Amid the chaos of James Comey’s firing, new questions about the timeline of his fateful investigation Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared on This Week Sunday, and said some head-scratching things. Clapper back in March told Meet the Press that when he issued a January 6th multiagency intelligence community assessment about Russian interference in the election, the report didn’t include evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, essentially saying he hadn’t been aware of any such evidence up through January 20th, his last day in office. On Sunday, he said that didn’t necessarily mean there was no such evidence, because sometimes he left it up to agency chiefs like former FBI Director James Comey to inform him about certain things. “I left it to the judgment [of] Director Comey,” Clapper said, “to decide whether, when and what to tell me about counterintelligence investigations.” Clapper said something similar when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Monday. In prepared remarks, he essentially said that there was nothing odd about his not being informed about the existence of an FBI counterintelligence investigation involving Donald Trump’s campaign.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 21, 2017.
In a move that will surely light the proverbial lightbulb over Donald Trump’s head, Brazilian President Michel Temer, having been officially dragged into Brazil’s massive corruption scandal after a record emerged in which he urged the payment of “hush money”, said on Saturday he would ask the Supreme Court to suspend its investigation into allegations he was also involved in the carwash corruption scheme, vowing to remain in power. Speaking during a televised address on Saturday afternoon, Brazil’s deeply unpopular president, who replaced a just as deeply unpopular president last year when Dilma Rouseff was impeached, claimed the recording that implicated him in the scandal was doctored and said he would file a petition with the Supreme Court to suspend the investigation until it could be verified, the WSJ reported. In the recording cited by Temer, which unleashed a historic crash of the Brazilian stock market and currency on Thursday when news of Temer’s involvement broke, the president can be heard chatting with Joesley Batista, chairman and heir of the beef-and-chicken JBS empire, apparently him his approval to pay the jailed former speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha – the man responsible for Dilma Rouseff’s ouster last year – to buy his silence. Batista, who made the recording and gave it to prosecutors in hopes for prosecutorial leniency against JBS, said the recording wasn’t edited.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 20, 2017.
#WikiLeaks informer Seth Rich murdered in US but MSM was so busy accusing Russian hackers to take notice. pic.twitter.com/0XVezTyfHM — Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) May 19, 2017
Earlier this week, Fox News dropped a bombshell report officially confirming, via anonymous FBI sources, what many had suspected for quite some time, that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was the WikiLeaks source for leaks which proved that the DNC was intentially undermining the campaign of Bernie Sanders. In addition to exposing the utter corruption of the DNC, the leaks cost Debbie Wasserman Shcultz her job as Chairwoman. At the time, we mockingly wondered why the mainstream media seemingly overlooked a huge new development in a highly suspicious unsolved murder case. Finally, we find it ‘shocking’ that while the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc are all too eager to regurgitate each others anonymously sourced stories that are critical of Trump, not a single one of them had a single reference of this Fox News bombshell on their website at the time this article was published. Turns out we weren’t alone, as the Russian Embassy in the U. K. just sent out the following tweet: “#WikiLeaks informer Seth Rich murdered in US but MSM was so busy accusing Russian hackers to take notice.”
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 19, 2017.
#protest now in #SoPaulo against #Brazil #Temer caught negotiating kickbacks & for direct elections in the country (photo: Dani Sampaio) pic.twitter.com/t4ojSzwyoe — ana cernov (@anacernov) May 18, 2017
The presidency of Brazil’s Michel Temer, who replaced disgraced and impeached predecessor Dilma Rouseff last summer, lasted about one year without a major corruption scandal. That changed tonight, when Brazil’s O Globo newspaper which was instrumental in exposing the Carwash scandal which ultimately led to Rouseff’s downfall and the arrest and incarceration of countless politicians, reported that the chairman of meatpacking giant JBS secretly recorded his discussion with Temer about “hush money” payments to jailed former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha in return for his silence. The allegations are the latest development in Operation Carwash, a sprawling corruption probe that has implicated many of Brazil’s business and political elite, including some in the president’s own party. Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Readers may recall that in a delightfully ironic case study of political irony and power vacuum, Eduardo Cunha, the conservative Brazilian political leader who led the push in 2016 to oust Dilma Rousseff, was sentenced in March to more than 15 years in prison himself, when a Brazil judge found him guilty of corruption, money laundering and illegally sending money abroad, all in connection with the sprawling graft investigation involving the state-run oil company Petrobras, and which Cunha himself used as a pretext to dispose of Rouseff.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 18, 2017.
