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[Entertainment] See How Shawn Johnson, Tom Brady and More Are Spending 4th of July Shawn Johnson, Andrew EastLight the grill, hop in the pool and get ready to pop some fireworks! It's the 4th of July and some of your favorite stars--including Shawn Johnson, Michelle Obama, Christina Haack...
Published:7/4/2022 1:45:54 PM
[Energy Policy] Green Dreams Dashed (John Hinderaker) This essay by a disillusioned environmentalist is one of the best, and most honest, pieces I have seen in a long time. It can’t have been easy to write: “I wasted 20 years of my life chasing utopian energy.” Here are some highlights, but please do read it all: [B]y 2008, I started to see cracks in my beliefs. The Obama administration had earmarked billions of dollars in federal funding Published:7/1/2022 5:55:21 PM
[World] Supreme Court Reins in the Administrative State in West Virginia v. EPA

The Supreme Court’s decision today in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency is an important brake on the administrative state that has inexorably grown since the New Deal. The Court held that in issuing new emission caps designed to remake the U.S. power generation industry in an Obama era Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection […]

The post Supreme Court Reins in the Administrative State in West Virginia v. EPA appeared first on Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Published:6/30/2022 1:26:49 PM
[Democrats] This Far-Left Activist Was Too Woke for Minneapolis—But Not Obama’s Foundation

Former president Barack Obama has a new top staffer at his foundation—a far-left activist who was ousted from the Minneapolis City Council for supporting an initiative to defund police.

The post This Far-Left Activist Was Too Woke for Minneapolis—But Not Obama’s Foundation appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:6/28/2022 4:22:35 PM
[Markets] Rabo: The Market Endlessly Wonders How Long Until We Cut Rates And Re-start QE Again Rabo: The Market Endlessly Wonders How Long Until We Cut Rates And Re-start QE Again

By Michael Every of Rabobank

Abby Normal

Dr. Frankenstein: “Igor... May I speak to you for a moment?”

Igor: “Of course.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Sit down, won't you?”

Igor: “Thank you.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “No, no. Up here.”

Igor: “Thank you.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Now, that brain that you gave me... was it Hans Delbruck's?”

Igor: “No.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Ah! Good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?”

Igor: “Then you won't be angry?”

Dr. Frankenstein: “I will *not* be angry.”

Igor: “Abby someone.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Abby someone... Abby who?”

Igor: “Abby Normal.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Abby Normal...”

Igor: “I'm almost sure that was the name.”

Dr. Frankenstein: “Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven-and-a-half-foot long, gorilla? Is that what you're telling me?”

Young Frankenstein (1974)

If one does not laugh, one cries at another (Abby) normal day in markets.

Normal, as we saw US 10-year yields rise 7bp back to 3.20% and oil rise around 2%.

Normal, as G7 chair Germany welcomed South Africa’s progress on its ‘Just Energy Transition Partnership’ as it implements 'Stage 4' rolling blackouts.

Normal, as Sri Lanka, already allowing civil servants four-day weeks to grow their own food, suspends fuel sales entirely except for emergency services.

Normal, as the US and EU released a joint statement on European Energy Security that talked of “important, necessary, and immediate steps” and recognized “the enormity of the challenge” - and then promised 1.5m “smart thermostats” for an economy with 445m people. The thermostats really don’t need to be smart. All of them will read “it’s freezing!” this winter. Indeed, yesterday’s Bloomberg article ‘Many Winters Are Coming. Start Saving Energy Now’ is worth quoting in detail:

“The European manufacturing sector is crumbling under the weight of sustained high electricity and natural gas prices. With little prospect of relief, another wave of curtailments and closures looms. And that’s before any rationing of natural gas, potentially later this year, in Germany in the event Russia reduces supply even further. In that scenario, many companies will have no choice but to shut down… The months-long crisis that many industrialists pencilled into their plans has morphed into a years-long problem. The prospect of bleeding cash for a few months, perhaps half a year, or even a year, was one thing; losing money indefinitely is another thing entirely.

For example, an aluminium smelter would lose about $200m annually at current forward prices for electricity and carbon dioxide for the next year. And that’s despite elevated prices for the metal in the markets. Aluminium may be an extreme example, but it’s evidence of the pressures faced by industrialists. In private, European executives say they’ll use the forthcoming quarterly reporting season in mid-July to announce more plant closures. The affected industries will be those with the most intensive energy use: fertilizer, base metals and steel, chemical, ceramic, glass and paper. But increasingly food production will be, too. Heated greenhouses and chicken farms face astronomical energy bills.”

Normal, as someone snarked on Twitter about smiling G7 leaders looking like a terrible boy-band, “It took 14 months to go from ‘Build Back Better’ to ‘There Will Be Food Shortages’”.

Normal, as CNN carries the story, ‘‘Give us a plan or give us someone to blame’: Inside a White House consumed by problems Biden can’t fix’, which says, “Instead of managing an economy in the midst of a natural rotation away from recovery and into a stable period of growth, economic officials are analyzing and modelling worst-case scenarios like what the shock of gas prices hitting $200 per barrel may mean for the economy.”

Normal, as the article quotes a Harvard professor who was economic advisor to President Obama claiming, “There’s no playbook for fixing the supply side of the economy. It’s not like in economic policy school they teach you here are the 12 things to do to rapidly fix the supply side in an economy.” Funny how China manages it, and the US/West used to before neoliberalism.

Normal, as the Dallas Fed survey includes the quotes such as:

  • “As a country, we are not looking at the future and establishing relationships with emerging countries like we should to ease the dependency on Chinese products and services. This will hurt us in the long run.”
  • “Everything we buy and sell comes and goes by truck, if we can get a truck at any price. Inflation will continue until the country is self-sufficient in oil and gas. The current political policy may not change until 2024. Therefore, inflation will be our consistent companion for a while, then stagflation!”
  • "We’ll all be lucky to have a job with two more years of this disaster."
  • "You can’t ignore the economic fundamentals leading to a likely recession, and the administration is either stubborn or as paralyzed as a deer in headlights."

Normal, as the US starts to ramp up rare earth production yet hears, “Now that Western governments are saying we need our own supply chains, you think China is just going to say, ‘Thanks for being a great customer for the last 30 years?’… No. They are going to fight to protect their market share.”  Which one can apply to almost every product the US buys from them.

Normal, as the US continues to drain its strategic petroleum reserve, which is now at its lowest level since 1986, and yet energy prices remain sky high, as President Macron tells President Biden the UAE and Saudis cannot pump any more oil. Imagine if there were a major war and the US really needed that oil.

Normal, as Russia attacked a Ukrainian shopping centre, killing at least 13 people.

Normal, as NATO announced it will increase its rapid reaction forces on high readiness from 40,000 to 300,000. Now? In 10 years? Whose troops? Europe is long on pencil-pushers but short on people used to dealing the sharp end of anything else. This hugely expensive action suggests the alliance may be heeding rumours that Moscow may attack the Baltic states, a geopolitical development which could make what we have seen so far look like a sideshow for markets.

Normal, as NATO’s first strategy statement for a decade will apparently designate China as a “systemic challenge”, inflaming Beijing: yet that is still a compromise pushed by France and Germany, who insist on stressing a "willingness to work on areas of common interest", and the Czechs and Hungarians won’t accept "strategic convergence" between China and Russia. Meanwhile, US China expert Matt Pottinger this week noted you cannot turn a great white shark into a bottle-nosed dolphin by treating it sweetly, and that even pre-Covid China refused to cooperate on disease-control efforts without the US making concessions on the South China Sea.

Normal, as China tried to set up a meeting with 10 Pacific Island leaders right before they hold their own meeting on 14 July, which, after Western pushback via the ‘Blue Pacific’ plan, seems far less likely to turn their vast maritime region ‘red’.

Normal, as The Hill carries another withering article asking, ‘Biden’s White House: Are we nearing ‘The Klain Mutiny’?’, noting, “The Biden administration is losing the short game when it comes to US national security, and President Biden’s upcoming July trip to the Middle East is yet another case study in how the White House keeps misfiring and setting the president up for failure. It would be one thing if the administration’s missteps were merely unforced errors, but they are not. They appear to be systemic in nature - they begin with chief of staff Ron Klain and extend to national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.”

It goes on to claim that Klain’s “glaring lack of substantive national security or foreign policy experience, either at a Cabinet or command level, is proving problematic… 17 months into Biden’s presidency, it is clear that Klain, Sullivan, Blinken, and Austin are incapable of prioritizing, let alone apolitically balancing, the two - with US national security (and Biden) paying an unacceptable price…. Biden must recognize he is now a war president and that he must make changes to his national security team to reflect this reality.”

Normal, as Twitter debates Hunter Biden having had his bank account frozen after trying to make payments to escorts with Russian accounts, related snark that “I yearn for simpler times, like when a President’s child secured Chinese trademarks for a business venture”,  and a voicemail emerges of President Biden telling Hunter, “I think you’re clear,” regarding business dealings with a figure dubbed the ‘spy chief of China’ – almost none of which is worthy of mainstream media attention.

Normal, as most of the market endlessly wonders how long until we cut rates and re-start QE again, and this backdrop magically goes away: “Did you hear? We won the war because the Fed cut rates!”

It’s all Abby Normal: give me a sed-a-give until someone with real brains emerges.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:00
Published:6/28/2022 10:12:47 AM
[Markets] Explosive Report Confirms Expansive CIA 'Stealth Network' Of Spies & Commandos Inside Ukraine Explosive Report Confirms Expansive CIA 'Stealth Network' Of Spies & Commandos Inside Ukraine

A fresh New York Times report has confirmed what many already suspected - that the CIA is still very active inside Ukraine - especially with training as well coordinating weapons among its Ukrainian allies. The Times report details "a stealthy network of commandos and spies rushing to provide weapons, intelligence and training," based on US and European intelligence officials with knowledge of the operations. The report says Ukrainian forces are reliant on this Western clandestine network "more than ever" while outgunned by the Russians.

This comes months after investigative journalist Zach Dorfman's bombshell expose in Yahoo News which detailed how a prior 8-year long CIA covert program to train Ukrainian fighters helped provoke the Russian invasion. The only question that remained after that March report was the extent to which the CIA was still active in the ongoing fight against the invading Russians.

Special operations file image, via Sandboxx

The new Times reporting confirms that the US program is not only active and ongoing, but appears larger in scale than previously thought given the CIA's close cooperation with the Ukrainians is happening both inside and outside the country, across multiple locations.

"Much of this work happens outside Ukraine, at bases in Germany, France and Britain, for example. But even as the Biden administration has declared it will not deploy American troops to Ukraine, some C.I.A. personnel have continued to operate in the country secretly, mostly in the capital, Kyiv, directing much of the vast amounts of intelligence the United States is sharing with Ukrainian forces, according to current and former officials," the report indicates.

It appears much the CIA's work in Ukraine is centered on coordinating intelligence with local intel services and counterparts. "Few other details have emerged about what the C.I.A. personnel or the commandos are doing, but their presence in the country — on top of the diplomatic staff members who returned after Russia gave up its siege of Kyiv — hints at the scale of the secretive effort to assist Ukraine that is underway and the risks that Washington and its allies are taking," NY Times continues.

Over the weekend, Canada also has been reported to have special operations troops inside Ukraine. This was reported months ago, but with a separate NYT report offering further confirmation. "Both CTV and Global News reported in late January that Canadian special forces had been sent to Ukraine, but National Defence did not comment on that deployment," Ottawa Citizen writes Sunday. Back in January, a full two months before the invasion, Yahoo News disclosed the following:

The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.

The CIA-trained forces could soon play a critical role on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russian troops have massed in what many fear is preparation for an invasion. The U.S. and Russia started security talks earlier this week in Geneva but have failed thus far to reach any concrete agreement.

While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it, said a former senior intelligence official in touch with colleagues in government.

These details further seems to authenticate those voices which have been insisting NATO and Russia are in fact waging a proxy war inside Ukraine, a label which Biden administration officials have previously sought to deny and downplay.

Writes NY Times further of the international nature of Ukraine's on-the-ground assistance, "At the same time, a few dozen commandos from other NATO countries, including Britain, France, Canada and Lithuania, also have been working inside Ukraine."

But the report adds the caveat that "The United States withdrew its own 150 military instructors before the war began in February, but commandos from these allies either remained or have gone in and out of the country since then, training and advising Ukrainian troops and providing an on-the-ground conduit for weapons and other aid, three U.S. officials said."

This strongly suggests the very scenario that many long suspected: that CIA operations which had gone on for eight years in Ukraine didn't wind down or cease upon the Feb.24 start of the Russian invasion, but only increased and were ramped up. Of course, the same goes for the Pentagon's special operations presence inside the country and along its Western borders, particularly in Poland.

On Sunday, the Kremlin underscored angrily that even as such clandestine programs are made public via deliberate "leaks" to the media, Washington has refused to answer simple questions regarding Western operatives and mercenaries inside Ukraine - also after a couple of American fighters were recently captured.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday:

"As [Russian Ambassador to London Andrey] Kelin said, they [Western countries] are writing some provocative, boorish things. They don’t want to answer the question we ask about their activities."

She charged the West with only seeking to perpetuate the conflict, saying, "They are sparing no effort so that the conflict in Ukraine continued as long as possible. We remember what US 43rd President George Bush Jr said: Ukraine’s mission is to kill as many Russians as possible.... They have endowed Ukraine and the Kiev regime with this duty.

"They are using (Ukraine - TASS) as an instrument and the entire logistics are centered round that - weapons supplies, sending people, anything to keep the conflict burning, as [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson told [French President Emmanuel] Macron today, to prevent the settlement of this situation. Otherwise, their plan will fail," Zakharova said according to TASS.

Tyler Durden Sun, 06/26/2022 - 19:00
Published:6/26/2022 6:09:02 PM
[] Are Pro-abortion Leftists Really This Stupid or Just Disingenuous? Published:6/26/2022 10:46:29 AM
[Markets] "It's Infuriating": DC Democrats In Chaos, Demand Biden Act On Abortion "It's Infuriating": DC Democrats In Chaos, Demand Biden Act On Abortion

Democrats are seething with rage over Friday's 6-3 majority decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, sending the question of abortion rights back to the state-level.

"The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives," read the opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito.

Pro-abortion protesters sprung to action, deploying posters which read "Bans off my Body" and other slogans.

Hours after the news broke, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called the decision "illegitimate," and encouraged people to get "into the streets" to protest.

Her call for what we're sure will be 'mostly peaceful' protests prompted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) to accuse the Democrat of 'launching an insurrection,' adding "Any violence and rioting is a direct result of Democrat marching orders."

"I will explain this to you slowly: exercising our right to protest is not obstruction of Congress nor an attempt to overturn democracy," AOC replied, to which Greene asked AOC why she won't support pardons for Julian Assange or Edward Snowden, why she is "a shill for the MIC (military industrial complex) funding war in Ukraine," or "are you too busy organizing baby killing riots?"

Behind the carnival tent curtain, DC insiders are furious and are demanding that the Biden administration DO SOMETHING!

"It’s infuriating. What the hell have we been doing?" one Democratic strategist told The Hill. "Why are we not talking about this every single day? Why hasn’t Biden made this the issue for Democrats? If we don’t step up, we’ve got ourselves to blame."

Since a leaked draft of the gut-punching Supreme Court opinion surfaced in early May, Democrats have said they wanted to see more guidance from Biden. But the president has been consumed by domestic issues including record-high inflation and the latest mass shootings in the country, in addition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Democrats say Biden must do more to lead and fire up the base if he hopes to get Democrats to turn out this fall.  

 “A more forceful stance would be welcome from the rank and file,” said William Galston, who chairs the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program. -The Hill

On Friday, Biden delivered a weak address from the White House, at one point struggling to find the words to describe the moment before spitting out: "It's a - it just - it just stuns me," even though the Supreme Court decision leaked on May 2 and everybody knew this was likely coming.

And what is Biden's solution? After acknowledging that he's 'severely limited' in what he can do as president, he encouraged Democrats to vote for pro-abortion candidates in November's midterms that would make it possible to pass a 'right to abortion' law.

"This decision must not be the final word. My administration will use all of its appropriate, lawful powers, but Congress must act," said Biden, adding: "This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot, the right to privacy, liberty, equality, they're all on the ballot. ... And with your vote, you can act. You can have the final word. This is not over."

Former President Obama, who in 2009 said that legislation to codify abortion rights into federal law was 'not the highest legislative priority' - tweeted: "Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) ripped the "GOP’s dark and extreme goal of ripping away women’s right to make their own reproductive health decisions."

Democratic strategist Joel Payne said, very strategically: "What’s challenging for the president is that all the other domestic challenges have prevented him from having the political capital to galvanize the base in a moment like this."

"Because of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party & their supermajority on the Supreme Court, American women today have less freedom than their mothers. Radical Republicans are now charging ahead with their crusade to criminalize health freedom." Of course, unborn American children have more protections than they've had in 50 years.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the decision "one of the darkest days our country has ever seen."

And the Attorney General, Merrick Gardland, got extremely political, saying in an official statement: "The Justice Department strongly disagrees with this Court's decision. This decision deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States."

Kamala?

Another Democratic strategist suggested that failure to employ Kamala Harris as the face of the White House's pro-abortion stance is a huge mistake.

"How great would that have been?" the anonymous strategist asked rhetorically. "Why aren’t we deploying someone who understands and could speak to this moment from the heart?"

Eh...

Young Democrats feel abandoned

According to HIT Strategies' chief researcher Roshni Nedungadi, 75% of young voters 18-34 years-old want abortion rights protected and don't believe Democrats are doing enough to fight back on the issue.

"They feel that they need to see Democrats and the White House fighting for them," she said, adding "I really think as many voices as they can have, saying the same thing over and over again."

The question for November; can Democrats rally the base around the right abort an unborn child, after a summer of 'mostly peaceful protests'?

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 20:00
Published:6/25/2022 7:26:06 PM
[] Here's a woman either upset over Supreme Court's decision or resisting an exorcism Published:6/25/2022 5:25:07 PM
[The Week In Pictures] The Week in Pictures: Liberal Hubris Edition (Steven Hayward) The cunning and contingency of history played out in magnificent style this week. If the left hadn’t lionized “Notorious RGB” and let her celebrity get to her head, maybe she would have stepped down when President Obama wanted her to retire back in 2014. If Harry Reid hadn’t been so desperate to protect the administrative state at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals that he decided to end the Senate Published:6/25/2022 5:46:09 AM
[Politics] Michelle Obama rallies youth after Roe struck down: 'This is not the future you chose'

Viola Davis, Jessica Biel, Michelle Obama, Ariana DeBose and other celebrities and politicians react to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade on Friday.

Published:6/24/2022 3:53:39 PM
[World] Key Words: ‘People will die’ vs. ‘courageous and correct’: Democrats and Republicans react to Roe v. Wade reversal Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama and others respond to the Supreme Court overturning the constitutional right to abortion access
Published:6/24/2022 12:38:13 PM
[Markets] The Federal Bureau Of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring An Alarming Number Of FBI Agents The Federal Bureau Of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring An Alarming Number Of FBI Agents

Authored by Alan MacLeod via Mint Press News,

Twitter has been on a recruitment drive of late, hiring a host of former feds and spies. Studying a number of employment and recruitment websites, MintPress has ascertained that the social media giant has, in recent years, recruited dozens of individuals from the national security state to work in the fields of security, trust, safety and content.

Chief amongst these is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is generally known as a domestic security and intelligence force. However, it has recently expanded its remit into cyberspace. “The FBI’s investigative authority is the broadest of all federal law enforcement agencies,” the “About” section of its website informs readers. “The FBI has divided its investigations into a number of programs, such as domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence [and] cyber crime,” it adds.

For example, in 2019, Dawn Burton (the former director of Washington operations for Lockheed Martin) was poached from her job as senior innovation advisor to the director at the FBI to become senior director of strategy and operations for legal, public policy, trust and safety at Twitter. The following year, Karen Walsh went straight from 21 years at the bureau to become director of corporate resilience at the silicon valley giant. Twitter’s deputy general counsel and vice president of legal, Jim Baker, also spent four years at the FBI between 2014 and 2018, where his resumé notes he rose to the role of senior strategic advisor.

Meanwhile, Mark Jaroszewski ended his 21-year posting as a supervisory special agent in the Bay Area to take up a position at Twitter, rising to become director of corporate security and risk. And Douglas Turner spent 14 years as a senior special agent and SWAT Team leader before being recruited to serve in Twitter’s corporate and executive security services. Previously, Turner had also spent seven years as a secret service special agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

When asked to comment by MintPress, former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley said that she was “not surprised at all” to see FBI agents now working for the very tech companies the agency polices, stating that there now exists a “revolving door” between the FBI and the areas they are trying to regulate. This created a serious conflict of interests in her mind, as many agents have one eye on post-retirement jobs. “The truth is that at the FBI 50% of all the normal conversations that people had were about how you were going to make money after retirement,” she said.

Many former FBI officials hold influential roles within Twitter. For instance, in 2020, Matthew W. left a 15-year career as an intelligence program manager at the FBI to take up the post of senior director of product trust at Twitter. Patrick G., a 23-year FBI supervisory special agent, is now head of corporate security. And Twitter’s director of insider risk and security investigations, Bruce A., was headhunted from his role as a supervisory special agent at the bureau. His resumé notes that at the FBI he held “[v]arious intelligence and law enforcement roles in the US, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East” and was a “human intelligence and counterintelligence regional specialist.” (On employment sites such as LinkedIn, many users choose not to reveal their full names.)

Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2021 Jeff Carlton built up a distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps, rising to become a senior intelligence analyst. Between 2014 and 2017, his LinkedIn profile notes, he worked for both the CIA and FBI, authored dozens of official reports, some of which were read by President Barack Obama. Carlton describes his role as a “problem-solver” and claims to have worked in many “dynamic, high-pressure environments” such as Iraq and Korea. In May 2021, he left official service to become a senior program manager at Twitter, responsible for dealing with the company’s “highest-profile trust and safety escalations.”

Other former FBI staff are employed by Twitter, such as Cherrelle Y. as a policy domain specialist and Laura D. as a senior analyst in global risk intelligence.

Many of those listed above were active in the FBI’s public outreach programs, a practice sold as a community trust-building initiative. According to Rowley, however, these also function as “ways for officials to meet the important people that would give them jobs after retirement.” “It basically inserts a huge conflict of interest,” she told MintPress. “It warps and perverts the criminal investigative work that agents do when they are still working as agents because they anticipate getting lucrative jobs after retiring or leaving the FBI.”

Rowley – who in 2002 was named, along with two other whistleblowers, as Time magazine’s Person of the Year – was skeptical that there was anything seriously nefarious about the hiring of so many FBI agents, suggesting that Twitter could be using them as sources of information and intelligence. She stated:

Retired agents often maintained good relationships and networks with current agents. So they can call up their old buddy and find out stuff… There were certainly instances of retired agents for example trying to find out if there was an investigation of so and so. And if you are working for a company, that company is going to like that influence.”

Rowley also suggested that hiring people from various three-letter agencies gave them a credibility boost. “These [tech] companies are using the mythical aura of the FBI. They can point to somebody and say ‘oh, you can trust us; our CEO or CFO is FBI,’” she explained.

Twitter certainly has endorsed the FBI as a credible actor, allowing the organization to play a part in regulating the global dissemination of information on its platform. In September 2020, it put out a statement thanking the federal agency. “We wish to express our gratitude to the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force for their close collaboration and continued support of our work to protect the public conversation at this critical time,” the statement read.

One month later, the company announced that the FBI was feeding it intelligence and that it was complying with their requests for deletion of accounts. “Based on intel provided by the FBI, last night we removed approximately 130 accounts that appeared to originate in Iran. They were attempting to disrupt the public conversation during the first 2020 U.S. Presidential Debate,” Twitter’s safety team wrote.

Yet the evidence they supplied of this supposed threat to American democracy was notably weak. All four of the messages from this Iranian operation that Twitter itself shared showed that none of them garnered any likes or retweets whatsoever, meaning that essentially nobody saw them. This was, in other words, a completely routine cleanup operation of insignificant troll accounts. Yet the announcement allowed Twitter to present the FBI as on the side of democracy and place the idea into the public psyche that the election was under threat from foreign actors.

Iran has been a favorite Twitter target in the past. In 2009, at the behest of the U.S. government, it postponed routine maintenance of the site, which would have required taking it offline. This was because an anti-government protest movement in Tehran was using the app to communicate and the U.S. did not want the demonstrations’ regime-change potential to be stymied.

A carnival of spooks

The FBI is far from the only state security agency filling Twitter’s ranks. Shortly after leaving a 10-year career as a CIA analyst, Michael Scott Robinson was hired to become a senior policy manager for site integrity, trust and safety.

The California-based app has also recruited heavily from the Atlantic Council, a NATO cutout organization that serves as the military alliance’s think tank. The council is sponsored by NATO, led by senior NATO generals and regularly plays out regime-change scenarios in enemy states, such as China.

The Atlantic Council has been associated with many of the most egregious fake news plants of the last few years. It published a series of lurid reports alleging that virtually every political group in Europe challenging the status quo – from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and UKIP in Great Britain to PODEMOS and Vox in Spain and Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece – were all secretly “the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.” Atlantic Council employee Michael Weiss was also very likely the creator of the shadowy organization PropOrNot, a group that anonymously published a list of fake-news websites that regularly peddled Kremlin disinformation. Included in this list was virtually every anti-war alternative media outlet one could think of – from MintPress to Truthout, TruthDig and The Black Agenda Report. Also included were pro-Trump websites like The Drudge Report, and liberatarian ventures like Antiwar.com and The Ron Paul Institute.

PropOrNot’s list was immediately heralded in the corporate press, and was the basis for a wholescale algorithm shift at Google and other big tech platforms, a shift that saw traffic to alternative media sites crash overnight, never to recover. Thus, the allegation of a huge (Russian) state-sponsored attempt to influence the media was itself an intelligence op by the U.S. national security state.

In 2020, Kanishk Karan left his job as a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research (DFR) Lab to join Twitter as information integrity and safety specialist – essentially helping to control what Twitter sees as legitimate information and nefarious disinformation. Another DFR Lab graduate turned Twitter employee is Daniel Weimert, who is now a senior public policy associate for Russia – a key target of the Atlantic Council. Meanwhile, Sarah Oh is simultaneously an Atlantic Council DFR Lab non-resident senior fellow and a Twitter advisor, her social media bio noting she works on “high risk trust and safety issues.”

In 2019, Twitter also hired Greg Andersen straight from NATO to work on cybercrime policy. There is sparse information on what Andersen did at NATO, but, alarmingly, his own LinkedIn profile stated simply that he worked on “psychological operations” for the military alliance. After MintPress highlighted this fact in an article in April, he removed all mention of “psychological operations” from his profile, claiming now to have merely worked as a NATO “researcher.” Andersen left Twitter in the summer of last year to work as a product policy manager for the popular video platform TikTok.

Twitter also directly employs active army officers. In 2019, Gordon Macmillan, the head of editorial for the entire Europe, Middle East and Africa region was revealed to be an officer in the British Army’s notorious 77th Brigade – a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. This bombshell news was steadfastly ignored across the media.

Positions of power and control

With nearly 400 million global users, there is no doubt that Twitter has grown to become a platform large and influential enough to necessitate extensive security measures, as actors of all stripes attempt to use the service to influence public opinion and political actions. There is also no doubt that there is a limited pool of people qualified in these sorts of fields.

But recruiting largely from the U.S. national security state fundamentally undermines claims Twitter makes about its neutrality. The U.S. government is the source of some of the largest and most extensive influence operations in the world. As far back as 2011, The Guardian reported on the existence of a massive, worldwide U.S. military online influence campaign in which it had designed software that allowed its personnel to “secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.” The program boasts that the background of these personas is so convincing that psychological operations soldiers can be sure to work “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” Yet Twitter appears to be recruiting from the source of the problem.

These former national security state officials are not being employed in politically neutral departments such as sales or customer service, but in security, trust and content, meaning that some hold considerable sway over what messages and information are promoted, and what is suppressed, demoted or deleted.

It could be said that poachers-turned-gamekeepers often play a crucial role in safety and protection, as they know how bad actors think and operate. But there exists little evidence that any of these national security state operatives have changed their stances. Twitter is not hiring whistleblowers or dissidents. It appears, then, that some of these people are essentially doing the same job they were doing before, but now in the private sector. And few are even acknowledging that there is anything wrong with moving from big government to big tech, as if the U.S. national security state and the fourth estate are allies, rather than adversaries.

That Twitter is already working so closely with the FBI and other agencies makes it easy for them to recruit from the federal pool. As Rowley said, “over a period of time these people will be totally in sync with the mindset of Twitter and other social media platforms. So from the company’s standpoint, they are not hiring somebody new. They already know this person. They know where they stand on things.”

Is there a problem?

Some might ask “What is the problem with Twitter actively recruiting from the FBI, CIA and other three-letter agencies?” They, after all, are experts in studying online disinformation and propaganda. One is optical. If a Russian-owned social media app’s trust, security and content moderation was run by former KGB or FSB agents and still insisted it was a politically neutral platform, the entire world would laugh.

But apart from this, the huge influx of security state personnel into Twitter’s decision-making ranks means that the company will start to view every problem in the same manner as the U.S. government does – and act accordingly. “In terms of their outlooks on the world and on the question of misinformation and internet security, you couldn’t get a better field of professionals who are almost inherently going to be more in tune with the government’s perspective,” Rowley said.

Thus, when policing the platform for disinformation and influence campaigns, the former FBI and CIA agents and Atlantic Council fellows only ever seem to find them emanating from enemy states and never from the U.S. government itself. This is because their backgrounds and outlooks condition them to consider Washington to be a unique force for good.

This one-sided view of disinformation can be seen by studying the reports Twitter has published on state-linked information operations. The entire list of countries it has identified as engaging in these campaigns are as follows: Russia (in 7 reports), Iran (in 5 reports), China (4 reports), Saudi Arabia (4 reports), Venezuela (3 reports), Egypt (2 reports), Cuba, Serbia, Bangladesh, the UAE, Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria, Honduras, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Armenia, Spain, Tanzania, Mexico and Uganda.

One cannot help noticing that this list correlates quite closely to a hit list of U.S. government adversaries. All countries carry out disinfo campaigns to a certain extent. But these “former” spooks and feds are unlikely to point the finger at their former colleagues or sister organizations or investigate their operations.

The Cold (cyber)war

Twitter has mirrored U.S. hostility towards states like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba, attempting to suppress the reach and influence of their state media by adding warning messages to the tweets of journalists and accounts affiliated with those governments. “State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” it noted.

In a rather bizarre addendum, it explained that it would not be doing the same to state-affiliated media or personalities from other countries, least of all the U.S. “State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the U.K. or NPR in the U.S. for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy,” it wrote. It did not explain how it decided that Cuban, Russian, Chinese or Iranian journalists did not have editorial independence, but British and American ones did – this was taken for granted. The effect of the action has been a throttling of ideas and narratives from enemy states and an amplification of those coming from Western state media.

As the U.S. ramps up tensions with Beijing, so too has Twitter aggressively shut down pro-China voices on its platform. In 2020, it banned 170,000 accounts it said were “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China,” such as praising its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic or expressing opposition to the Hong Kong protests, both of which are majority views in China. Importantly, the Silicon Valley company did not claim that these accounts were controlled by the government; merely sharing these opinions was grounds enough for deletion.

The group behind Twitter’s decision to ban those Chinese accounts was the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a deeply controversial think tank funded by the Pentagon, the State Department and a host of weapons manufacturers. ASPI has constantly peddled conspiracy theories about China and called for ramping up tensions with the Asian nation.

ASPI - The Gov’t-Funded Conspiracist Think Tank Now Controlling Your Social Media Feed

Perhaps most notable, however, was Twitter’s announcement last year that it was deleting dozens of accounts for the new violation of “undermining faith in the NATO alliance.” The statement was widely ridiculed online by users. But few noted that the decision was based upon a partnership with the Stanford Internet Observatory, a counter-disinformation think tank filled with former spooks and state officials and headed by an individual who is on the advisory board of NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. That Twitter is working so closely with organizations that are clearly intelligence industry catspaws should concern all users.

Not just Twitter

While some might be alarmed that Twitter is cultivating such an intimate relationship with the FBI and other groups belonging to the secret state, it is perhaps unfair to single it out, as many social media platforms are doing the same. Facebook, for example, has entered into a formal partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, whereby the latter holds significant influence over 2.9 billion users’ news feeds, helping to decide what content to promote and what content to suppress. The NATO cutout organization now serves as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a Facebook press release. Anti-war and anti-establishment voices across the world have reported massive drops in traffic on the platform.

The social media giant also hired former NATO Press Secretary Ben Nimmo to be its head of intelligence. Nimmo subsequently used his power to attempt to swing the election in Nicaragua away from the leftist Sandinista Party and towards the far-right, pro-U.S. candidate, deleting hundreds of left-wing voices in the week of the election, claiming they were engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” When these individuals (including some well-known personalities) poured onto Twitter, recording video messages proving they were not bots, Twitter deleted those accounts too, in what one commentator called a Silicon Valley “double tap strike.”

An April MintPress study revealed how TikTok, too, has been filling its organization with alumni of the Atlantic Council, NATO, the CIA and the State Department. As with Twitter, these new TikTok employees largely work in highly politically sensitive fields such as trust, safety, security and content moderation, meaning these state operatives hold influence over the direction of the company and what content is promoted and what is demoted.

Likewise, in 2017, content aggregation site Reddit plucked Jessica Ashooh from the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force to become its new director of policy, despite the fact that she had few relevant qualifications or experience in the field.

Jessica Ashooh: The Taming of Reddit and the National Security State Plant Tabbed to Do It

In corporate media too, we have seen a widespread infiltration of former security officials into the upper echelons of news organizations. So normalized is the penetration of the national security state into the media that is supposed to be holding it to account, that few reacted in 2015 when Dawn Scalici left her job as national intelligence manager for the Western hemisphere at the Director of National Intelligence to become the global business director of international news conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Scalici, a 33-year CIA veteran who had worked her way up to become a director in the organization, was open about what her role was. In a blog post on the Reuters website, she wrote that she was there to “meet the disparate needs of the U.S. Government” – a statement that is at odds with even the most basic journalistic concepts of impartiality and holding the powerful to account.

Meanwhile, cable news outlets routinely employ a wide range of “former” agents and mandarins as trusted personalities and experts. These include former CIA Directors John Brennan (NBC, MSNBC) and Michael Hayden (CNN), ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (CNN), and former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend (CBS). And news for so many Americans comes delivered through ex-CIA interns like Anderson Cooper (CNN), CIA-applicants like Tucker Carlson (Fox), or by Mika Brzezinski (MSNBC), the daughter of a powerful national security advisor. The FBI has its own former agents on TV as well, with talking heads such as James Gagliano (Fox), Asha Rangappa (CNN) and Frank Figliuzzi (NBC, MSNBC) becoming household names. In short, then, the national security state once used to infiltrate the media. Today, however, the national security state is the media.

Social media holds enormous influence in today’s society. While this article is not alleging that anyone mentioned is a bad actor or does not genuinely care about the spread of disinformation, it is highlighting a glaring conflict of interest. Through its agencies, the U.S. government regularly plants fake news and false information. Therefore, social media hiring individuals straight from the FBI, CIA, NATO and other groups to work on regulating disinformation is a fundamentally flawed practice. One of media’s primary functions is to serve as a fourth estate; a force that works to hold the government and its agencies to account. Yet instead of doing that, increasingly it is collaborating with them. Such are these increasing interlocking connections that it is becoming increasingly difficult to see where big government ends and big media begins.

Tyler Durden Thu, 06/23/2022 - 22:20
Published:6/23/2022 9:32:36 PM
[2020 Election] This is Joe Biden’s administration in a nutshell

  It is the general consensus that a recession is coming. Obama Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says ‘My best guess is that a recession is ahead.’ 60% of CEO’s globally think a recession is coming. Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon think a recession is coming. Some think a recession will come in 2023 and not 2022. […]

The post This is Joe Biden’s administration in a nutshell appeared first on Flopping Aces.

Published:6/21/2022 2:50:41 AM
[Uncategorized] Obama and Clinton Would Rather Have 12 Year Old Girl Be Victim Instead of Hero

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been advocating for much stricter gun control.  If they had their way, no American citizen, except law enforcement and military, would...

The post Obama and Clinton Would Rather Have 12 Year Old Girl Be Victim Instead of Hero appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:6/11/2022 8:53:24 PM
[Uncategorized] Former Obama Campaign Manager Slams AOC for Endorsing Primary Challenge to DCCC Chair

"If we lose house it’s because of dumb sh*t like this"

The post Former Obama Campaign Manager Slams AOC for Endorsing Primary Challenge to DCCC Chair first appeared on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion.
Published:6/9/2022 10:53:55 AM
[World] Biden DOJ Brings Back Obama-era Slush Funds

Merrick Garland has revoked a Trump-era rule prohibiting the redirection of corporate settlement money to third-party organizations.

