmakers who care more about destroying Trump than seeking truth and justice.

The issue that matters most is the rule of law and guiding principals that make our nation great must take precedence.

Without it, the America we know may disappear into the annals of history. If that happens, it’s “we the people” who will have only ourselves to blame.

Published:3/5/2019 11:32:10 PM
[Markets] The Slippage Continues - India Resists Trump On Everything

Authored by Tom Luongo,

With the U.S.’s attempt at regime change in Venezuela going nowhere fast it’s becoming increasingly obvious that major vassals allies aren’t scared of the consequences of defying us.

India, in particular, has been quite clear in its opposition to Trump’s edicts on who they can and cannot trade with. And with Prime Minister Narendra Modi reeling from a corruption scandal it’s clear he isn’t going to give Trump an inch on important trade issues, especially with Modi in full re-election mode.

Not only has India defied the U.S. over buying Iranian oil and Russian S-400 missile defense systems but now they continue to flaunt U.S. sanctions on Venezuela upping its purchases from 400,000 barrels per day to more than 600,000.

The quantity of exports to India has jumped 66 per cent to 620,000 barrels a day and the boost is being driven by refiners like Reliance Industries Ltd and Nayara Energy Ltd, backed by Rosneft, Russia.

Overall though, Venezuela’s crude exports have taken a dip as the US has intensified the sanctions against the Latin American nation’s oil company.

The response from the U.S. was the nearly inconsequential removing India from the Generalized System of Preferences which created tariff-free trade on a number of products between the U.S. and India.

Crying over Spilled Oil

It amounts to $190 million in net benefit to India a year.

The preferential treatment brought India an annual “actual benefit” of just $190 million, he told reporters.

Of the 3,700 products covered, India used the concession for just 1,784, Wadhawan added.

“The benefit to industry is low, U.S. tariffs are already low,” said another government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “GSP is more symbolic of the strategic relationship, not in value terms.”

It’s a 2% tariff reduction folks. It sounds big because it will hit $5.6 billion in trade but in the end it is less than 1% of the trade deficit between the U.S. and India.

Trump is also hitting wayward Turkey with the same stick.

I’m sure Erdogan didn’t even bother to notice.

Let’s put this in context shall we? Even at a heavy discount to current prices ($55 vs. $65 per bbl), India is paying Venezuela over a billion dollars a month.

And that’s part of the reason why India raised its purchases of Venezuelan oil, it’s available at a steep discount. Playing this out a little further, a $10 per barrel discount times 600,000 per month is a $72 million net benefit to India offsetting a large chunk of Trump’s temper tantrum.

Because that’s what this amounts to, a tantrum. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo began a regime change operation that they shouldn’t have to take control of Venezuela’s oil and stick it in the eye of China and Russia who support Maduro financially and politically. Everyone else then has to take sides because in Trump’s mind our allies aren’t supporting us.

Boo freaking hoo.

Allies No More

As has been pointed out numerous times, empires do not have allies, they have vassals. And when the vassals get uppity they need to be slapped down.

But, what happens when they refuse to sit down? What happens when they continue to defy the imperial edicts of the Orange Obama and his Mustachioed Mafiosi?

Exactly what we’re seeing now. Did anyone in the White House really think India and Modi would back down over $190 million in tariffs?

Look, I’m all for removing barriers to trade and for the government to get out of the way of commerce. All government does is pick winners and losers, and this GSP program is a classic example of this.

But, to think it was going to scare India into cutting its own throat economically is simply the height of hubris and, worse, paranoia.

India is a massive energy importer. And all the Trump administration has done is antagonize India over issue after issue.: S-400s, Iranian oil, now Venezuela, destabilizing its relationship with Pakistan and China.

And to make matters worse, Trump’s lack of a coherent foreign policy has alienated India on multiple occasions. Think back to the cancellation of the important 2+2 meeting last year because the North Korea Summit took precedence.

Do you really think that sat well with the very proud Indians? No it didn’t. This was a meeting postponed for over a year already and once the U.S. canceled it again, it told India all it needed to know about its future relationship with Trump.

Moreover, why would anyone spend one minute hoping that Trump will treat them with even a modicum of respect when it comes to trade? He already slapped major tariffs on steel (10%) and Aluminum (25%) and threatened the world with worse if they did any trade with Iran.

The better plan is to expect the worst and prepare accordingly. This is why India was nonplussed when Trump hit back at their refusal to stop buying Venezuelan oil with the only thing he can hurt them with…. essentially nothing.

The Asian Pivot

All this is doing is confirming that the emerging powers of Asia — North, Central, South and East — will coalesce over time around a shared platform of intertwined goals.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan is working hard to defuse the hostilities between it and India. The U.S. foreign policy establishment under John Bolton are freaking out at the idea of detente between India and Pakistan while they are trying to squeeze China and Russia ‘until the pips squeak.’

Trump knows the U.S.’s unipolar moment is behind us, but he can’t let go of it without a fight. That desire is admirable but he would be better served in the long run to bow off the center of the stage gracefully versus the embarrassing us to the point of vilification.

Because that’s the next stage of this. Trump has no real leverage over China in trade talks. If he can’t control emerging powers like India or effect regime change in a basket case like Venezuela, what does he really have to threaten China with?

* *  *

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Published:3/5/2019 8:01:27 PM
[Markets] One Man's Commute Through West Philadelphia: 30 Blocks Of Potholes, Shitholes, & Assholes

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.” ? Thomas Sowell

“The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.” ? Thomas Sowell

My original title for this article was going to be 30 Blocks of Potholes, Shitholes, and Assholes, but I didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of my highbrow readership. The trigger for that title was my morning commute on 34th Street in West Philly near the Philadelphia Zoo. This extremely well-traveled four lane highway resembles a moonscape of craters capable of blowing a tire (which I did a few years ago while turning onto Girard Avenue).

