Oct 172019
 


Salvador Dali Sick Boy (Self-portrait in Cadaqués) 1923

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)
The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)
Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)
Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)
One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)
Wait for It (Kunstler)
Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)
Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)
DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)
Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)
China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

 

 

I like this one: “White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.”

And as long as the only things Dems have to say about Trump are exclusively negative, what do they expect? Goes to credibility, your honor.

This was a meeting about Syria, and some people have started calling the situation there “..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

Still, the House condemns it….

As for Pelosi’s comments to Trump: Russia’s always a had a foothold in the Middle East. But it’s convenient to ‘forget’ that, as well as the Mueller report. Goes to credibility, your honor.

 

Pelosi, Trump Exchange ‘Meltdown’ Barbs Over Meeting On US Policy In Syria (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders cut short a meeting with Republican President Donald Trump after he had a “meltdown” over a House of Representatives vote condemning his Syria withdrawal and showed no signs of having a plan to deal with a crisis there. Trump called Pelosi a “third-rate politician” and the meeting in the White House deteriorated into a diatribe, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters. Later, in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill, Pelosi said that Trump actually called her a “third-grade” politician. “What we witnessed on the part of the president was a meltdown. Sad to say,” Pelosi had said upon leaving.

Trump posted on Twitter on Wednesday night – “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!” with a photo of Pelosi standing up and pointing at him during the meeting. The Democrats exited the meeting complaining that they were expecting to hear Trump provide details on a plan for dealing with an unfolding “crisis” in Syria but instead were subjected to “derogatory” language from him about congressional Democrats and Democratic former President Barack Obama. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, in a statement, called Pelosi’s decision to walk out “baffling but not surprising.” She added that after Democratic leaders “chose to storm out,” remaining Republican leaders held a productive meeting.


Pelosi directly to Trump: Russia has always wanted a “foothold in the Middle East” and now it has one. “All roads with you lead to Putin.”

Read more …

“..one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived..”

The Russian Masterpiece in Syria: Everyone Wins (Pieraccini)

The agreement between the Kurds (SDF) and Damascus is the only natural conclusion to events that are heavily orchestrated by Moscow. The deployment of Syrian and Russian troops on the border with Turkey is the prelude to the reconquest of the entirety of Syrian territory — the outcome the Kremlin was wishing for at the beginning of this diplomatic masterpiece. Washington and Ankara have never had any opportunities to prevent Damascus from reunifying the country. It was assumed by Moscow that Washington and Ankara would sooner or later seek the correct exit strategy, even as they proclaimed victory to their respective bases in the face of defeat in Syria. This is exactly what Putin and Lavrov came up with over the last few weeks, offering Trump and Erdogan the solution to their Syrian problems.

Trump will state that he has little interest in countries 7,000 miles from the homeland; and Erdogan (with some reluctance) will affirm that the border between Turkey and Syria, when held by the Syrian Arab Army, guarantees security against the Kurds. Putin has no doubt advised Assad and the Kurds to begin a dialogue in the common interests of Syria. He would have no doubt also convinced Erdogan and Trump of the need to accept these plans. An agreement that rewards Damascus and Moscow saves the Kurds while leaving Erdogan and Trump with a semblance of dignity in a situation that is difficult to explain to a domestic or international audience.

Moscow has started joint patrols with the Syrian Arab Army on the borders with Turkey for the purposes of preventing any military clashes between Ankara and Damascus. If Ankara halts its military operation in the coming days, Damascus will regain control of the oil fields. The world will then have witnessed one of the greatest diplomatic masterpieces ever conceived, responsible for bringing closer the end of the seven-year-long Syrian conflict.

Read more …

Former senior CIA official Graham Fuller has a slightly different take.

Everybody Betraying Everybody in Syria (Fuller)

Just what have we witnessed in the recent events in Syria? It’s hard to know, given the avalanche of superficial and over-the-top headlines in most US media: betrayal of the Kurds, handing Syria over to Russia, caving to Turkey’s Erdogan, bestowing a gift upon Iran, allowing ISIS to once again run wild, end of US leadership. Yet the bottom line of the story is that after some eight years of civil conflict, the situation in Syria is basically reverting to the pre-conflict norm. The Syrian government is now close to re-establishing its sovereign control again over the entire country. Indeed, Syria’s sovereign control over its own country had been vigorously contested, in fact blocked, by many external interventions—mainly on the part of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and a few European hangers-on—all hoping to exploit the early uprising against the Asad regime and overthrow it. In favor of what was never clear.


Much of this picture has a long history. The US has been trying to covertly overthrow the Syrian regime off and on for some fifty years, periodically joined on occasion by Israel or Saudi Arabia or Iraq, orTurkey or the UK. Most people assumed that when the Arab Spring broke out in Syria in 2011 that civil uprisings there too would lead to the early overthrow of another authoritarian regime. But it did not. This was in part due to Asad’s brutal put-down of rebel forces, in part because of the strong support he received from Russia, Iran and Hizballah, and in part because large numbers of Syrian elites feared that whoever might take Asad’s place—most likely one or another Jihadi group—would be far worse, more radical and chaotic than Asad’s strict but stable secular domestic rule.

Read more …

The secrets get spilled.

Schiff Pushed Volker To Say Ukraine Felt Pressure From Trump (WE)

In a secret interview, Rep. Adam Schiff, leader of the House Democratic effort to impeach President Trump, pressed former United States special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker to testify that Ukrainian officials felt pressured to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter as a result of Trump withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine. Volker denied that was the case, noting that Ukrainian leaders did not even know the aid was being withheld and that they believed their relationship with the U.S. was moving along satisfactorily, without them having done anything Trump mentioned in his notorious July 25 phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

When Volker repeatedly declined to agree to Schiff’s characterization of events, Schiff said, “Ambassador, you’re making this much more complicated than it has to be.” The interview took place Oct. 3 in a secure room in the U.S. Capitol. While the session covered several topics, the issue of an alleged quid pro quo — U.S. military aid in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens and a public announcement that such an investigation was underway — was a significant part of the discussion. “[The Ukrainians] didn’t want to be drawn into investigating a Democratic candidate for president, which would mean only peril for Ukraine, is that fair to say?” Schiff asked Volker.

“That may be true,” Volker said. “That may be true. They didn’t express that to me, and, of course, I didn’t know that was the context at the time.” (Volker has said he did not know that Trump had mentioned the Bidens on the July 25 call with Zelensky until the rough transcript of the call was released on Sept. 25.)

Read more …

A heavily distorted process. They should watch out with that.

One Person Is Missing In The Dems’ Impeachment Inquiry: The Whistleblower (R.)

Democratic lawmakers leading an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump have heard days of testimony from a parade of senior government officials. But they have yet to hear from the whistleblower who sparked the probe – and may never do. In the end, it may not matter, some Democratic lawmakers said, because the other officials who have testified, Trump’s own statements, a trove of texts between top U.S. diplomats, and other White House documents have largely substantiated the whistleblower’s complaint that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden. Talks between lawyers for the whistleblower and representatives of the House of Representatives and Senate committees that want to question the intelligence official have all but deadlocked, three sources familiar with the negotiations told Reuters.

Lawyers for the official have voiced concern about the person’s safety and that testifying in person to congressional aides could expose the person’s identity. They have attributed some of that concern to statements by Trump, who calls the inquiry a sham and has suggested the whistleblower committed treason. U.S. officials told Reuters last week that the government was providing security for the whistleblower. At first, the negotiations focused on proposals that would allow the whistleblower to testify but away from Capitol Hill and with face and voice obscured, two of the sources said. But the whistleblower’s lawyers remained concerned that those precautions might not be enough to protect their client’s anonymity.

A proposal was made for the whistleblower to answer questions in writing, the two sources said, and House aides accepted it in principle. Republican and Democratic sources both say, however, that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are insistent that they be allowed to interview the whistleblower, ideally face to face, although possibly under conditions that would still shield the person’s identity.

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“..a phantom confabulation of gossip threads..”

Wait for It (Kunstler)

An eerie silence cloaked the political landscape this lovely fall weekend as the soldiers in this (so far) administrative civil war scrambled for position in the next round of skirmishes. Rep. Adam Schiff fell back on the preposterous idea that he might not produce his “whistleblower” witness at all in the (so far) hypothetical impeachment proceeding. He put that one out after running a similarly absurd idea up the flagpole: that his “whistleblower” might just testify by answering written questions. I was waiting for him to offer up testimony by Morse code, carrier pigeon, or smoke signals.

Of course, the effort to “protect” the “whistleblower” has been a juke all along. For one thing, he-she-it is not a “whistleblower” at all; was only labeled that via legalistic legerdemain to avoid revealing the origin of this affair as a CIA cover-your-ass operation. Did Mr. Schiff actually think he could conceal this figure’s identity in a senate impeachment trial, when it came to that — for what else is impeachment aimed at? Anonymous sources are not admissible under American due process of law. Mr. Schiff must have missed that class in law school. All of this hocus-pocus suggests to me that there is no “whistleblower,” that it is a phantom confabulation of gossip threads that unraveled the moment Mr. Trump released the transcript of his phone call to Ukraine’s president Zelensky, aborting Mr. Schiff’s game plan.