The post Biden DOJ Brings Back Obama-era Slush Funds appeared first on The American Conservative.

Published:5/30/2022 6:53:08 PM
[Markets] Gun Rights Are More Important Than False Security And Appeasing Leftists Gun Rights Are More Important Than False Security And Appeasing Leftists

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.us,

If there is one Holy Grail target that the political left obsesses over more that anything else, it is getting their hands on the 2nd Amendment and molding it to their will or erasing it forever.

The pursuit of American gun rights is paramount to them, beyond critical race theory, beyond gender politics, even beyond the abortion debate. The problem for them is that ever since the Obama era they have consistently hit a brick wall in terms of convincing the general public to give another inch of ground when it comes to gun control.

To be sure, there are many reasons for this that coincide.

First, the credit crash of 2008 opened many people’s eyes to the possibility that the economic systems we take for granted today could disappear tomorrow. Gun rights were no longer a matter of “tradition,” but a matter of necessity.

If the system breaks down and emergency services are overwhelmed or disappear then the only person you can rely on to protect your family is you. Mortal realities always win over emotional and reactionary demands. In other words, the benefits of individual self protection greatly outweigh any potential risks of criminality or abuse.

Second, the advent of the covid mandates, lockdowns and the blatant attempts to implement vaccine passport tyranny upon half the population of this country yet again reinforced the idea that gun rights are more important than ever. Without the unified refusal to comply by conservatives and some moderate Americans, it is highly likely that our nation would be in the same situation as China is right now – A pointless cycle of lockdowns, authoritarian denial of basic services for people that refuse to submit to a highly experimental mRNA vaccine, and even worse supply chain disruptions and financial instability than we already have.

Make no mistake, the reason the US is mostly free from these draconian conditions today is because of the continued existence of the 2nd Amendment and an armed citizenry. Without these things, there is no longer any obstacle to enforcing whatever unconstitutional provisions the establishment wants.

Third, with the advent of the BLM riots, inflationary pressures and rising crime rates, there has been a renewed interest in gun ownership in the US among normies. It’s not just a conservative trend, many democrats have suddenly taken an interest also.

There is very little chance that increased gun restrictions are going to happen with the approval of the public. The only way it could even be attempted is through executive order, and many millions of Americans will simply say ‘no’, just as they did with the vaccine passports.

And, let’s be clear about what is really going on: The intention of political elites and the left is not “reasonable gun control.” Their purpose is indeed confiscation.

Incrementalism is the name of the game. Lets not forget what we saw with the covid passports – At first they claimed that there were no plans to institute anything like a vaccine passport system. They said this was “conspiracy theory.” Then, not more than a year later Biden tried to enforce proof of vaccination through executive order. Suddenly, it wasn’t conspiracy theory anymore.

The same strategy has been attempted with gun rights in the past, and they will try to do it again. As with every other Western nation that has restricted gun ownership down to almost nothing, they start with the “scary” semi-auto weapons and work their way down until you have nothing left. Or, until only people with considerable money have the ability to purchase a firearm (which is the case through most of Europe).

I suspect that leftists are not fully opposed to the idea of gun ownership as they often pretend to be. I think they would actually like to retain their own guns if possible, they just don’t want people like you and I to have them. Selective gun confiscation would be their ideal, which is the same exact strategy used by the Nazis, who selectively outlawed gun ownership for Jewish citizens and anyone politically opposed to the Third Reich but let all other Germans keep their weapons.

I would note that whenever gun crimes and mass murders are committed by people that are ideologically opposed to conservatives, the media and leftists often conveniently stop caring about taking action. They only seem to care when the crime can be associated with their political enemies.

We all know that leftists constantly argue that conservatives are inherently dangerous. It only takes one more step for them to claim that conservative thought is in itself a “mental illness” and that our guns should be taken by default. But let’s talk about REAL mental illness for a moment, shall we?

Let’s talk about recent active shooters like Payton Gendron with bizarre political and ideological beliefs that have nothing to do with conservative principles. Democrats like AOC and Chuck Schumer immediately tried to link Gendron, the Buffalo grocery store shooter, to conservatives and the Republican party. Yet, in only a few days time they were suddenly silent about the whole event and the media was oddly quiet. But why?

As it turns out, Gendron’s philosophies were entirely socialist, with tinges of fascism and communism within the same framework. In fact, Gendron stated on multiple occasions that he hated conservatives and identified himself as an “eco-fascist.” He also had a history of reports concerning his mental health and safety. The media’s focus on “replacement theory” was a clear distraction from the real issue at hand. Their assertion was that if you are critical of illegal immigration, then you are automatically a racist and share an ideological boat with people like Payton Gendron. But then, their narrative fell apart when it became obvious that Gendron was actually anti-conservative.

In the case of Salvador Ramos, details are still emerging about the Texas school shooter and his affiliations, but some information has been leaked despite the media’s quick move to control the narrative. For example, Ramos is not the white conservative monster the leftists need to fulfill their narrative requirements. Photos are also in circulation allegedly taken from his social media accounts which suggest he was transgendered and identified as “they/them.” I’ll stress here though that his social media accounts have been completely scrubbed and right now there is no way to confirm that this claim is true. Why his accounts were removed so quickly is not clear, but surely we will know more in the next couple of days.

Leftists are swiftly moving to refute any possibility that Ramos was transgendered; maybe they are right, maybe not. They were also very quick to deny that Darrell Brooks Jr., the mass killer that ran down a parade of people with his car in Waukesha, WI, was a supporter of BLM. But, as it turned out initial reports by internet sleuths were correct. Suddenly, leftists were fielding arguments that he was “pushed” to commit the crime by “institutional racism.”

If it turns out that Ramos did in fact identify as trans, then the media message will surely change once again. I have no doubt there will be a move to defend Ramos as a tragic figure, rather than a monster, and the blame will be placed on the state of Texas and their legislative actions to stop transgender policies from invading their public school system.

The point is, there is no connection between gun rights supporters or conservatives and gun crime as leftists often claim. I can find just as many if not more incidences of mass murder perpetrated by leftists.

The common thread between all of these killers and events is not guns or gun rights. Rather, it is blatant signs of mental illness and ideological zealotry. The media will not address this issue, and political puppets like Joe Biden will not address it either. Remember, the goal is gun confiscation, not public safety. If they actually cared about public safety then the mental illness connection would not be ignored.

It is also important to point out that such tragedies are not limited to the US as some gun grabbers would like you to believe. Numerous mass murder incidences have taken place in Europe and Asia despite strict gun control. Many people have forgotten the mass murder of French citizens in Paris in November of 2015 by Islamic militants with AK47s. Or, how about the mass killing of Spanish citizens by Muslim terrorists in Barcelona in 2017 using a moving truck?

Another factor which is almost always present during mass murder events is that most of them occur in gun free zones; places where carrying by law abiding citizens is denied or frowned upon. If we are going to address the issue of mass murder, we cannot ignore the commonalities of mental illness and gun free areas. The existence of guns in civilian hands is not the problem, if it were then mass murders would be a daily occurrence in every community in the country. However, this does not stop leftists from trying to exploit every tragedy as an opportunity to attack gun rights.

They don’t care about nuance or honest solutions, they just want guns out of the hands of people they don’t like. The establishment also wants guns out of public hands for obvious reasons; it makes it much easier to erode other parts of the constitution when the 2nd Amendment is no longer a deterrent. Joe Biden argues that Americans “need to stand up to the gun lobby” in the wake of the Texas shooting, but the gun lobby has nothing to do with these events either. The biggest gun lobby in the US is the American people standing in defense of their freedoms, and they have committed no crime.

At bottom, no gun owner or gun rights advocate is to blame for what happened in New York or Texas this past week. We didn’t commit the crimes, but the assertion is that we should be punished anyway. Well, I’m not going to allow that, and millions of conservatives and liberty minded people are not going to allow it. The appeal for new gun control measures and confiscation is aimed at the political left, and it is designed to make them feel better about the reality of tragedy. It’s a false silver bullet solution (no pun intended). It doesn’t address the real causes of mass violence, it only makes us more vulnerable to it.

Frankly, I don’t care if leftists feel better, or feel like they accomplished something when they did not. I also know that increased gun control is exciting to many of them simply because it goes against the values of people they hate – i.e. conservatives. The fact is this: No matter what tragedy arises, our right to self defense overall is more important than appeasing the emotions of the moment. We won’t be giving up our guns. It’s not going to happen. They think we will capitulate given enough threats or enough pressure, and they are wrong. It will not end well for them.

Other solutions need to be explored because the path to a revision or erasure of the 2nd Amendment, whether by legislation or by executive order, is nothing more than a path to civil war. It’s time to move on from the foolish notion that taking away guns from everyone (or just the people we disagree with politically) solves the underlying causes of mass murder. It doesn’t remove the motivation, nor does it even remove the means, it only sets the stage for a conflict that leftists will find impossible to win.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Wed, 05/25/2022 - 23:40
Published:5/25/2022 10:54:14 PM
[] Obama's Fed Chief Has Dire Warning for Biden Published:5/17/2022 11:53:24 AM
[] MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace says January 6 made Vladimir Putin's 'minor incursion' into Ukraine easier Published:5/10/2022 5:54:23 AM
[Culture] Combat Journalism: Ten Years of the Washington Free Beacon, 2012-2022

The Washington Free Beacon celebrated its ten-year anniversary in February. To mark the occasion, we collected our best reporting from the past decade in a new book, Combat Journalism, now available on Amazon. In it you'll find the pieces that made us laugh, the reports that ended careers, and the news writing that best captures the spirit of the Free Beacon, from the Obama years through today's Great Awokening. Below you'll find my foreword, and you can read our ombudsman Biff Diddle's review of the collection here.

The post Combat Journalism: Ten Years of the Washington Free Beacon, 2012-2022 appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:5/9/2022 12:54:44 AM
[2016 Election] Two judges appointed by two Presidents protect two very different things

  This is a story about two judges- Robert R. Summerhays and Christopher Cooper. Summerhays was appointed by Donald Trump while Cooper was appointed by Barack Obama. They have handed down two rulings with very different perspectives and it says a lot about why they were appointed. Summerhays granted a temporary restraining order halting Biden […]

The post Two judges appointed by two Presidents protect two very different things appeared first on Flopping Aces.

Published:4/26/2022 4:25:47 PM
[Satire] ANOTHER OBAMA FAILURE: Netflix Implodes Days After Release of Obama Nature Documentary

Just days after a nature documentary hosted by former president Barack Obama launched on Netflix, the streaming company is in shambles, with its shares in freefall.

The post ANOTHER OBAMA FAILURE: Netflix Implodes Days After Release of Obama Nature Documentary appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:4/20/2022 3:25:36 PM
[Left Column] Al Roker Frets to Obama That Ukraine Is Distracting From Climate Agenda

NBC’s Today All Day streaming channel, Roker fretted: “...climate is one of those things that gets pushed down when things happen. For example, now we’ve got Ukraine and there’s talk about, ‘Let’s ramp up production of fossil fuels because, you know, inflation, higher gas prices.’ Do you worry that that’s gonna push back the initiative?”

Obama desperately tried to connect the two issues: "Well, interestingly, when we see what’s happened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it argues for us redoubling our efforts to wean ourselves off fossil fuels."

Published:4/15/2022 7:25:40 PM
[Markets] Taylor Swift, Lebron James' Tax Info Exposed In Latest ProPublica IRS Leak Taylor Swift, Lebron James' Tax Info Exposed In Latest ProPublica IRS Leak

Ever since ProPublica published the first reports based on its leaked stash of "top secret" IRS files that were apparently leaked to the investigative media organization (how, or by whom, remains unclear), liberals and conservatives have reacted very differently, as Liberals reacted with outrage at the supposedly absurdly low rates paid by America's richest, while conservatives decried the leaks as the latest example of IRS corruption (remember back in the good 'ol days of the Obama Administration when the agency was caught discriminating against conservative groups by disproportionately targeting them for audits?)

Fast forward nine months, and the Biden Administration has rolled out its 'billionaires minimum tax' in its budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year. Meanwhile nobody has been punished for the leaks (although a handful of Senate Republicans have been demanding answers).

At any rate, on Wednesday ProPublica decided it was time to revive the pressure on America's richest (conveniently just over a week after Elon Musk, one of the key subjects in the leaks, became embroiled in a controversy after becoming Twitter's largest shareholder) with its latest report based on the leaked, top-secret files.

This time, they have expanded the list of financially 'outed' wealthy people to include not just the uber-rich billionaire oligarchs like Jeff Bezos, but popular athletes and entertainers like Lebron James and Taylor Swift - and even noted Oscar-winning actor and environmentalist George Clooney.

The report starts by pointing out that to make it on the list, one needs to report $110 million or more in taxable income during the years covered by the leaks.

Here are a few more factoids from the report:

  • Each of the top 11 averaged over $1 billion in annual income between 2013 to 2018. The typical American would have to work for 25,000 years to earn just $1 billion (although they would need to work a lot less hard if they had invested in bitcoin).
  • Among the top 400, certain groups of people stood out. Tech billionaires made up 10 of the top 15 incomes.
  • About a fifth of the top 400 earners were managers of hedge funds, making them the largest professional group. Private equity fund founders were also heavily represented.
  • Heirs are also heavily represented, with 11 heirs of Walmart founders Sam and Bud Walton and four of Amway founder Richard DeVos included.
  • Much of the base information is similar to previous reports (although the tax figures paid were slightly higher in terms of percentage of overall income, as represented by PP). Collectively, the top 400 paid an average tax rate of 22% from 2013 to 2018.

But in case numbers aren't really your thing, ProPublica included a welter of helpful graphics in its report.

By the far the most 'helpful' is this representation of the top earners' income vs. that of the top 1% and the top 5%.

Source: ProPublica

As for which industry pays the lowest rate of all, it's not finance, or oil and gas, or even real estate: it's Big Tech!

Source: ProPublica

And in case all that wasn't enough to leave readers (justifiably) infuriated, here's a classic chart comparing the growth of the wealthiest ( driven by investment gains, which have been pumped by years of Fed-induced monetary support) to the working stiffs.

Source: ProPublica

Of course, if Michael Burry is right, then this situation could dramatically shift - and fast.

As America's wealthiest await the next round of leaks (who's to say how many will see their sensitive financial information exposed next time?), we can't help but wonder, given their immense political clout, will the fact that personal tax data belonging to Taylor Swift and Lebron James perhaps influence some more Democratic politicians to take a more serious look at this leak?

Remember how Swift reacted when somebody she didn't like purchased her masters?

Tyler Durden Wed, 04/13/2022 - 11:06
Published:4/13/2022 10:26:51 AM
[Markets] Biden's Sister Blames Trump For Hunter Biden's Legal Problems Biden's Sister Blames Trump For Hunter Biden's Legal Problems

Authored by Frank Fang via The Epoch Times,

President Joe Biden’s younger sister defended Hunter Biden on April 11, claiming that her nephew’s legal issues are just political attacks by former President Donald Trump intended on bringing down her brother.

Valerie Biden Owens, a longtime campaign manager for Joe Biden, made the remarks in an interview with “CBS Mornings.” She was asked by host Gayle King whether Hunter Biden was “a problem for the family.” In response, Owens said, “No.”

King pressed on, pointing out how Hunter Biden’s business dealings have come under scrutiny. Owens responded by saying that the attention to her nephew’s business activities was born out of the 2020 presidential election.

“The only race that I wasn’t enthusiastic about Joe getting involved in was the 2020 presidency,” Owens said, “because I expected, and was not disappointed, that it would be ugly and mean, and it would be an attack on my brother Joe, personally and professionally, because the former president is very intent on bringing my brother down.”

“I assumed from the beginning that the former president and his entourage would attack my brother by going and attacking my family,” Owens added.

“[Trump] thought the weak link would be to attack my brother’s child.”

Owens then went on to defend her nephew.

“Hunter has written in exquisite detail about his struggle with addiction, his walk through hell, and I am so grateful that he’s been able to walk out of hell. But I don’t think that there’s a family in this country who hasn’t tasted it,” she told King.

King then interrupted Owens, reminding her that their discussion should center on Hunter Biden’s business deals.

In the end, Owen seemed to dismiss any allegations of wrongdoing against her nephew.

“There hasn’t been a ‘there’ there since it was mentioned in 2019 or whenever it first was,” Owens said.

Watch the full interview below:

Citing Treasury documents, a 2020 Senate report found that there was “potential criminal activity relating to transactions among and between Hunter Biden, his family, and his associates with Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh, and Chinese nationals,” while Joe Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.

The report pointed out how Hunter Biden made “questionable transactions” with Chinese nationals connected to the Chinese regime and military.

The younger Biden was found to have tried to broker a $120 million oil agreement in 2014 and 2015 between a Chinese state-owned oil company and Kazakhstan’s prime minister at that time, British newspaper the Daily Mail reported in February, citing emails obtained from his alleged abandoned laptop.

In March, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) presented bank records on the Senate floor showing a Chinese energy company made payments to Hunter Biden.

On April 8, 95 House Republicans wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate the younger Biden.

“It is increasingly clear that Hunter Biden took advantage of his father’s position as Vice President to develop business relationships with clients in Ukraine, China, and Kazakhstan,” the lawmakers said. “A special counsel would also ensure there is no bias in the investigation or undue influence from the White House.”

Tyler Durden Tue, 04/12/2022 - 12:07
Published:4/12/2022 11:24:17 AM
[4b1a1845-a116-5b54-83d4-f8b4239be050] Obama reacts to Russia's Ukraine invasion: 'Putin has always been ruthless’ Former President Barack Obama has revealed in a recent interview about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin “has always been ruthless against his own people as well as others.” Published:4/12/2022 9:21:40 AM
[] New York Times Resurrects Its Religious Right Bogeyman Published:4/11/2022 6:16:43 PM
[Markets] Watch: Former Obama DHS Head Warns Of "Major Influx" Of 18,000 Illegal Immigrants Per Day Watch: Former Obama DHS Head Warns Of "Major Influx" Of 18,000 Illegal Immigrants Per Day

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

Former Obama Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson warned Sunday that unmanageable numbers of illegal immigrants will pour across the southern border if the Biden Administration lifts the Title 42 public health authority.

The measure, which Biden intends to scrap in May, has effectively served as border control, allowing federal immigration officials to swiftly return around two million illegal immigrants to their home countries over the past two years.

Without it, it is conservatively estimated that numbers of migrants reaching the border will increase three fold to 18,000 per day.

Appearing on CBS News, Johnson warned that “Numbers at these levels are difficult to handle on the southern border,” adding:

“Communities on the southern border, catholic charities, the volunteers, difficult to absorb these types of numbers under almost any scenario.”

“It’s challenging for the Border Patrol, for ICE to properly process and track these individuals. And, obviously, the Biden administration is paying a political cost for these,” Johnson added.

Johnson declared that he “would have argued that we should keep it in place just a little while longer, until perhaps July, when these numbers do tend to slow down in the hotter weather,” adding that “March, April, May tend to be the peak seasons for migration on our southern border.”

DHS will have a challenge. And I heard the current secretary the other day say at present they have something like 7,000 a day,” Johnson urged, adding “That’s a high number.”

Johnson asserted that “we have to address the underlying causes in Central America for these types of surges.”

Watch:

Arizona GOP Rep. Andy Biggs warned that numbers will be even higher than estimated, suggesting that 20,000 to 30,000 could surge the border every day.

“Right now, the [Department of Homeland Security] number is about 8,000 people a day, illegally entering our country,” Biggs said during a podcast, adding “DHS’s number, they say it’s going to be 18,000 a day … I personally think it’s going to be 20,000 to 30,000 a day.”

He explained, “Cartels are already advertising to put together caravans to come across … our communities are going to be overrun … last year, 800,000 people illegally snuck into the country, they were not apprehended, they were the got-aways, we don’t know who they are, where they are from, what their intentions are.”

Regarding lifting Title 42, Biggs said “I think the rationale here is, they’re trying to get this open and bring in as many people as they can before they lose the majority … [in] the House and Senate.”

“I think this is a political ploy, it’s meant to happen. They campaigned on an open border,” Biggs continued, warning “If you think it’s bad now, the tsunami that’s coming is going to be overwhelming.”

Listen:

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Mon, 04/11/2022 - 17:00
Published:4/11/2022 4:15:43 PM
[] Brit Hume: College freshman who owned Anne Applebaum over the Hunter Biden story owns her again Published:4/11/2022 4:15:43 PM
[In The News] Obama’s DHS Secretary Didn’t Sugarcoat The Poor Timing Of Biden’s Latest Border Decision

by Jennie Taer at CDN -

Former President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson said he wouldn’t have ended Title 42 during a time when migration typically speeds up. The Trump-era public health policy responsible for over 1.7 million migrant expulsions will end May 23, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention …

Click to read the rest HERE-> Obama’s DHS Secretary Didn’t Sugarcoat The Poor Timing Of Biden’s Latest Border Decision first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:4/11/2022 1:45:47 PM
[Russia] Barack Obama Made the World a More Dangerous Place
Is he lying to us or himself?
View Post
Published:4/11/2022 12:51:17 PM
[2020 Presidential Election] Disinformation, American style (3) (Scott Johnson) In its lead editorial this morning the Wall Street Journal turns its attention to President Obama’s performance at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics/Atlantic Disinformation Conference this week. The editorial is headlined “Barack Obama rewrites his Russia history.” It opens this way: “As somebody who grappled with the incursion into Crimea and the eastern portions of Ukraine, I have been encouraged by the European reaction [this time],” Mr. Obama Published:4/9/2022 7:56:17 AM
[Markets] Biden Moves Toward Expanding Obamacare To Eliminate The 'Family Glitch' In The Plan Biden Moves Toward Expanding Obamacare To Eliminate The 'Family Glitch' In The Plan

Authored by Nick Ciolino via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

President Joe Biden is taking steps meant to expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event to mark the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on April 5, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Alongside the government health plan’s chief architect, former President Barack Obama, at the White House Tuesday, Biden announced plans to fix the “family glitch” in the ACA and signed an executive order that will “protect and strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.”

Should Biden’s family glitch rule be finalized, it would allow non-employee family members with private insurance from an employer that costs in excess of 10 percent of the household income to qualify for coverage under the ACA. The administration estimates that 200,000 uninsured people would gain coverage, and nearly 1 million Americans would see their coverage become more affordable.

A senior administration official on a call with reporters ahead of the announcement conceded not all of the roughly 5 million families who qualify for the change may want to switch coverage if the rule is approved, saying that some might “find it more convenient to have their whole family in a single health plan.”

The ACA has seen its premiums skyrocket over its 12-year existence.

The administration has not offered details as to how much the new rule would cost taxpayers but has said that if approved it would take effect at the start of next year.

Biden’s executive order he signed on camera Tuesday continues an order he signed at the start of last year directing agencies to “[make] coverage more affordable and accessible for American families.”

In a speech, Biden scolded repeated Republican efforts to repeal the ACA since its inception.

“I got a better idea: Instead of destroying the Affordable Care Act, let’s keep building on it,” said Biden. “Let’s extend it.”

Biden also made calls to “close the Medicaid coverage gap” in states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid. He also called for a change in law to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for drugs that are on the market.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law in 2017 by former President Donald Trump gutted the ACA by removing penalties for those who violate the plan’s individual mandate rule requiring all Americans to pay for health insurance.

In March of last year, Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan that included boosts to the ACA, including enhanced subsidies and incentives for states to expand the program.

This past winter, the administration ran what it calls “the most successful open enrollment period under the ACA ever” with 14.5 million sign-ups, plus another 1 million that signed up for a related program called the “Basic Health Plan.”

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/08/2022 - 23:00
Published:4/8/2022 10:20:10 PM
[Markets] Reuters 'Fact-Checks' Biden Being Ignored By Obama And Democrats Reuters 'Fact-Checks' Biden Being Ignored By Obama And Democrats

Authored by Steve Watson via Summit News,

Reuters has ‘fact checked’ a video from earlier this week when Barack Obama visited the White House, declaring that the footage showing that no one wanted to talk to Biden was ‘taken out of context’.

As we reported, Tucker Carlson and others aired the footage of Biden wandering around on his own as the rest of his handlers and Democratic underlings fawned before Obama.

Carlson described the scene at the White House, noting that “Biden tried to horn in on the conversation swirling around Obama. Everyone involved in that conversation, including Kamala Harris, who supposedly works for Biden, ignored Biden completely.”

He continued, “Biden desperately tried to get Obama’s attention. He puts his hand on Obama’s shoulder. He even calls him “Barack” like they’re friends, but Obama blows him off. He acts like Biden is not even there. Ask yourself if you have ever in your life, seen anything sadder than that?”

Carlson went on to suggest that Democrats are freezing Biden out like a pack of wild dogs that ejects an old weak member in order to survive.

Reuters’ overlords of truth pounced on the incident to run defense for Biden, proclaiming that “social media users circulated a seconds-long clip of the event to claim ‘literally no one wanted to talk to’ President Joe Biden.”

“The scene, however, is missing context: uncropped footage shows he was looking for secretary of the interior Deb Haaland,” Reuters continued.

Reuters provided a longer clip where Biden eventually goes to talk to Haaland.

However, it is clear that he only does that because he is on the outside of the scrum around Obama.

Since when did having the opinion that Biden looks lost need fact checking? What will Reuters fact check next? Perhaps the opinion of a majority of Americans that Biden isn’t doing a great job.

As many have previously pointed out, Reuters’ arbiters of truth have repeatedly failed to disclose conflicts of interest related to much of the content they are presiding over.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Fri, 04/08/2022 - 11:25
Published:4/8/2022 10:45:59 AM
[Podcasts] The Biden Family Business
Podcast: Hunter Biden, Barack Obama, and Russia.
View Post
Published:4/8/2022 9:13:32 AM
[Markets] Most Sanctions Fail Most Sanctions Fail

By Thomas Kirchner of Camelot Portfolios

  • From substitute for war to forcing domestic policy change.

  • Declining success rate of sanctions in the last 25 years.

  • Russia sanctions cost West more than Russia.

  • World needs a new Vienna Congress

In 433 BC, Athens barred merchants from neighboring Megara from selling their wares in the Athens market. These earliest recorded sanctions didn't work out too well for the Athenians. The Megarians teamed up with the Spartans to wage the Peloponnesian War, which ended Athens' golden age [i]. The effectiveness of sanctions has not become much better since antiquity. Famously, sanctions on Iraq and Cuba helped Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro cement their power by allocating scarce imports to their most loyal supporters.

We decided to take a closer look at the Global Sanctions Data Base (GSDB) that is maintained by a team of researchers and spans 1,101 sanctions measures over the period 1950-2019 [ii]. The database does not cover sanctions of the 1920s and 30s, when uncoordinated ad-hoc measures against the axis powers contributed to the collapse of world trade but failed to prevent World War II. After all, following the horrors of World War I, sanctions became the go-to tool for warfare in the 1920s, replacing military conflict through economic warfare. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed in 1919: “A nation that is boycotted is a nation that is in sight of surrender.” [iii] That, at least, was the idea, which has since become religion. As we will discuss, wrongly so.

The most sanctioned regions will surprise you

The GSDB reveals that, not surprisingly, the countries of North America, Northwestern Europe and Oceania are the least frequently ones targeted by sanctions. Less obvious is that Africa and West Asia are targeted most frequently. Interestingly, most sanctions on African countries are imposed by other African countries. We wonder if much of Africa's regionalism is due to these sanctions. After all, if you want to fly from one African city to another, the only flights available often make you connect through London, Paris or Frankfurt.

Since 1950, the U.S. has been the most frequent sanctioning nation, imposing more than one third of all sanctions worldwide. Under President Obama, the share of all sanctions imposed by the U.S. declined to 30%, in particular after Iran sanctions were lifted in 2016, but rose in the subsequent four years under President Trump to 40%. Trump is said to have been the most active sanctioner of all time, averaging three new measures per day [iv].

From avoiding war to influencing domestic policies

The policy objectives of sanctions have evolved over the years. Sanctions evolved from a substitute for war, as in Wilson's days, to a tool to influence domestic policies in another country. Until 1960, war and territorial conflicts were the principal reasons for sanctions. From the 1970s, human right-related sanctions started to increase, which due to their sharp increase cumulatively represent the largest category since 1950. Democracy is the second-most frequent category. Ending wars is only the 4th most frequent objective for sanctions [iv]. We would assume that this drift toward domestic policy changes also makes sanctions less effective. After all, human rights violations or other objectionable domestic policies are often at the core of a regime's power base. Being sanctioned then is just one of the many costs of staying in power.

Effectiveness

Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of sanctions is hotly contested. Clearly, sanctions labeled “crippling” are imposed with a strong conviction that they will achieve their stated goals. Unfortunately, the data stand in sharp contrast to such overconfident boisterous announcement. Successes are rare. A notable exception are the 1995 sanctions against Peru and Ecuador after border skirmishes along a long-contested area near the Cenepa river had broken out. The sanctions were lifted after both sides consented to the deployment of international observers. However, since this is not a controlled experiment, we can not rule out the possibility that the same outcome would have been had without the imposition of sanctions. Attributing such successes to sanctions might overrate their effectiveness.

Until the mid-1960s, 50% of sanctions in the GSDB are classified as failures, only 20-30% are successes. The situation improved over the following 30 years: by 1995, 50% of all sanctions were considered a complete success. Unfortunately, in the quarter century since 1995, there is a sharp decrease in the success rate. As of 2016, only 20% of sanctions are deemed a complete success, roughly 70% are “ongoing”, which in many cases probably means that nobody wants to admit their failure, so the path of least resistance is to keep them going [iv]. Partly, the decreasing success rate is due to the sharp rise in anti-terrorism sanctions, which we would expect to be of little deterrence on the determination of terror fanatics.

Sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine war

JP Morgan estimates the impact of sanctions on the Russian economy on 11% of GDP and reduced growth in the EU at 2.1% of GDP[v]. This estimate amounts to $165 billion in annual sanction losses for Russia and at least $357 billion for the EU alone, even more if you add non-EU Europe and North America [vi]. As long as JP Morgan's estimates are not completely wrong, the West will suffer more under its own sanctions than Russia. We estimate that only for a contraction of 30% or more will the harm to Russia be worse than for the West. Should gas deliveries to Western Europe be disrupted, then no crash of the Russian economy would be big enough to match the economic devastation of Western Europe.

We can think of other ways how the sanctions are likely to backfire. For example, the ban on exporting technology will only have a short-term impact. We would like to remind readers that the Soviet Union perfected the art of procuring Western technology at the time of the iron curtain. In fact, Soviet microprocessors were copies of Intel and Zilog chips, the export of which to the Warsaw Pact was illegal. We would expect this phenomenon to return as a result of the sanctions. Fake chips from China are already a major problem for the semiconductor industry. If China can manufacture fake chips on a large scale, there is no reason why Russia wouldn't be able to do the same. Such fake chips, which will be much cheaper than the genuine ones, will then find their way into the Western market, where they will only aggravate the scourge of fake chips.

While we certainly wish that sanctions on Russia would end this war quickly, we won't hold our breath. The deck is stacked against their effectiveness. What this conflict needs is a diplomatic solution: a new Vienna Congress.

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/08/2022 - 05:00
Published:4/8/2022 4:12:12 AM
[Uncategorized] Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Against Ending Title 42, Says Southern Border Not Sustainable

"It overwhelms the Border Patrol and ICE and their ability to keep up with these numbers, and obviously, it overwhelms the Biden administration politically."

The post Obama’s DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Against Ending Title 42, Says Southern Border Not Sustainable first appeared on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion.
Published:4/7/2022 6:07:51 PM
[] Barack Obama Comes Out Against the First Amendment Published:4/7/2022 4:09:34 PM
[Markets] Hunter's Laptop Is "Totally Irrelevant" Now That It's Been Validated: Atlantic Journo Hunter's Laptop Is "Totally Irrelevant" Now That It's Been Validated: Atlantic Journo

"Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to attend a fire prevention speech delivered by an arsonist? Or perhaps a child safety seminar led by a pedophile? Well, that’s exactly what it felt like Wednesday during the University of Chicago’s “Conference on Disinformation and Erosion of Democracy,” featuring some of the greatest promulgators of disinformation and illiberalism in American history." -The Federalist

Self-proclaimed arbiters of 'disinformation' from CNN and The Atlantic made fools out of themselves this week, after college freshmen at the University of Chicago asked several bombshell questions that went largely unanswered.

The event - opened by former President Barack Obama (whose administration used a fabricated hoax dossier filled with literal Russian disinformation to spy on the Trump campaign) - was moderated by former Obama adviser David Axelrod.

Hunter's Laptop

As Jonathan Turley notes, It appears that some media have a new narrative after admitting that the Hunter Biden laptop is legitimate after all. According to Atlantic Magazine writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, the story never did matter because it was just not interesting and “totally irrelevant” to her. Strangely, however, it once did. Applebaum pushed the false narrative as she was slamming others for publishing “Russian disinformation” and using the Hunter Biden story as an example. It only became uninteresting when it turned out to be true.

So, if the Biden family was engaged in selling access to foreign interests, it really has nothing to do with the President of the United States. It is not interesting that there are references to Joe Biden’s knowledge or involvement and possible benefitting from the millions passing through his son. It does not matter that Hunter is shown telling his daughter Naomi: “I hope you all can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family for 30 years. It’s really hard. But don’t worry, unlike Pop [Joe], I won’t make you give me half your salary.” (read the rest from Turley here)

*  *  *

Next, we have a student absolutely savaging CNN's Brian Stelter - whose answer consisted of deflection and an empty offer to 'come over and discuss' (off camera).

More on misinformation.

As The Federalist's Evita Duffy writes:

During his Wednesday address, Obama self-righteously claimed that “You have to fight to provide people [with] the information they need to be free and self-governing.” The catch is, who gets to decide which information is good and which information is bad? Obama does. Or, at least, he thinks he and his partisan peers are the special “chosen ones” who should decide what is “disinformation.” 

Let’s take a look at the specific “disinformation” Obama is concerned about.

“In our society, you have currently roughly 40 percent of the country that appears convinced that the current president was elected fraudulently and that the election was rigged,” Obama told his audience, making no mention of the fact that larger percentages of Democrats believed the same thing after 2016.

Americans are entirely justified in questioning the results of the 2020 election. Tech oligarch Mark Zuckerberg spent $419 million to interfere in key states’ election processes. At the same time, Big Tech consistently censored conservative thought leaders. The corporate media, Democrats, and Big Tech all conspired to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. And we now know that 16 percent of Biden voters say they would not have voted for Biden had they learned about Hunter’s laptop before election day. (read the rest here)

*  *  *

And so, when the left's feet are held to the fire - Hunter's Laptop 'isn't relevant' and CNN's establishment propaganda is just fine, as long as it furthers the interests of the uniparty. Carry on.

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/07/2022 - 17:05
Published:4/7/2022 4:09:34 PM
[Parody] Obama Co-Conspirator Finally Brought to Justice for Role in Bald Eagle Wind Farm Genocide

A renewable energy firm that conspired with former president Barack Obama to maim and murder hundreds of majestic bald eagles has finally been brought to justice. ESI Energy, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, was sentenced in federal court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to three criminal counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The […]

The post Obama Co-Conspirator Finally Brought to Justice for Role in Bald Eagle Wind Farm Genocide appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

Published:4/7/2022 3:36:52 PM
[Markets] Over 150 Suspicious Hunter Or James Biden Financial Transactions Flagged By Banks Over 150 Suspicious Hunter Or James Biden Financial Transactions Flagged By Banks

Newly obtained banking records reveal that more than 150 financial transactions involving either Hunter or James Biden's global business affairs were flagged by banks as 'concerning' and given further review, some of which included large wire transfers, according to CBS News.

FILE: Joe Biden, left, and his brother James Biden during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images

As we've noted several times throughout the past 18 months, Joe Biden's brother James and Hunter Biden's international dealings have raised concern over potential leverage over the Biden family by the CCP and other foreign entities.

A few examples:

"We have people with the Biden name, dealing with Chinese business people that have a relationship to the Communist Party," Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, told CBS News' Catherine Herridge. "I think James Biden was very much a part of this."

Bank records released by Republican senators this week indicate James Biden's company, the Lion Hall Group, received payments from a Chinese-financed consulting group in 2018, before his brother Joe announced he was running for president. Grassley says that same year James Biden and the president's son, Hunter, received monthly retainers totaling $165,000 — $100,000 to Hunter and $65,000 to James.

Grassley said his team obtained the records directly from the bank where the consulting group did business. He has spent three years investigating and described James and Hunter Biden's business dealings as "very concerning." -CBS News

According to a September 2020 report from GOP Senators, Hunter, James and James' wife Sara tapped into a credit line set up between Hunter and a Chinese bank executive to purchase over $100,000 in airline tickets, hotels and food.

Patrick Ho, Hunter Biden

Now, GOP investigators have released what appears to be the 2017 application for the credit line, which bears the signatures of both Hunter and the Chinese exec.

"These records we got are the first records that have ever been made public on this issue. Nobody else has them," said Grassley.

