Thursday, April 21, 2016

military spending is the capitalist world's fuel...,


systemicdisorder |  Is there some sort of altruism in the U.S. setting itself up as the gendarme of the world? Well, that’s a rhetorical question, obviously, but such self-deception is widespread, and not just among the foreign-policy establishment.

One line of critique sometimes heard, especially during this year’s presidential campaign, is that the U.S. should demand its allies “pay their fair share.” It’s not only from Right-wing quarters that phrase is heard, but even from Left populist Bernie Sanders, who insisted during this month’s Brooklyn debate with Hillary Clinton that other members of Nato ought to pay more so the Pentagon budget can be cut. Senator Sanders said this in the context of pointing out the superior social benefits across Europe as compared to the U.S., but what it really implies is that militarism is justified.

Setting aside that Senator Sanders’ record on imperialism is not nearly as distant from Secretary Clinton’s as his supporters believe, it is a reflection of how deeply imperialism is in the bones of United Statesians when even the candidate positioning himself as a Left insurgent doesn’t seriously question the scale of military operations or their purpose.

So why is U.S. military spending so high? It’s because the repeated use of force is what is necessary to maintain the capitalist system. As top dog in the world capitalist system, it’s up the to the U.S. to do what is necessary to keep itself, and its multi-national corporations, in the driver’s seat. That has been a successful project. U.S.-based multi-nationals hold the world’s highest share in 18 of 25 broad industrial sectors, according to an analysis in New Left Review, and often by commanding margins — U.S. multi-nationals hold at least a 40 percent global share in 10 of those sectors.

A partial list of U.S. interventions from 1890, as compiled by Zoltán Grossman, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington state, lists more than 130 foreign military interventions (not including the use of troops to put down strikes within U.S.). Consistently, these were used to impose U.S. dictates on smaller countries.

At the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. President William Howard Taft declared that his foreign policy was “to include active intervention to secure our merchandise and our capitalists opportunity for profitable investment” abroad. Taft overthrew the government of Nicaragua to punish it for taking a loan from a British bank rather than a U.S. bank, and then put Nicaragua’s customs collections under U.S. control and handed two U.S. banks control of Nicaragua’s national bank and railroad. Little has changed since, including the overthrows of the governments of Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Brazil (1964) and Chile (1973), and more recently the invasion of Iraq and the attempted overthrow of the Venezuelan government.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

out of touch, losing control, and facing an imminent discontinuity...,


kunstler |  Health care is now such a blatant, odious, and ruinous racket that it is a little hard to believe that it hasn’t ignited an outright revolution or, at least, a workplace massacre in some insurance company C-suite. It is a well-known fact that most Americans don’t even have $500 to pay for a car repair. How are they supposed to cope with a $5,000 deductible health insurance incident? Answer: they can’t. Their mental health is destroyed in the process of attempting to fix their physical health. Not uncommonly, they have to declare bankruptcy after a routine appendectomy or a visit to the emergency room to set a broken arm. Sometimes, they don’t even bother to go to the doctor, seeing clearly how this plays out. The pharmaceutical industry has, of course, been allowed to convert itself into a simple extortion racket. Got an unusual kind of cancer? We have something that might help. Oh, it costs $43,000 a month….

What kind of a polity allows this cruel and indecent grift to go on? Why, the Obama administration, which allowed the health insurance company lobbyists and their colleagues in Big Pharma to “craft” the Affordable Care Act — the name of which must be the biggest public lie ever floated.

It’s interesting to see how a parallel fraud is playing out in higher ed. I submit the reason that college presidents are not pushing back against the Maoist coercions of the undergraduate social justice warriors is because the marvelous theater of the gender, race, and “privilege” melodrama is a potent distraction from the sad fact that college has turned into a grotesquely top-heavy and high-paying administrative racket offering boutique courses in fake fields (Dartmouth College: WGSS 65.06 Radical Sexuality: Of Color, Wildness, and Fabulosity… Harvard University: WOMGEN 1424:  American Fetish) in order to pander to their young customers (students) conditioned to tragic “oppression” sob stories. All in the service of paying huge salaries + perqs to the dynamic executives running these places.