The ensuing weeks of congressional Keystone Kops buffoonery since then appears to conceal a futile effort by Mr. Schiff and his confederates to find some fall guy willing to pretend that he-she-it is the “whistleblower.” He might as well ask for a volunteer to gargle with Gillette Blue Blades on NBC’s Meet the Press. One marvels at Rep. Schiff’s tactical idiocy. But just imagine the panicked consternation it must be triggering among his Democratic colleagues. Notice that Mrs. Pelosi has been hiding out during this latest phase of the action. She may sense that there is nothing left to do but allow Mr. Schiff to twist slowly slowly in the wind, as he has hung himself out to dry. She should have known better since every previous declaration of conclusive evidence by Mr. Schiff over the past three years has proved to be false, knowingly and mendaciously so.

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Flynn thanks the lord that he hired Sidney Powell. Buit still, more secrecy: why is the FBI sitting on those phones?

Michael Flynn Lawyer Seeks Data From Joseph Mifsud Phones (Ross)

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s attorney made a surprising request in a court filing Tuesday for two phones that she says belonged to Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor whose contacts with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos are at the heart of the Trump-Russia probe. Sidney Powell, a Flynn lawyer, asked the judge presiding over Flynn’s case to order prosecutors “to produce evidence that has only recently come into its possession.” She listed two Blackberry phones she asserts Mifsud used and requested data and metadata from the devices. Powell did not explain in the filing how the Mifsud phones might be relevant to Flynn’s case, but she wrote that “this information is material, exculpatory, and relevant to the defense of Mr. Flynn.”


Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, has been awaiting sentencing on a charge that he made false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017 regarding his conversations in December 2016 with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge on Dec. 1, 2017 and has been awaiting sentencing for nearly 10 months. Powell has said that Flynn is not planning to try to withdraw his guilty plea. Instead, she has argued that the case should be dismissed against the retired lieutenant general altogether. Prosecutors have rejected some of Powell’s previous requests for a variety of documents from the special counsel’s probe, arguing that they are immaterial to the false statements charge to which Flynn pleaded guilty.

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“Tulsi threatened to boycott the debate because of the despicable tactics of the NYT, CNN, and the rest of the corporate media who hate her so intensely. But rather than boycotting, she went and called them despicable to their faces”

Tulsi Gabbard Was A Dove On The Warpath (Tracey)

It was never especially plausible that Tulsi Gabbard would follow through on her threat to boycott last night’s presidential debate. Too much campaign energy and resources have flowed into ensuring that she secured a spot on the corporate TV stage, which is a sordid but unavoidable aspect of the modern primary process. But in her first comments, she spelled out the reasons why such a boycott would in theory have been absolutely warranted. The two media co-sponsors, CNN and the New York Times, had just spent the past several days attacking her with a level of brazenness that was shocking even to those well-accustomed to the regularity with which she is smeared by journalistic antagonists.

The NYT released a bottom-of-the-barrel hit-job on Saturday, regurgitating the entire litany of bogus talking points marshaled against her over the course of the campaign — Russian apologist, Assad apologist, friend to white nationalists, naive isolationist, cult member — with the obligatory David Duke reference thrown in for good measure. This has all been aired before, but it was packaged together by the NYT in the cheapest, sleaziest form imaginable. The unsubtle subtext is always that Tulsi has some nefarious hidden motive, and couldn’t possibly be running on an earnest commitment to the principles she espouses. Her campaign refused to comply with the NYT’s requests for the article, and rightly so.

[..] CNN is generally of the same disposition toward Tulsi (undisguised contempt) and that reached a new peak Tuesday, the day of the debate, when Democratic operative and ‘analyst’ Bakari Sellers proclaimed with total self-satisfied certitude that she is a ‘puppet for the Russian government’. His esteemed co-panelists had neither the knowledge or interest to meaningfully interrogate the charge, which of course is grotesque nonsense. As such, that’s the context in which Tulsi’s threat to boycott the debate was perfectly valid — but it’s better to be there than not.

So she took the opportunity to point out how despicable the CNN/NYT attacks were and segue into a broader indictment of the entire political/media class for the ongoing debacle in Syria, in which they have been collectively complicit for years. They might prefer to pin sole blame for recent developments on Trump — Tulsi was also unsparing in maligning him for his role — but Tulsi correctly widened the indictment to include the entire bipartisan war-marking apparatus and its loyal media cheerleaders. They pushed one narrative of the conflict — the US was funding and arming ‘good guys’ in the form of ‘moderate rebels’ seeking to overthrow Assad — that turned out to be spectacularly wrong, seeing as those same ‘rebels’ are now being denounced by US officials for taking part in the massacre of Kurds.

Read more …

Never ending.

DUP Says It Cannot Support Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal (G.)

The Democratic Unionist party is threatening to scupper the Brexit deal that Boris Johnson is on the brink of agreeing with the EU. On the morning of a crucial EU summit in Brussels, a joint statement from the DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, explicitly says the party cannot support the deal that is close to being finalised. The pound fell 0.5% against the dollar and the euro within minutes of the announcement. The DUP statement said: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.” The statement will come as blow to the prime minister, who hopes to bring back a deal from the Brussels meeting and then secure the backing of parliament in a rare Commons vote pencilled in for Saturday.

The backing of the 10 DUP MPs is crucial for the success of that vote because many Conservative Brexiters have indicated they will not back a deal that is opposed by unionists. Steve Baker, the chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group, said he was optimistic the group would back a deal. But he also suggested the ERG could not support it if Johnson failed to secure the backing of the DUP. The DUP statement added: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Johnson has met Foster and Dodds three times in the last three days as he tried to shore up their support before Saturday’s deadline to prevent a delay to Brexit. Housing minister Robert Jenrick said on BBC Breakfast: “We know there are clearly concerns on the part of the DUP and we want to try and work through these productively in the hours to come. “All sides in this do want to secure an orderly exit from the EU, and I think one is in sight, although there is clearly very significant issues to be hammered out. Let’s wait and see.”

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The zombies were never cleared for the 28 years of boom.

Australia’s Housing Downturn A Larger-Than-Expected Drag On Economy (R.)

Australia’s property downturn is hitting household consumption and is a big drag on economic growth and inflation that will likely last at least another year, despite three interest rate cuts, a senior central bank official said on Thursday. However, an uptick in home prices in recent months, steady population growth and all-time low interest rates were expected to revive housing construction by 2021, Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Deputy Governor Guy Debelle said in a speech. Housing is a significant part of Australia’s A$1.95 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy, with residential construction accounting for around 2% of total employment and 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).


“Much of the downturn in construction activity is still ahead,” Debelle said in Sydney in a speech titled “Housing and the Economy.” Home prices and construction activity in Australia peaked nearly two years ago with approvals to build new homes around 40% lower than their late-2017 highs. “We are forecasting a further 7% decline in dwelling investment over the next year, and there is some risk the decline could be even larger,” Debelle added. “This will directly subtract around 1 percentage point from GDP growth from peak to trough…” Housing also impacts consumption. The RBA’s standard estimate of the wealth effect is that a 10% fall in housing prices leads to a 1.5% fall in household consumption over time.

Read more …

Best thing perhaps is the South China Morning Post filed this in the lifestyle/fashion-beauty section.

China Bans Exports Of Black Clothing To Hong Kong (SCMP)

The Chinese government is cracking down on exports of black clothing to Hong Kong from mainland China. The protesters who have taken to the streets of Hong Kong for the last four months, initially to oppose a now-withdrawn extradition bill, have adopted as their uniform black T-shirts, black jeans and black sneakers, often paired with a black face mask. According to a notice issued by Guangdong courier company PHXBUY on July 11, mainland Chinese customs required courier companies to halt delivery of a list of products. “They include yellow helmets, yellow umbrellas, flags, flagpoles, poster banners, gloves, masks, black T-shirts, metal rods, fluorescent tubes, bludgeon clubs. We cannot take delivery of the above products … Thank you for supporting us,” the notice said.


A subsequent notice posted on September 26 by Guangdong-based EXPRESS contains an even longer list of banned items: foodstuffs, liquid, powder, gases, counterfeit brand products, big machines, helmets, umbrellas, wrist bands, towels, safety vests, speakers, amplifiers, trestles, walkie-talkies, drones, black shirts and other clothing, goggles, metal beads, metal balls, horticulture scissors, metal chains, torches, binoculars, remote-controlled toys. “Customers mailing products have to use their real names. For mismatch between proclaimed names of goods to be mailed and actual goods, they will be left in the warehouse … for any discovery of the aforementioned goods [for mailing to Hong Kong], a thorough investigation will be launched.”

Read more …

Everyone completely ignores the UN, and international law.

Assange Subjected To Torture & Violations Of Due Process Rights – UN Envoy (RT)

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been subjected to “psychological torture” and his due process rights have been “systematically violated” by all the states involved, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. Two medical experts accompanied Melzer when he visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in the UK, he said on Tuesday. “We came to the conclusion that he had been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. That’s a medical assessment.” Melzer’s message fell largely on deaf ears, as only a handful of reporters attended Tuesday’s press conference at the UN headquarters in New York.