According to Robert Weissman, president of advocacy group Public Citizen, told CBS: "I think Hunter and James Biden should not have entered into those relationships, full stop," adding "To the extent those occurred while Joe Biden was the vice president, there's a worry that they hope to get something direct from the Obama administration."

Fortunately for Hunter and James, the White House won't rule out pardons in the event their international dealings, or tax issues, or FARA status, prove to be illegal.

In Dec. 2020, Politico reported that the Hunter Biden criminal investigation covers potential money laundering, while CNN also reported at the time that the feds had been looking into a 2017 gift to Hunter from CEFC China Energy Co. founder Ye Jianming.

And to recap from our previous reporting on the matter - in November, 2017, James Biden received a surprise call on his cellphone from Patrick Ho, Ye Jianming's lieutenant who was arrested by the FBI (and is now serving a 36-month sentence for bribery and money laundering), according to a December, 2018 report by the New York Times. According to James, the call was meant for Hunter.

James Biden, a financier and brother of the former vice president, was in a hotel lobby in November 2017 when he got a surprise call on his cellphone. The call was from Patrick Ho, Mr. Ye’s lieutenant. Mr. Ho, 69, was in trouble.

Federal agents who had monitored CEFC’s rise since at least the summer of 2016 had sprung into action, arresting Mr. Ho in New York on allegations that he had bribed African officials in Chad and Uganda. Days later, federal agents showed up at Mr. Ye’s luxury apartment building across from Central Park with a subpoena to interview Mr. Ye, said people familiar with the matter.

...

In a brief interview, James Biden said he had been surprised by Mr. Ho’s call. He said he believed it had been meant for Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son. James Biden said he had passed on his nephew’s contact information. -NYT

In July of 2019, Hunter confessed to the New Yorker that he had accepted the 2.8 carat diamond worth at least ten thousand dollars, which he insisted wasn't a bribe - before admitting that he and his father Joe had in fact discussed his business dealings.

Hunter offered to use his contacts to help identify investment opportunities for Ye’s company, CEFC China Energy, in liquefied-natural-gas projects in the United States. After the dinner, Ye sent a 2.8-carat diamond to Hunter’s hotel room with a card thanking him for their meeting. “I was, like, Oh, my God,” Hunter said. (In Kathleen’s court motion, the diamond is estimated to be worth eighty thousand dollars. Hunter said he believes the value is closer to ten thousand.) When I asked him if he thought the diamond was intended as a bribe, he said no: “What would they be bribing me for? My dad wasn’t in office.”  -New Yorker

As Eric Trump recently said, "If I did 1/100 of what Hunter Biden did, I’d be in jail for the rest of my life."

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/07/2022 - 13:45
Published:4/7/2022 1:05:42 PM
[] Basking in flexibility, Barack Obama tells audience at 'Disinformation' conference that Vladimir Putin 'was always ruthless' [video] Published:4/7/2022 12:05:54 PM
[Markets] 'If I Did 1/100 Of What Hunter Biden Did, I’d Be In Jail For The Rest Of My Life': Eric Trump 'If I Did 1/100 Of What Hunter Biden Did, I’d Be In Jail For The Rest Of My Life': Eric Trump

Authored by Harry Lee and Steve Lance via The Epoch Times,

There are no “equal scales of justice” in the United States, and the mainstream media has been covering up for the Biden family, according to Eric Trump, the second son of former President Donald Trump.

“Based on their approval rating, [the mainstream media] is really damaged because they’ve got 7 percent approval rating in this country. It’s horrible. People don’t trust them anymore,” Eric Trump told NTD’s “Capitol Report” over the weekend.

Eric Trump at the Stop the Steal rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jenny Jing/The Epoch Times)

In October 2021, a Gallup poll showed that only 7 percent of adult Americans have “a great deal” of trust in the media. Combined with 29 percent “a fair amount” of trust, they represent the second-lowest confidence level since Gallup first tracked such data in 1972. Another 29 percent of the public has “not very much” trust, and 34 percent have “none at all.”

“If I did 1/100 of what Hunter Biden did, I’d be in jail for the rest of my life,” said Eric, the executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Hunter Biden, the sole surviving son of President Joe Biden, has been involved in controversy for years, particularly concerning his business dealings while his father was vice president. Hunter Biden made $50,000 a month as a board member for Ukraine-based Burisma while his father was charged by Obama with helping improve the country’s governmental practices.

On March 28 and 29, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) released bank records showing payments were made to Hunter Biden from a Chinese Communist Party-linked company. “The evidence is stunning, and it is growing,” said Johnson.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware has been investigating Hunter Biden for his possible tax fraud, according to the younger Biden.

Later last year, a New York art gallery helped Hunter Biden sell his artwork. The arrangement was criticized in a CNN interview with Walter Shaub, the Obama administration’s Government Ethics Office director, as setting a precedent that is “perfect for funneling bribes.”

Hunter Biden (L) embraces his father, President-elect Joe Biden, in Wilmington, Del., on Nov. 7, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/AP Photo)

“The mainstream media hasn’t mentioned Hunter Biden’s name in 258 days. There’s a serious problem with that. They let him skirt by. They carry Joe Biden’s water,” Eric Trump said.

According to media watchdog NewsBusters, the corporate media didn’t mention Hunter Biden from July 12, 2021—when NBC talked about the ethics of his art sale—until March 16, 2022, when The New York Times admitted the authenticity of his laptop.

On March 30, The Washington Post confirmed the laptop story as well.

When the New York Post first reported on Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020, the mainstream media overwhelmingly discredited the report. Some social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, quickly suppressed the report. Twitter locked the newspaper’s account for more than two weeks.

Eric Trump said the corporate media has been covering up for Hunter’s father Joe Biden as well. He said if his father had said 1/100 of the “stupid things” Biden said, the media and the left would call for implementing Article 25 of the Constitution to remove the president.

The elder Biden has been frequently caught uttering gaffes during his public appearances.

“But again, they’re on that side, and they’ll do anything to cover up for him and let him get away with just about anything under the sun,” said Eric.

“You don’t have equal scales of justice in this country. You don’t have equal media coverage. The media is the propaganda wing of the left-wing party. And I think that [has] become very clear to all Americans.”

Hunter Biden has acknowledged his actions didn’t look good but denied doing anything wrong. President Biden has repeatedly defended his son.

On April 3, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said President Biden believes that his son didn’t break the law.

“The president is confident that his family did the right thing,” Klain told ABC. “But again, I want to just be really clear: these are actions by Hunter and his brother, they’re private matters, they don’t involve the president. And they certainly are something that no one at the White House is involved in.”

Tyler Durden Thu, 04/07/2022 - 11:00
Published:4/7/2022 10:04:17 AM
[Markets] Taibbi: America's Sexual Red Scare Taibbi: America's Sexual Red Scare

Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News,

On March 18th, the New York Times published “America Has a Free Speech Problem,” an editorial wrapped around a poll, asserting roughly 80% of the country withholds opinions over fear of “retaliation or harsh criticism.” The piece prompted outrage from Twitter’s moral police — “arguably the worst day in the history of the New York Timescried blue-check analyst Tom Watson — some of whom claimed the article did so much to legitimize right-wing propaganda about speech suppression that the entire Times editorial board should resign or be fired.

A day before the Times editorial, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by author and longtime professor Laura Kipnis called “Academe is a Hotbed of Craven Snitches.” My first question upon reading this disturbing piece was why the excellent word “craven” isn’t used more by writers. The second, after digesting the content — a litany of horrific scenes of students, administrators, and academics destroying each other’s careers and reputations, often over consensual, legal sexual encounters — is how anyone familiar with even a fraction of what Kipnis writes about could quibble with the notion that America has a “speech problem.”

Laura Kipnis

This country doesn’t just have a narrow civil liberties dispute about speech. We’re in a crisis of communication and intimacy, compounded by a uniquely American terror of sex that probably dates back to the days of the Puritans, and seems at the core of what Kipnis calls the “carceral turn” in her world of higher education. Atop legitimate and necessary mechanisms for identifying and stopping campus predators — Kipnis stresses that “sexual assault is a reality on campus, though not exactly a new one” — we’re building new bureaucracies to prosecute an array of social or even just intellectual offenses.

These range from consensual but “inappropriate” workplace affairs (the downfall of University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel), to explicitly permitted sexual relations with adult students not under one’s tutelage (among the reported crimes of University of Rochester professor Florian Jaeger), to trying to intervene on behalf of a lawyerless, accused student (the no-no of University of Colorado professor David Barnett, who was hit with a “retaliation” charge by an administration that then spent $148,000 investigating him), to countless other mania-inspired offenses, from “suspicious eye contact” to a female professor dancing “too provocatively” at an off-campus party, to a ballet teacher saying “I always wanted to partner a banana” in class.

Kipnis was a canary in this speech-lunacy coal mine. She made history in 2015 by becoming the subject of two harassment complaints for the seemingly impossible offense of writing an article (also in the Chronicle, called “Sexual Paranoia on Campus”). Students accused Kipnis of creating a hostile environment via the piece, in which she’d questioned the harassment investigation against fellow Northwestern professor Peter Ludlow, criticized new campus prohibitions against relationships between professors and graduate students, and argued that the logic behind some new campus enforcement policies were politically regressive, re-imposing an old-school paternalism that cast women back in roles as helpless victims in constant need of saving. “If this is feminism,” she wrote, “it’s feminism hijacked by melodrama.”

Kipnis was cleared of the charges, but not before being taken on a tour of the bizarre inquisitorial bureaucracy of Title IX, a federal law originally instituted in 1972 that most Americans associate with an effort to bar gender discrimination and achieve funding parity for women’s sports. The law expanded in the Obama years to encompass not just discrimination but sexual misconduct. The concept ended up being worded so vaguely that, as Kipnis discovered, Title IX was soon used as the broadest of political tools, to hammer out everything from office disagreements to parameters of acceptable thought. She later wrote:

Perhaps you’re wondering how an essay falls under the purview of Title IX, the federal statute meant to address gender discrimination and funding for women’s sports? I was wondering that myself… The answer, in brief, is that the culture of sexual paranoia I’d been writing about isn’t confined to the sexual sphere. It’s fundamentally altering the intellectual climate in higher education as a whole, to the point where ideas are construed as threats —writing an essay became “creating a chilling environment,” according to my accusers — and freedoms most of us used to take for granted are being whittled away or disappearing altogether.

Most Americans don’t know a whole lot about Title IX, among other things because the accused are encouraged/ordered to keep experiences secret. Kipnis’s accusers inadvertently did her an enormous favor here. Not only did they make a colorful writer with a keen satirical bent an eyewitness to a prosecutorial mechanism silly enough in its mindless destruction to have been written by the cast of Monty Python, they also spurred her to look into the case of Ludlow, a once-prominent philosophy professor accused of inappropriate behavior who ended up delivering to Kipnis a literary gold mine.

Campus protesters marched against the possibility of any kind of settlement with Ludlow, so he resigned without a confidentiality agreement, which left him free to hand over to Kipnis the gold mine, i.e. the files from his cases. The transcripts of interviews conducted by Ludlow’s campus inquisitors, along with the mountain of emails and other materials introduced as evidence, painted a picture of a bureaucracy of pre-determined guilt, casual institutional cruelty, and ingrained sexual terror so extreme that the whole concept of viewing sex as anything but predatory appeared to have become taboo in the eyes of officialdom.

Because Kipnis broke the seal on what had been a mostly secret national phenomenon, an avalanche of letters about Title IX incidents soon filled her inbox, offering a shocking sense of the scope of the problem. In her 2017 book Unwanted Advances, she writes that a biopic about disgraced screenwriter Dalton Trumbo “left me reflecting that sex is our era’s Communist threat, and Title IX hearings our new HUAC hearings.” A bold statement, given how ingrained a part of the national psyche the “communist threat” was for generations, but the idea holds up. The book opens by describing her experience and the Ludlow case in painful detail, moves on to recount scores of other incidents and statistics, and concludes with essays asking profound and uncomfortable questions about America’s deteriorating relationship toward sex and intimacy.

Subscribers to TK News can read the rest here.

Tyler Durden Wed, 04/06/2022 - 22:20
Published:4/6/2022 9:31:27 PM
[] Atlantic staff writer says the Hunter Biden laptop story was not 'interesting' … at 'Disinformation' conference Published:4/6/2022 7:29:57 PM
[] Kamala Harris NOT Isolating After Close Contact With COVID-Positive Staffer Published:4/6/2022 6:28:33 PM
[45839131-a0b6-57ea-9dea-f0a04bb5b3da] Kamala Harris' communications director tests positive for COVID-19 after close contact with VP The communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a day after attending an unmasked ceremony at the White House with Harris, former President Barack Obama and President Biden. Published:4/6/2022 4:58:47 PM
[Barack Obama] Barack Obama’s ego crushes Joe Biden

  Barack Obama made his first visit to the White House since he was President despite living very close by. The purported reason for the visit was to help Biden push for the Affordable Care Act. That really wasn’t the reason. Obama spent a lot of time glad handing visitors and lost in the reverie […]

The post Barack Obama’s ego crushes Joe Biden appeared first on Flopping Aces.

Published:4/6/2022 3:57:21 PM
[In The News] Biden Left Looking For Someone To Talk To As Obama Is Surrounded By Democrat Groupies

by Laurel Duggan at CDN -

Prominent Democrats flocked around former President Barack Obama while ignoring President Joe Biden at the White House Tuesday after Biden signed an executive order aimed at strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After signing the order, Biden shook several hands and saluted the crowd before slowly wandering away from the …

Click to read the rest HERE-> Biden Left Looking For Someone To Talk To As Obama Is Surrounded By Democrat Groupies first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:4/6/2022 9:54:52 AM
[Barack Obama] Of glamor and glitches (Scott Johnson) President Biden welcomed President Obama back to the White House yesterday in connection with the signing of an executive order to fix a “glitch” in Obamacare. Obamacare itself is the glitch, but never mind. Biden exercised executive authority to expand the law’s coverage. The White House has posted a transcript of the speakers’ remarks here. The Wall Street Journal’s James Freeman quotes Paragon Health Institute’s Brian Blase testifying before House Published:4/6/2022 8:56:12 AM
[Markets] Dimon Warns US Faces "Unprecedented" Risks From Combo Of Inflation, War & COVID Dimon Warns US Faces "Unprecedented" Risks From Combo Of Inflation, War & COVID

While his friend and fellow Democrat Larry Fink used his latest annual letter to cheer for an accelerating transition to ESG while simultaneously warning about the fallout from "de-globalization" spurred by Russia's incursion into Ukraine, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon warned Monday in his own annual letter to investors that the US economy faces "unprecedented" risks from the confluence of COVID pandemic, high inflation and, of course, the situation in Ukraine.

"They present completely different circumstances than what we’ve experienced in the past – and their confluence may dramatically increase the risks ahead," Dimon said.

Dimon, who has repeatedly advocated for a 'Marshall Plan for energy' to help the Europeans wean themselves off of Russia's influence, also called on the US to turn up the sanctions pressure on Russia.

"Turn up sanctions - there are many more that could be imposed - in whatever way national security experts recommend to maximize the right outcomes."

As far as JPM's own book is concerned, Dimon suggested that the bank could ultimately lose more than $1 billion from its exposure to Russia. Dimon said he wouldn't be surprised to see the conflict drag on, and said "America must be ready for the possibility of an extended war in Ukraine with unpredictable outcomes. We should prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

But Russia wasn't the only foreign power to face skepticism from Dimon. Expounding on the "de-globalization" theme, Dimon warned that US firms must diversify their supply chains away from China and instead rely only upon "completely friendly allies". He also urged the US to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP), the Obama-era trade deal that President Trump cancelled immediately after taking office.

In keeping with his previous comments about the pace of Fed rate hikes (remember, Dimon helped to instigate the trend of Wall Street banks one-upping one another with forecasts for five, six, seven - even eight rate hikes), the JPM CEO predicted that the Fed could still surprise Wall Street with a number of rate hikes that are "significantly higher than the market expects."

As for the bank's potential losses, Dimon said JPM's "fortress balance sheet" is robust enough that JPM could withstand losses of $10 billion or more and "still be in very good shape."

In other news, JPMorgan will hold its first investor day since the pandemic began on May 23. The bank revealed in its annual report that it had a record $3.7 trillion in assets and $294.1 billion in stockholders’ equity as of Dec. 31.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the cautious tone of Dimon's comments, JPM's shares tumbled more than 1% during premarket trading.

Here's a rundown of major points from Reuters:

US Economy Is Still Strong

Dimon has long been bullish on the U.S. economy and repeated that message in his letter, noting the average American consumer is "in excellent financial shape" with leverage among the lowest on record, excellent mortgage underwriting, plentiful jobs with wage increases and more than $2 trillion in excess savings.

Inflation Will Require Aggressive Hikes

The Federal Reserve and the government were right to take bold actions amid the pandemic, but stimulus probably lasted too long, said Dimon. He believes the rate rises needed to rein in inflation would be "significantly higher than the markets expect."

Dimon also had some advice for the Fed: it shouldn't worry about the market volatility rate rises will cause unless that volatility affects the economy. It should be flexible in its plan and be prepared to respond quickly to events on the ground.

Ukraine War Will Slow Global Economy

"The hostilities in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia are already having a substantial economic impact," Dimon wrote.

JPMorgan economists think that the euro area, highly dependent on Russia for oil and gas, will see GDP growth of roughly 2% in 2022, instead of the 4.5% pace expected just before the invasion began. By contrast, they expect the U.S. economy to advance roughly 2.5% versus a previously estimated 3%, Dimon wrote.

"These estimates are based upon a fairly static view of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions now in place," Dimon wrote. More Russia sanctions are possible, he noted.

"Along with the unpredictability of war itself and the uncertainty surrounding global commodity supply chains, this makes for a potentially explosive situation," he wrote.

World Economy Faces "Unprecedented" Moment

The confluence of the dramatic stimulus-fueled recovery from the pandemic, the likely need for rapid rate rises, the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia may be unprecedented.

"They present completely different circumstances than what we’ve experienced in the past – and their confluence may dramatically increase the risks ahead," Dimon wrote, adding the war will also affect geopolitics for decades.

Without Strong Leadership, America Will Descend Into "Chaos"

"American global leadership is the best course for the world and for America," Dimon wrote. Since nature abhors a power vacuum, it is increasingly clear that without strong American leadership "chaos likely will prevail," he added.

However, he noted the world does not want an "arrogant" America bossing everyone around, but an America that works with allies, collaborating and compromising.

"We can organize military and economic frameworks that make the world safe and prosperous for democracy and freedom only if we work with our allies," he added.

Any interested parties can read the complete letter here.

Tyler Durden Mon, 04/04/2022 - 06:59
Published:4/4/2022 6:05:13 AM
[b24788fe-b00b-5529-a2fa-441d4f01b280] Obama to return to White House, touting signature health care law Former President Barack Obama will head to the White House Tuesday, when he will join President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for a health care event. Published:4/4/2022 12:34:10 AM
[] David Axelrod & AOC's health care complaint thread adds up to 'another Obamacare success story' Published:4/2/2022 8:53:30 PM
[Markets] Biden Admin Reverses Trump Fuel Efficiency Rules, New Vehicles Must Average 49 Miles Per Gallon By 2026 Biden Admin Reverses Trump Fuel Efficiency Rules, New Vehicles Must Average 49 Miles Per Gallon By 2026

Authored by Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Biden administration announced on April 1 it is raising requirements for fuel efficiency, reversing a rollback by the Trump administration.

Cars sit in heavy traffic on Highway 101 in Corte Madera, Calif., on Oct. 24, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

New vehicles sold in the United States will have to travel an average of at least 49 miles per gallon of gasoline in 2026 under the new federal rules. The requirement would have been at 32 mpg if going by rules under the Trump administration.

Specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said fuel efficiency requirements will increase by 8 percent annually for 2024 and 2025 model years, and 10 percent annually for model year 2026.

The Trump administration had in March 2020 rolled back fuel efficiency requirements to 1.5 percent annual increases through 2026. The Obama administration had required 5 percent annual increases.

The new regulation (pdf) marks a slightly bigger increase than the proposal outlined in August 2021 by the NHTSA in a joint rule-making process with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of efforts to improve gas mileage and reduce tailpipe pollution.

The EPA announced similar rules (pdf) in December 2021.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the new rule “means that American families will be able to drive further before they have to fill up, saving hundreds of dollars per year.”

NHTSA estimates (pdf) that under the rule, consumers could save $1,387 in fuel costs over the life of a vehicle. but the average cost of a new vehicle would also increase by almost that much—$1,087.

Tyler Durden Sat, 04/02/2022 - 20:30
Published:4/2/2022 7:54:41 PM
[] Will Biden Welcome Iranian Terrorists to America With New Nuclear Deal? Published:4/2/2022 10:20:25 AM
[Markets] The Necro-Neologism Of Lethal Legal Experts The Necro-Neologism Of Lethal Legal Experts

Authored by Laurie Calhoun via The Libertarian Institute,

The power of language is magical to behold. Through the mere pronouncement of words, people can be persuaded to do what they would never have thought to do, left to their own devices. The playbook with the most success in this regard is that of war. When people are “informed” that they and their families are in mortal danger, they can and often will acquiesce to any and all policies which government authorities claim to be necessary in order to protect them.

Young people can be coaxed into killing complete strangers who never did anything personally to them. Citizens can be brainwashed to believe that suitably labeled persons can and indeed must be denied any and all human rights. When the stakes are claimed to be life and death, even apparently intelligent people can be goaded to accept that the mere possession of a divergent opinion is evil, and the expression of dissent a crime. The use of military weapons to execute obviously innocent, entirely innocuous civilians, including children, suddenly becomes permissible, so long as the victims have been labeled collateral damage. All any of this takes is to identify “the enemy” as evil.

In centuries past, “the laws of war” were said to require the humane treatment of enemy soldiers. They were diagnosed as suffering from “invincible ignorance,” misled and mistaken about the dispute said to necessitate recourse to war, but still acknowledged as persons capable of being courageous combatants who found themselves through historical fortuity on the wrong side. An enemy soldier was to be provided with the opportunity to lay down his weapon and surrender in order to save his own life. Disarmed or incapacitated soldiers were not to be executed by their captors, for they had already been neutralized and posed no more danger than unarmed civilians. Prisoners of war were to be treated as human beings, and when they were tortured or summarily executed, this constituted a war crime. Such “laws of war,” which form the basis of international agreements, including the Geneva Conventions, have needless to say often been flouted, but, in theory, they were to be upheld by civilized people.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, political leaders and government officials proclaimed that “everything changed.” The Bush administration legal team deployed linguistic innovation to issue in an entirely new era of warfare, wherein the “laws of war” would still be said to obtain, but they would be inapplicable to entire classes of human beings. Jihadist soldiers for radical Islamist causes were labeled unlawful enemy combatants, whose “unlawful” status was said to imply that they were protected by neither international norms such as the Geneva Conventions nor the laws of civil society.

Under this pretext, terrorist suspects were tortured while held captive at prisons in Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Baghram, in addition to many black sites around the world. Ever keen to cover their tracks, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) also flatly denied that they ever tortured anyone, by redefining as enhanced interrogation techniques the abusive practices inflicted on hundreds, if not thousands, of men in an effort to extract from them actionable intelligence. And just in case any of this “logic” was called into question by pesky human rights advocates, Bush administration officials also derided the Geneva Conventions as “quaint.”

Imminent vs. Immediate in the Global War on Terror

The “peace candidate” Barack Obama was elected in 2008 on the promise to rein in the excesses of the Bush administration, including what Obama characterized as the “dumb” war on Iraq. The new president publicly denounced “enhanced interrogation techniques” as torture but then proceeded to take linguistic neologism to an entirely new level by not only redefining assassination as targeted killing but also labeling any suspect eliminated through the use of lethal drones as an Enemy Killed in Action (EKIA).

The slaughtered “soldiers” were assumed to be guilty of possible complicity in future possible crimes, a preposterous position never fully grasped by Obama’s devotees, who somehow failed to recognize that the specific implement used to kill does not distinguish various types of homicide from one another, morally speaking. The extrajudicial execution of individual human beings in civil society is illegal, but the Obama administration effectively maintained that the targeting of suspicious persons and their associates in lands far away was perfectly permissible, so long as the victims were killed by missiles launched from drones, thereby rendering them “acts of war.”

The entire drone program, whether within or far from areas of active hostilities (i.e., war zones), was portrayed by Obama and his administration as just another facet of “just war.” Blinded to the moral atrocity of this new lethal-centric approach to dealing with suspected enemies, whereby they would be executed rather than taken prisoner, Obama’s loyal supporters blithely embraced the propaganda according to which he was a smart warrior. After demonstrating his death creds to the satisfaction of hawks, by killing not only Osama bin Laden, but also U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, suspected of complicity in factional terrorism, Obama was reelected for a second term in 2012, despite having summarily executed thousands of men—mostly brown-skinned, unnamed, and unarmed—located in their own civil societies, far from any U.S. citizen, and in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The deft deployment of two simple words, immediate and imminent, played a key role in allowing Obama to get away with murder, even of U.S. citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki and his sixteen-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Guided by drone-killing czar John Brennan, Obama’s lawyers calmly explained in public addresses and official documents that suspects who posed imminent threats to the United States could be targeted by lethal drones because an imminent threat did not imply immediacy. In other words, they could be killed even when they were currently unarmed and living in their own civil society, surrounded by family members and friends, and even when the future crime of which they were vaguely suspected was merely hypothetical and therefore had no specific date.

When targets were “nominated” for execution, the administration operated under the assumption that they were guilty unless specific information was brought forth to demonstrate their innocence. The victims themselves obviously could not do this, initially, because they were not informed that they were being targeted and, later, because they were dead. Meanwhile, local residents and journalists on the ground who knew these people’s names and dared to assert that the victims were not terrorists were either denounced as propagandists or cast as misguided persons hoodwinked by the rhetoric of jihadists.

As the death toll mounted, outspoken critics in the vicinity of the missile strikes became progressively more terrified of being themselves eliminated for seeming to support terrorist groups. Their concerns were not unfounded, for they risked being affixed with the lethal label associate and added to hit lists for execution if they dared to question the drone warriors’ narrative. This oppressive climate needless to say served actively to suppress dissent from the U.S. government’s official story of what they had done, even among locals who witnessed the grisly scenes where entirely innocent community members were incinerated by missiles launched from drones.

Imminent vs. Immediate in the Opioid Crisis

Improbably enough, the very same two words, imminent and immediate, used by the Obama legal team to invert the presumption of innocence to a presumption of guilt in the case of terrorist suspects located abroad, proved to be deadly in an entirely different context during the twenty-first century as well.

The causes of the sudden and shocking increase in the number of narcotics addicts and overdose deaths all over the United States are manifold, but a tidal wave of diversion was made possible by drug-dealer doctors and the notorious “pain clinics” where they plied their trade. Manufacturers produced and pharmacies dispensed billions of pills as demand multiplied in tandem with the creation of more and more new addicts, who could no longer function without narcotics.

Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are widely regarded as the prime movers of the opioid crisis, having undertaken a highly successful campaign to coax doctors into believing that their patented time-release prescription narcotic Oxycontin was nonaddictive and could be safely provided to patients even for moderate pain. This marketing feat was achieved by influencing key players at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), who not only approved the medication but permitted it to be sold along with a package insert falsely suggesting that it was less prone to abuse than other narcotics.

In its quest to sell as many pills as possible, the pharmaceutical industry repeatedly pivoted to neologize in lethal ways over the two decades following the launch of Oxycontin in 1996. When it emerged that the pills sometimes wore off before the twelve-hour time release period, marketers and sales representatives claimed that those patients were suffering from breakthrough pain, the remedy for which was (surprise!) to double their dose. The narcotics marketers indulged in flat-out sophistry when they insisted that patients who appeared to be addicted to their painkillers were in fact suffering from pseudoaddiction, the remedy for which was (surprise!) even higher doses of their drugs. As farcical as these arguments may seem in retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight and in the light of the overdose epidemic now running rampant, many doctors appear to have been persuaded to believe that their patients’ miserable condition was not indicative of addiction but a manifestation of their ongoing and unbearable pain, the solution to which was to ply them with yet more powerful narcotics.

Pharma-coopted lawmakers were notified of the proliferating addiction problem early on but refused to stop the runaway train by demanding that the FDA cease playing along with Purdue’s insane pro-narcotics marketing campaign. Other companies needless to say contributed as well, through promulgating the “pain epidemic” propaganda so as to expand the market niche of such products, which had previously been reserved for terminally ill patients. Johnson & Johnson played a causal role in what became the opioid crisis by growing tons of poppies (in Tasmania) to meet the enormous increased industry need for raw opium, without which the billions of pills prescribed could not and would never have been produced.

As the opioid crisis began to become recognized for what it was, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sought to issue “Immediate Suspension Orders” (ISOs) against the three major drug wholesale distributors to pharmacies, Cardinal Health, McKesson, and Amerisource Bergen. Through issuing such orders, Joe Rannazzisi, the deputy director of the Office of Diversion Control, hoped to halt the ongoing mass shipments of opioids to retailers such as CVS in cases where the sheer volume of prescriptions could not be explained by ordinary medical practice and so was a clear indication that widespread diversion of narcotics was underway.

Rannazzisi ended up being hobbled by a team of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who managed to cobble together a new law in 2014 which, despite its beneficent-sounding name, “The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” (HR4709), served to protect, above all, drug manufacturers and distributors. The Act rewrote the law already on the books through redefining the imminent danger required to issue an ISO to mean “a substantial likelihood of an immediate threat.” One of the new Act’s enthusiastic promoters, Linden Barber (a former DEA officer and lawyer who had left his government position to represent the drug distributors), persuasively explained on the floor of Congress that “having a clear legal standard is always better.” The measure passed unanimously, without a roll call vote, for the simple reason that it sounded like a policy to which no decent person could object. But rather than stemming the tide of the opioid crisis, the Act severely hampered the DEA’s ability to issue ISOs, for it was prohibitively difficult for officials to meet the newly stipulated legal standard of imminence as requiring immediacy.

President Obama signed the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014 into law, and the marketing campaign used to promote the use of highly addictive time-release narcotics barreled ahead. The DEA’s sudden inability to call a halt to the shipment of tons of narcotics to retailers effectively guaranteed that the number of dependent persons would multiply, as potent prescription pills continued to be diverted for recreational uses and thereby create more addicts. But more addicts meant more overdoses, not only from the potent pills themselves, but also because the street supplies of heroin to which many users eventually turned were often cut with extremely dangerous fentanyl.

Unfazed by the death tolls, which had already soared to many thousands by 2014, the pharmaceutical giants insisted that the sorry situation of addicts was no argument against helping patients genuinely in pain, who would in fact be wronged if their access to narcotics were curbed. The addicts dropping like flies were painted as solely responsible for their plight, despite ample evidence that many of the overdose victims began as legitimate pain patients, who became aware of their dependency only upon reaching the bottom of their amber vials.

The Role of Obamacare in Propelling and Augmenting the Opioid Crisis

“Everything changed” in the twenty-first century, not only with the war on terror, the rebranding of torture, and the normalization of assassination, but also in the pharma-friendly approach to healthcare ushered in by President Barack Obama. By pushing through his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, which leftists were led to believe would create a system of socialized medicine (referred to by many as Obamacare), the president notoriously bowed to drug makers and the insurance industry, extending to those sectors the very form of crony corporate welfare already enjoyed by companies in the military industry.

Obama’s collaboration with pharmaceutical and insurance company executives in crafting the ACA allowed them to secure advantageous pricing arrangements to ensure the maximization of their profits, while at the same time massively increasing the sheer volume of sales. The pharmaceutical industry was greatly enriched through the provision of virtually limitless free psychiatric medications to low-income patients through government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and to veterans through the VA (Veterans Administration). Mental health-based disability claims soared, and the sales of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), anti-anxiety, atypical anti-psychotic medications and other psychotropes, including narcotics, increased accordingly. The millions of new prescription medications dispensed to formerly uninsured Americans ended up being paid for by the middle class, who were mandated by law to sign up for Obamacare or else face a hefty tax penalty, should they decline to comply.

Despite what may have been Obama’s initial good intention, to make healthcare available to uninsured persons, Obamacare ultimately made medical treatment in the United States prohibitively expensive for many middle class families, whose copays, premiums and deductibles increased dramatically. The new mandatory healthcare program skyrocketed the salaries of health industry executives while pricing drugs and procedures out of reach for many persons who had previously been able to afford them. Millions of people in the United States have filed medical bankruptcy in recent years. In cases where prescription narcotics addicts became uninsured because they lost their jobs, they turned to the streets for their needed drugs, given the impossibility of paying out of pocket for extraordinarily expensive prescription pills.

Given the story of Obamacare, perhaps no one should be surprised that when the Obama administration finally took action to address the opioid epidemic, most of the allocated $1.1 billion was for the alternative medication of already existing addicts. The pharma-friendly approach prevailed once again, encouraging the sale of more and more drugs (such as Suboxone) to help addicts to wean themselves off their narcotics. Obama’s dilatory and pro-pill approach to the opioid crisis ultimately generated even more people who, in order to kick their narcotics habit, would need to avail themselves of further pharmaceutical means, effectively trading one drug for another. In other words, both the problem of opioid overprescription, facilitated through Obamacare by providing easy access to narcotics to formerly uninsured persons, and the measures implemented by the Obama administration in response to the overdose epidemic, served to increase pharmaceutical industry profits.

The Death Connection

Whether or not one wishes to connect any further dots in the cases of drone assassination and the opioid epidemic, it does seem worth pointing out that Obama’s own attorney general, Eric Holder (2009-2015), was a former legal counselor to Purdue Pharma, who in fact defended the company in a 2004 lawsuit alleging deceptive marketing of Oxycontin. This is noteworthy because it was none other than Eric Holder who, in an infamous White Paper and various public addresses, so adamantly defended the creative interpretation of imminence as not implying immediacy, the crucial linguistic maneuver used to defend and promote Obama’s drone killing spree.

The normalization of assassination achieved by the Obama administration expanded the domain of what was said to be legitimate state killing by inverting the burden of proof on suspects while simultaneously claiming (illogically enough) that “areas outside active hostilities” were in fact war zones. Together, all of these linguistic tricks generated a veritable killing machine, opening up vast new market niches and dramatically increasing the profit potential for companies in the shockingly lucrative business of state-inflicted homicide. Not only weapons manufacturers but also logistics and analytics companies were able to reap hefty profits through eliminating as many people pegged as “terrorist suspects” as possible.

The imminent vs. immediate dichotomy was inverted and redeployed, but in the opposite direction, by pharmaceutical company legal teams and collaborating lawmakers in 2014 to permit the promiscuous sale of narcotics to continue on despite the opioid overdose epidemic on display throughout the United States. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2014 ironically “ensured” only profits for drug companies, as millions of new addicts would be created during the second decade of the twenty-first century, accelerating and multiplying the domino effect of diversion and overdoses already ravaging communities all across the United States. It matters not that pharmaceutical company executives sought not to kill people but to sell pills. They aggressively pushed narcotics without regard for the likely future consequences of their drive for profit. Indeed, they persisted in pushing narcotics even as drug overdose deaths reached record levels.

Under Obama, more than two thousand suspects outside areas of active hostilities were premeditatedly and intentionally incinerated by missiles launched from drones. The tally of overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 100K for the single year ending in April 2021. The long-range effects of the normalization of assassination, however, are likely to be more deadly than the opioid crisis, given that many other governments have followed suit in acquiring lethal drones for their own use, having been persuaded by the precedent set by the U.S. government that this form of state-inflicted homicide is perfectly permissible. In contrast, the promiscuous opioid prescription practices of doctors in the United States has been curtailed and was not emulated in the UK or in Europe, although the pharmaceutical giants do appear to have continued their morally dubious marketing practices in other countries abroad, especially in less-developed lands.

As both the drone program and the opioid prescription debacle illustrate, when government agencies such as the Pentagon and the FDA have been captured by industry forces focused above all on maximizing profits, they will simply look the other way as the corpses pile up, denying responsibility for any and all “collateral damage.” This tendency of bureaucrats and corporate leaders to shirk responsibility for the negative consequences of their policies helps to explain the ease with which lawmakers are coopted by lobbyists from not only the military but also the pharmaceutical industry. The recent deployment of imminent and immediate by lethal legal “experts” serves to underscore why the censorship of language by government officials themselves is inherently dangerous, given that their policies in recent years have multiplied, not prevented, the deaths of human beings.

In a representative democracy, the lawmakers promote the interests of the voters who elected them. What kind of government sacrifices the lives of human beings in order to maximize the profits of corporate leaders?