Then there is banking, a.k.a. the financial system, certainly the greatest racket of rackets, since the fumes it’s running on — combinations of ZIRP, QE, and “forward guidance” (happy talk) — is all that there is to maintain the illusion that “money” remains a reliable gauge of value. Finance is the racket that will go down first and hardest, and when it does, all the other rackets currently running will go up in a vapor. That elephant will storm into the room before the political conventions, and when it does, it will usher in the recognition that nothing can go on as before.

the secret shame of middle-class americans...,


theatlantic |  In my house, we have learned to live a no-frills existence. We halved our mortgage payments through a loan-modification program. We drive a 1997 Toyota Avalon with 160,000 miles that I got from my father when he died. We haven’t taken a vacation in 10 years. We have no credit cards, only a debit card. We have no retirement savings, because we emptied a small 401(k) to pay for our younger daughter’s wedding. We eat out maybe once every two or three months. Though I was a film critic for many years, I seldom go to the movies now. We shop sales. We forgo house and car repairs until they are absolutely necessary. We count pennies.

I don’t ask for or expect any sympathy. I am responsible for my quagmire—no one else. I didn’t get gulled into overextending myself by unscrupulous credit merchants. Basically, I screwed up, royally. I lived beyond my means, primarily because my means kept dwindling. I didn’t take the actions I should have taken, like selling my house and downsizing, though selling might not have covered what I owed on my mortgage. And let me be clear that I am not crying over my plight. I have it a lot better than many, probably most, Americans—which is my point. Maybe we all screwed up. Maybe the 47 percent of American adults who would have trouble with a $400 emergency should have done things differently and more rationally. Maybe we all lived more grandly than we should have. But I doubt that brushstroke should be applied so broadly. Many middle-class wage earners are victims of the economy, and, perhaps, of that great, glowing, irresistible American promise that has been drummed into our heads since birth: Just work hard and you can have it all.

If there is any good news, it is that even as wages have stagnated, a lot of things, especially durable goods like TVs and computers, have been getting steadily cheaper. So, by and large, has clothing (though prices have risen modestly in recent years). Housing costs, as measured by the price per square foot of a median-priced and median-sized home, have been stable, even accounting for huge variations from one real-estate market to another. But some things, like health care and higher education, cost more—a lot more. And, of course, these are hardly trivial items. Life happens, and it happens to cost a lot—sometimes more than we can pay.

Yet even that is not the whole story. Life happens, yes, but shit happens, too—those unexpected expenses that are an unavoidable feature of life. Four-hundred-dollar emergencies are not mere hypotheticals, nor are $2,000 emergencies, nor are … well, pick a number. The fact is that emergencies always arise; they are an intrinsic part of our existence. Financial advisers suggest that we save at least 10 to 15 percent of our income for retirement and against such eventualities. But the primary reason many of us can’t save for a rainy day is that we live in an ongoing storm. Every day, it seems, there is some new, unanticipated expense—a stove that won’t light, a car that won’t start, a dog that limps, a faucet that leaks. And those are only the small things. In a survey of American finances published last year by Pew, 60 percent of respondents said they had suffered some sort of “economic shock” in the past 12 months—a drop in income, a hospital visit, the loss of a spouse, a major repair. More than half struggled to make ends meet after their most expensive economic emergency. Even 34 percent of the respondents who made more than $100,000 a year said they felt strain as a result of an economic shock. Again, I know. After the job loss, the co‑op board’s rejections, the tax penalties, there was one more wallop: A publisher with whom I had signed a book contract, and from whom I had received an advance, sued me to have the advance returned after I missed a deadline. (Book deadlines are commonly missed and routinely extended.)

In effect, economics comes down to a great Bruce Eric Kaplan New Yorker cartoon that was captioned: “We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

this let them eat cake brookings bat's vote is worth millions of you filthy peasants votes....,


brookings |  Elaine C. Kamarck is a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at Brookings and the director of the Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings. She is a public sector scholar with wide experience in government, academia and politics.  Kamarck is an expert on government innovation and reform in the United States, OECD countries and developing countries.  In addition, she also focuses her research on the presidential nomination system and American politics and has worked in many American presidential campaigns. Kamarck is the author of "Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates."

yahoo |   What do you think of Trump’s complaint that the system is corrupt and unfair?Trump’s out of his f***ing mind. Every single presidential candidate except for him knows what this system is. It’s not corrupt. It’s the system by which the parties pick their nominee. Parties are protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of assembly. No American is forced to participate.
Parties are institutions. They have an interest in preserving their brand. Coca-Cola doesn’t let Pepsi participate in their brand. Republicans don’t let Democrats participate in their brand. This is a party decision, and parties make these decisions based on their institutional health. Meaning, if you put someone at the top of the ticket that is so unpopular that you lose the House of Representatives, you’re not doing the right thing for your party.