It was not the first time that Melzer has tried to bring attention to Assange’s plight. He wrote an opinion piece about it in June, only to find it ignored or rejected by mainstream media outlets, and ended up publishing open letters to the US, British, Ecuadorian, and Swedish governments in July. We asked for all the involved states to investigate this case and to alleviate the pressure that has been done on him, and especially to respect his due process rights, which in my view have been systematically violated in all these jurisdictions,” Melzer said on Tuesday. No country has agreed to do so, he added, even though this was their obligation under the Convention on Torture.

Read more …

 

Slogen of the year:

If it’s a Boeing… I’m not going!

 

 

 

 

Oct 042019
 


Salvador Dali Crepuscular old man 1918

 

It took just 4 months after the deplorably failed Mueller probe of alleged Trump links to Russia, for the Democrats to raise the next -faded- red flag, Ukraine. And they do so in a manner that reminds me, personally, a lot of what happens in the UK. That is, the process has now moved on to what is legal or not and who decides what is or not.

Nancy Pelosi apparently has been told by her legal advice that it’s okay for her to move ahead with an inquiry, that she can even label an Impeachment Inquiry, without following established Capitol Hill procedure. Needless to say, them slopes are mighty slippery. Because if true, it would mean she can call the ‘other side’ offside for as long as she wishes.

She would, in effect, prorogate the US House the same way Boris Johnson tried to do Parliament in Britain. And not by shutting it down from the outside (Boris as PM) but from the inside (using her powers as Speaker). It would appear it’s time for every American to pay attention, because this could have grave consequences far into the future.

Pelosi’s plan is to not have a House vote on initiating the inquiry, but to just go ahead and have one, and stealing the name Impeachment Inquiry for it. Why? Because she thinks that way she can have only Democrats ask questions, issue subpoenas etc., while House Republicans could only sit and watch the spectacle (not what they were elected for).

 

I am not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional scholar, but when I read these things there are a million red hot five-alarms going off in my head. Because this is not about enacting the law, it’s about circumventing it. Just because you have a House majority cannot mean you can simply ignore the minority, or procedure. That would turn democracy into a proxy dictatorship. You don’t want to go there, not even if you’re a desperate Democrat.

But she seems to have made up her mind. So now we face Trump not being allowed to investigate what Joe Biden was up to in the run-up to the 2016 election though Joe’s party could turn that same run-up into a 3-year Special Counsel probe, which turned up less than .. well, you fill it in. It is something to behold.

At the same time, though, there is no Impeachment Inquiry, even if Pelosi calls it that. The White House today will send a letter to a judge contesting exactly that. A House Impeachment Inquiry has a procedure, and if she doesn’t follow that, the White House will deny it’s actually happening, and not respond.

Now, if you follow the headlines this week, you wouldn’t know this. Because they all talk of an impeachment inquiry going on. But you can’t get impeachment without following the official procedure, and Pelosi doesn’t follow it. And the media just go along for the ride without caring about procedure.

 

And obviously you can’t watch this theater and not think that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff et al have not thought about stretching out this whole tragedy for another year, right on the eve of the 2020 election, or even beyond. That they think allegations about Russia, Ukraine and China will help them win.

Because it’s clear that flouting procedure the way they try to do in the House will inevitably have to lead to court decisions, and eventually to the Supreme Court. They’re counting on the damage they can do to Trump while the courts decide. But it won’t just be damage to Trump, however it turns out, it will be damage to the entire country.

And you would think both sides of the aisle recognize that (after all, we do), but there are very few if any signs of that. Everyone’s gearing up for a very big fight because everyone else in their echo chamber is. The problem is, whatever happens, and whoever becomes president, the dividing lines will only become deeper and darker.

AG Bill Barr, along with the State Department and DOJ, and whoever else is involved, will release multiple reports from investigations conducted by US Attorney John Durham, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and potentially others. The Dems and MSM viewpoint appears to be that is was fine to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Trump’s links to Russia, but not Democrats’ links to, well, anyone at all.

And that is just not okay. I saw this very short clip of John Brennan saying: “I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.” And that’s supposed to atone for 3 years of incessant smearing? It’s ridiculous. Brennan is ridiculous.

And yeah, I know that’s Fox, and I know I’ve on occasion had to turn to right wing media for news because the MSM have closed ranks and ‘report’ only on one side of the story. Sue me for wanting actual news.

None of this negates the fact that we’re in for ever bitter fights, up to and including at the US Supreme Court, ever more, to decide who rules the country. Just like in Britain.

I don’t think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. At least, unlike Britain, they cared enough to write a Constitution. A lot of good that did.

 

 

 

 

Sep 082019
 
 September 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Horses and person 1939

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since yesterday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)
UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)
Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)
How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (G&M)
Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)
Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)
China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)
China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)
Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)
On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

 

 

I’ll keep saying they should have gone to the courts much sooner. But it’s unclear what the courts can do.

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)

Boris Johnson will go to court to challenge the order from parliament to delay Brexit, the foreign secretary has revealed. Dominic Raab insisted the government would not break the law – after MPs passed legislation requiring him to seek an Article 50 extension – but said it would not comply either. Vowing to “test to the limit” what the new law demands, Mr Raab said: “We will look very carefully, legally at what it requires and what it doesn’t require.” And, pointing to the failed legal actions to stop parliament being suspended, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme: “We had two legal challenges last week and we won both of those.”


The comments suggest the controversy is heading for the Supreme Court in late October, with Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s key aide, believed to be convinced there is a legal way out. Mr Raab also dismissed a warning by a former director of public prosecutions that the prime minister is heading for jail if he flouts the law as “ridiculous”. Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s shadow attorney general, condemned the comments, saying: “Is that what we say to our kids? Is that what we say to vulnerable kids? It’s irresponsible and elitist.”

Read more …

Boris has claimed progress in talks with the EU, but the EU has said there’s no such thing.

UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)

Amber Rudd has claimed it is unclear who is running the country following her shock resignation from the government. The former work and pensions secretary said she did not think the cabinet was having “proper discussions about policy”. When asked who was running the country, if not the cabinet, she told The Andrew Marr Show: “If I knew that I would have perhaps had further conversations with the prime minister or them.” Ms Rudd, who announced her resignation from the cabinet on Saturday, said she quit because she had not seen enough evidence of planning for a no-deal Brexit.


She claimed she was shown a “one-page summary” when she asked for evidence of the government’s work in negotiating a deal with the European Union. “It’s 80 to 90 per cent of government time going into preparing for no deal,” she said. “It’s disproportionate.” She added: “There is no evidence of the deal. There is no formal negotiation taking place. “I think we should be doing so much more to get the deal.”

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Outspoken.

Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)

Sacked Tory rebel MP Sir Nicholas Soames says Boris Johnson is “nothing like” his grandfather Sir Winston Churchill – and called Jacob Rees-Mogg an “absolute fraud”. Sir Nicholas, 71, tore into the Prime Minister and his right-hand man in a scathing interview as “unreliable” Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy lay in tatters. The MP for 37 years said of the PM: “Boris Johnson is nothing like Winston Churchill. “I don’t think anyone has called Boris a diplomat or statesman.


“We all know the pluses and minuses, everyone he has worked for says the same thing: he writes beautifully [but he’s] deeply unreliable.” And of Mr Rees-Mogg, he was even more unforgiving, telling the Times: “He is in serious danger of believing his own shtick. “He is an absolute fraud, he is a living example of what a moderately cut double-breasted suit and a decent tie can do with an ultra-posh voice and a bit of ginger stuck up his arse.” Sir Nicholas blasted Mr Rees-Mogg after the Leader of the House was pictured slouching on the front bench like a sunbed as the Prime Minister suffered one of several humiliating defeats this week.

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View from Canada. Whose head of state still is Elizabeth. “British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (Globe & Mail)

We begin this editorial with an apology to you, our faithful readers. In March, we described the Brexit situation, then careening through its third year and nowhere close to resolution, as an “omnishambles.” An omnishambles is a state of utter chaos, total disorder and perfect mismanagement – which brings us to our apology. If you’ve been paying any attention to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, you know that, in declaring United Kingdom politics to have reached peak shambolic six months ago, we spoke too soon. Oh, did we ever. Because if the Conservative government was making an omnishambles of Brexit back in the spring – a happy era now remembered as a halcyon age of a merely half-hearted appetite for national self-destruction – then what words can adequately describe the scale of Mr. Johnson’s achievements?

Megashambles? Summa cum laude shambles? Tyrannosaurus shambles? The-Chernobyl-reactor-just-exploded-and-the-dosimeter-reads-15,000-roentgen shambles? Mr. Johnson is the author of 11 books, some admittedly banged out in the careless haste that is his style. But this week, without breaking a sweat, the PM penned the Odyssey and the Iliad of shambles. He faced his first votes in Parliament and lost them; lost his minority government’s governing majority; sacked 21 of his own MPs, including his party’s longest-serving member and Winston Churchill’s grandson; provoked his own brother into resigning from cabinet, citing a conflict between “family loyalty and the national interest”; and lost control of the House of Commons while remaining so offside the chamber’s confidence that it will not yet allow him to resolve the matter by calling an election.