Tyler Durden Fri, 04/01/2022 - 23:40
Published:4/1/2022 10:45:13 PM
[Politics] White House press corps puts on BIG SHOW of challenging Psaki over ETHICS of her MSNBC gig Jen Psaki, who you’ll remember came to the Biden White House from her gig at CNN, and went to her gig with CNN from her gig with Obama, is now going from . . . Published:4/1/2022 4:42:59 PM
[] Looks like Joe Biden was too worried about shamelessly pandering to Hispanic voters to consider the implications of his César Chávez Day tribute Published:3/31/2022 1:07:10 PM
[0ffd3c55-c4f8-5af1-badc-d0689cea8998] Republicans' dangerous health care agenda won't bode well in midterms Last week marked the 12th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House. Published:3/31/2022 10:32:13 AM
[Markets] How The West Was Lost: A Faltering World Reserve Currency How The West Was Lost: A Faltering World Reserve Currency

Authored by Matthew Piepenburg via GoldSwitzerland.com,

The Western financial system and world reserve currency is now in open decline.

From Rigged to Fail to Just Plain Failing

Just two years ago, I wrote a book warning that Western markets in general, and US markets in particular, were Rigged to Fail.

Well, now, in real time, they are failing.

This hard reality has less to do with COVID or the war in the Ukraine and more to do with one simple force, which euphoric markets and clueless leaders have been ignoring for decades, namely: Debt.

As I wrote then, and will repeat now: Debt destroys nations, financial systems, markets, and currencies.

Always and every time.

As we see below, the inflationary financial system is now failing because its debt levels have rendered it impotent to grow economically, react sensibly or sustain its chronic debt addictions naturally.

The evidence of this is literally everywhere, from the Fed to the Petrodollar and the bond market to the gold price.

Let’s dig in.

The Fed: No Best-Case Scenarios Left

The Fed has driven itself, and hence the U.S. markets and economy, into an all-too predictable corner and historically dangerous crossroads.

If it turns to the left (i.e., more money printing/liquidity) to protect a record-breaking risk asset bubble, it faces an inflationary flood; if it turns to the right (and raises rates or tapers UST purchases), it faces a market inferno.

How did we get to this crossroads?

Easy: Decades of artificially suppressed rates, cheap credit and a $30T sovereign debt pile of unprecedented (and unsustainable) proportions.

The Dying Bond Bull

With so much of this unloved debt on its national back, no one but the Fed will buy Uncle Sam’s IOUs.

As a result, long-dated Treasuries are falling in price and rising in yield as Bloomberg reminds us of the worst drawdown for global bonds in 20 years.

In short, the central-bank created bond bull of the last 40-something years is now falling to its knees.

Ironically, the only path to more demand for otherwise unloved bonds is if the stock market fully tanks and stock investors flee blindly back into bonds like passengers looking for lifeboats on the Titanic.

Bonds & Stocks—They Can Fall Together Unless Saved by Debased Dollars

But as the “Covid crash” of March 2020 painfully reminded us, in a world of central-bank-driven bubbles, historically over-valued stocks and bonds can and will fall together unless the Fed creates yet another multi-trillion-dollar QE lifeboat, which just kills the inherent strength of the dollar in your wallet.

Hence and again: There’s no good options left. It’s either inflation or a market implosion.

Fantasy & Dishonesty—The New Policy

But this never stops the Fed from pretending otherwise or using words rather than growth to cover its monetary sins.

Despite almost a year of deliberately lying about “transitory inflation,” the Fed has swallowed what little pride it has left and admitted to a real inflationary problem at home.

In short, and as bond legend Mohamed El-Erian recently observed, the increasingly discredited Fed has no “best case” scenarios left.

The Fed, along with its economically clue-less politicians, have essentially devolved the once-great US of A from developed country into one that resembles a developing country.

In other words, the “American dream” as well as American exceptionalism, is being downgraded into a kind of tragi-comedy in real time—i.e., right now.

Nevertheless, the always double-speaking Powell is doubling down on more fantasy (lies) about rising US labor participation and growth to help “produce” the USA out of the debt and inflationary hole which the Greenspan shovel initiated many “exuberant” years ago.

But once again, Powell is wrong.

Labor Participation—The Latest Fantasy

Based on simple demographics, lack of love for US IOU’s, growing trade deficits (alongside rising deficit spending), and an over-priced USD, the US labor force participation will not be going up in time for the land of the world’s reserve currency to grow itself out of the 122% debt to GDP corner which the Fed has driven into (after decades of low-rate drunk driving).

Without increased labor force participation, the only DC option left to fight inflation is to either 1) raise rates to induce a killer recession (and market implosion) or else 2) slash government deficits by at least 10%.

Unfortunately, cutting deficits by 10% will also kill GDP by at least an equivalent amount, which weakens tax receipts and thus make it nearly impossible for Uncle Sam to pay even the interest alone on his national bar tab, as we’ve shown elsewhere.

Addicts Are Predictable Creatures

So, what will this cornered and debt-drunk Fed do?

Well, what all addicts do—keep drinking—i.e., printing ever-more increasingly debased USD’s—which just creates more tailwinds for, you guessed it: Gold. (But also hard asset commodities in general, industrial equities and agricultural real estate.)

In the meantime, the Fed, the US Government and its corporate-owned propaganda arms in the U.S. media will blame all this new money printing and continued deficit spending on Putin rather than decades of financial mismanagement out of DC.

No shocker there.

But Putin, even if you hate him, sees things the headlines are omitting.

De-Dollarization and Petrodollar Rumblings—Uh Oh?

There are increasing signs of “uh-oh” in the world of the once-mighty Petrodollar.

From Trigger Happy to Shot in the Foot

As we’ve been warning in our most recent reports, Western financial sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine have a way of doing as much damage to the trigger-puller as to the intended target.

In simplest terms, freezing one county’s FX reserves and SWIFT transactions has a way of frightening other counter-parties, and not just the intended targets.

Imagine, for example, if your bank accounts were frozen for any reason. Would you then trust the bank that froze your accounts down the road once the issue was resolved? Would you recommend that bank to others?

Well, the world has been watching Western powers effectively freeze Putin’s assets, and regardless of whether you agree or disagree with such measures, other countries (not all of which are “bad actors”) are thinking about switching banks—or at least dollars…

If so, the US has just shot itself in the foot while aiming for Putin.

As previously warned, the Western sanctions are simply pushing Russia and China further together and further away from US Dollars and US Treasuries.

Such shifts have massive ripple effects which Biden’s financial team appears to have ignored.

And as everyone from Jamie Dimon to Barack Obama has previously warned, that’s not a good thing and is causing the broader world to re-think US financial leadership and US Dollar hegemony as a world reserve currency.

Saudi Arabia: Re-Thinking the Petro-Dollar?

Take that not-so-democratic “ally” of the US, Saudi Arabia, who Biden had called a “Pariah State” in 2020…

As of March, the news out of Saudi is hinting that they would consider purchases of oil in CNY as opposed to USD, which would signal the slow end to the Petrodollar and only add more inflationary tailwinds to Americans suffering at home.

One simply cannot underestimate (nor over-state enough) the profound significance of a weakening Petrodollar world.

It would have devastating consequences for the USD and inflation, and would be an absolute boon for gold.

Already, Xi is making plans to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, which is China’s top oil supplier. Meanwhile, Aramco is reaching out to China as well.

What Can Saudi Do with Chinese Money?

Some are arguing that the Saudi’s can’t purchase much with CNY. After all, the USD has more appeal, right?

Hmmm.

Considering the fact that US Treasuries offer zero to negative real yields, perhaps “all things American” just aren’t what they used to be…

Saudis have now seen that the US is willing to seize US Treasuries as a form of financial warfare.

Saudis (like many other nations—i.e., India and China) are certainly asking themselves if a similar move could be made against them in the future.

Thus, it’s no coincidence that they too are looking East rather than West for future deals, and Russia could use its new Chinese currencies to buy everything from nuclear plants to gold bars in Shanghai—just saying…

Oil Matters

Meanwhile, and despite the media’s attempt to paint Putin as Hitler 2.0, the Russian leader knows something the headlines are ignoring, namely: The world needs his oil.

Without Russian oil, the global energy and economic system implodes, because the system has too much debt to suddenly go it alone and/or fight back.

See how sovereign debt cripples options and changes the global stage?

Meanwhile Russia, which doesn’t have the same debt to GDP chains around its ankle as the EU and US, can start demanding payment for its oil in RUB rather than USD.

As of this writing, Arab states are in private discussions with China, Russia and France to stop selling oil in USD.

Such moves would weaken USD demand and strength, adding more inflationary fuel to a growing inflationary fire from Malibu to Manhattan.

I wonder if Biden, Harris or anyone in their circle of “experts” thought that part through?

Given their strength in optics vs. their weakness as to math, geography and history, it’s quite clear they did not and could not…

Not to Worry?

Meanwhile, of course, the WSJ and other Western political news organizations are assuring the world not to worry, as USD FX trading volumes dwarf those of Chinese (Russian) and other currencies.

Fair enough.

But for how long?

Again, what many politicians and most journalists don’t understand (besides basic math), is basic history.

Their myopic policies and smooth-tongued forecasts are based on the notion that if it’s not raining today, it can’t rain tomorrow.

But it’s already raining on the US as well as US global financial leadership.

Meanwhile, Russia’s central bank is now in motion to increase gold purchases with all the new RUBs (not USDs) it will be receiving from its oil sales.

Investors must track these macro events very carefully in the coming weeks and months.

A Multi-Currency New World

The bottom line, however, is that the world is slowly moving away from a one-world-reserve-currency era to an increasingly multi-currency system.

Once the sanction and financial war genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put back. Trust in the West, and its USD-led currency system, is changing.

By taking the chest-puffing decision to freeze Russian FX reserves, sanction Russian IMF SDR’s and remove its access to SWIFT payments systems, the US garnered short-term headlines to appear “tough” but ushered a path toward longer term consequences which will make it (and its Dollar) weaker.

As multi-currency oil becomes the new setting, the inflationary winners will, again, be commodities, industrials and certain real estate plays.

Gold Matters

As for gold, it remains the only true neutral reserve asset of global central bank balance sheets and is poised to benefit the most over time as a non-USD denominated energy market slowly emerges.

Furthermore, Russia is allowing payments in gold for its natural gas.

And for those (i.e., Wall Street) who still argue gold is a “pet rock” and “barbarous relic” of the past, it may be time to rethink.

After all, why has the Treasury Department included an entire section in its Russian sanction handbook on gold?

The answer is as obvious as it is ignored.

Chinese banks (with Russian currency swap lines) can act as intermediaries to help Russia use the gold market to “launder” its sanctioned money.

That is, Russia can and will continue to trade globally (Eurasia, Brazil, India, China…) in what boils down to a truly free market of “gold for commodities” which not even those thieves at the COMEX can artificially price fix—something not seen in decades.

De-Globalization

Stated simply: The mighty dollar and “globalization” dreams of the West are slowly witnessing an emerging era of inflationary de-globalization as each country now does what is required and best for itself rather than Klaus Schwab’s megalomaniacal fantasies.

The cornered US, of course, will likely try to sanction gold transactions with Russia, but this would require fully choking Russia energy sales to the EU, which the EU economy (and citizens) simply can’t afford.

In the meantime, a desperate French president is considering stimulus checks for gas and food. That, by the way, is inflationary…

History Repeating Itself

Again, the debt-soaked, energy-dependent West is not as strong as the headlines would have you believe, which means gold, as it has done for thousands of years, will rise as failed leaders, debt-soaked nations and world reserve currencies fall.

History, alas, is as important as math, price-discovery and supply and demand. Sadly, the vast of majority of modern leaders know almost nothing of these forces or topics.

If gold could speak in words, it would simply say: “Shame on them.”

But gold does speak in value, and it’s getting the last laugh on the currencies now weakening in our wallets and the debt-drunk leaders now squawking in our headlines.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/31/2022 - 05:00
Published:3/31/2022 4:30:41 AM
[Markets] Biden's "New World Order" Biden's "New World Order"

Submitted by Pete Hoekstra of Gatestone Institute.

  • Clearly, America is not leading the "green" new world order, and Biden seems to have no meaningful plan for how to get us there other than radical disruptions to our lifestyle and a heightened reliance on China.

  • When it comes to oil and gas, it seems Biden's new world order would continue his policy of decreasing American energy independence and increasing U.S. reliance on bad-faith state actors -- thereby ironically funding their efforts to undermine America in the global order.

  • What does Biden's record in the Middle East suggest that the new world order will resemble there? Well, the president is pushing to sign an agreement brokered by Russia, and backed by China, reportedly to remove sanctions on Iran, delist Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as the terrorist organization it is, and allow Russia to purchase Iran's "excess" enriched uranium -- perhaps to use against its next "Ukraine"?

  • Finally, what is Biden's vision for this new world order with China? The message could not be more mixed. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues its genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, suppressing freedoms in Hong Kong, militarizing at least three of the artificial islands it built in the South China Sea, perfecting hypersonic missiles and "satellite crushers", threatening Taiwan, and signing new friendship agreements with Russia. Meanwhile the Biden administration was sharing intelligence about Russia with China. Apparently, the administration had some quixotic hope that China would join the U.S. in discouraging Russia from attacking. At the same time, it turns out, China was sharing its intelligence information from the U.S. with Russia. One can only wonder who came up with the crazy idea that the CCP would join with the U.S. in maintaining order and stability in Europe.

  • Apparently, the administration had some quixotic hope that China would join the U.S. in discouraging Russia from attacking. One can only wonder who came up with the crazy idea that the CCP would join with the U.S. in maintaining order and stability in Europe.

  • Indeed, Biden's vision of a new world order led by America looks more and more like a new world of disorder.

  • So, while it is not clear what Biden meant when he referenced America leading a new world order, his record over the last 15 months suggests it consists of a weakened U.S. economy hamstrung by inflation, war in Europe, unraveling alliances in the Middle East and growing uncertainty in Asia.

  • If this is the unintended consequence of Biden's new world order, it is time for him to go back to the drawing board. The world has suffered enough. The time has come for him to recalibrate the global nightmare that his policies have created.

While it is not clear what U.S. President Joe Biden meant when he referenced America leading a "new world order," his record over the last 15 months suggests it consists of a weakened U.S. economy hamstrung by inflation, war in Europe, unraveling alliances in the Middle East and growing uncertainty in Asia

U.S. President Joe Biden recently closed his remarks to the Business Roundtable with a confusing reference to a "new world order." He stated, according to the White House transcript of his speech:

"It occurs every three or four generations. ... [A] time when things are shifting. We're going to — there's going to be a new world order out there, and we've got to lead it. And we've got to unite the rest of the free world in doing it."

What was the president talking about? It came at the end of his speech; he did not elaborate on what he meant. Presumably he was referring to the ongoing shifts in the post-World War II global power structures, but does Biden have a plan for America's role in what this new world order would look like, as Europe finds itself potentially engulfed in a major war?

The American people are left to find the clues and try to figure out what Biden might have meant. The best we can do is turn to the policies he has implemented during his first 15 months in office to see if any elements of his plan for America in this "new world order" can be discerned.

The central animating policy push for Biden and the Democrats has been the "Green New Deal." Given America's vast energy reserves and technological know-how, will the U.S. lead in "greening" the planet and providing safe, stable energy supplies to the West and its allies and partners? The short answer seems to be no. China dominates in the production of rare earth materials, solar panels and windmills; six of the top 10 manufacturers are based in Communist China. Clearly, America is not leading the "green" new world order, and Biden seems to have no meaningful plan for how to get us there other than radical disruptions to our lifestyle and a heightened reliance on China.

Other Biden energy decisions are just as baffling. When he took office, Biden killed the Keystone XL pipeline in America, but greenlit Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would lock in Europe's dependence on Russia for gas. He also opposed congressional efforts to sanction the pipeline in the run-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. As U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, I was a vocal proponent of the Trump administration's policy to oppose Nord Stream 2. Along the same lines, Biden, on his first day in office, unequivocally accepted the Paris Agreement on climate, reentering America into this deeply flawed pact.

Rather than support America's energy independence and oil and gas production, Biden has left American consumers holding the bag as gasoline prices in the U.S. have spiked to anywhere from $4 to $7 per gallon of gas. The energy crisis is so bad that the Biden administration is talking about purchasing oil from Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to oil and gas, it seems Biden's new world order would continue his policy of decreasing American energy independence and increasing U.S. reliance on bad-faith state actors -- thereby ironically funding their efforts to undermine America in the global order.

Is the Europe of today, a continent consumed by the fear of war with Russia, part of Biden's vision for a new world order? His backing for Nord Stream 2 only seemed to embolden Russia, and his the undermining of U.S. production left America buying a half million barrels of oil per day from Russia. At $110 per barrel, American taxpayers are therefore funding Russia's war machine by more than $20 billion a year. Since the administration's gifts to Russia -- the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and extending the New START Treaty for another five years -- have not worked out for the U.S., the people of Ukraine, or Europe, is Biden modifying or reconsidering his plan for a new world order? In an interview aired the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden administration "climate czar" John Kerry showed that the administration was still consumed by its "Green New Deal" fantasies, lamenting:

"But equally importantly, you're going to lose people's focus... I hope President Putin will help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate."

We are left to wonder if any number of decisions made by the administration prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine would have changed Russian President Vladimir Putin's calculus for the war. What if Biden had not signed off on Nord Stream 2 and had, instead, kept the Trump administration's policy in place? What if Biden had heeded calls by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and members of Congress to enact sanctions prior to Putin's invasion? What if Biden had decided to lead instead of follow Europe? Apparently, in Biden's new world order, America does not lead, it only follows or reacts to others.

What does Biden's record in the Middle East suggest that the new world order will resemble there? Well, the president is pushing to sign an agreement brokered by Russia, and backed by China, reportedly to remove sanctions on Iran, delist Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as the terrorist organization it is, and allow Russia to purchase Iran's "excess" enriched uranium -- perhaps to use against its next "Ukraine"?

The president's confusing desperation to reenter the bad Obama-era nuclear deal with Iran is driving U.S. allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates to question their relationship with the U.S., and evidently moving them at least to consider strengthening their ties with Russia and China. Israel has tried to balance the U.S. and Russia on Ukraine. Saudi and UAE leaders have declined to take calls from Biden but did take calls from Putin. It also cannot be missed that just prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Russia, China and Iran conducted joint military drills.

Finally, what is Biden's vision for this new world order with China? The message could not be more mixed. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues its genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, suppressing freedoms in Hong Kong, militarizing at least three of the artificial islands it built in the South China Sea, perfecting hypersonic missiles and "satellite crushers", threatening Taiwan, and signing new friendship agreements with Russia. Meanwhile the Biden administration was sharing intelligence about Russia with China. Apparently, the administration had some quixotic hope that China would join the U.S. in discouraging Russia from attacking. At the same time, it turns out, China was sharing its intelligence information from the U.S. with Russia. One can only wonder who came up with the crazy idea that the CCP would join with the U.S. in maintaining order and stability in Europe.

Indeed, Biden's vision of a new world order led by America looks more and more like a new world of disorder. Instead of articulating a clear vision of American leadership, our actions on the world stage have been directed by Russia, Iran, China, and even Europe. The situation has undermined America's ties to its traditional allies; they seem to be having difficulty understanding the president's global vision, and seeing the new world order evolving to one where America leads, but only from behind, in reaction to the whims of others.

So, while it is not clear what Biden meant when he referenced America leading a new world order, his record over the last 15 months suggests it consists of a weakened U.S. economy hamstrung by inflation, war in Europe, unraveling alliances in the Middle East and growing uncertainty in Asia.

If this is the unintended consequence of Biden's new world order, it is time for him to go back to the drawing board. The world has suffered enough. The time has come for him to recalibrate the global nightmare that his policies have created.

*  *  *

Peter Hoekstra was US Ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. He served 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the second district of Michigan and served as Chairman and Ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/30/2022 - 22:20
Published:3/30/2022 9:28:08 PM
[Markets] Saudi Op-Ed Warns America "Dismantling Pillars Of Own Empire" Saudi Op-Ed Warns America "Dismantling Pillars Of Own Empire"

Part of the increasing and closer Gulf state-Israel alliance, which blossomed during the covert war to oust Assad in Syria over the past decade and became formalized with the Abraham Accords of 2020, apparently involves media coordination when it comes to enemy #1 in the region of both sides. 

An almost unprecedented op-ed in The Jerusalem Post lashed out at both America and Iran, while implicitly praising Israel's steadfastness against Tehran, and it was authored by a Saudi... more precisely the former editor of the kingdom's Al Arabiya English, Mohammed Alyahya. The op-ed blasts Washington efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal by the Biden administration, questioning: If the Americans won’t side with Israel against Iran, what’s the chance they will side with us?

Via Reuters:  Saudi Aramco's petroleum storage facility after March 26 attack in Jeddah.

In the scathing critique perhaps signaling just how close the Vienna talks are to restoring the JCPOA, the author writes in the Israeli newspaper, "Sold disingenuously to the American public as an arms control agreement, the deal is an assault on the regional order that the United States established in the aftermath of World War II. Explicitly hostile to Saudi Arabia, to say nothing of America’s other greatest ally in the region, Israel, the deal replaces the former American-led regional security structure with a concert system in which Iran, backed by Russia and China, becomes America’s new subcontractor while America’s former allies—the Gulf States and Israel— are demoted to second-tier status."

Further it points out that the Iranians have actually ramped up terror attacks in the region, even as great progress has been reported on the nuclear deal front...

"Last Friday, as Blinken prepared for his trip to David Ben Gurion’s old kibbutz of Sde Boker, the Iranian-backed Houthi militia launched a rocket attack against Aramco in Jeddah. This attack was only the latest in a long series of brazen attacks that Iran has conducted, either directly from its own soil or indirectly through proxies," the op-ed states.

And more selections from the Saudi authored op-ed as follows...

"Human shields for Iran"

"Instead of friendship, America seems more inclined to use its old friends as human shields for Iran. Earlier this month, when Iran conducted a ballistic missile strike near the US consulate in Erbil, Iraq, it falsely claimed to be targeting an Israeli facility. A senior Biden official then confirmed the Iranian claim. While other officials later denied it, the damage was done. An American official had assisted Iran in getting the most out of its propaganda by action."

"Seemingly nothing will deflect the White House from its goal. During the negotiations in Vienna, attacks from Iran have grown ever more brazen. Not even an attack by Iranian proxies on American forces in the Tanf region of Syria and repeated attacks on the American embassy in Iraq have deflected Biden from his goal of delivering hundreds of billions of dollars to the IRGC."

Obama & Russia's rise in Middle East to the benefit of Iran

"In Riyadh, it is not forgotten that the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 was followed swiftly by the rise of a Russian-Iranian alliance in Syria that leveled most of the major cities of that country and awarded Moscow with a military base on the Eastern Mediterranean – cementing Russia’s first foothold in the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union."

"When the Saudis protested  Obama’s passivity, he told them they must learn to share the region with Iran. And it is not lost on America’s regional allies now that, even as Biden asks Saudi Arabia to raise oil production to help support the campaign against Russia over Ukraine, he is granting sanctions waivers to Russia so that it can continue to guarantee the nuclear deal with Iran that it helped broker — in part by husbanding Iran’s uranium reserves and protecting its underground nuclear facilities filled with illegal centrifuges spinning material for weapons."

"Chinese policy is simple & straightforward"

"While American policy is beset by baffling contradictions, Chinese policy is simple and straightforward. Beijing is offering Riyadh a simple deal: Sell us your oil and choose whatever military equipment you want from our catalogue; in return, help us to stabilize global energy markets. In other words, the Chinese are offering what increasingly appears modeled on the American-Saudi deal that stabilized the Middle East for 70 years."

"What is not yet clear is whether the Chinese can be helpful in deterring Iran, or whether they share the American belief in 'balance.' But Xi Jinping will visit Riyadh in May. It is a certainty that Saudi leaders will ask him if Iran’s rocketing of the oil facilities of the world’s most reliable oil producer is in the interest of China and, if not, can Beijing make it stop?"

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/30/2022 - 20:40
Published:3/30/2022 7:57:24 PM
[World] Does Joe Biden Really Have the Most Foreign Policy Experience of Any U.S. President? Published:3/29/2022 3:17:12 PM
[White House Watch] Obama WH Climate Czar Slams Biden Admin Probe Into Alleged Solar Industry Tariff Violations

by Thomas Catenacci at CDN -

The Biden administration initiated a probe into whether Asian solar panel makers have violated tariffs, a move widely opposed by clean energy industry groups. The administration will investigate whether solar firms outside of China have used Chinese components for products then shipped to the U.S., according to a memo from …

Click to read the rest HERE-> Obama WH Climate Czar Slams Biden Admin Probe Into Alleged Solar Industry Tariff Violations first posted at Conservative Daily News

Published:3/29/2022 12:16:56 PM
[Quick Takes] Former Editor of Al Arabiya English Bashes the Democrat Iran Deal

"When President Barack Obama negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, we Saudis understood him to be seeking the breakup of a 70-year marriage."

The post Former Editor of Al Arabiya English Bashes the Democrat Iran Deal first appeared on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion.
Published:3/29/2022 11:15:09 AM
[Markets] Biden DOJ Kills Trump-Era Program To Catch Chinese Spies Biden DOJ Kills Trump-Era Program To Catch Chinese Spies

Republican Senators led by Marco Rubio (FL) have penned an angry letter to Biden AG Merrick Garland over the DOJ's decision to end a program to thwart Chinese spies.

The letter asks why the 2018 Trump administration 'China Initiative' - which was designed to identify and prosecute people hacking, stealing trade secrets, and conducting economic espionage for China within the US, according to Just the News.

"On Feb. 23, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it was effectively ending the China Initiative and implementing a new 'Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats,' which will subsume the China Initiative's work in addition to efforts related to countries such as Russia, Iran, and North Korea," reads the Thursday letter.

In a speech announcing the termination of the China Initiative, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division said that while China "stands apart" as a "brazen" espionage threat, a "broader approach" is needed to confront threats from a "variety" of countries. Olsen called this effort a "strategy for countering nation-state threats."

Republican senators expressed concern that the new approach is ill-defined and therefore may not be effective at specifically combating nefarious activities conducted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). -JtN

"In light of the continuing national security threat posed by the CCP, and the lack of clarity surrounding DOJ's new 'Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats,' we write seeking clarity with respect to the changes in DOJ's approach," reads the letter. "Specifically, its enforcement efforts to counter espionage and other illicit activities conducted by the CCP."

Five questions were included in the letter.

"Despite this critical moment and the high stakes, DOJ chose to disband its China Initiative in favor of a vague 'Strategy for Countering Nation-State Threats' that appears to equate the unique and extensive threats from the CCP with those of other nation-state threats," wrote the Senators. "What concrete policies and actions will emerge from this strategy, and their adequacy to the challenge at hand, remain to be seen. We urge DOJ to formally recognize and reprioritize the threat presented by the CCP to U.S. national security, and ask that you reconsider your decision to disband the China Initiative."

And of course, while some might question pro-China changes at the DOJ if it were Don Jr. who'd inked all sorts of international deals with Chinese power players during the Obama administration - we assume nobody in the MSM would dare suggest this has anything to do with the Bidens' cozy relationships with Chinese businessmen.

Chinese espionage costs the U.S. between $200 billion-$600 billion dollars a year in stolen intellectual property, according to Mike Orlando, acting director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

In a Jan. 31 speech, FBI Director Christopher Wray described the threats posed by China inside the U.S. as uniquely troubling.

"When we tally up what we see in our investigations — over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information or technology — there is just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, our innovation and our economic security than China," he said. -JtN

Trump's China Initiative was successful - leading to several arrests and convictions, most famous of which was Harvard Chemistry Department chair Charles Lieber, who was found guilty of lying to US officials about his ties to Beijing.

Read the rest of the report here.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/28/2022 - 19:20
Published:3/28/2022 6:38:39 PM
[Markets] Greenwald: Biden's Reckless Words Underscore Dangers Of US Using Ukraine For Proxy War Greenwald: Biden's Reckless Words Underscore Dangers Of US Using Ukraine For Proxy War

Authored by Glenn Greenwald via greenwald.substack.com,

The central question for Americans from the start of the war in Ukraine was what role, if any, should the U.S. government play in that war? A necessarily related question: if the U.S. is going to involve itself in this war, what objectives should drive that involvement?

Three long-range cruise missiles are launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea on Saturday, striking targets near the Ukrainian border with Poland, following President Biden's apparent declaration of regime change on Saturday (Credit: 7NEWS Melbourne, Twitter)

Prior to the U.S.'s jumping directly into this war, those questions were never meaningfully considered. Instead, the emotions deliberately stoked by the relentless media attention to the horrors of this war — horrors which, contrary to the West's media propaganda, are common to all wars, including its own — left little to no space for public discussion of those questions. The only acceptable modes of expression in U.S. discourse were to pronounce that the Russian invasion was unjustified, and, using parlance which the 2011 version of Chris Hayes correctly dismissed as adolescent, that Putin is a “bad guy.” Those denunciation rituals, no matter how cathartic and applause-inducing, supplied no useful information about what actions the U.S. should or should not take when it came to this increasingly dangerous conflict.

That was the purpose of so severely restricting discourse to those simple moral claims: to allow policymakers in Washington free rein to do whatever they wanted in the name of stopping Putin without being questioned. Indeed, as so often happens when war breaks out, anyone questioning U.S. political leaders instantly had their patriotism and loyalty impugned (unless one was complaining that the U.S. should become more involved in the conflict than it already was, a form of pro-war "dissent” that is always permissible in American discourse).

With these discourse rules firmly implanted, those who attempted to invoke former President Obama's own arguments about a conflict between Russia and Ukraine — namely, that “Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one” and therefore the U.S. should not risk confrontation with Moscow over it — were widely maligned as Kremlin assets if not agents. Others who urged the U.S. to try to avert war through diplomacy — by, for instance, formally vowing that NATO membership would not be offered to Ukraine and that Kyiv would remain neutral in the new Cold War pursued by the West with Moscow — faced the same set of accusations about their loyalty and patriotism.

Most taboo of all was any discussion of the heavy involvement of the U.S. in Ukraine beginning in 2014 up to the invasion: from micro-managing Ukrainian politics, to arming its military, to placing military advisers and intelligence officers on the ground to train its soldiers how to fight (something Biden announced he was considering last November) — all of which amounted to a form of de facto NATO expansion without the formal membership. And that leaves to the side the still-unanswered yet supremely repressed question of what Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland referred to as the Ukrainians’ "biological research facilities” so dangerous and beyond current Russian bio-research capabilities that she gravely feared they would "fall into Russian hands.”

As a result of the media's embracing of moral righteousness in lieu of debating these crucial geopolitical questions, the U.S. government has consistently and aggressively escalated its participation in this war with barely any questioning let alone opposition. U.S. officials are boastfully leading the effort to collapse the Russian economy. Along with its NATO allies, the U.S. has flooded Ukraine with billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry, with at least some of those arms ending up in the hands of actual neo-Nazi battalions integrated into the Ukrainian government and military. It is providing surveillance technology in the form of drones and its own intelligence to enable Ukrainian targeting of Russian forces. President Biden threatened Russia with a response “in kind” if Russia were to use chemical weapons. Meanwhile, reports The New York Times, “C.I.A. officers are helping to ensure that crates of weapons are delivered into the hands of vetted Ukrainian military units."

The U.S. is, by definition, waging a proxy war against Russia, using Ukrainians as their instrument, with the goal of not ending the war but prolonging it. So obvious is this fact about U.S. objectives that even The New York Times last Sunday explicitly reported that the the Biden administration “seeks to help Ukraine lock Russia in a quagmire” (albeit with care not to escalate into a nuclear exchange). Indeed, even “some American officials assert that as a matter of international law, the provision of weaponry and intelligence to the Ukrainian Army has made the United States a cobelligerent,” though this is “an argument that some legal experts dispute.” Surveying all this evidence as well as discussions with his own U.S. and British sources, Niall Ferguson, writing in Bloomberg, proclaimed: “I conclude that the U.S. intends to keep this war going.” UK officials similarly told him that “the U.K.’s No. 1 option is for the conflict to be extended and thereby bleed Putin.”

In sum, the Biden administration is doing exactly that which former President Obama warned in 2016 should never be done: risking war between the world's two largest nuclear powers over Ukraine. Yet if any pathology defines the last five years of U.S. mainstream discourse, it is that any claim that undercuts the interests of U.S. liberal elites — no matter how true — is dismissed as "Russian disinformation.”

As we witnessed most vividly in the run-up to the 2020 election — when that label was unquestioningly yet falsely applied by the union of the CIA, corporate media and Big Tech to the laptop archive revealing Joe Biden's political and financial activities in Ukraine and China — any facts which establishment power centers want to demonize or suppress are reflexively labelled “Russian disinformation.” Hence, the DNC propaganda arm Media Matters now lists as “pro-Russian propaganda” the indisputable fact that the U.S. is not defending Ukraine but rather exploiting and sacrificing it to fight a proxy war with Moscow. The more true a claim is, the more likely it is to receive this designation in U.S. establishment discourse.


That there are few if any risks graver or more reckless than a direct U.S./Russia military confrontation should be too obvious to require explanation. Yet that seems to have been completely forgotten in the zeal, arousal, purpose and excitement which war always triggers. It takes little to no effort to recognize the current emergence of the dynamic about which Adam Smith so fervently warned 244 years ago in Wealth of Nations:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory, from a longer continuance of the war.

The grave dangers of the world's two largest nuclear-armed powers acting on opposite sides of a hot war extend far beyond any intention by the U.S. to deliberately engage Russia directly. Such a war, even with the U.S. waging it “only” through its proxies, severely escalates tensions, distrust, hostilities, and a climate of paranoia. That is particularly true given that — ever since Democrats decided to blame Putin for Hillary's 2016 loss — at least half of Americans have been feeding on a non-stop, toxic diet of anti-Russian hatred under the guise of “Russiagate.” As recently as 2018, 2/3 of Democrats believed that Russia hacked into voting machines and altered the 2016 vote count to help Trump win. This cultivation of extreme anti-Russian animus in Washington has been made even more dangerous by the virtual prohibition on dialogue with Russian officials, which during Russiagate was deemed inherently suspect if not criminal.

And all of those preexisting dangers are, in turn, severely exacerbated by an American president who so often is too age-addled to speak clearly or predictably. That condition is inherently dangerous, made all the more so by the fact that it leaves him vulnerable to manipulation by the Democratic Party's national security advisers who will never forget 2016 and seem more intent than ever on finally attaining vengeance against Putin, no matter the risks. Speaking to U.S. troops in Poland on Friday, a visibly exhausted and rambling President Biden — after extensive travel, time-zone hopping, protracted meetings and speeches — appeared to tell U.S. troops that they were on their way to see first-hand the resistance of Ukrainians, meaning they were headed into Ukraine:

It seems clear that this was not some planned decision to have the U.S. president casually announce his intention to send U.S. troops to fight Russians in Ukraine. This was, instead, an old man, more tired, unpredictable and incoherent than usual due to intense overseas travel, accidentally mumbling out various phrases that could be and almost certainly were highly alarming to Moscow and other countries.

But accidental or unintentional escalation — from misperception or miscommunication — is always at least as serious a danger for war as the deliberate intention to directly engage militarily. In January of this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that its so-called "doomsday clock” was set to 100 seconds before midnight, the metaphorical time they used to signify an extinction-level event for humanity. They warned that the prospect of a cataclysmic nuclear exchange among the U.S., Russia and/or China was dangerously possible, and specifically warned: “Ukraine remains a potential flashpoint, and Russian troop deployments to the Ukrainian border heighten day-to-day tensions.”

In 2018, when the clock was “only” at two minutes before midnight, they emphasized tensions between Russia and the U.S. as one of the primary causes: “The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of NATO, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), upgrading their nuclear arsenals, and eschewing arms control negotiations.” They urged recognition of this specific danger: “Major nuclear actors are on the cusp of a new arms race, one that will be very expensive and will increase the likelihood of accidents and misperceptions.”

That Biden's "gaffe” about U.S. troops headed into Ukraine could generate exactly this sort of "misperception” seems self-evident. So do the grave dangers from Biden's sudden yet emphatic declaration on Saturday that Putin "cannot remain in power” — the classic language of declared U.S. policy of regime change:

That clear declaration of regime change as the U.S. goal for Putin was quickly walked back by Biden's aides, who absurdly claimed he only meant that Putin cannot remain in power in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe, not that he can no longer govern Russia. But this episode marked at least the third time in the past couple weeks that White House officials had to walk back Biden's comments, following his clear decree that U.S. troops would soon be back in Ukraine and his prior warning that the U.S. would use chemical weapons against Russia if they used them first.

That Biden seems to be stumbling and bumbling rather than following scripted recklessness seems likely in some of these cases but not all. The White House's vehement denial, in the wake of Biden's speech, that regime change in Russia is its goal was contradicted by Ferguson's reporting in Bloomberg last week:

Reading this carefully, I conclude that the U.S. intends to keep this war going….I have evidence from other sources to corroborate this. “The only end game now,” a senior administration official was heard to say at a private event earlier this month, “is the end of Putin regime"…..I gather that senior British figures are talking in similar terms. There is a belief that “the U.K.’s No. 1 option is for the conflict to be extended and thereby bleed Putin.” Again and again, I hear such language. It helps explain, among other things, the lack of any diplomatic effort by the U.S. to secure a cease-fire.  It also explains the readiness of President Joe Biden to call Putin a war criminal.