Macron’s funding reveals that elite Socialists were really behind him changing the label to sell a centrist agenda, but in reality, to maintain their agenda. Macron was able to raise funds from French abroad with the promises of change, and this targeted particularly the French who fled Hollande living in London and New York. He did a photo-op with Nobel Prize laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz before journalists who is critical of the management of globalization, against laissez-faire economists who he classifies a ‘free market fundamentalists’, as well as international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Stiglitz is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University and is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. He was also a former member and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton and supported Hillary over Obama saying she is more ‘liberal’ (socialist) than Obama. Stiglitz believes in Georgism, which is a variety of Marxism whereby the State should own all the resources derived from land, which is an old Physicocrat(French) idea that wealth is derived from land. In this way, all natural resources should belong to government from mining to energy just for starters as if government operated industries ever ran efficient or were free from corruption. He also supported a single tax for all and believes that, while people should own the value what they produce themselves with everything derived from land should belong to government characterized as belonging equally to all members of society (government).
With Moon Jae-In’s victory in South Korea, the period of tension on the Korean Peninsula is likely to end. With the rise to power of the new president, South Korea can expect a sharp decline in hostilities with North Korea as well as a resumption of dialogue with China. An expected and highly anticipated victory was confirmed in South Korea on May 9, with candidate Moon winning South Korea’s presidential race over his rivals Hong Joon-pyo (Liberty Korea Party) and Ahn Cheol-soo (People’s Party). After the resignation and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye over an immense corruption scandal, public opinion turned away from her party in favour of the main opposition representative, a center-left lawyer specializing in humanitarian issues. Moon spent several years in the opposition party advocating for greater cooperation in the region and dialogue with Pyongyang as well as with Beijing, representing quite a contrast to Guen-Hye’s pro-Americanism. Along the lines of Duterte in the Philippines, Moon intends to resume dialogue with all partners in order not to limit his options in the international arena. Such an approach reflects the essence of the multipolar world order: cooperation and dialogue with all partners in order to achieve a win-win outcome. Looking at the situation in the region, the victory of a politician who seems to have every intention of negotiating an agreement rather than supporting military escalation seems to provide for a hopeful future for China and her neighbors. The level of cooperation and trade between South Korea and China is fundamental to the economy of both countries, so a return to the negotiating table over the issues surrounding the deployment of THAAD are a hopeful sign that the business communities of China and South Korea value deeply.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 15, 2017.
An American citizen has been taken into custody on suspicion of ‘hostile acts’ against the North Korean government, officials said Sunday. ‘A relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Kim Hak Song on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspension of his hostile acts against it,’ the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. ‘A relevant institution is now conducting a detailed investigation into his crimes,’ the Agency added. An employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Kim is the fourth American citizen to be held by the North Korean regime, and the second to be detained in just two weeks. Another U. S. citizen, Kim Sang Duk, also known as ‘Tony Kim,’ was arrested on Apr. 22 at Pyongyang Airport under suspicion of similar charges, ‘committing criminal acts of hostility’ against the regime.
Republican Senator John McCain is rather perturbed that president Donald Trump fired FBI director, James Comey. His disappointment, though, is hard to understand considering the turn on Comey by the government as of late. Republicans, by and large, had a lot of great things to say about James Comey when he chose to look into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal during the presidential election last year. Oddly, the political right also seemed to really love WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange for releasing the ‘Podesta emails’ which showed corruption withing the DNC and Hillary’s campaign team, themselves. So why the dramatic turn? After yesterday’s announcement that Comey had been fired by Trump at the suggestion of Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, McCain said he is ‘disappointed’ with President Trump’s decision. ‘While the President has the legal authority to remove the Director of the FBI, I am disappointed in the President’s decision to remove James Comey from office,’ McCain said in a statement. McCain argued that such a move reinforces his calls for a special congressional panel to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump said he fired Comey over the handling of Hillary’s email scandal. But there is probably a whole lot more to it than that. Because WikiLeaks has confirmed that Russia was not the source of the leaked Podesta emails, the source of the Russian hacking, it appears that this is all likely intertwined. But finding the glue to stick this all together has proven difficult.