Mr. Johnson did all that, and more, in the space of two days. What will tomorrow bring? British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

Read more …

Leaving should still be the priority.

Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)

US President Donald Trump says he has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that sought to end America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan. Mr Trump tweeted he had been set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders on Sunday. But he cancelled the secret meeting at his Camp David retreat after the militants admitted they were behind a recent attack that killed a US soldier. The US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in 2001. The militants had provided a safe haven for the al-Qaeda network to plan the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. A source from the Taliban’s political office in Doha told the BBC that the group was set to hold an “urgent internal meeting” to discuss Mr Trump’s decision.


A meeting with the Taliban at Camp David, just ahead of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, would have been an extraordinary diplomatic move by the US president. The top US negotiator had announced a peace deal “in principle” on Monday. It was the result of nine rounds of talks between the US and Taliban representatives, held in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar. Mr Trump’s tweets on Saturday evening appeared to put an end to nearly a year of painstaking negotiations which had excluded the Afghan government in Kabul, dismissed by the Taliban as American puppets. “Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, [the Taliban] admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers,” the president tweeted.

Read more …

I like.

Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)

Russia and Ukraine have completed a long-awaited exchange of prisoners. Those freed include 24 Ukrainian sailors and – controversially – a “person of interest” over the downing of flight MH17 which killed 298 people. The swap is hoped to ease tensions between the two neighbours. Greeting the Ukrainians at the airport, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We have to do all the steps to finish this horrible war.” Russia said it was glad its citizens had returned home. Relations between the two countries deteriorated dramatically in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russian-backed rebels began an insurgency in two regions of eastern Ukraine.

Read more …

The trade war can only be part of it.

China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August while imports shrank for a fourth month, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for the seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signaled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. Many analysts expect export growth to slow further in coming months, as evidenced by worsening export orders in both official and private factory surveys. More U.S. tariff measures will take effect on Oct. 1 and Dec. 15. Sunday’s data also showed China’s imports shrank for the fourth consecutive month since April. Imports dropped 5.6% on-year in August, slightly less than an expected 6.0% fall and unchanged from July’s 5.6% decline.

Read more …

Pon Zi.

China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)

We typically imagine the Chinese entrepreneur crunching numbers, working around the clock to boost the economy, and repeating Communist propaganda about the West being the supreme devil. But we might have it wrong. Considering that the major source of funding for tens of thousands of companies in China originates from the central bank’s printing press, the reality could be businessmen and employees getting plastered on baijiuand beating each other to death with Pokémon cards during office hours. Think of it as the Eastern version of The Wolf of Wall Street.

[..] Even prior to the trade war, the Chinese government had employed a series of measures to reverse the slump. Thanks to the dispute with the Americans, Beijing’s growth prospects are bearish, projected to fall to a 30-year low of 6.2% in the second quarter of 2019. Because of this, analysts anticipate the PBOC will impose another 50-basis-point RRR decrease. In addition, observers prognosticate that the central bank could cut at least one of its key policy interest rates later this month. This would be the first time since 2015. The routine intervention and stimulus have ostensibly metastasized the economy into an addict, reliant on its next fix. So, can the Chinese economy survive without the state?

In the last five years, China’s M2 money supply – a measurement of the money supply that includes cash, checking deposits, and liquid assets – has ballooned 120%. Since the country is being paralyzed by the trade spat and other negative trends that threaten its foundation, China is not showing any signs that it is ready to hit the pause button on money-printing. In fact, judging by previous remarks by PBOC heads, Beijing might rev it up even more, especially if the downturn intensifies. But can China print to infinity? It may have to because seemingly every area of the economy counts on being propped up by the Communists through cash injections, stimulus projects, and bailouts.

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“He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11..”

Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)

After a lengthy investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller charged Russia made “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and said the incursion “deserves the attention of every American.” But former FBI investigators say their old boss didn’t feel the same concern when they uncovered multiple, systemic efforts by the Saudi government to assist the hijackers in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks — a far more consequential, to say nothing of deadly, foreign influence operation on America. As the head of the FBI at the time, they say Mueller was not nearly as interested in investigating that espionage conspiracy, which also involved foreign intelligence officers. Far from it, the record shows he covered up evidence pointing back to the Saudi Embassy and Riyadh — and may have even misled Congress about what he knew.


9/11 victims agree. “He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11,” said survivor Sharon Premoli, who was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center 18 years ago. “In October of 2001, Mueller shut down the government’s investigation after only three weeks, and then took part in the Bush [administration’s] campaign to block, obfuscate and generally stop anything about Saudi Arabia from being released,” added Premoli, now a plaintiff in the 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. In fact, Mueller threw up roadblocks in the path of his own investigators working the 9/11 case, while making it easier for Saudi suspects to escape questioning, multiple case agents told me. Then he deep-sixed what evidence his agents did manage to uncover, according to the 9/11 lawsuit against the Saudis.

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Pepe with Lula and Dilma Rousseff, astonished at the changes in the country.

On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

We were just beginning to hit cruising speed in our wide-ranging, 2 hour and 10 minute world exclusive interview with former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in his prison at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, in southern Brazil. And then it hit us hard when he told us: “The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the U.S. dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”


It was the foundation stone of what would build into a complex, rolling Hybrid War coup, from NSA spying on the Brazilian government and leading national companies, to the Car Wash corruption investigation (now demolished as a monster racket) to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the imprisonment of Lula, and the emergence of the Purveyor of Chaos, Jair Bolsonaro. My journey started in Cambodia. I had spent hours wandering around Beng Mealea, the jungle squeezing the stony repose of the Angkorian ruins, meditating on the rise and fall of empires. The message popped up on my phone in the dead of night: the request for an interview with Lula, placed five months ago, had been approved. How soon could I get to Sao Paulo?

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 052019
 


Odilon Redon Peyrelebade landscape 1880

 

It’s never easy to gauge what exactly is happening in China, or why the CCP Politburo takes the decisions it does. Today, or overnight, is no exception to that. However, one thing that appears certain, but which I don’t see reflected in all the analyses, is that Beijing pushing the value of the renminbi (yuan) down below 7 to the USD in one fell swoop, is a major setback for Xi Jinping and his government.

Yes, China may have given up hope of reaching positive conclusions in its trade talks with the US. And yes, some may think, even in China itself, that devaluing the currency is a tool that can be useful in a potential currency war. But there’s another side to this coin. It’s not even about the value itself, or the change in it, it’s the heavy-handed way it’s executed.

 

China wants, and desperately needs too, for the yuan to be a force in global financial markets. In very simple terms this is true because if it then wants to buy something, it can simply print the money for it. But only about 1% of global trade today is executed in yuan. That is not nearly enough. It means China needs dollars and euros, all the time. And devaluing the yuan means the country needs even more of those.

You’d almost think: why would you want to do that? What are the long-term prospects for a move like this? You’re telling forex markets that the value of the yuan is not trustworthy, because if Xi or the PBOC decides in the next five minutes that it should go up or down by 10% or 20%, they can do it. The Fed and ECB also have tools to manipulate their currencies (re: interest rates), but none of that magnitude.

 

The crux of the dilemma probably lies in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which I’ve been saying for years is just China’s way to sell its overcapacity and overproduction abroad. Sure, there may be loftier goals, and surely in the glitzy brochures, but the fact remains that China has tried to be an economic miracle, doing in 10 years what took the US a century, and it never slowed down its growth, at least not voluntarily, even if that might have been a wise move.

Already lately, purchases by Chinese citizens and companies of real estate and businesses abroad have been curtailed, and not a little bit, by Beijing. There’s no better way to convince Chinese people of the miracle’s success than to let them travel the world and spend there, but that, too, may well soon be cut. It kills foreign reserves.

If Beijing could charge participating countries in the Belt and Road Initiative in yuan, and they could pay for the overcapacity’s steel and cement and what not in yuan, that could be a game-changing program for the entire planet. But these countries have no reason to hold yuan, other than the BRI itself. And they, too, were watching the overnight move above 7 and must have thought: let’s be careful now.

And to top it all off, China right now needs for these countries to pay in dollars instead of yuan, because its foreign reserves are shrinking so fast. It’s Catch-22 all the way down. China’s need for dollars goes against everything BRI stands for.

 

Could the move hurt the US as well? Absolutely. But the long-term view behind the tariffs, and the talks China appears to have lost faith in, is to move the US away from its near all-encompassing addiction to Chinese production, and to move at least some of that production back home. Problem of course is, that is precisely what China’s miracle growth has been built on.

If the US starts bringing production home, who is Beijing going to sell its (over-)production to? Yes, I hear you, to the BRI countries. But there it runs into the currency problems mentioned before. To Europe? The top of that trade route is also behind us. Europe will have to follow the US to an extent, and also bring factories back to the continent (and not just to Germany either).