Whether deliberate or unintentional, these escalatory statements — particularly when combined with the U.S.’s escalatory actions — are dangerous beyond what can be described. As an Australian news outlet reported on Sunday, “Russia has launched a missile strike near Poland in what appears to be a deadly warning to the United States.” The accompanying video (see lead photo above) shows at least three long-range cruise missiles, launched from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea, precisely striking targets in western Ukraine, near to where Biden was in Poland. That missile launch, the outlet reasonably concluded, “appears to be a deadly warning to the United States.”

Whatever else is true, the U.S. and Russia are now in waters uncharted since the Cuban missile crisis. Even the savage US/USSR proxy wars of the 1980s in Latin America and Afghanistan did not entail these sorts of rapidly escalating threats. A Russian president who, validly or not, feels threatened by NATO expansion in the region and driven by questions of his legacy, on the other side of a U.S. president with a long record of hawkishness and war fever which is now hobbled by the carelessness and infirmities of old age, is a remarkably volatile combination. As former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis put it on Saturday: “A U.S. President who, during an atrocious war, does not mean what he says on matters of War and Peace, and must be corrected by his hyperventilating staff, is a clear and present danger to all.”

Hovering above all of these grave dangers is the question of why? What interests does the U.S. have in Ukraine that are sufficiently vital or substantial to justify trifling with risks of this magnitude? Why did the U.S. not do more to try to diplomatically avert this horrific war, instead seemingly opting for the opposite: namely, discouraging Ukrainian President Zelensky from pursuing such talks on the alleged grounds of futility and rewarding Russian aggression, and not even exploring whether a vow of non-NATO-membership for Ukraine would suffice? How does growing U.S. involvement in this war benefit the people of the United States, particularly as they were already — before this war — weighed down by the dual burdens of pandemic-based economic depravations and rapidly escalating inflation?

These are precisely the questions that a healthy nation discusses and examines before jumping head-first into a major war. But these were precisely the questions declared to be unpatriotic, proof of one's status as a traitor or pro-Russia propagandist, as the hallmark of being pro-Putin. These are the standard tactics used to squash dissent or questioning when war breaks out. That neocons, who perfected these smear tactics, are back in the saddle as discourse and policy leaders — due to their six-year project of ingratiating themselves back into American liberalism with performative anti-Trump agitprop — makes it inevitable that such sleazy attacks will prevail.

As a result, the U.S. now finds itself more deeply enmeshed than ever in the most dangerous war it has fought in years if not decades. It may be too late for those questions to be meaningfully examined. But given the stakes, this is as clear a case of better late than never as one will ever encounter.


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Tyler Durden Mon, 03/28/2022 - 06:30
Published:3/28/2022 5:35:18 AM
[Markets] New Great Game: Can Venezuela Negotiate An End To US Deadly Sanctions? New Great Game: Can Venezuela Negotiate An End To US Deadly Sanctions?

Authored by Ramzy Baroud via Counterpunch.org,

How the tables have turned. A high-level US delegation visited Venezuela on March 5, hoping to repair economic ties with Caracas. Venezuela, one of the world’s poorest countries partly due to US-Western sanctions is, for once, in the driving seat, capable of alleviating an impending US energy crisis if dialogue with Washington continues to move forward.

Technically, Venezuela is not a poor country. In 1998, it was one of the leading OPEC members, producing 3.5 million barrels of oil a day (bpd). Though Caracas largely failed to take advantage of its former oil boom by diversifying its oil-dependent economy, it was the combination of lower oil prices and US-led sanctions that pushed the once relatively thriving South American country down to its knees.

In December 2018, former US President Donald Trump imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela, cutting off oil imports from the country. Though Caracas provided the US with about 200,000 bpd, the US managed to quickly replace Venezuelan oil as crude oil prices reached as low as $40 per barrel.

Indeed, the timing of Trump’s move was meant to ravage, if not entirely destroy, the Venezuelan economy in order to exact political concessions, or worse. The decision to further choke off Venezuela in December of that year was perfectly timed as the global oil crisis had reached its zenith in November.

Venezuela was already struggling with US-led sanctions, regional isolation, political instability, hyperinflation and, subsequently, extreme poverty. The US government’s move, then, was meant to be the final push that surely, as many US Republicans and some Democrats concluded, would end the reign of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela has long accused the US of pursuing a regime change in Caracas, based on allegations that the socialist Maduro government had won the 2018 elections through fraud. And, just like that, it was determined that Juan Guaidò, then Venezuela’s opposition leader and president of the National Assembly, should be installed as the country’s new president.

Since then, US foreign policy in South America centered largely on isolating Venezuela and, by extension, weakening the socialist governments in Cuba and elsewhere. In 2017, for example, the US had evacuated its embassy in the Cuban capital, Havana, claiming that its staff was being targeted by “sonic attacks” – a supposed high-frequency microwave radiation. Though such claims were never substantiated, they allowed Washington to walk back on the positive diplomatic gestures towards Cuba that were carried out by the Barack Obama administration, starting in 2016.

For years, Venezuela’s inflation continued to worsen, reaching 686.4 percent last year, according to statistics provided by Bloomberg. As a result, the majority of Venezuelans continue to live below the extreme poverty line.

The government in Caracas, however, somehow survived for reasons that differ, depending on the political position of the analysts. In Venezuela, much credence is being given to the country’s socialist values, the resilience of the people and to the Bolivarian movement. The anti-Maduro forces in the US, centered mostly in Florida, blame Maduro’s survival on Washington’s lack of resolve. A third factor, which is often overlooked, is Russia.

In 2019, Russia sent hundreds of military specialists, technicians and soldiers to Caracas under various official explanations. The presence of the Russian military helped ease fears that pro-Washington forces in Venezuela were preparing a military coup. Equally important, Russia’s strong trade ties, loans and more, were instrumental in helping Venezuela escape complete bankruptcy and circumvent some of the US sanctions.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union decades ago, Russia remained largely committed to the USSR’s geopolitical legacy. Moscow’s strong relations with socialist nations in South America are a testament to such a fact. The US, on the other hand, has done little to redefine its troubled relationships with South America as if little has changed since the time of the hegemonic Monroe Doctrine of 1823.

Now, it seems that the US is about to pay for its past miscalculations. Unsurprisingly, the pro-Russia bloc in South America is expressing strong solidarity with Moscow following the latter’s intervention in Ukraine and the subsequent US and Western sanctions. Wary of the developing energy crisis and the danger of having Russian allies within a largely US-dominated region, Washington is attempting, though clumsily, to reverse some of its previous missteps. On March 3, Washington decided to re-open its Havana embassy and two days later, a US delegation arrived in Venezuela.

Now that Russia’s moves in Eastern Europe have re-ignited the ‘Great Game’ of a previous era, Venezuela, Cuba, and others, though thousands of miles away, are finding themselves at the heart of the budding new Great Game. Though some in Washington are willing to reconsider their long-standing policy against the socialist bloc of South America, the US mission is rife with obstacles. Oddly, the biggest stumbling block on the US path towards South America is neither Caracas, Havana or even Moscow, but the powerful and influential lobbies and pressure groups in Washington and Florida.

A Republican Senator, Rick Scott from Illinois, was quoted in Politico as saying “the only thing the Biden admin should be discussing with Maduro is the time of his resignation.”

While Scott’s views are shared by many top US officials, US politics this time around may have little impact on their country’s foreign policy.

For once, the Venezuelan government has the stage.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/27/2022 - 22:55
Published:3/27/2022 10:00:49 PM
[Markets] Biden Admin's Nuclear Deal: "This Isn't Obama's Iran Deal. It's Much, Much Worse." Biden Admin's Nuclear Deal: "This Isn't Obama's Iran Deal. It's Much, Much Worse."

Submitted by Majid Rafizadeh,

  • "By every indication, the Biden Administration appears to have given away the store... What is more, the deal appears likely to deepen Iran's financial and security relationship with Moscow and Beijing, including through arms sales." — Statement from 49 US Republican Senators, March 14, 2022.

  • With the increased flow of funds to the ruling mullahs, do expect an increase across Iran in human rights violations and domestic crackdowns on those who oppose the regime's policies, as hardliners tend to be the ones gaining more power as a result of any lifting of sanctions. Iran's hardliners already control three branches of the government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

  • Regionally speaking, a nuclear deal will undoubtedly escalate Iran's interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, despite what the advocates of the nuclear deal argue -- just as when then US President Barack Obama predicted that with a nuclear deal, "attitudes will change." They did. For the worse.

  • Sanctions relief, as a consequence of a nuclear accord, will most likely finance Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force (the IRGC branch for extraterritorial operations) and buttress Iran's terrorist proxies, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis, Iraq's Shiite militias, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

  • The worst parts of the new deal are, of course, that it will enable the Iranian regime, repeatedly listed by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism, to have full nuclear weapons capability, an unlimited number of nuclear warheads, and the intercontinental ballistic missile systems with which to deliver them. In addition, as a separate deal, the US will reportedly release the IRGC from the US List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, "in return for a public commitment from Iran to de-escalation in the region" and a promise "not to attack Americans."

  • Iran's leaders, for a start, never honored their earlier "commitment," so why would anyone think they would honor this one? In a burst of honesty, though -- and a pretty explicit tip-off -- they stated that they "didn't agree to the U.S. demand and suggested giving the U.S. a private side letter instead."

  • Then there is that revealingly narcissistic condition, "not to attack Americans"? Oh, then attacking Saudis, Emiratis, Israelis, Europeans, South Americans and everyone else is just fine? Thanks, Biden.

  • Worse, the Iranians were complicit with al-Qaeda in attacking the US on 9/11/2001. So we are rewarding them?

  • To top it off, the US State Department just confirmed that Russia and its war-criminal President Vladimir Putin could keep Iran's "excess uranium." (Excess of what?) Seriously? So Putin can use Iran's uranium to threaten bombing his next "Ukraine"?

  • One can only assume that just as the region has become relatively more peaceful and stable, the Biden administration would like to destabilize it. After surrendering to the Taliban in Afghanistan and failing to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, has the Biden administration not created enough destabilization? Why would a US president want a legacy of three major destabilizations unless someone was interested in bringing down the West?

  • The US proposals -- negotiated for the Americans by Russia of all unimpeachable, trustworthy, above-board advocates -- have been described as: "This Isn't Obama's Iran Deal. It's Much, Much Worse." That sounds about right.

The Biden administration continues to disregard major concerns regarding the Iran nuclear deal, and has reportedly "refused to commit to submit a new Iran deal to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, as per its constitutional obligation." The US proposals -- negotiated with Iran for the Americans by Russia of all countries -- have been described as: "This Isn't Obama's Iran Deal. It's Much, Much Worse." That sounds about right.

The Biden administration continues to disregard major concerns regarding the Iran nuclear deal, and has reportedly "refused to commit to submit a new Iran deal to the Senate for ratification as a treaty, as per its constitutional obligation."

Forty-nine Republican Senators recently told the Biden Administration that they will not back the administration's nuclear deal with Iran. The Senators stated:

"By every indication, the Biden Administration appears to have given away the store. The administration appears to have agreed to lift sanctions that were not even placed on Iran for its nuclear activities in the first place, but instead because of its ongoing support for terrorism and its gross abuses of human rights. The nuclear limitations in this new deal appear to be significantly less restrictive than the 2015 nuclear deal, which was itself too weak, and will sharply undermine U.S. leverage to secure an actually 'longer and stronger' deal. What is more, the deal appears likely to deepen Iran's financial and security relationship with Moscow and Beijing, including through arms sales."

A Biden nuclear deal with the Iranian regime will have major benefits for the ruling mullahs. It will enrich the Iranian regime with billions of dollars in revenues as it lifts sanctions on Tehran's energy, banking and shipping sectors; reintegrate the Islamic Republic into the global financial system, enhance Tehran's legitimacy in the world, increase Iran's exports of oil, and ratchet up foreign investments in Iran -- particularly in the energy industry.

Do not expect the extra revenues to trickle down to the ordinary people of Iran or raise their standard of living. As Ashkan, a construction worker and father of three who lives in the capital Tehran with his family, told me, "people had a lot of hope in 2015 when the nuclear deal was reached," under the so-called moderate administration of then President Hassan Rouhani.

"The officials made us believe that the nuclear deal will be good for the people as well. But after the nuclear deal, inflation kept going up, wages stayed the same, the value of the currency kept going down, price of goods continued to go up, unemployment remained high, and people were still financially struggling during the period of the nuclear deal until the US government of Trump left the deal."

With the increased flow of funds to the ruling mullahs, do expect an increase across Iran in human rights violations and domestic crackdowns on those who oppose the regime's policies, as hardliners tend to be the ones gaining more power as a result of any lifting of sanctions. Iran's hardliners already control three branches of the government: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary.

The Iranian regime will most likely first utilize the extra revenue by increasing its military budget. This scenario is what occurred in 2015 after the Obama's nuclear deal was struck. Iran immediately raised its military budget by $1.5 billion from $15.6 billion to $17.1 billion. On April 10, 2015, The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Mohammad Reza Pour Ebrahimi, a member of the parliament's Economic Affairs Committee, stating:

"In addition to the approved figures, $1.5 billion has been allocated to prop up defense of the country and this amount has been approved by this committee."

Regionally speaking, a nuclear deal will undoubtedly escalate Iran's interference in the domestic affairs of other countries, despite what the advocates of the nuclear deal argue -- just as when then US President Barack Obama predicted that with a nuclear deal, "attitudes will change." They did. For the worse.

For the first time, Lebanon's Hezbollah became emboldened and admitted receiving financial and military assistance from Iran. In addition, Iran's military adventurism in Iraq rapidly escalated. Iran became more forceful in supporting and assisting the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad militarily and economically.

Sanctions relief, as a consequence of a nuclear accord, will most likely finance Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force (the IRGC branch for extraterritorial operations) and buttress Iran's terrorist proxies, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis, Iraq's Shiite militias, and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The worst parts of the new deal are, of course, that it will enable the Iranian regime, repeatedly listed by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism, to have full nuclear weapons capability, an unlimited number of nuclear warheads, and the intercontinental ballistic missile systems with which to deliver them. In addition, as a separate deal, the US will reportedly release the IRGC from the US List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, "in return for a public commitment from Iran to de-escalation in the region" and a promise "not to attack Americans."

"Administration officials who have briefed the media say the IRGC would only be delisted if it promises not to attack Americans and commits to curtailing its destabilizing activities outside Iran. If it doesn't keep its word, it can be redesignated an FTO. This might have been reassuring but for the fact that Biden is currently ignoring requests, from members of Congress as well as from U.S. allies, to put the Houthis back on the list."

Iran's leaders, for a start, never honored their earlier "commitment," so why would anyone think they would honor this one? In a burst of honesty, though -- and a pretty explicit tip-off -- they stated that they "didn't agree to the U.S. demand and suggested giving the U.S. a private side letter instead."

Then there is that revealingly narcissistic condition, "not to attack Americans"? Oh, then attacking Saudis, Emiratis, Israelis, Europeans, South Americans and everyone else is just fine? Thanks, Biden.

Worse, the Iranians were complicit with al-Qaeda in attacking the US on 9/11/2001. So we are rewarding them?

To top it off, the US State Department just confirmed that Russia and its war-criminal President Vladimir Putin could keep Iran's "excess uranium." (Excess of what?) Seriously? So Putin can use Iran's uranium to threaten bombing his next "Ukraine"?

One can only assume that just as the region has become relatively more peaceful and stable, the Biden administration would like to destabilize it. After surrendering to the Taliban in Afghanistan and failing to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, has the Biden administration not created enough destabilization? Why would a US president want a legacy of three major destabilizations unless someone was interested in bringing down the West?

The US proposals -- negotiated with Iran for the Americans by Russia of all unimpeachable, trustworthy, above-board advocates -- have been described as: "This Isn't Obama's Iran Deal. It's Much, Much Worse." That sounds about right.

*  *  *

Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu. Via The Gatestone Institute.

Tyler Durden Sun, 03/27/2022 - 09:20
Published:3/27/2022 8:26:17 AM
[Markets] Our Elites Need To Recognize That America's "Unipolar Moment" Is Over Our Elites Need To Recognize That America's "Unipolar Moment" Is Over

Authored by Francis Sempa via RealClearDefense.com,

Writing in the current Washington Examiner, Anne Pierce suggests that the United States is today confronted by a new “Axis of Evil” composed of Russia, China, and Iran, which poses an existential threat to U.S. security. Pierce contends that American policymakers mistakenly pivoted to Asia when their focus should have been Russia and Europe. She calls on the Biden administration to wage economic warfare against Russia while providing Ukraine with whatever military material its leaders request, and to catalog Russian atrocities “with the aim of prosecuting Russia for war crimes.” To refuse to do this, she writes, would be a “moral, strategic, and military failure of historic proportions.”

One could be forgiven for thinking that Pierce, who is the author of A Perilous Path: The Misguided Foreign Policy of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, believes that we are still operating in America's "unipolar moment." Her article suggests that the United States could and should confront Russia, China and Iran simultaneously and that Russia currently poses the greatest threat to our security.

And while she is right to call Russia, China, and Iran an Axis of Evil, her article exhibits no sense of the limits of America’s power; no recognition that perhaps our resources would be spread too thin by failing to prioritize threats among these three adversaries; no realization that America’s unipolar moment is over. 

At the end of the Cold War in 1991, columnist Charles Krauthammer writing in Foreign Affairs, declared that the United States was the unchallenged superpower and was enjoying a "unipolar moment." Francis Fukuyama (channeling Hegel) envisioned the "end of history" where democracy would be universal. Others predicted that there would be no more "great power wars." And the George H.W. Bush administration in its defense planning guidance in 1992 (largely written by Paul Wolfowitz) suggested that the primary goal of U.S. national security policy was "to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival," meaning "to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power." How we were to accomplish that was not fully explained.

It was a time of celebration--the 45-year Cold War was over. The West, led by the United States, had won. The Soviet empire collapsed. China, our de facto ally at the end of the Cold War, appeared to be foregoing communist ideology in favor of economic growth produced by a relaxation of state control over the economy. There was an element of hubris involved in proclaiming the end of a multi-polar world or suggesting that history had ended. Victory sometimes breeds hubris. And hubris can be dangerous.

After the attacks by Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001, America’s hubris manifested itself in an effort to spread democracy to the world, but in the first instances to Afghanistan and Iraq. That resulted in two long wars that sapped America’s treasure and spilled the blood of American soldiers in a futile attempt to install democratic governments in regions where the soil for planting democracy was at best thin and at worst non-existent. The George W. Bush administration rightly responded to attacks on our country by hunting down the terrorists responsible and retaliating against some of the regimes that supported the terrorists. But then it got carried away and launched a Wilsonian crusade for democracy.

Meanwhile, the unipolar moment was ending, and the two long wars against non-peer competitors distracted us from the rise of China, which was growing economically and militarily--with the help of Wall Street and other Westerners who reaped economic benefits from "engagement" with the Chinese Communist Party. At the same time, our hubris blinded us to an essential truth about the victory in the Cold War--it was achieved by exploiting the division between Soviet Russia and China (just as our parochial history sometimes blinds us to the fact that our victory in World War II was achieved by exploiting the division between Germany and Soviet Russia). So we hardly paid any attention when Sino-Russian rapprochement transformed into a Chinese-Russian strategic alignment against the U.S.-led world order.

As President Reagan's U.N. Ambassador and trusted adviser, Jeane Kirkpatrick was one of the intellectual architects of our victory in the Cold War. But Kirkpatrick was not blinded by hubris when the Berlin Wall fell. In the fall of 1990, she wrote an article in The National Interest suggesting that the United States should become a “normal country” in the post-Cold War world. She warned U.S. post-Cold War policymakers against pursuing a “mystical mission” that reached beyond the Constitutional requirement to protect the nation's vital national security interests. Specifically, she wrote that the United States should not devote itself to establishing democracy around the world. She derided the notion that the conduct of U.S. foreign policy should be "the special province" of elites who too often do not pay its costs or bear its consequences. Such elites, Kirkpatrick warned, often develop "disinterested globalist" attitudes couched in high-minded terms such as "internationalism" instead of focusing on concrete U.S. national security interests.

This did not mean that the United States shouldn’t encourage the growth of democratic institutions where prudently possible, but Kirkpatrick expressly warned that “it is not within the United States’ power to democratize the world.” Instead, the United States, she wrote, should be a normal country - "an independent nation in a world of independent nations."

The Obama administration pursued, and the Biden administration continues to pursue, a globalist agenda that prioritizes multilateral efforts against climate change; promotes nuclear disarmament; and seeks to transform our armed forces into a “woke” military concerned more with race, gender, and “white nationalism” than being prepared and equipped to win wars. The Biden administration is staffed (as Obama’s was) with elites who appear to be committed to a “disinterested globalist” or “internationalist” agenda. They seem to believe that they are as much “citizens of the world” as they are citizens of the United States.

But more fundamentally, there are far too many members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment who act as if the U.S. unipolar moment never ended; who act as if we can dictate the outcome or impose our will on international events and other nations’ policies; and who refuse to accept that we live and operate in a multi-polar world similar to the 19th century when prudent statesmen sought peace, stability, and a balance of power instead of promoting democratic ideals.

Krauthammer recognized that the unipolar moment would not last forever--that is why he used the term "moment." In fact, it is questionable if it ever really existed. Yes, for a brief few years, we were the sole superpower in the world. But even superpowers have limits--just think of Afghanistan and Iraq, or before that, Vietnam and Korea.

In U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, Walter Lippmann famously wrote that the United States needed to keep its international commitments consistent with the limits of its resources. When we don't do that, it creates a gap between commitments and resources that some later called the “Lippmann Gap.” After George Kennan proposed the containment doctrine in his “X” article in Foreign Affairs in 1947, Lippmann responded with a series of columns that were later collected in a book entitled The Cold War. Lippmann criticized Kennan's version of containment because it required the United States to react to Soviet aggression everywhere instead of only those geographical regions that were vital to America's security interests. (Kennan later said that Lippmann's criticism was well taken). Lippmann understood the limits of American power. So did Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ann Pierce and many others do not.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/26/2022 - 22:30
Published:3/26/2022 9:52:29 PM
[Markets] How Bill Barr's Silence Impacted The Outcome Of An Election How Bill Barr's Silence Impacted The Outcome Of An Election

Submitted by The Epoch Times, authored by By Jeff Carlson and Hans Mahncke

On May 18, 2020, then-Attorney General Bill Barr made a statement to the media, declaring that special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russiagate hoax wasn’t focused on either former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden, stating that “I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man.”

In his new book, Barr has revealed that he made that statement in response to a series of tweets by then-President Donald Trump. A week earlier, Trump had started using the term “Obamagate” on Twitter, alleging that both Obama and Biden had “led the charge” on the FBI’s phony Russiagate investigation.

Barr recounts in his book that he felt it was unacceptable for Trump to attempt to drag his presidential election opponent into the Russiagate scandal and that Barr felt that it was incumbent upon him to make a public statement.

The corporate media immediately seized upon Barr’s statement, with The Washington Post running a same-day headline that “Barr says he does not expect Obama or Biden will be investigated by prosecutor reviewing 2016 Russia probe.” The New York Times’ headline went further, claiming that “Barr Dismisses Trump’s Claim That Russia Inquiry Was an Obama Plot.”

Barr’s May 18 claim is an often underappreciated statement, the fallout of which was felt throughout the 2020 presidential election. Although Barr now claims that he issued his statement from a position of fairness, what he actually did was insert himself and the Department of Justice (DOJ) into the presidential campaign, and in doing so, he set the stage for the media’s whitewashing of questions of corruption that swirled around Biden throughout the campaign.

It’s also worth noting that Barr’s decision to make a public statement contrasts sharply with former FBI Director James Comey, who claimed that as a matter of DOJ policy he wouldn’t confirm or deny if President Trump was actually under investigation in 2017.

More importantly, Barr’s May 18 statement stands in stark contrast to his decision to remain silent after the second presidential debate in October 2020, when Biden falsely blamed the story about his son Hunter’s laptop on a “Russian plot.”

Barr recently recounted that he “was very disturbed during the debate when candidate Biden lied to the American people about the laptop.” Barr told Fox News in an interview that Biden “was squarely confronted with the laptop and he suggested that it was Russian disinformation. … And I was shocked by that. … When you’re talking about interference in an election, I can’t think of anything more than that kind of thing.”

Barr’s supposed “shock” over Biden’s claims of Russian disinformation during the debate begs a simple question: If Barr actually felt that Biden’s assertions of “Russian disinformation” amounted to “interference in an election,” why didn’t Barr say anything at the time?

The only discernible action taken by Barr’s DOJ was an Oct. 20 written reply from an FBI congressional affairs liaison to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). That letter, which preceded the second debate, was intentionally vague and, rather than countering potential narratives, it allowed the media to advance Biden’s claim that the laptop was a Russian plot. Crucially, the letter took pains to conceal that the FBI had physical possession of Hunter’s laptop at the time the letter was written—a fact that eliminated any possibility of a Russian plot.

During the second 2020 debate, Biden had asserted that his claims of “Russian disinformation” were backed by our intelligence agencies by citing a letter written by Obama-era intelligence officials such as former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director Leon Panetta. That letter was issued on Oct. 19, 2020, just days before the debate on Oct. 22, 2020, and was widely circulated by the media as proof of Biden’s claims.

In their letter, the intelligence officials claimed that the information from Hunter’s laptop had “all the classic earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation,” and stated that “this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election,” noting that “we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this.”

That four different CIA directors would be willing to publicly promote false allegations about Russia in order to shield a presidential candidate from public attention is particularly troubling. These former CIA directors—whose tenure spanned more than 10 years of U.S. foreign policy activity—invoked their government positions and lied to the American public in order to protect and get their preferred candidate, Joe Biden, elected.

During his recent interview, Barr conceded that he knew that letter from our nation’s intelligence officials “was baseless” and that he believed Biden himself fully understood that it “was a lie.” Unlike Trump, Biden was citing published claims by intelligence officials that Barr now says he knew to be inaccurate at the time those claims were made. But, in contrast to his earlier actions regarding Trump’s tweets, Barr chose to stay silent on Biden’s claims.

In doing so, Barr decisively interfered in the election through his inaction.

The sharply differing stances that Barr took in those months preceding the 2020 presidential election are puzzlingly contradictory. Barr apparently felt that it was necessary to make sure that U.S. citizens were aware that Biden wasn’t under investigation as a part of Durham’s probe, but he didn’t feel it was important to counter a false narrative from former intelligence officials, including four CIA directors, that Barr knew to be untrue.

At the time of that second presidential debate, the FBI already had Hunter’s laptop in its possession—and had held the device for 10 months. The FBI had also opened an investigation into Hunter Biden for multiple offenses—including allegations of money laundering and possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Hunter’s laptop contained emails and other information that were directly connected to these allegations.

Barr’s differing treatment of Biden and Trump leaves many questions unanswered. Although many in the media, along with Biden’s current spokeswoman Jen Psaki, have claimed that Hunter is a private citizen who wasn’t running for office, Hunter’s laptop directly implicated Joe Biden in a number of dubious foreign dealings. Biden repeatedly lied about these matters while on the campaign trail.

In one particularly notable instance, Biden had personally met with Hunter’s Ukrainian business partner only a few months before that same partner demanded that Hunter end the investigations into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that was paying Hunter $1 million per year. On the campaign trail, Biden declared that he had never talked to his son about his foreign business dealings.

Not only did Barr choose to remain silent about Hunter’s laptop, but he had also, in fact, “instructed prosecutors and senior colleagues to prevent word of investigations into Hunter Biden from becoming public and keep the Justice Department out of campaign politics,” according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal.

As we now know, Hunter’s emails and laptop are real. Indeed, shortly after the election, Hunter Biden suddenly released a statement acknowledging that he was under federal investigation.

The silence from Barr enabled the media’s blackout on the laptop story that had direct ramifications on the 2020 election. A poll by Media Research showed that 45 percent of the Biden voters were unaware of the allegations against Hunter and Joe Biden and that 16 percent of Biden voters–well over the margin of victory–wouldn’t have voted for him had they known this crucial information.

In 2016, the Hillary Clinton campaign accused Russia of trying to help elect Trump. Then-CIA Director John Brennan played an important role in advancing the Clinton campaign’s narrative. In an eerie parallel to those events, the Biden campaign, again with the help of Brennan and other intelligence officials, falsely accused Russia of trying to help elect Trump in 2020.

Barr argues in his book that Trump’s claims about Biden required Barr to insert himself because he didn’t want a repeat of the Russia collusion claims that plagued the 2016 election; that same argument, however, should have required Barr to speak out on Biden’s debate claims that Hunter’s laptop was a Russian plot.

If Barr was truly concerned about a potential repeat of the 2016 election, it would have been incumbent on him to step forward publicly as soon as Biden made his false accusations against Russia, particularly given the involvement of Brennan, who was himself entangled in the 2016 election interference.

The national security implications from Biden’s repeated invocations of Russia is another important factor that should have required Barr to act.

“Russiagate was not only a despicable dirty trick that hobbled the first part of the president’s administration, but it also affected [sic] great damage to the United States,” Barr acknowledged in his recent interview with Fox News.

“Russiagate essentially froze the Trump administration from engaging with Russia.”

While Barr acknowledged the massive geopolitical damage caused by the Clinton campaign’s Russiagate hoax, he inexplicably ignored Biden’s false claims about his son’s laptop, which has served to undermine our national security in ways that are perhaps even worse than the actions taken by Clinton.

Both Clinton and Biden recklessly leveled false accusations against Russia, jeopardizing national security for their own personal and political gain. Clinton, among other things, had her 30,000 deleted emails to contend with. However, while no one has seen Clinton’s emails, the emails on Hunter’s laptop contain a multitude of damning disclosures of foreign dealings and payoffs involving the Biden family.

Beyond the direct ramifications from the emails on Hunter’s laptop, Biden’s fabricated accusations regarding Russia would have immediately been understood by the Kremlin as a fundamental weakness. There is no doubt that Biden’s statement worsened relations with Russia and might have contributed to the current situation in Ukraine.

By first speaking out and then remaining silent, Barr very directly put his thumb on the scale, leading to material ramifications for our country—including the geopolitical landscape we now face.

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/26/2022 - 20:30
Published:3/26/2022 7:53:38 PM
[Markets] Daily Mail Drops Hunter Biden Emails Linking Him To Ukraine Biolab Funding Daily Mail Drops Hunter Biden Emails Linking Him To Ukraine Biolab Funding

Emails from Hunter Biden's notorious laptop reveal that the first son helped secure millions of dollars for a DoD contractor - Metabiota - which specializes in researching pandemic-causing diseases that could be used as bioweapons, according to the Daily Mail, which obtained Hunter's emails.

Moscow’s claim that Hunter Biden helped finance a US military 'bioweapons' research program in Ukraine is at least partially true, according to new emails obtained exclusively by DailyMail.com.

The commander of the Russian Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Forces, claimed there was a 'scheme of interaction between US government agencies and Ukrainian biological objects' and pointed to the 'financing of such activities by structures close to the current US leadership, in particular the investment fund Rosemont Seneca, which is headed by Hunter Biden.' -Daily Mail

Hunter also appears to have introduced Metabiota to Burisma for a "science project," ostensibly involving biosecurity labs in Ukraine.

On its face, Metabiota appears to be a simple medical data company - however a 2014 email from its Vice President to Hunter described how they could 'assert Ukraine's cultural and economic independence from Russia' - an odd goal for a biotech firm at the time Hunter's Dad was US point-man for Ukraine's 'reconstruction' involving the Obama administration.

Emails and defense contract data reviewed by DailyMail.com suggest that Hunter had a prominent role in making sure Metabiota was able to conduct its pathogen research just a few hundred miles from the border with Russia.

The project turned into a national security liability for Ukraine when Russian forces invaded the country last month. -Daily Mail

In April 2014, Metabiota vice president Mary Guttieri wrote a memo to Hunter outlining how they could 'assert Ukraine's cultural and economic independence from Russia'. 'Thanks so much for taking time out of your intense schedule to meet with Kathy [Dimeo, Metabiota executive] and I on Tuesday. We very much enjoyed our discussion,' Guttieri wrote (Daily Mail)
Four days after Guttieri's April 2014 email, Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi wrote to Hunter revealing that the then-Vice President's son had pitched a 'science project' involving Burisma and Metabiota in Ukraine. 'Please find few initial points to be discussed for the purposes of analyzing the potential of this as you called, 'Science Ukraine' project,' Pozharskyi wrote (Daily Mail)
Government spending records show the Department of Defense awarded an $18.4million contract to Metabiota between February 2014 and November 2016, with $307,091 earmarked for 'Ukraine research projects'

Digging deeper, we find that Metabiota was working under Black & Veatch - a US defense contractor tied to US intelligence, which built the Ukraine labs that analyzed bioweapons and deadly diseases.

Earlier this month US officials warned congress that 'Russian forces may be seeking to gain control' of these 'biological research facilities', prompting fears that deadly and even engineered pathogens could fall into Russian hands.

Hunter and his colleagues at his investment firm Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners (RSTP) routinely raised millions of dollars for technology companies, hoping the firms would take off and make them all fortunes.

Metabiota was one of those firms. Emails between Hunter and his colleagues excitedly discuss how the company's monitoring of medical data could become an essential tool for governments and companies looking to spot outbreaks of infectious diseases. -Daily Mail

Hunter and pals invested $500,000 in Metabiota via Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners - and raised several million through various investment firms, including Goldman Sachs.

In Ukraine, the younger Biden was more intimately involved in Metabiota's operations - which he bragged about in pitches to investors. Hunter and his partner Eric Schwerin even discussed housing Metabiota in their office space, April 2014 emails reveal.

That same month, Metabiota VP Mary Guttieri wrote Hunter to wax eloquent on how the company could "assert Ukraine's cultural and economic independence from Russia."

Mary Guttieri, Metabiota vice president, is seen at a meeting with U.S. and Ukrainian military
Russia's Defense Ministry on Thursday put out a diagram with arrows connecting Biden, Soros and the Democratic Party to Ukrainian biolabs
The president's son and his colleagues invested $500,000 in Metabiota through their firm Rosemont Seneca Technology Partners. They raised several million dollars of funding for the company from investment giants including Goldman Sachs
Emails between Hunter and his colleagues at Rosemont Seneca excitedly discuss how the company's monitoring of medical data could become an essential tool for governments and companies looking to spot outbreaks of infectious diseases

Read the rest of the report here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 03/26/2022 - 16:00
Published:3/26/2022 3:22:10 PM
[Markets] 10 Unintended Consequences Of A Protracted Russia/Ukraine War According To JPMorgan 10 Unintended Consequences Of A Protracted Russia/Ukraine War According To JPMorgan

On Wednesday, J.P. Morgan Strategic Research (these are the guys who actually have some good ideas, and are not propaganda broken records who only purpose is to get retail investors to buy whatever their prop traders have to sell) hosted a webinar featuring leading experts from the "think tank" community, who previously served in US and European policymaking positions, to discuss the possible scenarios that could play out from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (replay link here).

Speakers concurred that the war could be protracted with the possibility of further sanctions, led by the US, although a ban on oil and gas exports from Russia is unlikely to materialize given Europe’s dependency. While not an imminent scenario, speakers did not rule out the possibility of the threat and potential use of tactical nuclear weapons. The speakers also discussed the efficacy of sanctions, the longer-term unintended consequences and the implications for US-China relations.

Below are the top ten takeaways by JPMorgan's strategist from the webinar:

Top 10 takeaways on possible scenarios and unintended consequences from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

1. Russia and Ukraine remain far apart on achieving a ceasefire based on Russia’s conditions. The speakers agree that the war could be protracted for several months or more, not weeks, with partitioning potentially necessary to end this “war of attrition.” For Russia, it is not a matter of whether Russia will continue in its attack but what price it is willing to pay to defeat this outside “existential threat.” Putin continues to portray the invasion of Ukraine as a domestic conflict, not a foreign war. The coordinated approach by the West against Russia has elevated the invasion of Ukraine to a proxy war with the West in Putin’s narrative to the Russian population, and he is “willing to wage a war to the last Ukrainian.” The Russian goals remain unchanged and include:

  • Recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and the “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as independent entities.
  • Declaration of Ukrainian neutrality, although inclusion into NATO or NATO and the EU could be addressed later.
  • Demilitarization of Ukraine, but military assistance by third parties remains unclear.
  • “Denazification” of Ukraine which could be interpreted as a purge of the Ukraine political system of what Russia perceives as “far-right elements” that remain unfriendly to Russia.