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that he might support breaking up big banks, Wall Street isn’t worried. Yet. The calm is fueled by signals from administration aides in private meetings with industry executives to discuss rolling back financial rules, a Trump priority. While not making any assurances, the officials aren’t harping on the issue, according to people who have participated in or been briefed on the discussions. In fact, the topic of reviving Glass-Steagall, the 1933 law separating investment and commercial banking, rarely comes up. Just last month, Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn eased the concerns of at least two bank chief executives officers who called him after he spoke approvingly of Glass-Steagall in a meeting with senators, people familiar with the matter said. Neither Cohn nor the Treasury Department’s Craig Phillips made a case for splitting up banks when they met recently with an important financial lobbying group, said some attendees. There is also a sense in the industry that lawmakers have little appetite to take on another controversial legislative fight, especially one that would anger big donors. Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, are particularly loath to support such a dramatic reshaping of the banking system.
Debt is serfdom, capital in all its forms is freedom. If we accept that our financial system is nothing but a wealth-transfer mechanism from the productive elements of our economy to parasitic, neofeudal rentier-cartels and self-serving state fiefdoms, that raises a question: what do we do about it? The typical answer seems to be: deny it, ignore it, get distracted by carefully choreographed culture wars or shrug fatalistically and put one’s shoulder to the debt-serf grindstone. There is another response, one that very few pursue: fanatic frugality in service of financial-political independence. Debt-serfs and dependents of the state have no effective political power, as noted yesterday in It Isn’t What You Earn and Owe, It’s What You Own That Generates Income. There are only three ways to accumulate productive capital/assets: marry someone with money, inherit money or accumulate capital/savings and invest it in productive assets. (We’ll leave out lobbying the Federal government for a fat contract or tax break, selling derivatives designed to default and the rest of the criminal financial skims and scams used so effectively by the New Nobility financial elites.)
In February 2000, the FOMC quietly switched from the CPI to the PCE Deflator as its standard for inflation measurement. There were various technical reasons for doing so, including the CPI’s employment of a geometric mean basis (which was in 2015 finally altered to a Constant Elasticity of Substitution formula). But it was one phrase that in hindsight did the Fed no favors, as it explicitly cited the expected fruits of the PCE Deflator’s methodology which would ‘avoid some of the upward bias associated with the fixed-weight nature of the CPI.’ I am not a conspiracist by any means, but there are times when you have to shake your head as these economists lack even a modicum of self-awareness. The central bank has been given a legal mandate for price stability, so the average American might wonder why that central bank is allowed to choose the measure most inherently stable (and low). At the very least, it seems like a conflict of interest, one among so many. In that regard, the last five years have been almost fitting. The PCE Deflator has, as expected, avoided the higher beta tendencies of the CPI and in both directions. For that, it has remained stable, alright, but stable below target no matter what the Fed does with its own balance sheet. I hope the irony is not lost on them, especially as it was oil prices that ‘achieved’ what they could not despite considerable expenditure on their part.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn likely broke the law by failing to disclose foreign income he earned from Russia and Turkey, the heads of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday. As The Washington Post reports, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said they believe Flynn neither received permission nor fully disclosed income he earned for a speaking engagement in Russia and lobbying activities on behalf of Turkey when he applied to reinstate his security clearance, after viewing two classified memos and Flynn’s disclosure form in a private briefing Tuesday morning.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 25, 2017.
Paycheck to Paycheck GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – The Dow was down 118 points on Wednesday. It should have been down a lot more. Of course, markets know more than we do. And maybe this market knows something that makes sense of these high prices. What we see are reasons to sell, not reasons to buy. Nearly half of all American families live ‘paycheck to paycheck,’ say researchers. Without borrowing, 46% couldn’t raise $400 to cover an emergency. This is at least part of the reason why retail sales dropped for the second month in a row in March. Despite seven years of economic ‘recovery,’ millions of Americans don’t have much money. According to Census Bureau figures, 110 million Americans receive benefits from means-tested federal programs – food stamps, disability, and the like. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 125 million Americans have full-time work (with another roughly 112 million without jobs). That means there are only 125 million people in full-time jobs supporting the whole kit and caboodle of the U. S. economy, with a total population of 323 million. At that rate, each full-time worker supports about 2.6 people… including almost one person receiving money from the feds. They are also supporting a government debt of $20 trillion and private debt of another $40 trillion or so. That puts the debt-to-full-time-worker ratio at $480,000. The average salary for a full-time worker is just $48,000. At a modest 5% interest, his share of the debt cost would set him back $24,000 each year. He’d have only the remaining $24,000 to support (1) his own family… and (2) all the malingerers, cronies, and zombies who are drawing government benefits. Obviously, those numbers don’t work. But they explain much of the weakness in the U. S. economy. The feds’ cheap credit keeps moving money (mostly in the form of asset price increases) to the wealthiest ZIP codes… while the average person’s budget gets tighter and tighter.