China could perhaps sell more than it does today to Russia. But that country still does produce a lot of things, and has been forced to be much more self-sufficient due to US and EU sanctions. It’s also a mighty small market compared to 350 million North Americans and 500 million Europeans, who are on average much richer than your average Russian to boot.

 

There is a way for China to make the yuan more important in global trade (but devaluation is definitely not that way): Beijing could let go of its central and total control over the value of its currency, and let forex markets figure it out. That would give traders -and everyone else- faith in the value. Problem with that is, this is not how central control communist governments think.

Beijing wants both: central total control AND a prominent place in world trade. And it may take them a long time to figure out that is not going to happen, unless of course they first conquer the entire world militarily. That is not an option, at least not for the foreseeable future. Come see me next century.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time for me to say I can see China retreat into itself, into its own borders and culture and market (1.3 billion people!). If the Communist Party wants to remain in power, and there’s no doubt it does, this may be only possible choice going forward. If growth has indeed left the miracle -as many observers think-, it can implode in very rapid succession. And even if growth hasn’t yet evaporated, it may well very soon. Without the growth, there is no miracle anymore.

And if China can no longer grow its exports, its domestic growth will also become a thing of the past. Domestic consumption can only grow as long as exports do too. Seen from that angle, the problems with trade and the currency look downright ominous. If you need dollars that badly, and you notice that you’re already getting fewer of them, not more, you’re in trouble.

Devaluing your currency may afford you some temporary respite, but it can’t possibly solve your troubles. It can make them much worse though.

I think China has wanted too much too fast, got carried away and forgot to take care of a few potential barriers to its growth, in particular the standing its currency had and still has in the world, and the grinding need for dollars that stems from it. And the Communists have no answer to this problem.

 

 

 

 

Jul 042019
 


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.

 

 

 

 

Jun 302019
 


 

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)
China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)
Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)
Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)
The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)
UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)
Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)
Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)
Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)
Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)
Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

 

 

Big moment no matter what. The situation at the DMZ has changed a lot in the past year. It’s like the DMZ has been dimilitarized. Far fewer weapons, guards don’t even wear helmets anymore.

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)

Donald Trump has invited Kim Jong Un to the White House, after he became the first serving American President to step over the North Korean border and shake hands with a North Korean leader. Trump crossed over from the demilitarized zone to shake hands with Kim Jong Un, after earlier offering the meeting on Twitter. “When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up he would have made me look very bad,” Trump told reporters. Kim Jong Un responded that “I was very surprised to hear about your offer on the tweet and only late in the afternoon I was able to confirm your invitation.”

The US president described his relationship with the North Korean leader as a “great friendship.” “This was a special moment, a historic moment,” Trump told reporters. “Stepping across that line was a great honour. A lot of progress has been made and a lot of friendships have been made and this in particular is a great friendship.” Following their handshake, the two men took part in a press conference during which the US president confirmed that he was extending an invite to Kim Jong Un to the White House. Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for meeting him. “I want to thank the chairman. You’ve got to hear that powerful voice.”

Read more …

But at least talks are back on.

China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)

China and the United States will face a long road before they can reach a deal to end their bitter trade war, with more fights ahead likely, Chinese state media said after the two countries’ presidents held ice-breaking talks in Japan. The world’s two largest economies are in the midst of a bitter trade war, which has seen them level increasingly severe tariffs on each other’s imports. In a sign of significant progress in relations on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, agreed to a ceasefire and a return to talks.


However, the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world, warned while there was now a greater likelihood of reaching an agreement, there’s no guarantee there would be one. “Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” it said in an editorial late Saturday. “Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

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What else could they do?

Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)

Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to extend the OPEC oil production cuts deal by another six to nine months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the G-20 leaders summit in Japan on Saturday. The OPEC+ group — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus Russia and other producers — meet on July 1-2 to renegotiate the pact which expires June 30. In 2016, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to try to jointly manage global oil output to support prices in what became known as the OPEC+ coalition and the current deal called for production cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia,” Putin said at a news conference in Osaka, Reuters reported.


“As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin said, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. “In any event we will support the continuation of agreements, both Russia and Saudi Arabia, in the volumes previously agreed.” The announcement marks the first time a leader from the OPEC+ group has indicated the curbs could be needed into 2020. That reflects a gloomy outlook for oil demand next year due to a combination of slowing global economic growth and rising U.S. shale oil output.

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“For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)

Perhaps it is a problem of language. The dictionary lacks a necessary word: UKish. Northern Ireland is not in Britain but it is in the UK. The porous boundary that divides it from the rest of Ireland is not, strictly speaking, a British frontier. So it is called “the Irish border”, making it, for the Brexiters, someone else’s problem. The terrain where a post-Brexit UK meets the remaining 27-member EU bloc is, as the miserable Tory leadership debate shows yet again, somewhere over there. For Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, its troubles are, as Neville Chamberlain might put it, “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. They might have to know more about it if only we could call it what it is: the UKish border.

Hunt and Johnson both agree that a no-deal Brexit must be kept alive as a serious proposition. Both also agree that once in Downing Street they will reopen negotiations with the EU with the primary aim of ditching from the withdrawal agreement the so-called Irish backstop, which is also, of course, the UKish backstop. Hunt puts this in more emollient terms than Johnson, but makes up for this weakness by promising to include on his negotiating team representatives of the famously emollient Democratic Unionist party, which does not represent most voters in Northern Ireland. All of this is so drearily familiar (this hobbyhorse comes round and round on the non-stop Brexit carousel) that it is hard to remember how surreal it is.

It is weird not just because the backstop was designed around British demands; not just because Hunt and Johnson were in the cabinet when it was negotiated; not just because they both voted for it in parliament; and not just because the EU has repeated, over and over, that, in the words of the European council in January: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” That should be enough to be going on with, but there is an even deeper absurdity. On 4 April last, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, flew to Dublin [..] she said: “For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

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Crazy enough that these two people are mentioned in the same sentence.

The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)

In October 1998, Pinochet, whose regime became a byword for political killings, “disappearances” and torture, was arrested in London while there for medical treatment. A judge in Madrid, Baltasar Garzón, sought his extradition in connection with the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile. Citing the aging Pinochet’s inability to stand trial, the United Kingdom in 2000 ultimately prevented him from being extradited to Spain where he would have faced prosecution for human rights abuses. At an early point in the proceedings, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, made an argument in his defense that had nothing to do with age or poor health.

“States and the organs of state, including heads of state and former heads of state, are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal proceedings in the national courts of other countries,” the Guardian quoted Montgomery as saying. She argued that crimes against humanity should be narrowly defined within the context of international warfare, as the BBC reported. Montgomery’s immunity argument was overturned by the House of Lords. But the extradition court ruled that the poor health of Pinochet, a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would prevent him from being sent to Spain. Though the cases of Pinochet and Assange are separated by more than two decades, two of the participants are the same, this time playing very different roles.

Montgomery reappeared in the Assange case to argue on behalf of a Swedish prosecutor’s right to seek a European arrest warrant for Assange. Her argument ultimately failed. A Swedish court recently denied the European arrest warrant. But as in the Pinochet case, Montgomery helped buy time, this time allowing Swedish sexual allegations to persist and muddy Assange’s reputation. Garzón, the Spanish judge, who had requested Pinochet’s extradition, also reappears in Assange’s case. He is a well-known defender of human rights, “viewed by many as Spain’s most courageous legal watchdog and the scourge of bent politicians and drug warlords the world over,” as the The Independent described him a few years ago. He now leads Assange’s legal team.

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Melzer is not planning to let go. Now where’s his support?

“When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.”

UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)

The UN rapporteur on torture told RT about the fanciful excuses Western media used to avoid publishing his damning op-ed on the extreme pressure Julian Assange was exposed to – despite covering every wild allegation against him. A host of reputed Western media outlets turned a deaf ear to Nils Melzer and his op-ed in which he said Julian Assange was exposed to enormous psychological trauma and isolation while in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and afterwards in the UK high-security prison. “Some of them said it wasn’t high enough on their news agenda, some of them said it wasn’t within their core area of interest.”

“The explanations seem awkward given that the same newspapers – the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post, the Telegraph, and others – have been running news stories about Assange “when it was about his cat and his skateboard and… allegations that he smeared excrement on the walls.” “But when you have a serious piece that actually tries to de-mask this public narrative and to actually show the facts below it, then they’re not interested.”

In his piece, which was eventually published on blogging website Medium, Melzer admitted he “had been blinded by propaganda” and didn’t believe Assange was being dehumanized through isolation, ridicule, and shame. He even asked himself how could “life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture.” “I didn’t know Assange, so I took with me experienced medical experts, a psychiatrist and a forensic expert that have worked for decades in examining torture victims,” he told RT. These experts, he said, found that Assange showed “all the symptoms that are typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture.”

He has been exposed to public mobbing. Now, that’s the slippery slope… When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.

Read more …

Criminal investigation next.

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg. In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India. Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code.”


Rabin said: “…it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.” In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017. That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus. HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX’s flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its “suppliers of the year”. One HCL employee posted online: “Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing).”

Read more …

Does Merkel really want to risk things getting worse?

Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)

If there is one thing that Deutsche Bank executives agree on, it is the efficacy of medieval medicine. Bloodletting, to be precise. Successive Chief Executives have bled the patient, but it hasn’t recovered: profits remain disappointing, and the share price has continued to decline. So the latest incumbent is going to bleed it again – on a much larger scale. On Friday, June 28, the Wall Street Journal revealed plans to slash up to 20,000 jobs worldwide. This would reduce full-time headcount to just over 70,000, the lowest since the financial crisis. The WSJ says the staff cuts will fall “across all divisions and business lines.” But the largest cuts are expected to fall on the investment bank and the troubled U.S. arm. Deutsche Bank has been trying – and largely failing – to reduce its staff costs for years.

It may surprise people to learn that despite repeated cuts, Deutsche Bank’s headcount is significantly higher than it was in 2008. This is mainly due to the acquisition of PostBank in 2010, which added 18,000 employees. Back in 2016, Deutsche Bank announced plans to cut its headcount to 77,000, largely through disposing of PostBank. But when the PostBank disposal evaporated, so too did the headcount reductions. The bank now intends to integrate PostBank with its own retail bank, and says this will achieve “synergies” (i.e. cost savings). Presumably that will mean headcount reductions, though it is not clear whether these are included in the plans leaked to the WSJ.

But there has also been a gradual increase in headcount in other divisions, notably the investment bank. Frankly, given the bank’s awful performance in recent years, it is hard to see what benefit this has brought. It looks suspiciously like empire-building to me. Or perhaps gambling. “Recruit some star performers, they’ll soon turn this business round….” [..] Deutsche Bank’s high cost-income ratio isn’t caused by clerks in retail branches. No, it is due to the insanely high salaries and bonuses Deutsche Bank pays to traders and analysts in its investment bank. And above all, it is due to executive management’s head-in-the-sand attitude to business lines in terminal decline. In 2016, despite glaringly poor performance in its equities division, Deutsche Bank recruited more equities analysts. Now, it appears to be intending to sack them all.

Read more …

Larry Sanger is a co-founder of Wikipedia. This is a very detailed declaration.

Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)

Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old. We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security.


Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them. The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

Read more …

The international Law of the Sea makes it obligatory to rescue people in peril. Salvini is breaking that law.

Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)

Italian police arrested on Saturday the German captain of a migrant-rescue ship at the center of a standoff with the Italian government, after she docked at the island port of Lampedusa. The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, has been at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board. After waiting in international waters for an invitation from Italy or an EU state to accept the ship, German captain Carola Rackete decided this week to sail for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa but was blocked by Italian government vessels. The ship eventually entered the port in the early hours of Saturday morning amid a heavy police presence.


Live television video showed the 31-year-old Rackete being taken off Sea-Watch 3 by tax police and driven away amid applause and barracking from bystanders gathered at the port. She has been arrested for “resisting a war ship”, a charge which, according to media reports, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. After Rackete was taken away, 40 Africans on board the ship were allowed to disembark and were taken to a reception center on the island. Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is taking a tough line against migrant rescue ships, previously said he would only allow Rackete to dock when other European Union states agree to immediately take the migrants. “Outlaw arrested. Pirate ship seized. Big fine on foreign NGO. Migrants all redistributed in other European countries. Mission completed,” Salvini said in a tweet on Saturday.

Read more …

Suicide. Or murder, since it’s about babies.

Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) just announced intriguing findings which describe cellular changes that develop when neuronal stem cells are exposed to elevated levels of a chemical typically found in processed foods. The study serves as an example of the importance of the food pregnant women eat, and how it may potentially affect development of the fetal brain. The study describes how elevated levels of the preservative, propionic acid (PPA)–used to extend shelf life and reduce mold in packaged foods, breads and cheeses—can adversely affect the development and differentiation of neurons in fetal brains in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

From clinical experience, healthcare providers have observed for many decades how children with ASD are often afflicted with gastrointestinal ailments, including chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The mechanism behind this association is unclear, but ongoing research suggests that the gut microbiome plays an important role in brain development. One of the key questions is how the gut microbiome–the bacteria that live in our intestines–may be unique in those with ASD compared to those without the condition. Previous studies have demonstrated increased levels of PPA, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the feces of children with ASD; we also know that the gut microbiome in these children is also quite distinct in terms of the type of bacteria that inhabit their intestines.

Clostridia, Bacteriodetes, and Desulfovibrio bacteria are unique to patients with ASD. What’s interesting is that these bacteria are also known to be fermenters of carbohydrates that produce PPA, and other SCFAs as well. Ironically, while PPA is the most common compound produced by bacteria in ASD patients, it is also widely used in the food industry as a preservative due to its ability to inhibit growth of fungi (mold). In the current study, Saleh Naser, PhD and her team at UCF found that when neural stem cells were exposed to high levels of PPA, the neurons incurred multiple changes resulting in cellular damage and inflammation.

One of the major effects of PPA they noted was the overproduction of glial cells , the protective outer cells making up the sheath covering neurons, with a corresponding reduction in the number of neurons themselves. An excess of glial cells may disrupt the connectivity between the neurons and induce inflammation, a common finding in the brains of children with ASD. While prior studies have suggested the role of genetic factors and environmental influence in ASD, this study, according to the authors, is the first to note a molecular link from elevated levels of PPA, overproduction of glial cells, disruption of neural connections and autism.

Read more …

 

Wednesday is Julian’s birthday.

 

 

 

 

Jun 252019
 


Caravaggio Conversion on the way to Damascus 1600-01

 

Something’s been nagging me for the past few days, and I’m not sure I’ve figured out why yet. It started when Donald Trump first called off the alleged planned strikes on targets in Iran because they would have cost 150 lives, and then the next day said the US would do sanctions instead. As they did on Monday, even directly targeting Trump’s equal, the “Supreme Leader Khameini”.

When Trump announced the sanctions, I thought: wait a minute, by presenting this the way you did, you effectively turned economic sanctions into a military tool: we chose not to do bombs but sanctions. Sounds the same as not doing a naval invasion but going for air attacks instead. The kind of decisions that were made in Vietnam a thousand times.

However, Vietnam was all out war (well, invasion is a better term). Which shamed the US, killed and maimed the sweet Lord only knows how many promising young Americans as well as millions of Vietnamese, and ended in humiliating defeat. But the US is not in an all out war in Iran, at least not yet. And if they would ever try to be, the outcome would be Vietnam squared.

Still, that’s not really my point here. It’s simply about the use of having the world reserve currency as a military weapon instead of an economic one. And I think that is highly significant. As well as an enormous threat to the US. The issue at hand is overreach.

While you could still argue that economic sanctions on North Korea, Venezuela and Russia are just that, economic and/or political ones, the way Trump phrased it, comparing sanctions one on one with military strikes, no longer leaves that opening when it comes to Iran. The new Iran sanctions are a preliminary act of war. Simply because of how he presented them. He explicitly stated that he swapped one for the other.

 

There are quite a few people who have been harping on the demise of the USD as reserve currency for a long time, and I always think: look, nobody wants the yuan, let alone the ruble. There’s no trade being executed in these currencies. So taking over from the USD is a pipe dream.

But that may very well change, and perhaps very fast too, if the US uses the dollar not as an economic weapon (and there are plenty issues with that already), but as a military one. That would potentially hugely speed up any efforts to move away from the buck in international trade.

For the simple reason that it becomes unreliable. Traders hate that, they can’t have that. A reserve currency must be neutral -to a point-. The world of trade doesn’t want the yuan because Beijing controls it and can therefore change conditions and values overnight. But if and when the US uses the USD as a military tool, it essentially risks doing exactly the same: it deneutralizes the USD.

Using the USD as an economic weapon is ugly, but something global trade can deal with. A military weapon, though, is something else altogether. And I see no sign that Trump understands this. The thing is, using your currency, which also happens to be the world reserve currency, as a military tool, means you’ve become a threat to everyone, the entire globe, overnight.

And people don’t want to live that way. Not Iran, not Russia, not China, not Europe, no-one. It’s one thing to use the USD for sanctions. But it’s a real different thing to use it as just a military alternative to “bombing a country into obliteration”.

 

What Trump did comes awfully close to signing the death warrant for the USD as the global reserve currency. And it’s really only because he and his people weren’t paying attention. He could have phrased the entire thing differently, and it would have been business as usual, a business that Moscow and Beijing are actively trying to undermine, but they could have waited a bit longer reacting.

Now, however, their plans have to be sped up. They’re going to be buying a lot of gold, as they’ve already been doing, they’ll try to do their mutual business in their own currencies backed by this gold, and they’ll speed up alternatives-to-USD plans with other countries in their neighborhood. Because they have no choice anymore.

I see Tyler Durden reporting that the US threatens to throw a Chinese state-owned bank out of the SWIFT system, and I think: great idea. Why not force China to quit the reserve currency system, the petrodollar, outright?! Why not force it to hasten the Asian/Russian alternative trade model into existence? What a great and lovely idea.

The US should today make friends. It should preserve the reserve currency status of the USD for as long as it can, by convincing allies and foes alike that it will protect its neutrality in global trade. But Trump and his people are doing the exact opposite, they’re playing all-on-red.