A retreat for Russia would mean accepting defeat and threaten the core of Russia’s political regime, which has collapsed twice in the last 100 years. For Ukraine, it would be difficult politically to accept a peace agreement that would satisfy Russia. The “ugly” settlement, where no side gets what it wants, could involve neutrality of Ukraine with some form of security guarantees with the option of EU integration later. The precedent of the 1955 Austrian State Treaty was referenced as an example where the representatives of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, the US, and France governments signed a treaty that granted Austria independence. It also arranged for the withdrawal of all occupation forces, with the understanding that the newly independent state of Austria would declare its neutrality, creating a buffer zone between the East and the West. While Austria is an EU member, it has declared non-alignment with military alliances and is not a member of NATO. The idea of demilitarization is probably a non-starter as Ukraine needs to be able to defend itself. Russia will likely get recognition of its position on Crimea while some solution needs to be found regarding the two so-called republics.

2. Putin retains solid support with the military and domestic population despite the severity of financial sanctions and heavy military losses. A recent poll showed that 58% of Russians approve of the invasion of Ukraine and 23% opposed, but one speaker sees two-thirds of the population continuing to support Putin. The support from Russia’s military for Putin does not appear likely to falter over the near term despite heavy casualties as the anger is directed at the US and NATO. The severity of the sanctions are perceived by many Russians as “unjust interference” by the West, which has turned Russia into an outlaw and have negatively impacted every Russian citizen, from infants to the very elderly. The decision to freeze central bank assets and confiscate property without a court order is perceived as “uncivilized.” Beyond the economic war, the crackdown on protests and bans on independent media coverage have led to a rise of misinformation.

3. The coordinated western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is perceived as an ‘existential threat’ by outside forces that could merit the tactical threat, if not the actual use, of nuclear weapons. One speaker believes there is little to no risk of Russia using chemical and biological weapons as chemical weapons provides no military advantage and biological use is too indiscriminate. However, interpretation of the Russian doctrine does permit the use of tactical nuclear weapons to address ‘existential threats.’ While not seen as imminent, there is scope for miscalculation in the communication that could lead to unwanted reactions and responses, including nuclear alerts. The long-term consequences could reverse decades of progress in stemming the proliferation of nuclear weapons as Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weapons may be seen as effective in acting as a deterrent for NATO to be drawn into war. Military planners in countries around the world are now likely to see this as a clear signal regarding the benefits of nuclear weapons.

4. The transatlantic relationship between the US and Europe has been strengthened and given rise to bipartisan centrist forces in both the US and Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the West together. The unity of the US and Europe in addressing Russia’s invasion should not be underestimated, although there is recognition that Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and gas cannot be reduced rapidly. Beyond the transatlantic relationship, support for Ukraine has strengthened bipartisan centrist political forces in the US and Europe. The decision by Germany’s Green Party-led coalition government to increase Germany’s defense budget to 2.8% of GDP, well above the NATO commitment of 2% of GDP, points to the speed and magnitude of the political transformation underway in Europe. This is being mirrored to a degree in the US as the aggression against Ukraine has prompted the Biden administration and businesses to take action hat would not have been seen as possible a month ago and with bipartisan support. This includes the ban of US imports of Russian oil and the announcements by over 400 private sector companies to stop doing business in Russia. In addition, there has been $800mn of security and humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine including 800 anti-aircraft missiles, 9,000 anti-armor systems, 7,000 small arms and ammunition, and reportedly armed drones.

5. Further financial and individual sanctions forthcoming with the realization that Europe will need time to reduce its gas dependency of Russia. The decision by the US to ban Russian oil imports has occurred alongside the Treasury Department issuing updated guidance on authorizing transactions with Russian entities for energy supplies. While this may seem contradictory, the Biden administration made a clear commitment to European partners that in order to enact some of the stiffest sanctions the world has ever seen, it will also help ensure Europe will continue to have sufficient energy supply. The oil ban will not be applied globally and the US Congress is unlikely to push for harsher sanctions at this stage. A month into the war, there is recognition of the need to move more slowly on reducing Europe’s dependency on Russian gas and that the goal to eliminate imports is long-term in nature. However, deeper financial and individual sanctions are likely to be imposed. The White House announced today, March 24, more than 400 additional individual sanctions, which includes sanctions on 328 members of the Russian State Duma, a dozen Russian elites including the head of Russia’s Sberbank and 17 board members of Sovcombank, and 48 Russian defense companies. The US Treasury has also issued guidance on the restriction of gold transactions with the central bank of Russia.

6. Russian retaliatory measures to sanctions still a possibility. On March 23, as USDRUB remains at all-time highs, Putin has demanded that “unfriendly countries” use rubles to buy Russian oil and gas. While on March 21, the White House issued its strongest warning yet about a potential cyber-attack from Russia against targets in the US, indicating that businesses should harden cyber defenses in response to intelligence indicating “preparatory activity.” Speakers also warned of the risk that Russia might expand the conflict geographically to Poland and Romania, which are actively engaged and shipping weapons to Ukraine. Reports of a storm damage to the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) have led market participants to wonder whether it was a form of retaliation against Russia. The CPC—one of the world's biggest oil pipelines which ships around 1.2 mbd crude from Kazakhstan to global markets—was reportedly damaged on Tuesday likely impacting 1 mbd, or roughly 80% of export volumes, for up to two months. The supply interruption comes on the eve of the NATO meeting on March 24, where EU members are expected to discuss imposing sanctions on Russian's oil sector, raising fears that Moscow was prepared to retaliate against western sanctions by curbing its own energy supplies.

7. Mixed views on the effectiveness of sanctions on changing behavior with existing sanctions unlikely to be rescinded over the near term. The severity and coordinated approach to applying sanctions on Russia will be seen as a litmus test to the effectiveness of sanctions and whether the desired results will be realized. The longer-term unintended consequences include higher inflation, risks to food security, disrupted supply chains and de-globalization. There is little prospect for the existing sanctions to be reversed quickly and speakers noted that sanctions are much easier to introduce than remove as it is often difficult or impossible to build a consensus for rescinding a sanction, even when some progress has been achieved. As an example, the sanctions imposed in 2014-2015 due to the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donetsk and Luhansk remain in place since the Minsk agreement was never implemented. It is too early to say what would be required for the US and its international allies to be willing to rescind sanctions.

8. Mixed views on the implications for China, but US policy will focus on reducing dependency on China for its supply chain and critical infrastructure. There will likely be further fragmentation of supply chains and deglobalization as a result of the harsh sanctions imposed. One speaker predicts that the extraordinary degree of resolve from the West against Russia will likely coalesce into a unified approach in dealing with the rise of China in 5G and China’s growing profile within the European technology and energy sectors. There will likely be some compromise necessary to advance the recently passed House legislation, America COMPETES Act of 2022, aimed at increasing US competitiveness with China and boosting US semiconductor manufacturing versus the Senate version passed last June. Timing for debate remains uncertain, but the House will likely be forced to compromise given the number of additional provisions that were added which were not in the Senate bill. While there is House and Senate support for advancing the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act, which supports the US semiconductor manufacturing sector, there is less agreement on the foreign policy provisions to strengthen US export controls of capital and materials going into China. Another speaker believes that the US has reduced its focus on its pivot to Asia outlined during the Obama administration as it has been forced to shift attention to conflicts in the Middle East and now Europe. The conflict in Europe will be yet another challenge for the US in allocating resources to develop a comprehensive strategic response to China’s emergence in Asia.

9. Higher commodity prices to prevail. Our Commodities Strategy team’s baseline scenario now assumes that while Europe will, over time, limit energy imports from Russia, finding alternative sources immediately will be fraught with challenges. We believe that only European countries with 30% or below of import dependency will be able to diversify away from Russian oil, resulting in a 1 mbd of permanent loss. Trade flows may change with China and India likely to ramp up Russian crude imports. The 1 mbd drop in Russian export flows leads us to raise our 2022 Brent spot price forecast to $104/bbl, but in the short-term, prices can go as high as $120 to $130/bbl through April and May unless the EU decides to completely ban Russian volumes then prices could go as high as $185/bbl by December. Oil prices should finally dip below $100/bbl in 2023. Russian gas flows to Europe have increased since the invasion and Russian metals exports continue to flow. Agricultural trade flows however, remain disrupted despite reports of some grain shipments leaving Russia. While the Russian fertilizer export ban poses risks to global supplies and crop yields, China, India, Brazil and Pakistan are considered friendly countries and are likely to have access to Russian fertilizer exports to meet the needs of crops in upcoming seasons. While the world is short on commodities, China is not given they have started stockpiling commodities since 2019 and currently hold 80% of global copper inventories, 70% of corn, 51% of wheat, 46% of soybeans, 70% of crude oil, and over 20% of global aluminum inventories.

10. Lower global growth and higher inflation but policy support from China and higher prices for commodity- exporters provide select market opportunities in EM equities. Our near-term growth forecasts continue to move lower as we respond to the Russia-Ukraine war and the latest news on COVID-19, and we now project 1H22 global growth (2.3%ar) dipping below potential. We also raised our forecast for 1H22 global CPI annualized inflation to 7.1%, a multi-decade high, and a 3.2%-pts annualized upward revision to our 1H22 inflation forecast. We now forecast a 10.9% contraction in GDP growth for EMEA EM in 1H given the expected 24% contraction in Russian growth over the same period, while the CE4 countries will experience a 1.8% contraction in GDP growth. However, we remain bullish on EM equities since policy support in China, which is in direct contrast to Fed tightening, should be positive for the 35% of the EM benchmark that is China. There are also large EM markets such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Indonesia that are major commodity exporters and stand to benefit from commodity price spikes. We recently downgraded India equities to UW as a hedge to commodity risks, notably higher food prices. We are OW China, Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand. We continue to believe in Value over Growth and EM equities are the cheapest part of the global equity universe. We are OW key value/commodity sectors in EM, specifically Energy and Materials. Saudi Arabia is now CEEMEA’s biggest stock market and the 6th biggest in EM but more than 60% of EM investors have not bought a single share despite the Saudi Arabia market continuing to outperform the benchmark. With the Russian stock market closed for nearly a month, Saudi Arabia, which trades about $2bn daily, is a good opportunity in EM to buy into higher oil prices.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/25/2022 - 14:32
Published:3/25/2022 1:42:07 PM
[Markets] Democrats Propose Inflationary Bill To Offset Inflation Democrats Propose Inflationary Bill To Offset Inflation

Authored by Eric Utter via AmericanThinker.com,

Rampant inflation got you down?  Don't worry: Democrats are here to help!  Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) have proposed a bill that would give every American $100 each month to help offset the scourge of rapidly rising inflation.   

CBS News noted of the proposal, which is being called the Gas Rebate Act: "The gas stimulus would 'provide middle-class Americans with monthly payments to ease the financial burden of this global crisis,' Thompson said in a statement about the proposal."

Not to be outdone, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have put forth a second proposal, one that would provide a quarterly rebate to consumers based on a tax levied on oil and gas companies According to a statement from the two lawmakers, their "Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax" would charge a per-barrel tax equal to 50% of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and its pre-pandemic average price between 2015 and 2019.  Khanna and Whitehouse claim to have calculated that if the per-barrel price is, say, $120, the tax would raise about $45 billion a year — providing single filers with $240 annually and joint filers with $360 per year.  (Another marriage penalty?)

When you really think of it, this is mind-blowing.  And counterproductive.  Democrats want to offset the negative effects of their own policies by trying to buy our votes?  And the money they would send us would have to be taken from us taxpayers in the first place, be printed out of thin air, or just be added to our already astronomical national debt.  In any case, it would exacerbate the very inflation whose effects these ignorant asshats purport to be attempting to ameliorate.

[ZH: Nomura's Charlie McElligott summed up this farcical approach to 'solving the inflation problem':

YOU HAD ONE JOB: 

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, these “best-laid plans” from politicians are utterly myopic and long-term unhelpful (and I’m not simply talking about the “money drops to solve inflation” fallacy here LOLWUT).

Because instead of letting, ummm, basic “supply / demand” rebalancing realities work to create “demand destruction” here (which ultimately “kills” prices and sends them lower), what these efforts end up doing is creating “demand CONSTRUCTION” (h/t Javier Blas)...

...which will only act to stimulate further consumption and push prices even higher #FACEPALM

As for the tax on "Big Oil," these companies would have to pass on the cost of the tax to consumers, thereby raising the price of gas even further.  And necessitating another gas rebate for consumers and an additional tax on "Big Oil"?  Do Dems wish to repeat this cycle ad nauseam until the complete and utter collapse of our economy?  "Windfall profits"?  I thought "Big Oil" engaged in price-gouging only when their enablers in the Republican Party were in power.  But gas prices were historically low when President Trump was in office.

But now that President Biden has embarked on a war against North American extraction industries — and continued Obama's massive arbitrary subsidies of Big Wind (not Eric Swalwell's nickname), things have necessarily changed quickly.  "Sustainable" green energy can't compete with oil, coal, and natural gas on a level playing field in a free market, yet the U.S. government has dictated that it must — and spent billions of dollars to make that happen.  That is a "windfall."  Entirely unearned.  For green energy.

There is a good reason why "I did this" stickers featuring President Biden's likeness are showing up on gas pumps and on grocery store shelves around the country.  He did do this to us, knowingly or not.

We were energy independent less than two years ago.  In that context, the Ukraine War wouldn't have mattered to us.  (The humanitarian cost is another matter.  We can all agree: Russia bad.)  Yet now we are relying on countries with Most Heinous Nation status to provide for our energy needs.  We are prostrating ourselves, needlessly.

Democrats have no idea how the real world works because they typically have no experience outside government.  This is why no one should be eligible to serve in Congress unless he has run a business or has significant other experience in the private sector.

The more there is of something, the less it is worth or will cost.  The less there is of something, the more it is worth or will cost.  The law of supply and demand can't be repealed — even by our elites and would-be tyrants.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/24/2022 - 14:40
Published:3/24/2022 2:02:30 PM
[Markets] Trump Sues Hillary Clinton, Says She 'Maliciously Conspired' To Weave Collusion Conspiracy Theory Trump Sues Hillary Clinton, Says She 'Maliciously Conspired' To Weave Collusion Conspiracy Theory

Former US President Donald Trump sued Hillary Clinton and several other Democrats on Thursday, alleging they attempted to rig the 2016 US presidential election by fabricating a conspiracy theory tying his campaign to Russia.

"Acting in concert, the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty," reads the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida.

Remember this?

Developing...

Meanwhile, a flashback:

Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations.com,

A Hillary Clinton campaign operation to plant a false rumor about Donald Trump setting up a “secret hotline” to Moscow through a Russian bank was much broader than known and involved multiple U.S. agencies, according to declassified documents and sources briefed on an ongoing criminal investigation of the scheme.

In addition to the FBI, the 2016 Clinton campaign tried to convince the Obama administration’s State Department, Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency to look into the hoax, and continued pressing the issue even after Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.

The goal was to trigger federal investigative activity targeting her Republican rival and leak the damaging information to the media.

“The Clinton machine flooded the FBI with pressure from a number of angles until investigations of Trump were opened and reopened,” said one of the briefed sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive law enforcement matter. "The deception was wide-ranging."

Michael Sussmann: The indicted former Clinton campaign attorney wasn't the only one feeding the bogus Alfa Bank story to the feds. perkinscoie.com

Special Counsel John Durham outlined the FBI part of the scheme in a felony indictment of Michael Sussmann. The former Clinton campaign lawyer was charged last month with making a false statement to the former general counsel of the FBI when he claimed he was not working “for any client” in bringing to the FBI’s attention allegations of a secret channel of communication between computer servers in Trump Tower and the Alfa Bank in Russia.

According to the indictment, Sussmann was in fact acting on behalf of clients including the Clinton campaign, and an unnamed tech executive who RCI has previously reported is Rodney L. Joffe, a regular adviser to the Biden White House on cybersecurity and infrastructure policies.

Internal emails reveal the Clinton operatives knew the links they made between Trump and Russia were “weak,” even describing them as a “red herring,” but fed them to investigators anyway.

The Sussmann indictment revealed the doubts of those developing the Alfa Bank story. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

After Sussmann’s meeting with the FBI in September 2016, the Clinton campaign approached the State Department the following month with the same lead, this time using paid Clinton campaign subcontractor Christopher Steele to feed the rumors. A former British intelligence officer, Steele was offered as a reliable source to help corroborate the rumors. On Oct. 11, 2016, Steele gave his contact at Foggy Bottom documents alleging that a supposed hidden server at Trump Tower was pinging Moscow.

Christopher Steele: Author of the debunked dossier passed the Alfa Bank story to the State Department, which passed it along to FBI agent Peter Strzok. (Aaron Chown/PA FILE via AP)

Two days later, a State official who previously worked under former secretary Clinton funneled the information to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock, according to recently declassified notes and testimony. Laycock, in turn, forwarded the information to Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who led the investigation of Trump and his campaign and had just weeks earlier texted a bureau lawyer, “We’ll stop [Trump from being elected].”

"I informed Peter Strzok and another supervisor,” Laycock testified last year in a closed-door Senate hearing.

Telephone: After Steele fed the Alfa Bank story to State, it was passed to the FBI’s then-top Eurasia/Russia counterintelligence official, Stephen Laycock (left), who in turn passed it on to lead FBI agent on Trump-Russia, Peter Strzok (right). Facebook/Twitter

Steele, who later confessed he was “desperate” to defeat Trump, was the author of the debunked dossier claiming Trump colluded with Russia to steal the election. He even misspelled the name of the Russian bank as “Alpha.” Still, the FBI took his rumors seriously enough to interview tech vendors working for the Trump Organization and obtain warrants to search Trump Tower servers. Within days of receiving the State Department tip, Strzok also used Steele’s dossier to secure a wiretap on Trump adviser Carter Page.

Clinton foreign policy adviser and current National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan would put out a written statement trumpeting the Trump-Alfa Bank story, which was shared by then-candidate Clinton on Oct. 31, 2016, after Slate reported on it. Fusion GPS, the Washington opposition-research group that worked for the Clinton campaign as a paid agent, and helped gather dirt on Alfa Bank and draft the materials Sussmann would later submit to the FBI, reportedly pressed Slate to publish the story by the account of its author, journalist Franklin Foer.

The Clinton campaign played up the Trump-Alfa Bank story on the eve of the 2016 election. Twitter/@HillaryClinton

“This was a highly sophisticated operation using enablers in both the media and federal agencies,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told RealClearInvestigations.

The Clinton campaign did not let up even after Trump won the election.

In mid-November 2016, it enlisted top Justice Department official Bruce Ohr – whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS – to add credibility to the Alfa rumors. That month, Ohr advised the FBI that Steele had told him that the Alfa Bank server was a link to the Trump campaign. Then in early December, Ohr met with the FBI case supervisor who worked for Strzok at least twice. Declassified notes and other records show that during those meetings, Ohr provided him with thumb drives he had received from paid Clinton opposition researcher and Fusion GPS co-founder, Glenn Simpson, and Ohr’s wife and Simpson’s colleague, Nellie. Quoting his Clinton sources, Ohr insisted the alleged backdoor computer channel between Trump and Alfa was real.

Bruce Ohr: The Justice Department official -- linked to Clinton opposition research firm Fusion GPS through his wife Nellie, a Fusion employee -- brought the firm's arguments and materials to the FBI. The Global Initiative

The FBI spent months investigating the claim, eventually dismissing it as baseless. After the FBI closed the case, Sussmann turned to the nation’s top intelligence agency for assistance, as RCI first reported.

In December 2016, Sussmann called then-CIA Director John Brennan’s general counsel – Caroline Krass – to set up a meeting to brief her about the same Alfa Bank rumors. Krass expressed interest in the tip. Then in early February 2017, officials from her office formally sat down with Sussmann for more than an hour to discuss the Trump-Russian bank rumors. Sussmann provided them updated versions of the materials he had handed off to the FBI.

Caroline Krass: General counsel to then-CIA Director John Brennan welcomed Sussmann's pitch of the Alfa Bank story, which reportedly passed from the CIA to FBI. CIA/Wikipedia

The CIA, in turn, referred the rumors to an FBI liaison for further investigation, according to the sources briefed on his case. Strzok was the lead FBI liaison to the CIA at the time.

Among the documents Durham has obtained is a CIA memo memorializing the meeting with Sussmann, according to the sources. In his grand jury indictment, Durham accused Sussmann of also misleading the CIA, which he referred to only as “Agency-2.” The special counsel alleges that Sussmann, as he did when meeting with an FBI official, had also failed to inform contacts at Langley that he was representing a client – in the latter case specifically Joffe – tied to the Clinton campaign operation and who had been promised a high-level job in a Clinton administration.

Billing the Democrat’s campaign for his work on the “confidential project," Sussmann recruited Joffe and a team of federal computer contractors to mine proprietary databases containing vast quantities of sensitive, nonpublic Internet data for possible dirt on Trump and his advisers. In a new court document filed last week, Durham revealed his team has obtained more than 80,000 pages of documents in response to grand jury subpoenas issued to more than 15 targets and witnesses, including the computer contractors. Among others receiving subpoenas: political organizations, private firms, tech companies and other entities, including a major university — Georgia Tech — which allegedly participated in the Clinton conspiracy as a Pentagon contractor. Some witnesses have been granted immunity and are cooperating with prosecutors, the sources close to the probe said.

Jonathan Turley: "One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus," says the law professor. CNN

“While Sussmann may have hidden his work for the Clinton campaign, this was obviously a useful attack on Trump,” Turley said. “One would expect a CIA official to express reluctance in an investigation that would have a largely domestic focus. But as with the FBI, the Clinton campaign found eager officials to move on any such allegation.”

The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on American citizens.

“The CIA has no business involving itself in a domestic political issue,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told RCI. “The evidence suggests the primary purpose of the meeting was political."

Fitton said his watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the CIA demanding all records generated from the contacts Sussmann had with the agency in December 2016 and February 2017.

The CIA did not return requests for comment.

For good measure, old Clinton hands tried another pressure point. In early February 2017, Clinton's foreign policy adviser Sullivan huddled with Fusion GPS's Simpson and Daniel Jones, an FBI analyst-turned-Democrat-operative, to reboot the same smear campaign against Trump. (As RCI previously reported, Sullivan, who spearheaded the campaign's effort to promote the narrative of a disturbing Trump-Russia relationship via the Alfa Bank story, is under scrutiny for possibly lying to Congress about his role in the operation.) Jones, in turn, reached out to his former colleagues at the FBI, who reopened the investigation into the old allegations of a cyber-link between Trump and Alfa Bank.

Jake Sullivan played a pivotal role in the Alfa Bank story as 2016 Clinton foreign policy adviser. AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File

The next month, acting on Jones’ recycled tip, FBI agents visited the offices of the Pennsylvania company that housed the Trump server, which was actually administered by a third-party hotel promotions firm – Cendyn, based in Florida. But their second investigation proved to be another dead end. The sinister communications Jones claimed were flowing between an alleged Trump server and Alfa Bank were found to be innocuous marketing emails. In other words, spam.

Sources say it is odd that FBI headquarters continued to pursue the allegations, because internal FBI communications reveal that the bureau’s own cyber sleuths had pooh-poohed them within days of Sussmann’s briefing, RCI has learned.

Strzok himself had been briefed on that assessment of the materials Sussman dropped off at headquarters on Sept. 19, 2016. In fact, in a Sept. 23, 2016, internal message to Strzok, an FBI official relayed his preliminary findings following an interview with Cendyn, the Florida marketing firm that managed the alleged Trump server.

“Followed up this morning with Central Dynamics [Cendyn] who confirmed that the mail1.trump-email.com domain is an old domain that was set up in approximately 2009 when they were doing business with the Trump Organization that was never used,” according to the message.

Reacting to the Durham indictment, Strzok recently tried to distance himself from the Alfa scandal, insisting in a Lawfare blog: “I had a minor role in the events in question, insofar as I transferred the material Sussman gave to Jim Baker, the FBI’s general counsel at the time, to the personnel who ultimately supervised and looked into the allegations.”

Echoing other critics, Strzok complained that Durham – who originally was tapped to investigate the origins of the Russia “collusion” investigation by Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr – is conducting a partisan witch hunt on behalf of Trump.

Strzok's claims notwithstanding, Barr's successor, the President Biden-nominated Attorney General Merrick Garland, testified last week that he has renewed funding and staffing for Durham’s far-reaching investigation for the next fiscal year. “[Y]ou can readily assume his budget has been approved,” Garland assured Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

 

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/24/2022 - 14:20
Published:3/24/2022 1:31:40 PM
[Entertainment] Kal Penn Shares His Theory About Why Fans Still Crave Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle John Cho, Kal Penn, Harold & Kumar Go To White CastleKal Penn has said it before and he'll say it again: Representation matters. Long before becoming a best-selling author and working with President Barack Obama, the actor helped...
Published:3/24/2022 1:03:27 PM
[Markets] Madeleine Albright, First Female Secretary Of State Under Clinton, Has Died Madeleine Albright, First Female Secretary Of State Under Clinton, Has Died

Madeleine Albright, who was the first female Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, has died of cancer Wednesday at the age of 84, her family announced. "She was surrounded by family and friends," her family said on Twitter. “We have lost a loving mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend," the statement reads, and confirmed that the cause was a battle with cancer.

After being tapped by then President Clinton to be America's top diplomat starting in 1996, she served for four years. The Associated Press writes, "At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. government. She was not in the line of succession for the presidency, however, because she was a native of Czechoslovakia. She was a native of Prague."

Lauded and praised by establishment foreign policy pundits for her hawkish orientation which tended toward 'muscular' US responses to crises abroad, many of her statements attracted immense controversy and outrage, particularly the infamous "price is worth it" response during a 60-Minutes interview on the devastation wrought by US-imposed sanctions on Iraq...

The death of 500,000 dead Iraqi children was "a very hard choice, but the price-we think the price is worth it" - she had said in the 1999 interview.

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

—60 Minutes (5/12/96)

But the AP writes of her years after office: "Albright remained outspoken through the years. After leaving office, she criticized President George W. Bush for using 'the shock of force' rather than alliances to foster diplomacy and said Bush had driven away moderate Arab leaders and created potential for a dangerous rift with European allies."

And NBC recounts, "Then-President Bill Clinton named Albright U.S. ambassador to the United Nations shortly after he was inaugurated in 1993, and nominated her as secretary of state three years later. She was confirmed in 1997 by a vote of 99-0. At the time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government."

And importantly, "Albright served in the post for four years, actively promoting the expansion of NATO and military intervention in Kosovo."

In 2012 President Obama had awarded her the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor possible bestowed by the president.

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/23/2022 - 15:40
Published:3/23/2022 2:53:35 PM
[Markets] Watch: A Furious Lindsey Graham Loses It After SCOTUS Pick Defends Light Sentences For Pedos Watch: A Furious Lindsey Graham Loses It After SCOTUS Pick Defends Light Sentences For Pedos

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) grilled Biden Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson over lenient sentences handed down to defendants in child pornography cases.

"I think the best way to deter people from getting on a computer and viewing thousands and hundreds and over time, maybe millions" of images is "to put their ass in jail not supervise their computer usage."

Graham was responding to Jackson's explanation that as a trial judge she viewed deterrence as "one of the purposes of punishment," and that while incarceration was one tool, there are others available for convicts including "substantial periods of supervision" when using a computer.

"With one click, you can distribute tens of thousands [of child porn]. You can be doing this for 15 minutes and all of a sudden, you are looking at 30, 40, 50 years in prison," Brown said, returning to her argument that the internet makes it so much easier to obtain large volumes of child porn.

To which Graham replied: "Good!"

Democratic Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin defended Jackson, saying she is "not an outlier" when it comes to federal judges sentencing pedophiles.

Graham also questioned Jackson about representing Guantanamo detainees as a public defender in Washington DC, and noted that many of those she helped free returned to their terror cells - some even earning high-ranking positions within the Taliban.

Graham asked Jackson if she considers herself to be an activist judge, which she denied.

Read more about the heated exchange here.

And of course, Democrats  thought Graham's line of questioning was 'beyond the pale.'

Seriously?

Tyler Durden Wed, 03/23/2022 - 14:47
Published:3/23/2022 1:52:39 PM
[Markets] McMaken: We Must Now Learn The Lesson Of 1914, Not The Lesson Of 1938 McMaken: We Must Now Learn The Lesson Of 1914, Not The Lesson Of 1938

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

With proponents of military intervention and war, it's always 1938, and every attempt to substitute diplomacy for escalation and war is "appeasement." 

Last week, for example, Ukrainian legislator Lesia Vasylenko accused Western leaders of appeasement during Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, stating, "This is the same as 1938 when also the world and the United States in particular were averting their eyes from what was being done by Hitler and his Nazi Party." The week before that, Estonian legislator Marko Mihkelson declared, "I hope I’m wrong but I smell 'Munich' here. "

These, of course, are references to the notorious Munich conference of 1938, when UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain (and others) agreed to allow Adolf Hitler's Germany to annex the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia as a means to avoid a general war in Europe. The "appeasement," of course, failed to prevent war because Hitler's regime actually planned to annex much more than that. 

Ever since, the "lesson of Munich" for advocates of military intervention is that it's always best to escalate international conflicts and meet all perceived aggressors with immediate military force rather than embrace compromise or nonintervention. 

Americans have made similar references, with pundits from Larry Elder to Peter Singer peppering their musings on the Ukraine war with the Munich analogy. One need only enter "Munich" and "1938" into a Twitter search to receive an apparently endless number of tweets from newly minted American foreign policy experts about how anything less than World War III is Munich all over again. Historically, countless American politicians have used the analogy as well. Cold Warriors of the 1980s denounced Ronald Reagan's efforts to limit nuclear weapons as Munich-style appeasement. Republicans routinely claimed Barack Obama's Iran diplomacy was the same thing. 

But it is not, in fact, the case that every act of diplomacy or compromise designed to avoid war is appeasement. Moreover, we can find countless examples in which nonintervention and a refusal to escalate a situation was—or would have been—the better choice. 

In other words, it's not always 1938. Rather than fixating on the "lesson of 1938" the better lesson to learn is often the "lesson of 1914" or perhaps even the lessons of 1853, 1956, or 1968. In all these cases, military escalation was—or would have been—the wrong response. Moreover, in the age of nuclear weapons—something that did not exist in 1938—the world is a different place, and confrontation with a nuclear power could potentially bring about the end of human civilization. Casually bandying about demands for a "no-fly zone"—which would mean war with Russia—is both irresponsible and the sort of rhetoric fit for a nonnuclear world that ceased to exist many decades ago. 

The Foundations of the "Lesson of Munich"

The supposed lesson of Munich is based on two basic pillars. The first is the assumption that any act of military aggression will lead to many more acts of military aggression if not forcefully countered. It is basically a variation on the domino theory: if one nation submits to conquest by an aggressive neighbor, other nations will soon be forced to submit as well. This assumes every allegedly aggressive state has the same motivations as Nazi Germany and can plausibly seek a large, region-wide chain of military conquests across numerous states. 

The second pillar of the lesson of Munich is that since every aggressive military act is likely to lead to many more, the only realistic option is to meet aggression with escalation and a no-compromise response. 

This is precisely why Western advocates of military adventurism repeatedly equate every foreign leader Western elites don't like with Hitler. Or, as noted at The Conversation:

This kind of parallelism is not new; it is used every time there is a new enemy the public opinion should focus on. In recent years, according to Western rhetoric, Adolf Hitler has already been apparently reincarnated several times—as Saddam Hussein, Mohammad Qaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and more besides.

In 2022, Putin is the new Hitler, which necessarily means to some that any failure by the West to respond to the Russian invasion with a full-blown military escalation is a Munich-style appeasement. 

The fact that the events of 1938 are so well known by so many has helped considerably in pushing the narrative that compromise or nonintervention is appeasement. For most Americans, it's likely the only event in the history of diplomacy they actually know anything about. Never mind the fact that the lesson of Munich has often been proven quite inapplicable to the modern world. As noted by Robert Kelly at the hardly noninterventionist publication 1945

This frightening image of falling dominoes is not actually historically common though, thankfully. It was in the 1930s, but it was not, for example, in the Cold War. Aggressors do not always read one victory in place to mean they can automatically push on other "dominoes." Deterrence is structured by local and historical factors; some commitments are much more credible than others. So even though the US lost in Vietnam, North Korea or East Germany did not attack South Korea or West Germany, just as the US did not attack Cuba or Nicaragua after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan.

In Ukraine that means that Western reticence to fight directly against the Russians in Ukraine does not automatically mean that Putin will test NATO's collective security commitment or that China will attack Taiwan.

But none of this matters when the public believes what it's told by politicians and the media about how every rogue state is the equivalent of Nazi Germany. There is no foreign policy lesson to learn except that of opposing each new "Hitler."

The Lesson of 1914 

Yet there are competing lessons to be learned. Lessons can be found, say, in the lead-up to the Crimean War in 1853 or the July Crisis of 1914. (Ask the average American about either of these, and you will probably receive a blank stare.)

In both of these cases, regimes claimed they were countering aggression by foreign states and protecting either "allies" or oppressed minorities in the lands being subjected to conquest. 

The lead-up to the First World War provides an especially cautionary tale about rushing to intervene in the name of supporting allies. The Austrian regime issued an ultimatum to the Serbians, and the Russians—with the support of France, Europe's biggest democracy—mobilized in support of traditional ally Serbia. The Germans then mobilized in support of Austria-Hungary. Later, the regimes in the United Kingdom and the United States employed propaganda about alleged German war crimes in Belgium to ensure their respective countries entered the war. British politicians also claimed they must intervene to assist Britain's Entente allies in resisting aggression. Four years of preventable and utterly pointless bloodshed ensued. Thanks to calls to oppose aggression and defend allies, what should have been a regional war in the Balkans became a major Europe-wide war. Even worse, with the Treaty of Versailles and the inclusion of the absurd "War Guilt" clause against Germany, the war set the stage for the far more destructive Second World War. 

Yet the war was a result of regimes doing—from their own perspectives—what the "lesson of Munich" dictates: rush to war, immediately escalate, and confront "enemies" with military force in the name of countering aggression.

The lesson of 1914 is certainly instructive today. Escalation is extraordinarily unwise, especially if there is the potential of turning limited wars into megascale disasters. Moreover, in the case of the United States, the complexity of the war's causes meant there was no justifiable reason at all for the United States to enter. There was no "good guy" in the war, and American participation only further extended the bloodshed. 

Fortunately, in spite of its pretensions of being the global guarantor of freedom always and everywhere, the United States has, at least twice, behaved as if it had learned the lesson of 1914. The first time was in 1956, when Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary when the Hungarian regime—an ostensibly sovereign state—became too uppity to suit Moscow. So, Soviet military might moved in to ensure Hungary remained sufficiently under Moscow's control. Thousands of Hungarians were killed. Did the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mobilize against this aggression? Did Dwight Eisenhower ready America's bombers? No.

Then, in Prague in 1968, Czechoslovakian resistance to Moscow led to an invasion of two hundred thousand foreign troops and twenty-five hundred tanks from the pro-Soviet regimes of the Warsaw Pact. Again, the United States took no action. 

This, of course, was the right decision on the part of the US and NATO. Heeding the Lesson of Munich, on the other hand, would have meant direct confrontation between NATO and the Soviet Union—a de facto confrontation between the United States and the USSR. This would have greatly increased the likelihood of global nuclear war.

Naturally, some anti-Soviet activists cried "Appeasement!" at the time. Fortunately, they were ignored. A curious difference between 1956 and now, however, is that at the time, most of the critics of American inaction were on the anti-Soviet Right. Today, it is mostly the Left where we find those howling about Munich and blithely pushing for a US-Russia war while downplaying the risk of a nuclear apocalypse. But those who are now demanding World War III are a cautionary example of what happens when we obsess over the lesson of 1938 and ignore the lesson of 1914. 

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/21/2022 - 23:40
Published:3/21/2022 10:41:53 PM
[Markets] China Wins A Little, Loses A Lot From Russia’s War On Ukraine China Wins A Little, Loses A Lot From Russia’s War On Ukraine

Authored by Charles Lipson via RealClear Politics (emphasis ours),

The unfolding mayhem unleashed on Ukraine by Vladmir Putin carries one major benefit for China and two much larger losses, plus a boatload of secondary effects. The main benefit is geostrategic: The United States must now keep more scarce military resources in Europe, instead diverting them to the Pacific, as it had been hoping.

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

That diversion would be costly for any president, but it is particularly costly for a Democrat, whose party habitually scales back military budgets to spend more on social programs. Biden’s budget, submitted before the war in Eastern Europe, certainly did. He proposed a 16% rise in social spending but only a 2% increase for defense, far less than the inflation rate. Those priorities are now imperiled.

Also endangered is any reorientation of America’s defense posture, to focus almost exclusively on China. That focus, shared by Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden, remains the country’s principal long-term challenge. But Putin’s aggression makes clear that the United States does not have the luxury of focusing on only one hostile (and nuclear-armed) power at a time. Russia’s war on Ukraine significantly raises the threat level in Europe and forces the Pentagon to avoid any drawdown there to fund increases in Asia. That’s true even though many of our NATO partners have finally agreed to spend 2% of their GDP on defense – a long-standing American demand. This renewed concern for Europe’s security is a potential gain for China.