This post was published at Acting-Man on April 21, 2017.
When “socialist” states have to impose finance-capital extremes that even exceed the financialization of nominally capitalist economies, it gives the lie to their claims of “socialism.” OK, so our collective eyes start glazing over when we see Marx and Orwell in the subject line, but refill your beverage and stay with me on this. We’re going to explore the premise that what’s called “socialism”–yes, Scandinavian-style socialism and its variants–is really nothing more than finance-capital state-cartel elitism that has done a better job of co-opting its debt-serfs than its state-cartel “capitalist” cronies. We have to start with the question “what is socialism”? The standard definition is: a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. In practice, the community as a whole is the state. Either the state owns a controlling interest in the enterprise, or it controls the surplus (profits), labor rules, etc. via taxation and regulation.
Taxpayers are forced to cover much of the costs of defense attorneys for highly-paid federal managers facing termination or criminal charges, thanks to a cozy deal engineered in part by a law firm whose lobbyists helped draft and gain passage of legislation requiring it, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group (TheDCNF) has found. Lobbyists for the Washington, D. C., law firm Shaw, Bransford & Roth (Roth) – which earns its money representing federal employees who are being disciplined – ‘proposed’ and secured passage of the obscure bill Congress passed in 1996, according to the website of a group connected to the firm. That bill requires taxpayers to pay for legal insurance for management-level employees. Roth lawyer Anthony Vergnetti then left the firm to launch the Federal Employee Defense Services (FEDS), just such a legal insurance business that, Vergnetti acknowledges, primarily steers clients to Roth when they have insurance claims, and profits off their premiums when they don’t. Roth got its legislative sway by operating through the Senior Executives Association (SEA), which is ostensibly an organic group representing managers, but which is actually founded and run by the law firm’s partners and employees, as TheDCNF showed last year. SEA collects dues from members and pays lobbyists from Roth to conduct legislative advocacy, according to lobbying disclosures.
I claim no special power here, nor any inside information. This is simply arithmetic coupled with logic. I’ll give you a “decision tree” sort of format with the critical points outlined. Note that if you’re going to mitigate any of what I see coming around the bend you need to do it right damn now, not wait. By the time you get to those critical points it’s too late. For many people it’s already too late, but if you’re not in that batch then you need to make your lifestyle changes today. I am operating on the premise that the rank corruption that I outlined in the Ticker here will not be addressed. It will not be addressed for the same reason the 17th Amendment will be cited as the reason the American political experiment failed when the book on America is finally closed, as that Amendment permanently removed the ability of the States to call a hard-stop on any expansion of Federal Power they did not consent to. That was designed in to our government by the founders and it was removed intentionally by the 17th Amendment. That balance of power can never be restored absent a Revolution because to do so The Senate would have to literally vote themselves out of a job at a supermajority level which they will never do and there is no means to compel them to do so. For the same reason the 30-year trend in Medicare and Medicaid spending will not be stopped. It may be tinkered with around the edges but it won’t be stopped because to stop it without literally throwing people into the street and letting them die you have to break the medical monopolies and in doing so you will inevitably (1) destroy the graft machine that drives a huge part of DC and at least half of the jobs inside the Beltway, along with the asset values they support, (2) create an immediate and deep (15% of GDP, but temporary) recession on purpose which neither Congress or Trump will ever voluntarily initiate as it would cause a guaranteed 70% stock market crash along with the immediate detonation of about 1/3rd of all in-debt corporations in the United States and (3) expose the outrageous theft of trillions of dollars from taxpayers over the last several decades to fund the medical scam machine at all levels.