As I swerved through this obstacle course of government incompetence, I reflected upon how Philadelphia was a real shithole city run by Democrat asshole politicians (those not in prison yet). I’ve written dozens of articles about the 30 Blocks of Squalor over the last decade and one thing remains constant – West Philly is still a shithole, occupied by low income, low IQ, low morality, welfare state slaves who continue to vote for the same assholes who have enslaved them in squalor.

I’ve been making a daily trek through the pigsty of West Philly through three presidential administrations (Bush, Obama, Trump) and the mayoral stints of John Street (only 15 associates went to prison for corruption), Michael Nutter (left office with a city pension plan underfunded by $5.7 billion), and Jim “beak nose” Kenney (Mr. Soda tax and under FBI investigation).

Over the course of the last 12 years (and many years prior) the list of Philadelphia politicians shipped off to Federal prison has been endless, including congressman Chaka Fattah, DA Seth Williams, State senator Vince Fumo, councilman Rick Mariano, and now union boss Johnny Dougherty and councilman Bobby Henon. A slew of lesser lights has also been shipped off to the penitentiary. Corruption is the common theme tying all Philly Democrat politicians together. They effortlessly fulfill the roles of ass in this article about holes.

The narrative pushed by the Democrat politicians and the left-wing rag – Phila Inquirer is Philadelphia is rising, attracting new businesses, and is the place to be for nightlife and millennials. Of course, the narrative is bullshit. Facts are always inconvenient to welfare state Democrats, but the ignorance of their constituents is what keeps them in power. The narrative of Philadelphia getting safer is obliterated by the 351 murders in 2018, up 43% since 2013, and the highest level since 2007.

Assaults involving a gun totaled 2,327, up 13% since 2014. There were over 14,000 violent crimes and 63,000 robberies and thefts in 2018. The vast majority of these crimes occur in West and North Philadelphia, as local news stories lead with multiple murders and shootings every night (average of 4 shootings per day). Over 80% of murder victims are young black men, murdered by other young black over drugs.

The population of the US grew from 179 million in 1960 to 309 million in 2010, up 73%, while the population of Philly dropped from 2 million to 1.5 million, a 25% decline. The feckless politicians have been touting how the population has risen by a few thousand since 2010 (probably illegals flocking to a sanctuary city). There are a few “hot” areas in the downtown area for the rich and gentrification sections drawing millennials. A few of my nieces and nephews moved into these “cool” areas of Philly. After being robbed and experiencing the “best” of Philly, they’ve all moved back to the relative safety of Montgomery County.

When a few rich folks dressed in Armani, wearing Rolexes get gunned down while nonchalantly strolling to their favorite 5 star restaurant in the “nice” part of town, the exodus will resume with alacrity. It seems the clueless liberal rich folks don’t consider the fact the armed free shit army can march into their “safe zones” and take what they want. The have nots know where the haves live. And they have no qualms about forcefully acquiring what they feel is their due. Shockingly, tough gun laws are not adhered to by the feral black criminals shuffling in the shadows on the garbage strewn, pothole ridden, mean streets of Philly.

The liberal narrative of a city on the upswing must be flogged incessantly to keep their constituents (aka slaves) docile and ignorant of reality. But, even the liberal press in Philly lets their guard down and admits the truth by accident sometimes. Five years ago, to much fanfare, Obama declared the Mantua section of West Philly a Promise Zone. How uplifting and noble. This designation was going to lead to investment, new businesses, jobs, and unicorns farting rainbows in West Philly.

Reality has been far different than the press releases and I see the reality every day as I drive through this pathetic excuse for a community. The reporter interviews people who have lived in Mantua for decades and they had never even heard the term Promise Zone. But at least someone painted a mural (aka graffiti) on the wall of a dilapidated tenement to let everyone know they were in a promise zone and not a dangerous ghetto.

The reality is that after a ten-year bull market and growing economy, West Philly hasn’t revived or seen any advancement in the lives of its inhabitants. Obama used your tax dollars to build low income housing and zoo parking garages and then more of your tax dollars to repair all the shoddily built low income houses built by incompetent minority owned union construction companies. The $28 million Taj Mahal parking garage is occupied approximately 30% of the year.

You are far more likely to see yellow crime tape in Mantua than a kid carrying a school book or a woman wearing a wedding ring. The only people portraying Obama’s Promise Zone as a success are the “non-profit” grifters who hoover up the Federal handouts and pretend they are helping the community. Now the inconvenient facts never acknowledged by the politicians and liberal activists:

  • Philadelphia’s poverty rate of 25.7% allows it to retain its supreme status as the “poorest big city in America.”

  • The Mantua Promise Zone, a two-square-mile area home to about 30,000 black people, has a poverty rate almost twice the citywide rate, at 50.6%, up from 50.2% in 2014.

  • The neighborhood’s deep poverty rate, defined as 50% below the federal poverty line, also increased – to 32.3% from 31.0% since 2014.

  • The 2016 Mantua unemployment rate was little changed at 12.3% (actually closer to 20% as those classified as Not in the Labor Force rose), more than twice the recent city-wide rate of 5.8%.

  • Mantua median household income in 2016 was $17,969, up slightly from $17,170 when the Promise Zone was announced. Still 70% below the national median.

  • The proportion of local people aged 25-64 with a high school education or higher edged up to 80.1% in 2016 from 79.6% two years earlier. This has been ac