Yet, any advantage to Beijing is offset by two costs that may be as just as important. The first is that China’s only major ally is now badly damaged, economically and militarily – and a pariah in the eyes of much of the world. Putin’s position may be more vulnerable, as well. And while Beijing can drive harder bargains for Russian oil, raw materials, and capital credit, Russia’s self-inflicted damage makes Moscow a much less valuable partner as long as the crushing sanctions remain in place and Putin remains in charge.

The second, far larger cost to China may be the deterrent effect of crippling economic sanctions. Communist party leaders, determined to seize Taiwan, must have been shocked by the scale, comprehensiveness, and devastating impact of sanctions imposed on Russia. They must have been shocked, too, by the West’s surprising unanimity in imposing them and by Germany’s swift about-face despite its dependence on Russian energy and decades of concessionary policies.

As the CCP watches the Russian economy implode, Chinese leaders must shudder at the thought of what could happen to their own economy if it faced a similar onslaught. Although the communist regime would likely survive, given its tight control over the army and internal security services and its more robust and diverse economy, it would have to withstand a sustained, destabilizing shock with uncertain consequences. Moreover, it would face some erosion of its legitimacy, the public’s acceptance of its right to rule. The CCP’s two main sources of legitimacy are its reassertion of China’s central role in the world and, since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, the party’s ability to grow the economy and significantly increase the living standard of most Chinese families. Any fundamental threats to that economy, now deeply embedded in world markets, would pose a significant political challenge.

Until Russia’s economy withered under sanctions, Beijing had little reason to fear similar punishment for invading Taiwan. After all, the world’s major economies did nothing when Beijing seized Hong Kong, in clear violation of its treaty commitments. They did nothing when they learned of the Uighurs’ mass imprisonment, “reeducation,” and deaths. They did nothing to sanction China for its role in spreading the COVID pandemic, and lying endlessly about it afterward. Based on that track record, Beijing must have figured the world would do little if it seized Taiwan. No more. Xi and his aides will need to recalibrate after seeing Russia hit with swift, draconian sanctions and largely excluded from world financial markets, despite the costs to countries imposing those sanctions.

Foreign business entities operating in China are also recalibrating. Their assessment of political risks is bound to be higher, their search for alternative sources of supply more urgent. These companies saw how quickly their Russian investments became worthless after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. While they would lobby hard against sanctions from Washington, Brussels, Berlin, and Tokyo, regardless of China’s actions, they can’t be sure they will succeed. The most vulnerable are foreign companies that rely on the Chinese market. They will adapt to the riskier environment by trying to diversify their final markets and minimizing any fixed assets within China.

The prospect of economic sanctions will not, in itself, block Beijing invading Taiwan. Only a military deterrent can do that. But the net effect of Russia’s troubles is to show China, with terrible clarity, that it would face grim economic costs on top of the military calculations.

Russia’s catastrophic experience in Ukraine also underscores the oldest lesson in strategy. The best-laid plans and most optimistic projections can go horribly wrong. Taiwan and its allies will drive home that enduring lesson. Taiwan will continue buying and building defensive weapons, as many as it can afford. The U.S. will continue sending its navy through the Taiwan Straits, and the Quad (the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia) will continue strengthening their security partnership. That’s the emerging shape of a new Cold War, with dangerous, nuclear-armed fronts in both Eastern Europe and the western Pacific.

Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he founded the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security. He can be reached at charles.lipson@gmail.com.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/18/2022 - 22:20
Published:3/18/2022 9:36:50 PM
[Uncategorized] Former Obama Adviser David Axelrod: “People Don’t Believe” Biden’s Talking Point About Putin and Inflation

"People don't believe that either, they know that they had inflation before this. They know that gas prices were high before this."

The post Former Obama Adviser David Axelrod: “People Don’t Believe” Biden’s Talking Point About Putin and Inflation first appeared on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion.
Published:3/18/2022 12:08:22 PM
[d9e3c1cf-2629-5ae8-af40-5a800840256a] Amid soaring inflation, sky-rocketing gas prices, Congress brings back earmarks: 'Cocaine of this generation' Congress recently passed a massive spending bill that includes thousands of earmarks. Originally removed by the Republican Tea Party wave during former President Obama’s administration, earmarks were used for decades to give lawmakers a loophole to fund pet projects back home. Published:3/18/2022 1:30:16 AM
[Markets] 8-Year CIA Program Helped Provoke Russian Invasion: Report 8-Year CIA Program Helped Provoke Russian Invasion: Report

Authored by Dave DeCamp via AntiWar.com,

CIA paramilitaries had been training Ukrainian forces on the frontlines of the Donbas war against Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and were only pulled out by the Biden administration last monthYahoo News reported on Wednesday, citing former US officials.

The CIA first sent a small number of paramilitaries to eastern Ukraine when the war started in 2014, which was sparked by a US-backed coup in Kyiv and the Donbas separatists declaring independence from the post-coup government.

Illustrative image: Sky News

As part of the training, CIA paramilitaries taught Ukrainian forces sniper techniques, how to operate US-provided Javelin anti-tank missiles, and how to avoid being tracked on the battlefield by using covert communications and other means. The former officials said at first the CIA was surprised at the capability of Russia and the separatists compared with US adversaries in the Middle East.

The US military held similar training programs for Ukrainian forces in western Ukraine that have been publicly acknowledged. In January, Yahoo News revealed that the CIA had also been holding a US-based training program for Ukrainian forces. A former CIA official said the US-based program was training "an insurgency" and taught Ukrainians how to "kill Russians."

The secret CIA program in eastern Ukraine was much more provocative than the other training programs since it essentially meant the US was involved in a proxy war on Russia’s border. The former officials told Yahoo News that during the first year of the Trump administration, National Security Officials reviewed the program, which had begun under the Obama administration.

The CIA paramilitaries were directed to advise and train but not participate in combat. Trump administration officials feared the authorities were too broad and that the mission was too ambiguous. One former official said questions that were asked included: "How far can you go with existing covert action authorities? If, God forbid, they’ve shot some Russians, is that a problem? Do you need special authorities for that?"

The former official said that the Trump administration discussed what Russia’s redlines could be and determined the US support for Ukrainian forces fell within historically acceptable bounds. "There was a school of thought that the Russians spoke the good old language of proxy war," the official said.

Despite the concerns, the secret program continued for years until February. The former officials said that when a Russian invasion became "increasingly acute," the Biden administration pulled all CIA personnel out of Ukraine, including the paramilitaries. One former official said the Biden administration was "terrified of even clandestine folks being on the frontline."

Although it’s hard to know what the military situation looks like in Ukraine, the US claims Ukraine is putting up a much fiercer resistance than Russia expected. The former officials who spoke with Yahoo News suggested the resistance was in part thanks to the CIA training program. The US continues to fuel the fighting as President Biden has already pledged over $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine since the invasion started.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/17/2022 - 20:25
Published:3/17/2022 7:30:35 PM
[Markets] White House Appoints New COVID Czar As Cases Wane White House Appoints New COVID Czar As Cases Wane

As COVID cases have declined dramatically across the US (although there have been some signs about a potential resurgence via wastewater monitoring), the Biden Administration has selected a new COVID czar who will be responsible with overseeing America's return to the office (or at least so the Biden Administration hopes). 

Ashish Jha

Public health expert Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, will take over as the White House's top COVID advisor be tasked with helping workplaces and schools "cope with COVID" as millions of workers and students readjust to in-person work and education, while also preparing for possible future waves and variants. Jha previously led research into the Ebola virus and has regularly served as a medical expert on television shows.

The change comes as Pfizer and Moderna push for the authorization of a fourth COVID booster for Americans.

Jha will succeed Jeffrey Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council during the Obama Administration, as the White House coronavirus coordinator.

President Biden thanked Zients for his service, and praised Jha as one of the country's leading public-health experts.

"Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help combat COVID," Biden said. "He is a man of service and an expert manager. I will miss his counsel and I’m grateful for his service."

[...]

"Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well-known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence," Biden said. "And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic -- executing on my National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from Covid -- Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job."

But as Bloomberg noted, the change comes as Western Europe and South Korea have reported case spikes in recent days, suggesting the possibility of a fresh wave of infections.

The change comes as the White House has been plagued by recent COVID infections.

Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff and eight House Democrats tested positive for coronavirus infections in recent days, and Biden’s plans to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin were thrown into turmoil when the taoiseach tested positive on Wednesday. The White House has said the president is not a close contact of any of the individuals, and that he tested negative on Sunday.

While Dr. Anthony Fauci has been the government official most closely associated with the COVID pandemic, he is technically the president's chief medical advisor, along with his longtime role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

One of Jha's first tasks will be convincing Congress to approve new funding for the response. The administration sought $22.5 billion as part of an omnibus government funding package but talks collapsed as Republicans demanded spending offsets and questioned the need for new funds.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/17/2022 - 18:45
Published:3/17/2022 5:58:46 PM
[] Judge Orders Jussie Smollett Released from Jail After Having Served Just Six Days Wonder which Obama staffer/Democrat fixer contacted the authorities this time. Disgraced 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett will be released from jail after just six days behind bars. Judges ruled that he should go free while his lawyers work on the appeal... Published:3/16/2022 6:22:32 PM
[Markets] 1MDB Mastermind Jho Low Looted $1.4 Billion From Goldman-Backed Bond Deals 1MDB Mastermind Jho Low Looted $1.4 Billion From Goldman-Backed Bond Deals

The latest news from the trial of Goldman banker Roger Ng revealed how money from 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund at the center of one of Southeast Asia's biggest financial scandals in recent memory, was siphoned off and paid out in the form of bribes. 

FBI agent Eric Van Dorn said Monday that fugitive financier Jho Low, the mastermind of the 1MDB scheme, allegedly stole more than $1.4 billion.

Some of the money went to pay off former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who reaped $756 million of the $6.5 billion total raised by Goldman Sachs for the fund, Van Dorn testified, according to Bloomberg.

Razak was later found guilty during a criminal trial in Malaysia.

Jho Low

Meanwhile, Khadem al-Qubaisi, a former managing director of Abu Dhabi’s state-owned International Petroleum Investment Company, better known as Ipic, received $472.8 million for his role in guaranteeing some of 1MDB's transactions, Van Dorn told the jurors in federal court in Brooklyn.

Ng is the only Goldman banker to stand trial for the bank's role in the scandal, which involved Goldman seeding a sovereign wealth fund that was, in reality, a political slush fund, with billions of dollars in money raised by bond offerings backed by Malaysia's sovereign credit.

The fund later defaulted on its obligations, exposing the truth: that billions had been looted by Low. It was later revealed by a sprawling DoJ investigation that the money had been spent in irresponsible ways, like on lavish celebrity-filled parties and gifts, and on yachts, and the movie "the Wolf of Wall Street." Some of the money was also illegally moved into the US and donated to politicians, including former President Barack Obama, seen below playing golf with Razak.

Previously, ex-Goldman banker Tim Leissner, who was also Ng's boss overseeing the bank's dealmaking in Southeast Asia, testified for days, revealing a torrent of embarrassing information for Goldman and others.

Finally, Van Dorn said he tracked how 1MDB money was siphoned off to at least 16 recipients. Ng got $35.1 million siphoned from two of the three bond transactions, while Leissner, who pleaded guilty to fraud in exchange for his cooperation against his former employer, and Ng, received $73.4 million.

Tyler Durden Mon, 03/14/2022 - 20:00
Published:3/14/2022 7:07:10 PM
[Entertainment] Barack Obama Tests Positive for COVID-19 Barack ObamaBarack Obama has tested positive for Covid-19. "I've had a scratchy throat for a couple days, but am feeling fine otherwise," the former president announced in message posted...
Published:3/13/2022 5:29:57 PM
[] BREAKING: Barack Obama Tests Positive for COVID-19 Published:3/13/2022 3:28:16 PM
[58b05e07-19b8-5231-afdf-ab18bf97b0f9] Barack Obama tests positive for COVID-19 Former President Barack Obama announced Sunday he tested positive for COVID-19. Published:3/13/2022 2:58:19 PM
[Markets] Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly Sperry: Ukraine Worked With Democrats Against Trump In 2016 To Stop Putin -- And It Backfired Badly

Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClearInvestigations,

Six years ago, before Russia’s full-scale invasion of their country, the Ukrainians bet that a Hillary Clinton presidency would offer better protection from Russian President Vladimir Putin, even though he had invaded Crimea during the Obama-Biden administration, whose Russian policies Clinton vowed to continue.

Working with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign, Ukrainian government officials intervened in the 2016 race to help Clinton and hurt  Donald Trump in a sweeping and systematic foreign influence operation that's been largely ignored by the press. The improper, if not illegal, operation was run chiefly out of the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, where officials worked hand-in-glove with a Ukrainian-American activist and Clinton campaign operative to attack the Trump campaign. The Obama White House was also deeply involved in an effort to groom their own favored leader in Ukraine and then work with his government to dig up dirt on – and even investigate -- their political rival.

Ukrainian and Democratic operatives also huddled with American journalists to spread damaging information on Trump and his advisers – including allegations of illicit Russian-tied payments that, though later proved false, forced the resignation of his campaign manager Paul Manafort. The embassy actually weighed a plan to get Congress to investigate Manafort and Trump and stage hearings in the run-up to the election.

As it worked behind the scenes to undermine Trump, Ukraine also tried to kneecap him publicly. Ukraine's ambassador took the extraordinary step of attacking Trump in an Op-Ed article published in The Hill, an influential U.S. Capitol newspaper, while other top Ukrainian officials slammed the GOP candidate on social media.

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. attacked Trump in an Op-Ed weeks before the 2016 election.

At first glance, it was a bad bet as Trump upset Clinton. But by the end of his first year in office, Trump had supplied Ukrainians what the Obama administration refused to give them: tank-busting Javelin missiles and other lethal weapons to defend themselves against Russian incursions. Putin never invaded on Trump's watch. Instead, he launched an all-out invasion during another Democratic administration – one now led by President Biden, Barack Obama's former Vice President, whose Secretary of State last year alarmed Putin by testifying, “We support Ukraine's membership in NATO.” Biden boasted he’d go “toe to toe” with Putin, but that didn't happen as the autocrat amassed tanks along Ukraine’s border in response to the NATO overtures.

The Ukrainian mischief is part of Special Counsel John Durham’s broader inquiry – now a full-blown criminal investigation with grand jury indictments – into efforts to falsely target Trump as a Kremlin conspirator in 2016 and beyond.

Sources say Durham has interviewed several Ukrainians, but it’s not likely the public will find out exactly what he's learned about the extent of Ukraine’s meddling in the election until he releases his final report, which sources say could be several months away.

In the meantime, a comprehensive account of documented Ukrainian collusion – including efforts to assist the FBI in its 2016 probe of Manafort – is pieced together here for the first time. It draws from an archive of previously unreported records generated from a secret Federal Election Commission investigation of the Democratic National Committee that includes never-before-reviewed sworn affidavits, depositions, contracts, emails, text messages, legal findings and other documents from the case. RealClearInvestigations also examined diplomatic call transcripts, White House visitor logs, lobbying disclosure forms, congressional reports and closed-door congressional testimony, as well as information revealed by Ukrainian and Democratic officials in social media postings, podcasts and books.

2014: Prelude to Collusion

U.S. envoys Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt helped bring to power Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, right. (AP)

The coordination between Ukrainian and Democratic officials can be traced back at least to January 2014. It was then when top Obama diplomats – many of whom now hold top posts in the Biden administration – began engineering regime change in Kiev, eventually installing a Ukrainian leader they could control.

On Jan. 27, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt phoned Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at her home in Washington to discuss picking opposition leaders to check the power of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whom they believed was too cozy with Putin. “We’ve got to do something to make it stick together,” Pyatt said of a planned coalition government, adding that they needed “somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing.”

Nuland responded that Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan had just told her that the vice president – who was acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine – would give his blessing to the deal. “Biden’s willing,” she said. But they agreed they had to “move fast” and bypass the European Union. “Fuck the EU,” Nuland told the ambassador, according to a leaked transcript of their call.


Hunter Biden: His father helped engineer the rise of an amenable Ukrainian leader who would later fire a prosecutor investigating the son.
 

Nuland’s role in the political maneuvering was not limited to phone calls. She traveled to Kiev and helped organize street demonstrations against Yanukovych, even handing out sandwiches to protesters. In effect, Obama officials greased a revolution. Within months, Yanukovych was exiled and replaced by Petro Poroshenko, who would later do Biden’s bidding – including firing a prosecutor investigating his son Hunter. Poroshenko would also later support Clinton's White House bid after Biden decided not to run, citing the death of his older son Beau.

The U.S. meddling resulted in the installation of an anti-Putin government next door to Russia. A furious Putin viewed the interference as an attempted coup and soon marched into Crimea.

Nuland is now Biden’s undersecretary of state and Sullivan serves as his national security adviser.

Whispering in their ear at the time was a fiery pro-Ukraine activist and old Clinton hand, Alexandra “Ali” Chalupa. A daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Chalupa informally advised the State Department and White House in early 2014. She organized multiple meetings between Ukraine experts and the National Security Council to push for Yanukovych’s ouster and economic sanctions against Putin.

In the NSC briefings, Chalupa also agitated against longtime attorney-lobbyist Manafort, who at the time was an American consultant for Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which she viewed as a cat’s paw of Putin. She warned that Manafort worked for Putin’s interests and posed a national security threat.

At the same time, Chalupa worked closely with then-Vice President Biden’s team, setting up conference calls with his staff and Ukrainians.

Another influential adviser at the time was former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who provided Nuland with written reports on the Ukrainian crisis and Russia that echoed Chalupa’s warnings. Nuland treated them as classified intelligence, and between the spring of 2014 and early 2016, she received some 120 reports on Ukraine and Russia from Steele.

2015: The Move Against Manafort Commences

Paul Manafort: Targeted by Chalupa over work for the ousted Ukrainian president and ties to Trump. (AP)

In April 2015, the DNC hired Chalupa as a $5,000-a-month consultant, according to a copy of her contract, which ran through the 2016 election cycle. (Years earlier, Chalupa had worked full-time for the DNC as part of the senior leadership team advising Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.) After Trump threw his hat in the ring in June 2015, Chalupa grew concerned that Manafort was or would be involved with his campaign since Manafort had known Trump for decades and lived in Trump Tower. She expressed her concerns to top DNC officials and “the DNC asked me to do a hit on Trump,” according to a transcript of a 2019 interview on her sister’s podcast. (Andrea Chalupa, who describes herself as a journalist, boasted in a November 2016 tweet: “My sister led Trump/Russia research at DNC.”)

Chalupa began encouraging journalists both in America and Ukraine to dig into Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine and expose his alleged Russian connections. She fed unsubstantiated rumors, tips and leads to the Washington Post and New York Times, as well as CNN, speaking to reporters on background so a DNC operative wouldn’t be sourced.

“I spent many, many hours working with reporters on background, directing them to contacts and sources, and giving them information,” Chalupa said.

But no reporter worked closer with her than Yahoo News correspondent Michael Isikoff. He even accompanied her to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they brainstormed attacks on Manafort and Trump, according to FEC case files.

Chalupa was also sounding alarm bells in the White House. In November 2015, for example, she set up a White House meeting between a Ukrainian delegation including Ukraine Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and NSC advisers – among them Eric Ciaramella, a young CIA analyst on loan to the White House who later would play a significant role as anonymous "whistleblower" in Trump’s first impeachment. In addition to Putin’s aggression, the group discussed the alleged security threat from Manafort. Chalupa was back in the White House in December. All told, she would visit the Obama White House at least 27 times, Secret Service logs show, including attending at least one event with the president in 2016.

Eric Ciaramella (middle right) across from Ukrainians in a June 2015 meeting at the White House, flanked by Biden security adviser Michael Carpenter and Ciaramella's NSC colleague Liz Zentos. (unknownukraine.com)

January 2016: High-Level Meetings With Ukrainians in the White House

On Jan. 12, 2016 – almost a month before the first GOP primary – Chalupa told top DNC official Lindsey Reynolds she was seeing strong indications that Putin was trying to steal the 2016 election for Trump. Emails also show that she promised to lead an effort to expose Manafort – whom Trump would not officially hire as his campaign chairman until May – and link him and Trump to the Russian government. That same day, Chalupa visited the White House.

A week later, Obama officials gathered with Ukrainian officials traveling from Kiev in the White House for a series of senior-level meetings to, among other things, discuss reviving a long-closed investigation into payments to American consultants working for the Party of Regions, according to Senate documents. The FBI had investigated Manafort in 2014 but no charges resulted.

One of the attendees, Ukrainian Embassy political officer Andrii Telizhenko, recalled Justice Department officials asking investigators with Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, or NABU, if they could help find fresh evidence of party payments to such U.S. figures. (Three years later, Democrats would impeach Trump for allegedly asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival, Joe Biden.)

The Obama administration’s enforcement agencies leaned on their Ukrainian counterparts to investigate Manafort, shifting resources from an investigation of a corrupt Ukrainian energy oligarch who paid Biden’s son hundreds of thousands of dollars through his gas company, Burisma.

“Obama’s NSC hosted Ukrainian officials and told them to stop investigating Hunter Biden and start investigating Paul Manafort,” said a former senior NSC official who has seen notes and emails generated from the meetings and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Suddenly, the FBI reopened its Manafort investigation. “In January 2016, the FBI initiated a money laundering and tax evasion investigation of Manafort predicated on his activities as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians,” according to a report by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The White House summit with Ukrainian officials ran for three days, ending on Jan. 21, according to a copy of the agenda stamped with the Justice Department logo. It was organized and hosted by Ciaramella and his colleague Liz Zentos from the NSC. Other U.S. officials included Justice prosecutors and FBI agents, as well as State Department diplomats. The Ukrainian delegation included Artem Sytnyk, the head of NABU, and other Ukrainian prosecutors.

Ciaramella was a CIA detailee to the White House occupying the NSC’s Ukraine desk in 2015 and 2016. In that role, Ciaramella met face-to-face with top Ukrainian officials and provided policy advice to Biden through the then-vice president's security adviser Michael Carpenter. He also worked with Nuland and Chalupa.Ciaramella was carried over to the Trump White House. As RealClearInvestigations first reported, he would later anonymously blow the whistle on Trump asking Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to help “get to the bottom of” Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election, a phone call that triggered Trump’s first impeachment by a Democrat-controlled House. Ciaramella’s former NSC colleague Alexander Vindman leaked the call to him. Vindman, a Ukrainian-American, is also aligned with Chalupa. (Vindman is now back in the news for his demands that the United States provide more active military support to Ukraine and his insistence that Trump shares great blame for the war.)

As Manafort drew closer to Trump, Obama officials zeroed in, and the FBI reopened a closed 2014 probe. (Justice Department Office of the Inspector General)

February 2016: Obama White House-Ukraine Coordination Intensifies

On Feb. 2, two weeks after the White House meetings, Secret Service logs reveal that Ciaramella met in the White House with officials from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, which would later provide the FBI highly sensitive bank records on Manafort. (In addition, a senior FinCEN adviser illegally leaked thousands of the confidential Manafort records to the media.)

On Feb. 9, less than a month after the White House summit, Telizhenko, who worked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with Zentos of the NSC at a Cosi sandwich shop in Washington, according to emails obtained by the Senate. It's not known what they discussed. In addition, on Feb. 23, the two emailed about setting up another meeting the following day. “OK if I bring my colleague Eric, who works on Ukraine with me?” Zentos asked Telizhenko, apparently referring to Ciaramella. In the emails, they discussed the U.S. primary elections, among other things.

NSC's Zentos and Ukraine's Telizhenko would meet and correspond numerous times during 2016. (HSGAC-Finance Committee Hunter Biden Report)

Telizhenko would later testify that Ambassador Chaly had ordered him then to “start an investigation [into the Trump campaign] within the embassy just on my own to find out with my contacts if there’s any Russian connection that we can report back.” He suspects the Ambassador delivered that report to Chalupa and the DNC. Chalupa visited the White House on Feb. 22, entrance records show, just days before the second meeting Telizhenko had planned with Zentos.

March 2016: Chalupa Engineers Manafort Messaging Assault With Ukrainians

After Manafort was named Trump campaign chair, the campaign against him went into overdrive. New York Times

On March 3, Zentos and Telizhenko planned to meet again, this time at a Washington bar called The Exchange. According to their email, Zentos wrote, “I’ll see if my colleague Eric is up for joining.” The pair also met the next day at Swing’s coffee house in Washington. After the meeting, Telizhenko emailed Zentos seeking a meeting with senior Obama NSC official Charlie Kupchan, an old Clinton hand who was Ciaramella’s boss on the Russia/Ukraine desk. Kupchan is an outspoken critic of Trump who has made remarks suggesting what countries “can do to stop him” and “protect the international institutions we’ve built .” Zentos and Telizhenko also met on March 10, patronizing the Cosi coffee shop again.

On March 24, 2016, four days before the Trump campaign announced that it had hired Manafort, Chalupa met at the Ukrainian Embassy with Ambassador Chaly and his political counselor Oksana Shulyar, where they shared their concerns about Manafort, according to Politico.

When news broke on March 28 that Manafort was joining the Trump campaign, Chalupa could hardly contain herself. “This is huge,” she texted senior DNC officials. “This is everything to take out Trump.”

She immediately began circulating anti-Manafort memos, warning the DNC of the “threat” he posed of Russian influence. The next day, March 29, she briefed the DNC communications team about Manafort. They, in turn, hatched a plan to reach out to the Ukrainian Embassy to get President Porochenko to make an on-camera denouncement of Manafort and feed the footage to ABC News, where former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos works as a top anchor. On March 30, Chalupa fired off an email to Shulyar, her contact at the Ukrainian Embassy:

"There is a very good chance that President Poroshenko may receive a question from the press during his visit about the recent New York Times article saying that Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort as an adviser to his campaign and whether President Poroshenko is concerned about this considering Trump is the likely Republican nominee and given Paul Manafort’s meddling in Ukraine over the past couple of decades,” Chalupa wrote. "It is important President Poroshenko is prepared to address this question should it come up. In a manner that exposes Paul Manafort for the problems he continues to cause Ukraine."

Within minutes of sending the email, Chalupa wrote the DNC’s communications director Luis Miranda, “The ambassador has the messaging.”

Then she reached out to a friend in Congress, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, about holding hearings to paint Manafort as a pro-Kremlin villain.

April 2016: Chalupa Solicits Ukrainian Dirt on Trump, His Campaign, and Manafort

Though accounts differ, Chalupa discussed Trump dirt with Ukrainian representatives. Federal Election Commission

American presidential campaigns aren't supposed to work with foreign governments to dig up dirt on their political opponents. Geneva Convention rules bar diplomats from becoming entangled in their host country’s political affairs, particularly elections. There are also federal laws banning foreign nationals from engaging in operations to influence or interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes. In 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government for that purpose.

But just weeks after Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign, the Ukrainian Embassy appeared to be working with the Clinton campaign to torpedo him and the campaign.

Emails reveal that Chalupa and Shulyar, a top aide to Ambassador Chaly, agreed to meet for coffee on April 7, 2016, at Kafe Leopold, a restaurant near the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington. (Chalupa had paid a visit to the White House just three days earlier.) One of the purposes of the meeting, according to FEC case files, was to discuss Manafort and the danger he allegedly posed. They were joined at the café by Telizhenko, who said he was working on a “big story” on Manafort and Trump with the Wall Street Journal.

In a sworn 2019 deposition taken by the FEC, Telizhenko alleged that Chalupa solicited “dirt” on Trump, Manafort, and the Trump campaign during the meeting. Telizhenko also testified that Chalupa told him that her goal was “basically [to] use this information and have a committee hearing under Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, in Congress in September and take him off the elections."

Telizhenko later approached Ambassador Chaly about the DNC representative's overtures and he responded: “Yes. And I know that this is happening. You should work with her."

After speaking with Chaly, Telizhenko claims that he went back to Shulyar who instructed him to help Chalupa. “I went to Oksana and said, ‘Like what are we doing?’” he testified. " And she told me, ‘You have to work with Chalupa. And any information you have, you give it to me, I’ll give it to her, then we’ll pass it on later to anybody else we are coordinating with.’”

Less than a week later, on April 13, Telizhenko met again with White House official Zentos, email records reveal.

Telizhenko said he resigned the next month because of concerns regarding his embassy’s work with Chalupa and the Clinton team.

In her sworn account of the meeting, Chalupa acknowledged discussing Manafort and the “national security problem” he allegedly presented, but denied asking the embassy for help researching him. She allowed that she “could have mentioned the congressional investigation … that I had talked to Marcy Kaptur,” but maintained she couldn't recall trying to enlist the embassy in the effort.

Shulyar, however, clearly recalls that Chalupa sought the embassy’s help warning the public about Manafort – including pitching stories to the press and lobbying Congress, according to a 2020 written statement to the FEC. An “idea floated by Alexandra Chalupa was that we approach a co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus to initiate a congressional hearing on Paul Manafort,” Shulyar said, though she denied the embassy acted on the idea.

Around the same time, two Ukrainian lawmakers – Olga Bielkova and Pavlo Rizanenko – visited the U.S. and met with journalists, as well as a former State Department official with close ties to Sen. John McCain – David Kramer of the McCain Institute. Kramer would later leak the entire Steele dossier to the media. The meeting was arranged by major Clinton Foundation donor Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch who lobbied Clinton when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Bielkova was also connected to the Clinton Foundation, having once managed a Clinton Global Initiative program for Ukrainian college students.

While Clinton was at Foggy Bottom from 2009 to 2013, Ukrainians gave more money – at least $10 million, including more than $8 million from Pinchuk – to the Clinton Foundation than any other nationality including Saudi Arabians. Pinchuk's donation was a down payment on an astounding $29 million pledge.

On April 12, 2016, Bielkova also attended a meeting with Ciaramella and his NSC colleague Zentos, head of the Eastern Europe desk, according to lobbying disclosure records.

In late April, Chalupa helped organize a Ukrainian-American protest against Manafort in his Connecticut hometown. Activists shouted for Trump to fire Manafort, whom they called “Putin’s Trojan Horse,” while holding signs that read: “Shame on Putin, Shame on Manafort, Shame on Trump” and “Putin, Hands Off the U.S. Election.” Chalupa also organized social media campaigns against Manafort and Trump, including one that encouraged activists to share the Twitter hashtags: “#TrumpPutin” and "#Treasonous Trump."

Also that month, Chalupa reached out to Yahoo News reporter Isikoff to pitch a hit piece on Manafort. She connected him with a delegation of Ukrainian journalists visiting D.C. Isikoff would later be used by Steele to spread falsehoods from his dossier.

May-June 2016: Manafort Dirt Spreads

In a May 3 email, Chalupa alerted DNC communications director Luis Miranda and DNC opposition research director Lauren Dillion that there was “a lot more [dirt on Manafort] coming down the pipe[sic].”

Chalupa told them the dirt has “a big Trump component” and would “hit in the next few weeks.” It’s not clear if she was referring to the notorious "black ledger” smear against Manafort, who was promoted to campaign chairman on May 19, but a story about it was brewing at the time.

On May 30, Nellie Ohr, an opposition researcher for the Clinton-retained firm Fusion GPS, emailed her husband, Bruce Ohr, a top official at the Justice Department who would become a prime disseminator of the Steele dossier within the government, and two federal prosecutors to alert them to an article indicating NABU had suddenly discovered documents allegedly showing Manafort receiving illicit payments.

Amid the flurry of anti-Manafort activity, Zentos met again with Telizhenko on May 4, records show. And Chalupa visited the White House for a meeting on May 13.

Chalupa paid another visit to the White House on June 14, Secret Service logs show. On June 17, Ciaramella held a White House meeting with Nuland and Pyatt of the State Department to discuss undisclosed Ukrainian matters.

In late June, the FBI signed an evidence-sharing agreement with NABU, less than two months before the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency released what it claimed was explosive new evidence on Manafort.

July 2016: Ukrainian Officials Attack Trump Publicly

Chalupa continued to pow-wow with the Ukrainian Embassy and got so cozy with officials there that they offered her a position, which she declined, as an “embedded consultant” in the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

That same month, high-ranking Ukrainian officials openly insulted Trump on social media in an unusual departure from normal diplomacy.

For instance, Ukraine Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov tweeted that Trump was a “clown” who was “an even bigger danger to the U.S. than terrorism.” In another July post, he called Trump “dangerous for Ukraine.” And on Facebook, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk warned that Trump had “challenged the very values of the free world."

(After Trump upset Clinton, Avakov and other officials tried to delete their statements from their social network accounts, saying that they had been wrong and had rushed to conclusions.)

“It was clear that they were supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy,” Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko told Politico. “They did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump."

While attending the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, Chalupa spread the scurrilous rumor that Manafort was the mastermind behind the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC and that he “stole" her and other Democrats’ emails. She later told her sister’s podcast that she had reported her conspiracy theory to the FBI, eventually sitting down and meeting with agents in September to spin her tale of supposed espionage (the Senate has asked the FBI for copies of her interview summaries, known as FD-302s). Chalupa also prepared a report for the FBI, as well as members of Congress, detailing her Russiagate conspiracy theories, which Mueller later found no evidence to support.

In addition, Chalupa helped spread a false narrative that Trump removed a reference to providing arms to Kiev from the Republican platform at the party's convention earlier that month. Internal platform committee documents show the Ukraine plank could not have been weakened as claimed, because the “lethal” weapons language had never been part of the GOP platform. The final language actually strengthened the platform by pledging direct assistance not just to the country of Ukraine, but to its military in its struggle against Russian-backed forces.

August-September 2016: The Phony Manafort Ledger Leaks 

A page released by Ukrainian authorities from the fake Manafort ledger.
New York Times/NABU

In another attempt to influence the 2016 election, Ukrainian lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko leaked to the U.S. media what he claimed was evidence of a secret handwritten ledger showing Manafort had received millions in cash from Yanukovych’s party under the table. He claimed that 22 pages of the alleged ledger, which contained line items written by hand, had mysteriously appeared in his parliament mailbox earlier that year. Leshchenko would not identify the sender. A fuller copy of the same document showed up later on the doorstep of a Ukrainian intelligence official who passed it to NABU, which shared it with FBI agents stationed in Kiev. Leshchenko and NABU officials held press conferences declaring the document was “proof" of Manafort corruption and demanding he be “interrogated.”

The Clinton campaign seized on the story. In an Aug. 14 statement, campaign manager Robby Mook stated: “We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.” He demanded Trump "disclose campaign chair Paul Manafort's and all other campaign employees' and advisers' ties to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities."

But there was a big hole in the story. Though Manafort was a consultant to Yanukovych's party, he was paid by wire, not in cash, casting serious doubt on the ledger’s authenticity. Another problem: the ledger was alleged to have been kept at party headquarters, but rioters had destroyed the building in a 2014 fire.

Leshchenko admitted that he had a political agenda. He told The Financial Times at the time that he went public with the ledger because “a Trump presidency would change the pro-Ukrainian agenda in American foreign policy.” He added that most of Ukraine’s politicians are “on Hillary Clinton’s side."

Leshchenko also happened to be "a source for Fusion GPS,” as Nellie Ohr confirmed under questioning during a 2019 closed-door House hearing, according to a declassified transcript. Fusion was a paid agent of the Clinton campaign, which gave the private opposition-research firm more than $1 million to gin up connections between Trump and Russia. Fusion hired Steele to compile a series of “intelligence” memos known as the dossier. As a former MI6 operative, Steele gave the allegations a sheen of credibility.

FBI counterintelligence veteran Mark Wauck said the dossier and the black ledger both appear to have originated with Fusion GPS, which laundered it through foreigners who hated Trump – Steele and Leshchenko.

"The ledger and the dossier are both Fusion hit jobs,” Wauck said. “The two items shared a common origin: the Hillary campaign’s oppo research shop."

In an August 2016 memo written for Fusion GPS, “The Demise of Trump’s Campaign Manager Paul Manafort,” Steele claimed he had corroborated Leshchenko’s charges through his anonymous Kremlin sources, who turned out to be nothing more than beer buddies of his primary source collector, Igor Danchenko, a Russian immigrant with a string of arrests in the U.S. for public intoxication, as RealClearInvestigations first reported. Danchenko had worked for the Brookings Institution, a Democratic think tank in Washington that Durham has subpoenaed in connection to its own role in Russiagate. Danchenko was indicted last year by Special Counsel Durham for lying about his sources, including one he completely made up, as RCI reported.

“YANUKOVYCH had confided in PUTIN that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to MANAFORT as alleged,” Steele claimed in the unsubstantiated report, citing “a well-placed Russian figure” with knowledge of a "meeting between PUTIN and YANUKOVYCH” allegedly “held in secret” on Aug. 15. As a paid informant, Steele had long reported to the FBI about alleged corruption involving Yanukovych.

The FBI used his Clinton-funded dossier as a basis to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump adviser Carter Page, including the false claim that Page acted as an intermediary between Russian leadership and Manafort in a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” that included sidelining Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue. Steele also falsely claimed that Page had helped draft the RNC platform statement to be more sympathetic to Russia’s interests by eliminating language about providing weapons to Ukraine, according to a report by the Department of Justice's watchdog. In fact, Page was not involved in the GOP platform. The misinformation came from Danchenko’s fictional source.