There are a few important things to know about Gary Cohn. Until Donald Trump tapped him to be the Director of the National Economic Council, he had worked at Goldman Sachs for a quarter century, rising to the position of President of the firm and second only to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein. Cohn walked out of Goldman in December with approximately $285 million, comprised mainly of Goldman stock, some of which had been granted early vesting. Since his exit from Goldman, Cohn has wasted no time in selling large chunks of his Goldman shares according to his financial disclosures. While this serves to reduce his conflicts of interest with Goldman, it also provides a face-saving means of exiting a massive position in a Wall Street bank without the appearance of panic or disloyalty. Against this backdrop comes the widely reported news that on April 5 Cohn met with Senators serving on the Senate Banking Committee and expressed support for bringing back a modern-day version of the depression era Glass-Steagall Act – legislation which was passed as a result of the Wall Street collapse of 1929 to 1933, which erased 90 percent of the market’s value. (Yes, 90 percent.) That legislation created Federally-insured deposits and barred insured commercial banks from being affiliated with Wall Street investment banks. It protected the U. S. financial system for 66 years until its repeal in 1999 under the Bill Clinton administration. It took only nine years after its repeal for Wall Street to implode in the same epic fashion as the ’29 crash.
This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Confounded Interest. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission. Bloomberg has nice piece on the battle between JPMorganChase’s Jamie Dimon and the Minneapolis Fed’s Neel Kashkari. (Bloomberg) Jamie Dimon is America’s most famous banker, and Neel Kashkari is its most outspoken bank regulator, so it’s not a shock that they would eventually come to blows. What’s interesting is that their contretemps is over an acronym that most Americans have never heard of, but one that may be central to preventing another recession. TLAC, which is pronounced TEE-lack, is something you need to know about if you want to judge the sparring between Dimon, the well-coiffed chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Kashkari, the very bald man who ran for governor of California on the Republican ticket and is now president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. On April 6, Kashkari went after Dimon in a way that circumspect central bankers ordinarily don’t. In an essay published on Medium and republished on the Minneapolis Fed website, he challenged Dimon’s assertion in his annual letter to shareholders that 1) there’s no longer a risk that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill if a big bank fails, and 2) banks have too much capital (meaning an unnecessarily thick safety cushion). Wrote Kashkari: ‘Both of these assertions are demonstrably false.’
One of the reasons that Syria is ‘on hold’ is that the Russians are now leveraging the President with the connections formed in his campaign prior to the election. Paul Manafort, onetime manager of President Trump’s campaign apparently has received payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. An article covering it entitled Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout by Jack Gillum, Chad Day, and Jeff Horwitz was released on Thursday by the Associated Press. The bad news is that the ledger is substantiated by records booked by Manafort’s consulting firm in the U. S., already under a corruption investigation by the FBI with even more overlap. Apparently, the FBI and Congress are investigating Manafort’s activities with Russia and possible ties to Vladimir Putin regarding the President’s campaign. These activities which could have included payoffs allegedly occurred in 2016. But a distinct pattern is observable here. Tillerson is still ‘on the attack,’ today demanding that Russia oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad…and the President in the meantime has announced we wouldn’t be sending troops into Syria. Perhaps he is hesitant, as (if they have such evidence) Russia would certainly not shirk from releasing information that could be damaging to the President. At this stage, the threat of such a release appears to be keeping things in check: we haven’t launched another Tomahawk strike yet.
This post was published at shtfplan on April 14th, 2017.
The world’s eyes and ears have once again turned toward Syria following last week’s chemical weapons attack and U. S. President Donald Trump’s subsequent air strikes on the Assad government. Mainstream media, independent media, and social media platforms are fixing fierce attention on the ongoing developments. These events undoubtedly deserve widespread, ongoing scrutiny. From the United States government’s lack of evidence that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack to the media’s complicity in driving a pro-war narrative and president Trump’s hypocrisy in bombing Syria – after criticizing former president Barack Obama for doing the same thing – further critical analysis of the recent airstrikes is vital. But even as skepticism toward these events should remain heightened, so should awareness of countless other major developments. Here are five to follow: 1. Trump Appoints Pharmaceutical Consultant to Head the FDA – This week, the president appointed Scott Gottlieb, a pharmaceutical industry insider who has served the boards of multiple pharmaceutical companies, to chair the Food and Drug Administration. Gottlieb currently still works as a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline. He has received $414,000 from GSK, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He has also received tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Mikart, as well as other corporations – including Goldman Sachs. He has taken several trips through Washington’s revolving door, with brief stints at the FDA mixed in with multiple positions consulting pharmaceutical companies. Trump’s pick follows in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who also appointed a pharmaceutical industry insider to chair the FDA.