The US no longer has the economic, political or military might to dictate to the entire world any terms it wants to. Those days are long gone. That ended in Vietnam. Trump’s living in the last century, while Bolton and Pompeo, they live in their own time and world.

 

But yeah, sure, perhaps this is what the dying days of an empire MUST look like. Maybe there’s a model to follow and there’s no escape, maybe it’s all written in the stars. Like Rome and Greece and Genghis Khan. Maybe things simply just have to play out. Still, looking at that Trump statement about the new Iran sanctions that started me off, it doesn’t feel all that smart.

 

 

 

 

Jun 212019
 
 June 21, 2019  Posted by at 8:24 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Femme aux bras leves- Tête de Dora Maar- 1936

 

As a nation, you’re certifiedly (is that a word?!) in deep trouble if and when Donald Trump is your most peaceloving man. But nevertheless, that is America today. It all harks back to the days when Trump was first -grudgingly and painstakingly- recognized as an actual presidential candidate.

He campaigned as a man who would end the costly and neverending decades-old and counting US wars far away from American shores and territory. He hasn’t lived up to those campaign goals at all, far from it, and he hired doofuses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to show everyone that he didn’t, but in the early hours of June 21 2019 he apparently decided at the last minute that it just didn’t add up.

You don’t kill 150 people because someone destroyed a piece of machinery, he got that right. I vividly remember writing a hundred times that a country of 320 million people that can’t come up with a better president than Trump has a behemoth problem. I also remember saying that Trump himself is not that problem, it’s the system that gave rise to him and his popularity. A war-hungry-system, that is, which has pervaded Washington DC.

And there is absolutely nothing that tells me anything has changed in that system. There are hearings and investigations all over the place, right now from Hope Hicks to Jerry Nadler, but none of them are geared towards trying to make peace with Iran or Russia or China, or anyone else. None.

 

Trump’s domestic opponents don’t appear to want peace, not those in the Democratic party, and not those in the MSM, or at least not anyone I’ve seen, other than Tulsi Gabbard. I haven’t seen a word from Nadler or Pelosi trying to coax Trump away from bomb bombing Iran, and diddly squat from the NYT or WashPo either. But sure, tell me what you’ve seen that contradicts that.

Which means he’s on his own, fighting off not only Bolton and Pompeo, but the entire opposition as well. So far he’s done just that. But how much longer can he, when both sides of the aisle continue to call for blood? I find that a hard call to make. I don’t think Trump wants his presidency to be about starting WWIII, but there are so many others calling on him to make it just that.

I said a while ago to a friend that the US invading Iran would be the end of the US, not in 2 days or week, or even 2 years, but in 20 years surely. Because doing so would change the entire power structure in the Middle East so much it would become unrecognizable.

The terribly odd couple of Benjamin Netanyahu and MBS may think they can conquer the region if only Trump sends Americans kids to die there, but they’re as wrong as they are about anything else. Iran is where it is, and it won’t move or budge. It’s just 40 years ago the country rid itself from the US-installed Shah and his SS-like Savak secret services.

Iranians, Persians, have a very deep-seated aversion and -to put it exceedingly mildly- hatred of the US, and they have good reason to. The Shah unleashed pure terror upon “his” entire people, at the benefit of US Big Oil.

 

The only constructive thing the US can do at this point in time is to go talk to Iran, in open and honest discussions. The US will want to do that because Iran is the heart of the Middle East. Just ask Russia and China, they understand that point. Very well even.

Bombing Iran won’t lead to anything at all, other than the demise of the US, down the road. These people will not succumb, and Russia and China will make sure they won’t have to. And Trump’s declaration of US military capabilities being “superior” is just words (or as they say stateside “hogwash”).

The US military ceased being “superior” a long time ago, simply because Raytheon and Boeing et al develop weapons for profit, whereas Russia and China develop them for defense purposes, and at 10% of the price. That single “little” difference will do the US in. Promise.

America needs to start talking. About trade, about weapons, about everything. Maybe Trump can do that. Maybe not. But he won’t be able to do anything by threatening countries like iran who already have nothing left but their backs to a wall.

Trump appears to have some good points vis-a-vis China and trade talks. He has some very bad points vs Russia and the sanctions. He MUST retreat when it comes to Iran, because it would become a much deeper swamp than Washington could ever be.

And it would end any idea of a positive legacy of his presidency. And his grand kids would be far worse off. And and and. But if he would do it regardless, it would only be an extension of US presidential politics as it has has been going on for many decades. So what’s to win, and what’s to lose? You trust a 73-year old burger flipper with that assessment?

 

 

 

 

Jun 202019
 


Caravaggio I musici 1595-96

 

The investigation into the crash of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane in East Ukraine was always compromised, right from the start. The crash on July 17 2014 came shortly after the “Euromaidan revolution” in Kiev – which first began in November 2013 and culminated in the ousting of elected president Yanukovich on 23 February 2014, happily helped along by John McCain, Victoria Nuland and then-US ambassador to Ukraine (now ambassador to Greece) Geoffrey Pyatt for the USA, as well as various EU actors.

Russia reacted by “annexing” Crimea – a large majority of whose people had voted for Yanukovich, thereby safeguarding its access to its only warm water port. Not a shot was fired there, but it was very different in East Ukraine (Donbass), where people -of Russian origin- also didn’t want to be subjected to a new regime under Nuland’s puppet Yatsenyuk -and later Poroshenko. They started a civil war which continues to this day.

It was in that heated political climate that the MH17 came down, killing all its 298 passengers, 196 of whom had the Dutch nationality. 3 weeks later, on August 8, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed, which was to be led by Holland, and to also include representatives from Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Which is odd, since at that time, Ukraine certainly was a potential perpetrator of the downing.

Malaysia joined only in December, allegedly because only then did it finally agree to allow Ukraine, a nation that was a suspect, a veto over any conclusions that the team would publish. Malaysia had already been handed the black boxes by pro-Russian rebels in the area, and passed them on to the team in August. Summarized, the way the JIT was formed was highly curious. The countries even signed a secret agreement.

 

Immediately after the crash, people like then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as Frans Timmermans, then-Dutch Foreign Minister and today candidate for the EU top job, pointed the finger at Russia as the party responsible for shooting down the plane. Also curious, since there had been no investigation and the plane crashed in a civil war zone where access was almost impossible. There was talk at the time of the US having satellite images, but none have ever been produced.

In that atmosphere, the JIT yesterday, June 19 2019, held another press conference, in which it accused four men, three from Russia and one from Ukraine, of being “involved” in shooting down the plane. But again, almost 5 years after the incident, the team produced no evidence for its accusations, saying it will only be presented 9 months from now when a trial will start in the Netherlands.

It also again accused Russia of refusing to cooperate, though Russia has offered its help ever since the MH17 came down. It’s just not the help the people want who have accused the Russians since before there was any hint of evidence it was involved. And there still is no evidence. Russia has filed long and detailed reports on the incident despite being ignored, but these reports have been … ignored.

 

The trial will take place starting March 9 2020 without the accused, since Russia doesn’t extradite its citizens, and neither does Ukraine. Moreover, the one Ukrainian who is accused is thought to be in the Donbass, where the government has no access.

So this will be a show trial. And one must wonder why it is staged. What’s the use of a trial where defendants don’t defend themselves? Sure, the official line is they would love to have the men provide a defense, but that smells a bit too much like what has happened to Julian Assange. What are the odds of a fair trial when so many conclusions have been drawn at such early times?

There is not a soul in Europe west of the Russian border who doesn’t believe the Russians did it. The media take care of that. Nor is there in the US. But the Malaysian PM himself yesterday, again, said the team has proven nothing, and only provided hearsay. I kid you not, I read a piece on the BBC today that asked if the 93-year-old who lost 43 of his countrymen only said that because he wanted to sell palm oil to Russia.

And in the meantime, the evidence is not there, and won’t be for another 9 months, if ever, and the EU today added another year to its Russia sanctions over Crimea, and 4 men can deny their involvement all they want, but they can make their case only in March 2020, and only at a show trial, with international search warrants hanging over their heads.

 

The four men in question, by the way, are not accused of firing the BUK missile that supposedly downed the MH17. They are only accused of facilitating the transport of the missile and launcher from Russia to Ukraine -and back. The JIT Ukrainian team bases the entire story of that transport on serial numbers it says it has found.

On September 17 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense in a YouTube response to a May 24 2018 JIT exhibition, said it had tracked down those serial numbers, 8868720, and 1318869032, and 9M38, and said both the launcher and missile corresponding to the numbers were purchased by Ukraine from Russia as far back as 1986, transferred there, and had never left the country since.

I get that information from a lengthy, deep-digging and highly recommended essay by Eric Zuesse, from December 2018, MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven, which I’ve been reading the past few days, in which Eric says: “…if the JIT’s supplied evidence is authentic — which the Ukrainian team asserts it to be — then it outright convicts Ukraine. This is an evidentiary checkmate, against the Ukrainian side.”