Fusion co-founder Glenn Simpson worked closely with the New York Times on the Manafort ledger story. In his book, “Crime in Progress,” Simpson boasts of introducing Leshchenko to the Times as a source, who ended up providing the paper some of the dubious ledger records. On Aug. 19, Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign the day after the Times reported what it had been fed by the anti-Trump operatives.

In effect, Ukrainian government officials tried to help Clinton and undermine Trump by disseminating documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and telling the American media they were investigating the matter.

In 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that Leshchenko and NABU’s Sytnyk illegally interfered in the 2016 U.S. election by publicizing the black ledger. Among the evidence was a recording of Sytnyk saying the agency released the ledger to help Clinton’s campaign – “I helped her,” Sytnyk is recorded boasting. But the damage was done. The Ukrainians, along with Chalupa and the Clinton camp, achieved their goal of undermining the Trump campaign by prompting Manafort’s ouster though they never proved he was colluding with the Russians. Neither did Special Counsel Mueller. In fact, Mueller did not use the ledger to prosecute Manafort after a key witness for the prosecution told him it was fabricated. “Mueller ended up dropping it like a hot potato,” Wauck said. 

Ukraine’s neutrality in the election was also called into further question that September, when Porochenko met with Clinton during a stop in New York. He never met with Trump, who appeared to get the cold shoulder from the Ukrainian leader. In statements following Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton in November, Ukraine’s embassy has denied interfering in the election and insisted that Chalupa was acting on her own.

Epilogue

After Trump won the election in spite of her efforts to sabotage him, Chalupa predicted: “Under President Trump, the Kremlin could likely invade U.S. allies in Europe without U.S. opposition.”

Not only did Russia not invade Europe “under Trump,” it didn’t even invade Ukraine. Rather, the invasion came under Biden, whose campaign Chalupa supported. Yet she continues to blame Trump. Recent tweets show a still-obsessed Chalupa has not dialed back her extremist views about Trump or Manafort, whom she believes should be prosecuted for “treason."

In a Feb. 28 post on Twitter, for example, Chalupa claimed that Putin installed “a puppet regime in the U.S. with the help of Paul Manafort.” The previous day, she tweeted, “We had a Putin installed Trump presidency.” A day before that, she wrote: “Now would be a good time to release the Putin-Trump treason calls.”

And on Feb. 25, Chalupa tweeted another wild conspiracy theory: "It’s important to note that Putin’s imperial aspirations are of a global criminal empire, as we saw when he installed Donald J. Trump president and tried to turn the U.S. into a Russian satellite state."

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 19:00
Published:3/11/2022 6:16:25 PM
[Markets] Illinois Illegally Denied Elections Group Access To Voter Records, Federal Court Rules Illinois Illegally Denied Elections Group Access To Voter Records, Federal Court Rules

Zuthored by Matthew Vadum via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

An election worker makes a record of a ballot pickup on Nov. 3, 2020 in Vancouver, Washington. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

A federal court ruled that Illinois violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) when it refused to provide an election integrity group with access to the state’s voter roll.

“Election officials must allow citizens to see what they are doing,” said J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), the successful plaintiff in the case.

Indianapolis-based PILF describes itself as “the nation’s only public interest law firm dedicated wholly to election integrity.” The nonprofit organization “exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections.”

PILF regularly uses the Public Disclosure Provision of the NVRA, along with state and federal open records laws that require government records be made available to the public, the group stated in the legal complaint (pdf) filed July 27, 2020, in the Springfield office of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Using records and data compiled through these open records laws, PILF “analyzes the programs and activities of state and local election officials in order to determine whether lawful efforts are being made to keep voter rolls current and accurate,” the complaint states.

The NVRA provides that “Each State shall maintain for at least 2 years and shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.”

The complaint cites Project Vote v. Long, a 2012 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in stating that the Public Disclosure Provision of the NVRA “embodies Congress’s conviction that Americans who are eligible under law to vote have every right to exercise their franchise, a right that must not be sacrificed to administrative chicanery, oversights, or inefficiencies.”

The ruling (pdf) in the case, Public Interest Legal Foundation v. Matthews, court file 20-cv-3190, came on March 8. The defendants are Bernadette Matthews, who was sued in her official capacity as executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, the board itself, and two other board officials.

District Judge Sue Myerscough, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, found that the defendants “acted in violation of the Public Disclosure Provision of the NVRA when Defendants refused to make available for viewing and photocopying the full statewide voter registration list.”

Myerscough ordered the elections board “to implement policies and procedures which make available to the public the statewide voter registration list, allowing for redaction of telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, street numbers of home addresses, birthdates, identifiable portions of email addresses, and other highly sensitive personal information.”

The judge also ordered the defendants to pay PILF “its attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses.”

Adams, a former civil rights attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, said in a statement that he was pleased with the ruling.

Federal law allows everyone to see what is going on in election offices. PILF has found dead and duplicate registrants and voters registered in multiple states,” he said.

Voter rolls are public, and the court said so. This is the second ruling this week that the Foundation has won to gain access to voter rolls. Accurate voter rolls are essential to free and fair elections.”

The second ruling to which Adams was referring is a March 4 decision (pdf) by Judge George Z. Singal of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. The case is PILF v. Bellows, court file 20-cv-61.

Singal, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, refused a request by Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat, to dismiss PILF’s lawsuit seeking access to state voter information.

After several demands for the data, Bellows informed PILF in February 2020 that she lacked legal authority to release voter files to the group. PILF sued, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the NVRA. In the course of the litigation, Maine enacted a new law limiting the use and dissemination of voter data.

But Singal found that PILF “plausibly allege[s] a violation of the NVRA” by Maine, and threw out the state’s motion to dismiss.

Adams expressed optimism about the eventual outcome of the Maine case.

“This case is about transparency and the public’s right to know about vulnerabilities in our elections,” Adams said. “The court adopted our interpretation of the National Voter Registration Act and strengthened our rights to ensure that voter rolls are accurately maintained. This ruling is a victory for election integrity.”

Bellows didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the Maine case. In the Illinois ruling, state Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, whose attorneys represent the state, didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment.

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/11/2022 - 17:00
Published:3/11/2022 4:16:31 PM
[] Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors: "We Now Believe the Chances of a Recession, Starting in the Second Quarter of 2022, Have Risen to 60%" OUT: Barack Obama's third term. IN: Jimmy Carter's second term. The Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors told Maria Bartiromo that he thinks the GDP for the first quarter is going to come in at near zero or... Published:3/11/2022 2:45:32 PM
[] Biden's About to Give Iran the Bomb and Also Give All of Iran's Terrorists Carte Blanche To Travel The World Free of Restriction "This isn't Obama's Iran deal," says Gabriel Noronha's headline. "It's much worse." Noronha worked as Special Advisor for Iran in the U.S. Department of State Department from 2019-2020 and worked n the U.S. Senate from 2015-2019. Anyone seeking to gauge... Published:3/8/2022 5:58:31 PM
[Markets] Chinese Firms Mull Buying Stakes In Russian Energy Giants Chinese Firms Mull Buying Stakes In Russian Energy Giants

As it turns out, American megabanks like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs aren't the only ones buying up distressed Russian assets. Chinese banks are also getting in on the fun.

China is considering buying or increasing stakes in Russian energy and commodities companies, such as gas giant Gazprom and aluminum giant Rusal International, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports.

Beijing is in talks with its state-owned firms, including China National Petroleum, China Petrochemical, Aluminum Corp. of China and China Minmetals Corp., about potential opportunities for potential investments in Russian companies or assets, the people said. Any deal would be to bolster China’s imports as it intensifies its focus on energy and food security, not as a show of support for Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the people said.

The talks are still in an early stage, and it's unclear whether a deal will result, as the discussions aren’t public. Some talks between Chinese and Russian energy companies have started to take place. The Chinese companies involved refused to comment to Bloomberg.

As European and American firms cut ties with Russian firms, China has vowed to continue normal trade relations with Russia. The decision comes as American and European energy giant Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP have walked away from Russian assets worth billions of dollars. 

China Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a press briefing earlier this week that China-Russia ties remain “rock solid", even as Beijing called on Russia to engage in peace talks to try and end the war.

Among China’s current energy investments in Russia, CNPC has a 20% stake in the Yamal LNG project and a 10% stake in Arctic LNG 2, while Cnooc owns 10% of Arctic.

China and Russia have been strengthening ties for years. Just last month, President Xi and President Putin signed a series of deals to boost the Russian supply.

Gazprom and Rosneft have sealed major supply deals with China, which have helped soften the impact of western sanctions (which, remember, have largely left Russia's vital gas and oil industry untouched). The partnership has inspired Russia's own "pivot to Asia", a policy that Barack Obama had also tried to impose on the US.

An investment by China could help solidify Moscow’s effort to accelerate its own “Pivot to Asia” as it looks for new markets for its energy products. China has doubled purchases of Russian energy products to nearly $60 billion over the past five years, and most analysts expect this figure to continue to rise.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/08/2022 - 17:40
Published:3/8/2022 4:55:55 PM
[Middle Column] Former Obama U.S. Treasury official Mark Mazur says quiet part out loud: ‘We don’t want lower prices for fossil-fuel buyers, we prefer higher prices’ to achieve ‘climate change goals’

Former Obama U.S. Treasury official Mark Mazur rejects the call for a gas-tax holiday because it “undercuts the administration’s climate change goals -- where really to care about fossil-fuel consumption, we don’t want lower prices for fossil-fuel buyers, we prefer higher prices.”

#

Watch: Morano on TV: ‘High energy prices are NOT the unintended consequences of the Green New Deal-style policies, they are the INTENDED consequences’

Climate Depot's Marc Morano, author of Green Fraud: Why The Green New Deal is Even Worse Than You Think, comments: "Skyrocketing energy prices  are exactly what the climate and environmental agenda demands and has demanded for the past 50 plus years. From President Obama to President Biden, higher energy costs have been the plan to soften up Americans and the economy to prepare them for accepting less in order to impose the progressive vision on society. High energy prices and shortages will condition Americans to accept a 'new normal' in energy that is entirely due to following the climate agenda."

Published:3/8/2022 11:56:03 AM
[] This photo shows why Catturd™ can't understand why Russia feels emboldened by the Biden administration Published:3/7/2022 5:16:42 PM
[Quick Takes] Obama Education Secretary Says Biden Should ‘Unilaterally’ Cancel Student Loan Debt

"All too often, the crushing weight of student debt prevents people from even considering buying a home, beginning a family, or starting a new business"

The post Obama Education Secretary Says Biden Should ‘Unilaterally’ Cancel Student Loan Debt first appeared on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion.
Published:3/6/2022 12:37:13 PM
[Markets] America Defeats Germany For The Third Time In A Century: The MIC, BARE, & OGAM Conquer NATO America Defeats Germany For The Third Time In A Century: The MIC, BARE, & OGAM Conquer NATO

Authored by Michael Hudson via Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism blog,

My old boss Herman Kahn, with whom I worked at the Hudson Institute in the 1970s, had a set speech that he would give at public meetings. He said that back in high school in Los Angeles, his teachers would say what most liberals were saying in the 1940s and 50s: “Wars never solved anything.” It was as if they never changed anything – and therefore shouldn’t be fought.

Herman disagreed, and made lists of all sorts of things that wars had solved, in world history or at least changed. He was right, and of course that is the aim of both sides in today’s New Cold War confrontation in Ukraine.

The question to ask is what today’s New Cold War is trying to change or “solve.” To answer this question, it helps to ask who initiates the war. There always are two sides – the attacker and the attacked. The attacker intends certain consequences, and the attacked looks for unintended consequences. In this case, both sides have their dueling sets of intended consequences and special interests.

The active military force since 1991 has been the United States. Rejecting mutual disarmament of the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO, there was no “peace dividend.” Instead, the U.S. policy by the Clinton administration to wage a new military expansion via NATO has paid a 30-year dividend in the form of shifting the foreign policy of Western Europe and other American allies out of their domestic political sphere into their own “national security” blob (the word for special rentier interests that must not be named). NATO has become Europe’s foreign-policy-making body, even to the point of dominating domestic economic interests.

The recent prodding of Russia by expanding Ukrainian anti-Russian ethnic violence by Ukraine’s neo-Nazi post-2014 Maiden regime aims at forcing a showdown. It comes in response to the fear by U.S. interests that they are losing their economic and political hold on their NATO allies and other Dollar Area satellites as these countries have seen their major opportunities for gain to lie in increasing trade and investment with China and Russia.

To understand just what U.S. aims are threatened, it is necessary to understand U.S. politics and “the blob,” that is, the government central planning that cannot be explained by looking at ostensibly democratic politics. This is not the politics of U.S. senators and representatives represent their congressional voting districts or states.

America’s Three Oligarchies in Control of U.S. Foreign Policy

It is more realistic to view U.S. economic and foreign policy in terms of the military-industrial complex, the oil and gas (and mining) complex, and the banking and real estate complex than in terms of political policy of Republicans and Democrats. The key senators and congressional representatives do not represent their states and districts as much as the industrial interests of their major political campaign contributors. A Venn diagram would show that in today’s post-Citizens United world, U.S. politicians represent their campaign contributors, not voters. And these contributors fall basically into three main blocs.

Three main oligarchic groups that have bought control of the Senate and Congress to put their own policy makers in the State Department and Defense Department.

First is the Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) – companies such as Raytheon, Boeing and other arms manufacturers, have broadly diversified their factories and employment in nearly every state, and especially in the Congressional districts where key Congressional committee heads are elected. Their economic base is monopoly rent, obtained above all from its arms sales to NATO, to Near Eastern oil exporters and to other countries with a balance-of-payments surplus. Stocks for these companies soared immediately upon news of the Russian attack, leading a two-day stock-market surge as investors recognized that war in a world of cost-plus “Pentagon capitalism” (as Seymour Melman described it) provided a national security umbrella. Senators and Congressional representatives from California and Washington traditionally have represented the MIC, along with the Solid pro-military South. The past week’s military escalation promises soaring arms sales to NATO and other U.S. allies. Germany quickly agreed to raise is arms spending to 2% of GDP.

The second major oligarchic bloc is the rent-extracting oil and gas sector, joined by mining (OGAM) riding America’s special tax favoritism granted to companies emptying natural resources out of the ground and putting them into the atmosphere. Like banking and real estate, the aim of this OGAM sector is to maximize the price of its energy and raw materials so as to maximize its natural-resource rent. Monopolizing the Dollar Area’s oil market and isolating it from Russian oil and gas has been a major U.S. priority for over a year now, as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline threatened to link the Western European and Russian economies together.

If oil, gas and mining operations are not situated in every voting district, at least their investors are. Senators from Texas and other Western oil-producing and mining states are the leading lobbyists, and the State Department has a heavy oil-sector influence providing a national-security umbrella for its special tax breaks. The ancillary political aim is to ignore and reject environmental drives to replace oil, gas and coal with alternative sources of energy. The Biden administration accordingly has backed the expansion of offshore drilling, supported the Canadian pipeline to the world’s dirtiest petroleum source in the Athabasca tar sands, and celebrated the revival of U.S. fracking.

The foreign-policy extension is to prevent foreign countries not leaving control of their oil, gas and mining to U.S. OGAM companies from competing in world markets with U.S. suppliers. Isolating Russia (and Iran) from western markets will reduce the supply of oil and gas, pushing prices and corporate profits up accordingly.

The third major oligarchic group is the symbiotic Finance, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) sector is the counterpart to Europe ‘s old post-feudal landed aristocracy living by land rents. With most housing in today’s world having become owner-occupied (with sharply rising rates of absentee ownership rising since 2008 and the wave of Obama evictions, to be sure), land rent is paid largely to the banking sector. About 80 percent of U.S. and British bank loans are to the real estate sector, inflating land prices to create capital gains – which are effectively tax-exempt for absentee owners.

This Wall Street-centered banking and real estate bloc is even more broadly based on a district-by-district basis than MIC. Its New York senator from Wall Street, Chuck Schumer, heads the Senate, long supported by Delaware’s former Senator from the credit-card industry Joe Biden, and Connecticut’s senators from the insurance sector centered in that state.  Domestically, the aim of this sector is to maximize land rent and the “capital’ gains resulting from rising land rent. Internationally, the FIRE sector’s aim is to privatize foreign economies, above all to secure the privilege of credit creation in U.S. hands, so as to turn government infrastructure and public utilities into rent-seeking monopolies to providing basic services at maximum prices (health care, education, transportation, communications and information technology) instead of at subsidized prices to voters.

Wall Street always has been closely aligned with the oil and gas industry, back to the days of Standard Oil. These are the three rentier sectors that dominate today’s post-industrial finance capitalism. Their mutual fortunes have soared as MIC and OGAM stocks have increased. And moves to exclude Russia from the Western financial system (and partially now from SWIFT), coupled with the adverse effects of isolating European economies from Russian energy, promise to spur an inflow into dollarized financial securities

It is more helpful to view U.S. economic and foreign policy in terms of the military-industrial complex, the oil and gas (and mining) complex, and the banking and real estate complex than in terms of political policy of Republicans and Democrats. The key senators and congressional representatives do not represent their states and districts as much as the industrial interests of their major political campaign contributors. That is why neither manufacturing nor agriculture play the dominant role in U.S. foreign policy. The convergence of policy aims of America’s three rentiergroups overwhelms that of labor and even of industrial capital. That convergence is the defining characteristic of today’s post-industrial finance capitalism. It is basically a reversion to economic rent-seeking, which is independent of the politics of labor and capital.

The dynamic that needs to be traced today is why this oligarchic blob has found its interest in prodding Russia into what Putin evidently viewed as a do-or-die stance to resist the increasingly violent attacks on Ukraine’s eastern Russian-speaking provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk.

The Rentier “Blob’s” Expected Consequences of the New Cold War

As President Biden explained, the current military escalation (“Prodding the Bear”) is not really about Ukraine. Biden promised at the outset that no U.S. troops would be involved. But he has been demanding for over a year that Germany prevent the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from supplying its industry and housing with low-priced gas and turn to the much higher-priced U.S. suppliers.

U.S. officials first tried to stop construction of the pipeline from being completed. Firms aiding in its construction were sanctioned, but finally Russia itself completed the pipeline construction. U.S. pressure then turned on the traditionally pliant German politicians, claiming that Germany and the rest of Europe faced a National Security threat of Russia turning off the gas, presumably to extract some political or economic concessions. No such demands could be thought up, and so were left obscure and blob-like.

Germany refused to authorize Nord Stream 2 from officially going into operation, and a major aim of today’s New Cold War is to monopolize the market for U.S. shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG). Already under Donald Trump’s administration, Angela Merkel was bullied into promising to spend $1 billion building new port facilities for U.S. tanker ships to unload natural gas for German use. The Democratic election victory in November 2020, followed by Ms. Merkel’s retirement from Germany’s political scene, led to cancellation of this port investment, leaving Germany really without much alternative to importing Russian gas to heat its homes, power its electric utilities, and to provide raw material for its fertilizer industry and hence maintenance of its farm productivity.

So the most pressing U.S. strategic aim of NATO confrontation with Russia is soaring oil and gas prices. In addition to creating profits and stock-market gains for U.S. companies, higher energy prices will take much of the steam out of the German economy.

Higher gasoline, heating and other energy prices also will hurt U.S. consumers and leave less  in family budgets for spending on domestic goods and services. This could squeeze marginalized homeowners and investors, leading to concentration of absentee ownership of housing and commercial property in the United States, along with buyouts of distressed real estate owners faced with soaring heating and energy costs in other countries. But that is deemed collateral damage to the post-industrial blob.

Food prices also will rise, headed by wheat. (Russia and Ukraine account for 25 percent of world wheat exports.) This will squeeze many near Eastern and Global South food-deficit countries, worsening their balance of payments and threatening foreign debt defaults.

Russian raw-materials exports may be blocked by the currency and SWIFT sanctions. This threatens to cause breaks in supply chains for key materials, including cobalt, palladium, nickel, aluminum (made largely from electricity). If China decides to see itself as the next nation being threatened and joins Russia in a common protest against the U.S. trade and financial warfare, the Western economies are in for a serious shock.

The long-term dream of U.S. New Cold Warriors is to break up Russia, or at least to restore its managerial kleptocracy seeking to cash in their privatizations in Western stock markets.

OGAM still dreams of buying majority control of Yukos and Gazprom.

Wall Street would love to recreate a Russian stock market boom.

Russia’s Intentions to Benefit from America’s Unintended Consequences

What does Russia want? Most immediately, to remove the neo-Nazi anti-Russian core that the Maidan massacre and coup put in place in 2014. Ukraine is to be neutralized, which to Putin means basically pro-Russian, dominated by Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea. The aim is to prevent Ukraine from becoming a staging ground of anti-Russian moves a la Chechnya and Georgia.

Putin’s longer-term aim is to pry Europe away from NATO and U.S. dominance – and in the process, create a new multipolar world order. The aim is to dissolve NATO altogether, and then to promote the broad disarmament and denuclearization policies that Russia has been pushing for. Not only will this cut back foreign purchases of U.S. arms, but it may end up leading to sanctions against future U.S. military adventurism.

Now that it is obvious that (1) NATO’s purpose is aggression, not defense, and (2) there is no further territory for it to conquer from the remains of the old Soviet Union, what does Europe get out of continued membership? It is obvious (despite the many claims otherwise) that Russia has no desire to or interest in again invading Europe. It has no upside – as it had nothing to gain by fighting Ukraine, except to roll back the NATO-backed attacks on Novorossiya.

Will European nationalist leaders (the left are largely pro-US) ask why their countries should pay for U.S. arms that only put them in danger, pay higher for U.S. LNG and energy, pay more for grain and Russian-produced raw materials, all while losing the option of making export sales and profits on peaceful investment in Russia – and perhaps losing China as well?

The U.S. confiscation of Russian monetary reserves, following that of Afghanistan’s reserves (and England’s seizure of Venezuela’s gold stocks held there) threaten every country’s adherence to the Dollar Standard, and hence the dollar’s role as the vehicle for foreign-exchange savings by the world’s central banks, mutual holdings of each other’s currencies.

On a more long-term level, Russia is likely to join China in forming an alternative to the U.S.-dominated IMF and World Bank. Putin’s announcement that he wants to arrest the Ukrainian Nazis to hold a war crimes trial seems likely to imply an alternative to the Hague court. Only a new international court could try war criminals extending from Ukraine’s neo-Nazi leadership all the way up to U.S. officials responsible for crimes against humanity as defined by the Nuremberg laws.

Did the American Blob Actually Think Through the Consequences of NATO’s Provocation?

It is almost black humor to look at U.S. attempts to convince China that it should join the United States in denouncing Russia’s moves into Ukraine. The most enormous unintended consequence of U.S. foreign policy has been to drive Russia and China together, along with Iran, Central Asia and countries along the Belt and Road initiative.

Russia dreamed of creating a new world order, but it was U.S. adventurism that has driven the world into an entirely new order – one that looks to be dominated by China as the default winner now that the European economy is essentially torn apart and America is left with what it has grabbed from Russia and Afghanistan, but without the ability to gain future support.

And everything that I have written above may already be obsolete as Russia and the U.S. have gone on atomic alert.

With such talk I’m brought back to my discussions with Herman Kahn 50 years ago. He became quite unpopular for writing Thinking about the Unthinkable, meaning atomic war. As he was parodied in Dr. Strangelove, he did indeed say that there would indeed be survivors. But he added that for himself, he hoped to be right under the atom bomb, because it was not a world in which he wanted to survive.

*  *  *

Michael Hudson is a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is “and forgive them their debts”: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year

Tyler Durden Fri, 03/04/2022 - 02:00
Published:3/4/2022 1:24:49 AM
[Markets] Bonds & Bullion Bid As Stocks, Crude, & Crypto Crumble Bonds & Bullion Bid As Stocks, Crude, & Crypto Crumble

It has been 13 years to the day since Barack Obama called the bottom in stocks. On March 3rd, 2009, President Obama said:

"What you're now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it,"

And since then the S&P is up 527%...

Source: Bloomberg

Today, however, saw stocks lower on the day... but not this much...

Earlier gains in stocks (and drops in oil) came after reports of an imminent Iran deal, but that was walked back quite fast reversing those moves early on. Then remarks from French President Macron regarding his downbeat call with Putin sent stocks reeling lower...

Additionally, Fed Chair Powell had a 'whatever it takes' moment when asked what he will to do to regain 'stable prices'. However, as always, once Europe closed, the bid returned... until 1430ET - margin call time...

Today's drop took all the majors red for the week, seemingly unable to hold the highs from that crazy meltup last Friday. Of course, with payrolls tomorrow, it's anyone's guess what we end up with in stocks...

Russian stocks were a bloodbath again today with RSX down over 20% more after suspending creations last night... with a 400% premium to NAV!!

Source: Bloomberg

Oil prices actually fell today - despite Russian tensions - as headlines reported the Iran deal is imminent which would add significant supply to the extremely tight market...

The issue is - with the supply lines to retail in America - the odds of $4 national average gas at the pump is extremely high already...

Source: Bloomberg

And as Jim Bianco noted, the die is cast on the next recession...

Bitcoin slipped lower today as headline after headline hit discussing crypto as a way to evade sanctions and the need for sanctions, control etc...

Source: Bloomberg

But while stocks (geopolitical risk and Fed), oil (Iran nuke deal imminent), and crypto (lots of regulation/evasion headline chatter) were all lower on the day, bonds and gold and the dollar were bid.

Yields were mixed with the long-end outperforming and short-end yields slightly higher (10Y -4bps, 2Y +2bps). On the week, the belly is a notable outperformer (7Y -13bps) with both 2Y and 30Y down around 4bps

Source: Bloomberg

Which flattened the yield curve (2s10s) to new cycle lows...

Source: Bloomberg

Powell reaffirmed his view on a 25bps hike in March, but the market priced-in another hike for the whole year (now pricing in 6 full hikes by the end of 2022)...

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar rallied back to recent highs again today...

Source: Bloomberg

The Ruble closed at a new record low at around 109/USD (though off the lows of the day at around 118/USD)

Source: Bloomberg

Gold was also bid as a safe-haven today, rising back to $1940...

Source: Bloomberg

Just for fun, we noticed that Oil prices (in oz of silver) are heading back up to long-term resistance. A barrel of crude has cost between 2 Oz and 5 Oz of silver for most of the last 50 years...

Source: Bloomberg

Finally the FRA/OIS spread is surging higher, signaling stress in the banking sector is starting to rise...

Source: Bloomberg

We are not at anything like panic-levels yet, but it is a key variable to watch as this crisis continues.

Tyler Durden Thu, 03/03/2022 - 16:01
Published:3/3/2022 3:17:23 PM
[] President Joe Biden to use SOTU address to rally Democrats and Republicans to help him 'end cancer as we know it' Published:3/1/2022 7:33:51 PM
[Markets] Zuckerberg Election Funds Violated Wisconsin Bribery Laws, Special Counsel Finds Zuckerberg Election Funds Violated Wisconsin Bribery Laws, Special Counsel Finds

Approximately $9 million directed to five Democratic strongholds in Wisconsin violated the state's prohibition on bribery, according to The Federalist's Margot Cleveland, citing a report submitted on Tuesday by a special counsel appointed by the state.

Spearheaded by retired state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman who was tasked with investigating concerns over election integrity in 2020, the investigation which began last August has resulted in a 150-page report full of recommendations for the state's legislative body which cited "numerous questionable and unlawful actions of various actors in the 2020 election."

According to the report, the flow of Zuckerberg grant funds to five Wisconsin counties was the first 'unlawful action' noted. According to Gableman, the arrangement violated Wis. Stat. § 12.11, which prohibits election bribery by providing it is illegal to offer anything of value to or for any person in order to induce any elector to go to the polls or vote.

According to the report, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg providing financing that allowed the Center for Tech and Civic Life to offer nearly $9 million in “Zuck Bucks” to Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay counties. In exchange, the “Zuckerberg 5,” as the report called the counties, in effect, operated Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Those grant funds then paid for illegal drop boxes to be placed in Democratic voting strongholds.

The illegal use of drop boxes represented a second area of concern to the special counsel’s office. The report notes state election code limits the manner in which ballots may be cast, providing that an elector must personally mail or deliver his or her ballot to the municipal clerk, except where the law authorizes an agent to act on the behalf of the voter. -The Federalist

The report also claims that the "Zuckerberg 5" violated both federal and state constitutional guarantees of equal protection, as the grant money targeted specific voters for special voting privileges - to the disadvantage of similarly situated Wisconsin voters in other counties. What's more, said counties allowed private groups working with the granting organization, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, to "unlawfully administer aspects of the election." In one case, an organization was unlawfully 'embedded' in local government election administration.

Also disturbing, the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) illegally told clerks to ignore the state election code governing voting in nursing homes - where 100% of registered voters allegedly cast ballots in the 2020 election, and unheard-of rate which the Federalist notes included many ineligible voters.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin illegally maintained non-citizens and incapacitated citizens on the state's voting rolls according to the special counsel's report.

Special Counsel Gableman detailed many other substantial problems with the 2020 election, but equally troubling to the widespread violations of election law established in the report were the attempts by government officials to impede the investigation. Both the Wisconsin Election Commission and the state attorney general “have refused to cooperate with the Legislature’s investigation and actively obstructed it,” according to the report, with a separate appendix detailing how the Office of Special Counsel and the state Assembly have been blocked from investigating portions of the Wisconsin government. -The Federalist

The special counsel recommends eliminating the Wisconsin Election Commission, among other remedies.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/01/2022 - 19:55
Published:3/1/2022 7:06:13 PM
[Markets] Could Economic Warfare Backfire On The US? Could Economic Warfare Backfire On The US?

Authored by Michael Maharrey via SchiffGold.com,

Economic sanctions serve as a powerful foreign policy tool for the US government. But could this ultimately backfire on the US?

Over the last several years, many countries have made a concerted effort to limit dependence on the US dollar. The economic warfare waged against Russia reveals exactly why.

The US hit Russia with a round of economic sanctions after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway republics in Ukraine and announced he would send troops into those regions. President Biden announced additional sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Peter Schiff recently explained how US sanctions against Russia could harm the US economy in the short-run and cause even more inflation. But there are also possible long-term consequences for using the dollar as a tool for war. It could accelerate de-dollarization globally and even threaten the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

The US is a global superpower and maintains an aggressive foreign policy. But the US doesn’t only project power across the globe through its massive military. It also weaponizes the US dollar, using its economic dominance and its privilege as the issuer of the global reserve currency in a carrot-stick tool of foreign policy.

The US government showers billions of dollars in foreign aid to “friends.” On the other hand, “enemies” can find themselves locked out of SWIFT, the global financial system that the US effectively controls using the dollar.

This is the nuclear option when it comes to economic warfare.

Initially, the US said it would not lock Russia out of SWIFT, but a few days later, the US, the EU, the United Kingdom and Canada issued a joint statement saying “selected” Russian banks would be disconnected from the global payment system.

“This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally.”

Think of this as a tactical nuclear strike.

SWIFT  stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. The system enables financial institutions to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized environment. Since the dollar serves as the world reserve currency, SWIFT facilitates the international dollar system.

SWIFT and dollar dominance gives the US a great deal of leverage over other countries.

The US has used the system as a stick before. In 2014 and 2015, the Obama administration blocked several Russian banks from SWIFT as relations between the two countries deteriorated. Under Trump, the US threatened to lock China out of the dollar system if it failed to follow UN sanctions on North Korea. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin threatened this economic nuclear option during a conference broadcast on CNBC.

“If China doesn’t follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system, and that’s quite meaningful.”

Locking a country completely out of SWIFT would effectively cut it off economically from the world. But there would also be consequences that ripple through other economies. For instance, a member of the Russian parliament warned locking his country completely out of SWIFT would halt the flow of goods into Europe.

If Russia is disconnected from SWIFT, then we will not receive [foreign] currency, but buyers, European countries in the first place, will not receive our goods — oil, gas, metals and other important components.”

Given America’s history of using sanctions as a foreign policy tool, Russia wasn’t unprepared for the move. In fact, A number of countries that know they could easily find themselves in the crosshairs have taken steps to limit their dependence on the dollar and have even been working to establish alternative payment systems. This includes Russia, China and Iran.

Russia developed its own payment system for internal use several years ago. According to the Central Bank of Russia, 416 Russian companies and government organizations had joined the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS) as of September 2018.

A growing number of central banks have also been buying gold as a way to diversify their holdings away from the greenback.

Before ending its purchase program at the onset of the COVID pandemic, Russia was the biggest central bank buyer of gold. The Central Bank of Russia bought $4.3 billion worth of the yellow metal between June 2019 and June 2020. And the Russians were buying gold long before that. The Central Bank of Russia bought gold every month from March 2015. According to Bloomberg, “Russia spent more than $40 billion building a war chest of gold over the past five years, making it the world’s biggest buyer.”

Meanwhile, the Russian central bank was aggressively divesting itself of US Treasuries. Russia sold off nearly half of its US debt in April 2018 alone, dumping $47.4 billion of its $96.1 billion in US Treasuries.

It’s not just America’s “enemies” who are worried about the US abusing its economic power. Her friends are also wary, as they should be.

After Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal,  the EU announced the creation of a special payment channel to circumvent US economic sanctions and facilitate trade with Iran. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made the announcement after a meeting with foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran. She said the new payment channel would allow companies to preserve oil and other business deals with Iran.

This underscores a risk to the US. Economic sanction policies could also have long-run consequences, eventually undermining the dollar as the world reserve currency.

Peter Schiff warned that other countries are watching how the US handles its power as the issuer of the global reserve currency during the Russian-Ukraine war.

China is looking on thinking, well, Russia is doing something America doesn’t want. They’re getting sanctioned. What if we do something that America doesn’t want? We get sanctioned. They pull the dollar out from under us. Let’s get out from under the dollar on our own. Let’s not leave this weapon in the hands of the US that can be turned against us at any time.”

This could create a significant problem for the United State. The dollar remains the reserve currency because countries like China warehouse dollars as a reserve asset. This props up the value of the dollar.

This scares a lot of the world into recognizing that they have entrusted the US with a power that could be misused against them. And I think this type of situation is going to hasten the demise of the dollar’s status as the reserve currency.”

If enough countries abandon the dollar, the value of the US currency would collapse and create economic chaos here at home. The de-dollarization of the world economy would likely perpetuate a currency crisis in the United States.  Practically speaking, it would likely lead to hyperinflation.

Meanwhile, the US government should be wary of throwing its economic weight around too glibly. It isn’t the only country with an economic nuclear option. China ranks as the largest foreign holder of US debt. If the Chinese were to dump a significant amount of US Treasuries, it would collapse the bond market and make it impossible for the US to finance its massive debt.

America’s undeclared wars have cost trillions of dollars. And economic sanctions are an act of war.

Most people view economic sanctions as an acceptable alternative to military force. But economic warfare also comes at a cost. It’s typically not the sanctioned government that suffers. It’s the innocent people living in that country that must cope with shortages and increasing prices.

As James Madison said, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”

War always comes at a steep cost – whether military or economic.

*  *  *

A version of this article was also published at the Tenth Amendment Center.

Tyler Durden Tue, 03/01/2022 - 14:28
Published:3/1/2022 1:32:25 PM
[] New York Times uses that same edited George Zimmerman 911 call that got people fired back in 2012 Published:2/28/2022 4:55:48 PM
[Politics] Obama judge dismisses frivolous January 6th lawsuit against Trump Jr, Giuliani, but NOT against Trump… An Obama judge actually dismissed a couple of frivolous lawsuits against Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani, but allowed the same lawsuits against President Trump to continue: JUST THE NEWS – In . . . Published:2/28/2022 1:57:10 PM
[Entertainment] Aisha Tyler Calls Out "Messy Journalism" After Being Mistaken for Sasha Obama Aisha Tyler, Sasha ObamaAisha Tyler is setting the record straight after a "messy" case of mistaken identity. Over the weekend, the former The Talk co-host, 51, took to social media to clarify an article...
Published:2/28/2022 1:27:55 PM
[Biden Foreign Policy] We are not a serious country (4) (Scott Johnson) Almost-president and former Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry remains in the employ of the United States as a special envoy of the Biden administration. How special can you get? MEMRI tweeted out the video below in which Kerry applies his perspective to Russia’s rape of Ukraine earlier this week. The New York Post devotes an editorial to Kerry’s deep thoughts. The editorial administers justice to Kerry’s idiocy, but Published:2/26/2022 7:29:11 AM
[] Judge to Biden: Your climate cost estimate is a bit high there, chief Published:2/13/2022 12:57:54 PM
[World] Biden's Iran team falls apart

During his 2020 campaign and since, President Biden has been obsessed with a renewal of former President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran, the “Joint Cooperative Plan of Action.” Now, because of his weakness while trying to negotiate a new deal, some of his lead negotiators are quitting.

...
Published:2/6/2022 6:59:18 AM
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