The voters have been included to keep parties from getting really out of touch. In 1968, Democrats did not understand the depths of the antiwar sentiment in their party and cut [Vietnam War opponents] out of their convention. This time, the Republican Party didn’t understand the anger of voters for Trump. But the bottom line is, this is not a public decision — it’s a party decision.

Do you want that on the record, that Trump is out of his f***ing mind?Yes. He’s out of his f***ing mind. He’s an a******. No other candidate has ever run for president so unprepared.

Do you think his arguments will influence the way we choose nominees?The systems will only change if the parties themselves decide to change them. My guess is the system will move in the other direction from where Trump wants it to, with parties taking greater control of the nominations to keep them from being captured by people who sully the brand.

Trump is essentially arguing for direct democracy.Exactly. He is arguing [for] direct democracy. The Congress has considered a national primary many times. Political parties, however, will never be for it. The current system is very open through the primaries and caucuses and to letting new people participate. At the same time, it has an insider piece to it. That’s why the system has persisted for 40-some years.

The general election is a different story because it’s a constitutionally sanctioned thing. The parties are a different thing. Parties have the right to say this person is not a Democrat or a Republican. They are voluntary associations of citizens. They are semipublic organizations. No democracy has ever managed to function without parties. They are crucial for organizing the electorate and helping people govern.

State Power, or something else? (quote starts at 6:00 in:)


I have often thought that our economies should have crashed thru the floor several years back, either because of declining net energy, or the debt burg. Yet, here we are, limping along, with very little blood in the streets...  

"Now many people, particularly the economic experts, believed that by the end of 1938 the Nazi economic policies would fail. We all, myself included, underestimated what could be achieved through state power; through pay freezes, through price freezes, through exchange controls, and
though the use of concentration camps. It lasted longer than one would have thought."* - Johannes Zahn, Economist & Banker since 1931, on the situation of a looming, second German hyperinflation due to loans taken out to rearm Germany.

The Nazis - A Warning From History, Episode 3 Part 2

cities


radiolab |  There's no scientific metric for measuring a city's personality. But step out on the sidewalk, and you can see and feel it. Two physicists explain one tidy mathematical formula that they believe holds the key to what drives a city. Yet math can't explain most of the human-scale details that make urban life unique. So we head out in search of what the numbers miss, and meet a reluctant city dweller, a man who's walked 700 feet below Manhattan, and a once-thriving community that's slipping away.

Monday, April 18, 2016

u.s. elections are rigged and voting goes on just to pacify the peasants...,


antimedia  |  Dr. Ron Paul says the American electoral system is rigged to keep “independent thinkers” from succeeding.

“I see elections as so much of a charade,” the former Texas congressman said during an April 11 appearance on RT America’s “The Fishtank.” “So much deceit goes on.”
                                                            
Paul is no stranger to the twisted rules of the American presidential horse race. He ran for the highest office as a Libertarian in 1988, and in 2008 and 2012 as a Republican.

He arguably came closest to the nomination in 2012, when the GOP amended its party regulations to prevent the former Texas representative from stealing Mitt Romney’s thunder.

Rule 40(b) of “The Rules of the Republican Party” was changed so the Republican National Committee could “limit the visibility and power of libertarian-minded Texas Rep. Ron Paul at the convention and thus present a unified front behind Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee,” 
according to David Byler, an elections analyst at RealClearPolitics. The rule requires that, in order to win the nomination, a candidate must have the support of a majority of delegates from eight states.
Although recent wins have tipped Sen. Ted Cruz past the cut off, the rule as written came close to helping Trump take the nomination. Paul warned that the GOP’s machinations to block Donald Trump are a sign of a corrupt, undemocratic system.

to protect Granny Goodness, democrats wage war on their own core Citizens United argument...,


theintercept |  FOR YEARS, THE Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United was depicted by Democrats as the root of all political evil. But now, the core argument embraced by the Court’s conservatives to justify their ruling has taken center stage in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — because Clinton supporters, to defend the huge amount of corporate cash on which their candidate is relying, frequently invoke that very same reasoning.