Zuesse also details, in that article, contentions from multiple sources that, while the MH17 may have been hit with a BUK missile, it certainly wasn’t the only thing that hit it. There was at least one fighter jet seen close to the plane before it came down, as multiple eye-witness reports claim, and it is alleged that they fired on the cockpit for sure and perhaps other parts of the plane. It is an excellent article that is very well researched and chock-full of links to prove its points.

 

There are many things wrong with the MH17 investigation. Having the PM of one of your member investigative countries complain that after 5 years you produce only hearsay and no evidence may be the least of the worries. The Netherlands, as main victim, leading the investigation, is strange. How neutral could they be? Their Foreign Minister blamed Russia way before any investigating was done. And Holland was a main sponsor in the “Euromaidan revolution”, i.e. the ousting of an elected president.

Still, Ukraine’s position in all this must be the biggest warning sign. They stood a lot to gain from committing atrocities and then blaming Russia for them. Plus, Yatsenyuk and Nuland and the US and the EU were mightily angry that Russia had outsmarted them all over Crimea.

But instead of keeping Ukraine out of the investigation, they became a major contributor, and were even given veto rights on anything that came out of it, as far as we know the only party with such rights. If you present a crime novel or movie with ingredients like that, nobody would believe you. Such things don’t happen in real life.

 

 

 

 

Jun 112019
 


While filming “The African Queen” everyone fell sick from drinking the water except for Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, who drank whiskey

 

 

Luke Harding is a former journalist for the Guardian. I say former because while he is still writing for the paper, he lost his one remaining shred of credibility last November with an article about Paul Manafort visiting Julian Assange multiple times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which soon was discredited as badly as an article can be, but has still not been retracted or corrected by the paper.

If you get caught in that kind of nonsense, you’re surely not a journalist. Of course that was just one in an endless list of blubber that Harding produced about the likes of Assange and Trump. And Putin of course. And now he’s back with more. About Putin.

Somewhere in this new article by Luke Harding and Jason Burke for the venerable publication, they say that Russia only became interested in Africa in 2014. And obviously you know you can stop reading right there. Russia’s been interested in Africa for decades. Because it’s laden with resources. Because everybody else is there to get to those resources.

But Harding manages to write up a piece that makes Russia’s interest terribly suspicious and menacing. Because, you know, Skripal. The Russians did it. He’s basing this on docs he claims to have seen, but doesn’t provide, given to him by an “investigative unit” based in London and funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin’s worst domestic enemy.

 

Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal.

There are 54 countries in Africa today. Russia SEEKS to bolster its presence in 13. Scary! At the same time, how many countries do you think France has a presence in? Or UK, Italy, US? How about China? And now that we’re on the subject, what do you think they’re all taking out of Africa, leaving the people behind with nothing?

And Russia is supposed to be the threat? You ever heard about Belgian King Leopold and the Congo, and the millions of deaths he caused? 60 years ago there were still African children paraded out in ”human zoos” in Belgium. But Russia is the threat?! How about a history lesson or two?

The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say.


In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump.

Prigozhin is a caterer who runs a troll factory. Not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly poorly written.

The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria. The documents show the scale of Prigozhin-linked recent operations in Africa, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub.

What operations? Catering operations?

Multiple firms linked to the oligarch, including Wagner, are known by employees as the “Company”. Its activities are coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries, the documents suggest.

And we have a picture of the beast. Not scary enough? We’ll get one where he eats babies.

 


Yevgeny Prigozhin in Vladivostok in 2016. Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities.

Oh yeah, sure, Russia only started looking at Africa in 2014. See, stop reading right there…

Russia has a military presence and peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. CAR is described as “strategically important” and a “buffer zone between the Muslim north and Christian south”. It allows Moscow to expand “across the continent”, and Russian companies to strike lucrative mineral deals, the documents say.


On 24 May the Kremlin announced it was dispatching a team of army specialists to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, they will service Russian-made military equipment. So far Moscow has signed military cooperation deals with about 20 African states.

The west, France, UK, US, has literally raped the Congo, richer than any other place on earth in resources, for many many decades. And now that Russia starts looking, the west gets a dumb fcuk like Harding to write up a scare story about it.

Five days later the Kremlin said it would host the first ever Russia-Africa summit in October in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin and Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, will chair the event. About 50 African leaders are due to attend. The aim is to foster political, economic and cultural cooperation.

The leaked documents were obtained by the Dossier Center, an investigative unit based in London. The centre is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and exiled Kremlin critic.

Prigozhin has been approached for comment. He has previously denied any links to the troll factory and has said of Wagner that it does not exist. Putin has previously said that entities linked to Prigozhin do not constitute the Russian state.

A map from December 2018 seen by the Guardian shows the level of cooperation between the “Company” and African governments, country by country. Symbols indicate military, political and economic ties, police training, media and humanitarian projects, and “rivalry with France”. Five is the highest level; one is the lowest.

The closest relations are with CAR, Sudan and Madagascar – all put at five. Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed as four, according to the map, with South Sudan at three, and DRC, Chad and Zambia at two.

Other documents cite Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Mali as “countries where we plan to work”. Libya and Ethiopia are flagged as nations “where cooperation is possible”. The Kremlin has recently stepped up its ground operation in Libya. Last November the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar travelled to Moscow and met the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin was spotted at the talks. Egypt is described as “traditionally supportive”.

 


 

We don’t get to hear where Khodorkovsky got the docs from or how reliable they are, and we don’t get to see any of them. We have to believe Luke Harding on his blue eyes. But even then, is there anything shocking here for the non-Skripal crowd? Or is Harding just once more doing the MI6’s job for them?

The graphic gives an overview of “Company” activities and achievements. It claims credit in CAR for getting of rid of politicians who are “orientated to France”, including national assembly representatives and the foreign minister. This appears to be Charles-Armel Doubane, sacked in December. It has “strengthened” the army and set up newspapers and a radio station. Russia is an “83% friend”, it says.

In Madagascar the new president, Andry Rajoelina, won election with “the Company’s support”, the map says. Russia “produced and distributed the island’s biggest newspaper, with 2 million copies a month”, it adds. Rajoelina denies receiving assistance.

Another key territory is Sudan. Last year Russian specialists drew up a programme of political and economic reform, designed to keep President Omar al-Bashir in power. It included a plan to smear anti-government protesters, apparently copy-pasted from tactics used at home against the anti-Putin opposition. (One memo mistakenly says “Russia” instead of “Sudan”.)

One ploy was to use fake news and videos to portray demonstrators in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities as “anti-Islam”, “pro-Israel” and “pro-LGBT”. The government was told to increase the price of newsprint – to make it harder for critics to get their message out – and to discover “foreigners” at anti-government rallies.

I love it when people like Harding use the term “fake news”. Because he’s the very person who’s been caught producing just that, in the Manafort-visits-Assange article mentioned above. That was 100% fake.

Now, don’t get me wrong please. Of course Russia tries to play out factions and parties and countries against one another. Like all others do. They may do it in Sudan, in Comoros, examples Harding makes claims about, and elsewhere:

[..] Other suggestions in the documents include trans-African road and rail-building schemes. A railway could be built linking Dakar in Senegal with Port Sudan in Sudan, along the “old hajj [pilgrimage] route”. A separate 2,300-mile (3,700km) toll road was proposed connecting Port Sudan with Douala in Cameroon. Neither has so far happened.


A plan to revive “pan-African consciousness” appears closely modelled on the idea of Russkiy Mir, or Russian world. The concept has become fashionable under Putin and signifies Russian power and culture extended beyond current borders.

Have you ever seen purer baloney? Russia trying to get Africa to unite because that would look like some ancient idea of turning the whole world Russian? Maybe Stalin has such ideas, but he was Soviet, not Russian, and Putin, who is Russian, doesn’t have it, as you can grasp from his military expenditures. All Putin wants is to keep Russia safe from American and NATO invasions.

One working paper is titled “African world”. It calls for a developing “African self-identity”. It recommends collecting a database of Africans living in the US and Europe, which might be used to groom “future leaders” and “agents of influence”. The eventual goal is a “loyal chain of representatives across African territory”, the March 2018 paper says.

That little paragraph says it all. There’s not one little letter in there that poses any threat to anyone.

More immediate practical measures include setting up Russian-controlled non-governmental organisations in African states and organising local meetings. It is unclear how many Prigozhin initiatives have actually gone forward. There is evidence that media projects mentioned in the documents are now up and running – albeit with marginal impact. They include a website, Africa Daily Voice, with its HQ in Morocco, and a French-language news service, Afrique Panorama, based in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo. Russian operatives also offer thoughts on global politics. One policy paper, titled “Russian influence in Africa”, says Moscow needs to find “reliable partners among African states” and should establish military bases.

And there the whole story has fizzled out into emptiness. Yeah, it says with some vague thing about military bases, but do you know how many western military bases there are in Africa? Tons. So there’s nothing left, zero, from the original threatening tone Harding started off with, but it doesn’t matter, because who’s going to read the whole thing anyway?

Main thing is, the tone, the narrative, have been established once more. Putin is a big threat, re: Skripal and eating babies, and so are Trump and Assange. And they all work together to bring down your safety and quality of life. No, your own government doesn’t do that!