The crux of the Citizens United ruling was that a legal ban on independent corporate campaign expenditures constituted a limit on political speech without sufficient justification, and thus violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. A primary argument of the Obama Justice Department and Democrats generally in order to uphold that campaign finance law was that corporate expenditures are so corrupting of the political process that limits are justified even if they infringe free speech. In rejecting that view, this was the key argument of Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the five-judge conservative majority (emphasis added):
For the reasons explained above, we now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.
Does that sound familiar? It should. That key argument of the right-wing justices in Citizens United has now become the key argument of the Clinton campaign and its media supporters to justify her personal and political receipt of millions upon millions of dollars in corporate money: “Expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” — at least when the candidate in question is Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, the Clinton argument actually goes well beyond the Court’s conservatives: In Citizens United, the right-wing justices merely denied the corrupting effect of independent expenditures (i.e., ones not coordinated with the campaign). But Clinton supporters in 2016 are denying the corrupting effect of direct campaign donations by large banks and corporations and, even worse, huge speaking fees paid to an individual politician shortly before and after that person holds massive political power.

Another critical aspect of the right-wing majority argument in Citizens United was that actual corruption requires proof of a “quid pro quo” arrangement: meaning that the politician is paid to vote a certain way (which is, basically, bribery). Prior precedent, said the Citizens United majority, “was limited to quid pro quo corruption,” quoting a prior case as holding that “the hallmark of corruption is the financial quid pro quo: dollars for political favors.”

Does that sound familiar? It should. That, too, has become a core Clinton-supporting argument: Look, if you can’t prove that Hillary changed her vote in exchange for Goldman Sachs speaking fees or JPMorgan Chase donations (and just by the way, Elizabeth Warren believes she can prove that), then you can’t prove that these donations are corrupting. After all, argue Clinton supporters (echoing the Citizens United majority), “the hallmark of corruption is the financial quid pro quo: dollars for political favors.”

close to half of all superPAC money comes from just 50 donors...,


WaPo |  A small core of super-rich individuals is responsible for the record sums cascading into the coffers of super PACs for the 2016 elections, a dynamic that harks back to the financing of presidential campaigns in the Gilded Age.

Close to half the money — 41 percent — raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 mega-donors and their relatives, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports. Thirty-six of those are Republican supporters who have invested millions in trying to shape the GOP nomination contest — accounting for more than 70 percent of the money from the top 50.

In all, donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 million that the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections.

The staggering amounts reflect how super PACs have become fundraising powerhouses just six years after they came on the scene. The concentration of fundraising power carries echoes of the end of the 19th century, when wealthy interests spent millions to help put former Ohio governor William McKinley in the White House.

not just manufacturing, the global slowdown is monetary



alhambrapartners |  The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago (h/t ZeroHedge) on the status of the ongoing disruption in domestic production of long haul trucks and vehicles. In what can only be confirmation of the state of US manufacturing, the huge drop in orders for new trucks matches shippers’ perceptions of the actual economic flow in goods. While economists want that to be an isolated circumstance of only manufacturing, goods activities account for a significant proportion of services as well. And it is getting bad:
Orders for new big rigs plunged and inventories of unsold trucks soared to their highest levels since just before the financial crisis, as uncertainty about future demand and a weak market for freight transportation weighed on truck manufacturers.

About 67,000 Class 8 trucks are sitting unsold on dealer lots, after sales in March dropped 37% from a year earlier to 16,000 vehicles, according to ACT Research. Class 8 trucks are the type most commonly used on long-haul routes. Inventories haven’t been this high since early 2007, said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT.
It leaves no doubt that “something” is very wrong now in manufacturing and normal economic flow.
“Fleets are being very cautious in the current uncertain economic environment,” wrote Don Ake, a vice president with FTR Transportation Intelligence, which reported similar order numbers for March. “Freight has slowed due to the manufacturing recession, so they have sufficient trucks to meet current demand.”
Some of this reduction in 2016, as the Journal reports, is due to companies over-ordering in 2014 and 2015 based on the narrative that the economy was actually healing, or at worse would stay in its “new normal.” It raises the issue as to whether these conditions and the manufacturing recession they reflect are cyclical or structural; or both.

As I wrote yesterday, the contraction in goods and the US economy’s basis for them may or may not be heading toward recession. It is clear, however, that whatever the ultimate cycle reality there are deeper imbalances that run back several years, likely traced to decades of financialization that is now overturning, and thus really supersedes cyclical discussion. What we see in the US is not limited to the US, however; it is a global phenomenon, which can only mean one possible explanation.

the steady collapse of the steel economy


aljazeera |  Steel is found everywhere from bridges to sinks, but the global steel industry is going through the worst downturn in 50 years.

An unbalanced supply and demand equation has left even China, the world's largest producer and consumer of steel, calling for global cooperation to try and tackle the industry's problems.
But while China is calling for cooperation, many blame China's steel mills for flooding the market with cheap supply.

Over in the UK, Tata Steel, an Indian company, put its entire business up for sale, blaming cheap Chinese imports for its decision.

The UK boasts the world's oldest steel industry and Port Talbot in south Wales is home to Britain's largest steel plant.

With the UK steel industry on the verge of collapse, we see how tens of thousands of jobs are at risk with the imminent closure, or at least significant downsizing, of the Port Talbot steelworks, which has already been on the decline for decades. 

Although many blame the cheap steel making its way from China, others are also say the UK government has not offered the steel industry enough protection to help it stay competitive.
Steelmakers in China are also suffering. When China outlined its latest five year plan it said that job cuts in the steel sector were likely.

In China, we see how job losses in the steel industry have become more commonplace. With the economy growing at its slowest pace in 25 years and steel mills producing at overcapacity with the lack of demand for raw materials, China has been exporting steel at low prices. Economists say, however, this is only a short-term solution and companies will need to restructure to be efficient.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

curiously satisfying to see this trash taking itself out...,


zerohedge |  We now introduce you to someone who may be one of these rich kids' dad. Or rather was, because Gang Yuan, a 42-year-old mining tycoon is no longer alive. His corpse was found chopped into 100 pieces in his Vancouver home

According to a civil lawsuit, Yuan came to Canada in 2007 with permanent resident status and made his money by investing in real estate and Saskatchewan farmland, in the process becoming the owner of a at least one abandoned multimillion-dollar Vancouver home... and much more.

As The Province reports, Yuan has been linked to a government corruption scandal in southwestern China. He is also a shining example of how most of the billions in hot money flooding Vancouver real estate funds are sourced: illegally. This story helps to shed some light on the origina of at least a modest amount of that money.

The scandal led to a 19-year jail term for Yunnan province official Lin Yunye.  Yunye was jailed last November for selling $234 million in state mining assets to a number of businessmen from whom he accepted tens of millions in bribes - including gold bars, luxury watches and rhinoceros horns.

The full details follows:

Yunnan, where Yunye was deputy director of land and resources, is a province of lush, bamboo-covered mountains. It is also known as China’s gem-trading hub because of its border with Myanmar, a failed state with bounties of ruby and jade stones that are illicitly smuggled into Yunnan.
Gem exchanges, $50,000 gold bars, a $500,000 bribe, and deals benefiting two Vancouver-area tycoons feature in the lengthy record of charges proven against Yunye in Yunnan Provincial Court. The verdict states Yunye abused his power from 2007 until his arrest in 2014.

the entire status quo is a fraud...,


oftwominds |  Fraud as a way of life caters an extravagant banquet of consequences.
This can't be said politely: the entire status quo in America is a fraud.
The financial system is a fraud.
The political system is a fraud.
National Defense is a fraud.
The healthcare system is a fraud.
Higher education is a fraud.
The mainstream corporate media is a fraud.
Culture--from high to pop--is a fraud.
Need I go on?
We have come to accept fraud as standard operating practice in America, to the detriment of everything that was once worthy. why is this so?
One reason, which I outline in my book A Radically Beneficial World: Automation, Technology and Creating Jobs for All, is that centralized hierarchies select for fraud and incompetence. Now that virtually every system in America is centralized or regulated by centralized hierarchies, every system in America is fraudulent and incompetent.
Nassim Taleb explains this further in his recent article How To Legally Own Another Person (via Lew G.)
The three ingredients of fraud are abundant: pressure (to get an A, to please your boss, to make your sales numbers, etc.), rationalization (everybody's doing it) and opportunity. 
Taleb explains why failure and fraud become the status quo: admitting error and changing course are risky, and everyone who accepts the servitude of working in a centralized hierarchy--by definition, obedience to authority is the #1 requirement-- is averse to risk.
As as I explain in my book, these systems select for risk aversion and the appearance of obedience to rules and authority while maximizing personal gain: in other words, fraud as a daily way of life. 
Truth is a dangerous poison in centralized hierarchies: anyone caught telling the truth risks a tenner in bureaucratic Siberia. (In the Soviet Gulag ,a tenner meant a ten-year sentence to a labor camp in Siberia.) 
And so the truth is buried, sent to a backwater for further study, obfuscated by jargon, imprisoned by a Top Secret stamp, or simply taken out and executed.Everyone in the system maximizes his/her personal gain by going along with the current trajectory, even if that trajectory is taking the nation off the cliff. 

madame let them eat cake at it again...,


guardian |  The leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have warned that the industrial scale of international tax avoidance revealed by the Panama Papers represents a “great concern” for the global economy and is having a “tremendously negative effect on our mission to end poverty”.

Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, said the revelations that many of the world’s richest and most powerful people are avoiding paying millions in taxes by hiding money from the taxman in offshore havens is a “great, great concern” and “very, very damaging” to the bank’s “mission to end extreme poverty”.

“When taxes are evaded, when state assets are taken and put into these havens, all of these things can have a tremendous negative effect on our mission to end poverty and boost prosperity,” Kim said as he opened the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Washington. 

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, said the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, showed that “the [international tax] rules appear to be skewed towards” the global rich. 

“Clearly what has resulted from the review of these Panama Papers indicates that however important [international tax rules to prevent] base erosion and profit shifting … it is unfinished business,” she said in an opening address to the meeting. 

Lagarde said more global cooperation is needed to stop tax avoidance and to ensure “the net does not have little loopholes here and there”. “A lot of things have gone global but there is one thing that has not gone global and that is tax. It is still very much a local affair,” she said. “International cooperation really has to be significantly improved and we are happy to play our part.”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

the engineered implosion of the house of saud...,


uprootedpalestinians |  For a while there have been incessant rumors, from London to New York, and across the Middle East, of a possible coup in Riyadh.

Now a policy-making source with intimate knowledge not only of the House of Saud but its real masters in the Washington/Wall Street axis has offered an unprecedented glimpse into the current, groundbreaking power play in the Kingdom.

According to the source, «Prince Mohammed bin Salman really does realize what is happening. He is being set up. He is surrounded by consultants going over the entire Saudi economic system aiming for its reorganization – which is certainly necessary. And some of these consultants at the same time are organizing the data for the CIA. This would make any transition away from the monarchy – which the CIA loathes – much easier, towards a favored military officer».

And this would also imply that some of Aramco’s Western employees – hired to hold the place together – are your proverbial CIA agents; a classic cover for clandestine ops.

The whole process started a while ago, in April 2014, when there were rumblings in Riyadh about a move to get rid of King Abdullah. Eventually a compromise was struck; Bandar bin Sultan, a.k.a. Bandar Bush – who badly bundled the war in Syria via his sponsorship of an army of Jihadis – was fired as the real culprit in this Saudi-led war of terror. And Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was promoted to number two in the Kingdom – duly under the orders of His Masters’ Voice in Washington. As he was anointed Crown Prince, Nayef was all but enshrined as the next King in the succession of King Salman.

What the publicity-savvy young Salman wants is to turn the tables. He sees himself as his father’s successor. Yet internal resistance is fierce. According to the source, «it does not play well among the poor masses of the Kingdom that he brags about a two-trillion-dollar stock value of Aramco when they are suffering the removal of House of Saud subsidies». As for the Saudi oil wealth, the young Salman deceptively does not believe «the decline in oil prices poses a threat to us, for us it’s a free market that is governed by supply and demand».

saudi secrets at risk of a global airing...,


NYTimes |  Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.

Several outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy. But the threat is another sign of the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The administration, which argues that the legislation would put Americans at legal risk overseas, has been lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families of Sept. 11 victims are infuriated. In their view, the Obama administration has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.

“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the legislation.

cable news missrepresented and underreported mass protests of political corruption on capital hill...,


theintercept |  THE DEMOCRACY SPRING, a protest movement calling on Congress to “end the corruption of big money in our politics” and “ensure free and fair elections,” converged on Capitol Hill on Monday, staging a nonviolent sit-in that resulted in over 400 arrests — a massive number by Washington sit-in standards.

While the action, dubbed #DemocracySpring, garnered wide coverage on social media and over 136,000 tweets, cable news programs found little time to cover the political protests, instead focusing largely on horse-race coverage of the presidential candidates for most of the day.

During daytime and afternoon news segments, CNN did not devote any coverage to the actions. MSNBC mentioned the protests for approximately 12 seconds, while Fox News mentioned the arrests and discussed the protests for about 17 seconds.

MSNBC and Fox News not only provided minimal coverage, but hosts on both networks misrepresented the protests, claiming they were narrowly focused only on “voting rights issues.” The focus on systemic political corruption, an issue that was widely criticized during the rally yesterday, was ignored.

Later in the day, CNN posted a short item on its website. The protests were widely covered by CSPAN, Al Jazeera, and NPR, among other outlets. But cable news programs, which specialize in American political news, were another story. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

naked political corruption in high places: how payoffs to politicians look everywhere else but here...,


acting-man |  The revelations about the prime ministers account are connected to the so-called 1MBD scandal involving Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. The fund has been an utter disaster, “mislaying” some $4 billion in total – and its advisory board is chaired by none other than Najib Razak.

Two things have piqued our interest: for one thing, we were beginning to wonder about the fact that Najib Razak actually remains in office and has so far successfully deflected all attempts to unseat him over the scandal, including massive public protests (however, the air is clearly getting thinner now).

Secondly, ABC has recently sent a team of investigators to Malaysia, who were briefly arrested after attempting to ask the prime minister a few questions. For a while it looked like they may actually face jail time, but that was probably considered one step too far and they were let go after two weeks. They were in Kuala Lumpur while filming a documentary on the still burgeoning scandal.

The documentary – “State of Fear: Murder and Money in Malaysia” – is truly fascinating. As the blurb at ABC’s web site says:

“It’s a story of intrigue, corruption and multiple murders, stretching from the streets of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, to Switzerland, France and the US as well as Hong Kong and Singapore, all the way to Australia’s doorstep.”

the goldman-sachs settlement is an abomination and an insult to all americans...,


libertyblitzkrieg |  The increased use of eminent domain to transfer property to powerful political interests, the ramifications of the wars on terrorism and drugs, and the violation of the property rights of bondholders in the auto-bailout case have weakened the tradition of strong adherence to the rule of law in United States. We believe these factors have contributed to the sharp decline in the rating for the legal-system area.

To a large degree, the United States has experienced a significant move away from rule of law and toward a highly regulated, politicized, and heavily policed state.


The American public should be out in the streets by the hundreds of thousands demanding the resignation of President Barack Obama in response to the total sham settlement just announced by the U.S. government with Goldman Sachs. This farce should be seen for what it really is; a gigantic establishment middle finger waving contemptuously in the face of the reliably neutered and long-suffering American public.

A criminal financial organization that engaged in billions upon billions in fraud against the “muppet” public is once again getting off with barely a slap on the wrist and nobody’s going to do a thing about it. As I’ve said for years and years, until the public says enough is enough nothing is going to change. I suppose that’s simply not going to happen until the next economic downturn, which could emerge in earnest any day now.

David Dayan knows as much about this issue as anyone, and he just penned a scathing assessment of this perversion of justice at the New Republic. Here are a few excerpts from his piece, Why the Goldman Sachs Settlement Is a $5 Billion Sham:

all TBTFB's kept playing wild and loose after 2008 meltdown/bailout - CUZ SOMEBODY LET THEM!!!


reuters |  When Cubic Energy Inc's bankruptcy plan took effect on March 1, shareholders of the Dallas-based oil and gas company were wiped out. Among the losers was Wells Fargo & Co.

The bank had a nearly 10 percent stake in Cubic Energy at the end of 2015 - worth more than $25 million at the company's peak - through a private equity-style unit called Wells Fargo Energy Capital.

The No. 3 U.S. bank by assets, like its rivals, has billions of dollars' worth of exposure to the struggling energy industry through regular loans that are souring. But the case of Cubic Energy shows that Wells Fargo went further into risky areas than other banks, and may now face a reckoning.

The whole sector has been devastated by a 60 percent plunge in oil prices from highs of over $100 a barrel in 2014. The price drop has squeezed energy firms, especially smaller ones, and made it harder for them to pay back loans.

Some of Wells Fargo's most volatile exposure sits within Wells Fargo Energy Capital, a unit that sought fat returns through equity investments and high-risk loans to small companies like Cubic Energy, assuming the energy boom would last.

On top of the equity investment, Cubic owed Wells Fargo nearly $30 million in debt as of Nov. 30, according to its reorganization plan. The bank received land and other assets in Louisiana as part of the reorganization.

What those Louisiana assets are worth today is anyone's guess, said Jon Ross, who was Cubic's vice president of operations until it collapsed.