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.
Investment Research Dynamics is pleased to present another guest post by Stewart Dougherty. I wanted to preface Stewart’s formal essay with some thoughts he shared with me in our email exchanges leading up to his latest essay: I haven’t shared with you one of the most important tenets of Inferential Analytics … namely, that the universal human condition is addiction. Addiction comes in hundreds of forms. Two of the most powerful are to money and power. HRC is addicted to both. She simply cannot let go of her presidential ambition, or her greed. I must admit, when I saw her interviewed the other day regarding Syria, she looked terrible. Her legs looked as if they were about explode out of her pants, which were stretched to snapping. She looked like a human sausage. I thought her doctors would have been reversing her obesity by now, but apparently not. Among her other addictions, she is addicted to food, and is a glutton [IRD: she’s also an alcoholic]. Mentally, she is a complete mess. So I could be wrong … if she cannot get her gluttony under control, she cannot get to 2020. She simply will not have the required stamina, and could croak at any time. My assumption is that when she smells Trump’s blood in the water, she will become so galvanized that she will get the gluttony under control, even if it’s only to get through the election. They will make Obama her running mate, if that’s what’s required to get her across the finish line. Then he can effectively have a third term, while she vegetates in a food coma.
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.
Three organizations have filed lawsuits against President Trump’s administration for not publicly disclosing White House visitor logs. According to The Hill, the lawsuits were filed against the Department of Homeland Security by The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University after the administration failed to release the records pursuant to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. ‘We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not.’ CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. ‘Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.’ ‘President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege, and this information is central to the Secret Service mission and thus clearly agency records subject to FOIA,’ Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.
The gap between the happy-story fantasies of easy fixes to institutionalized corruption and systemic stagnation and the fraying-rope reality is widening, straining the bonds holding the whole contraption together to the breaking point. Am I the only one sensing an increase in systemic vulnerability? I’m not talking about TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) so much as a sense of things fraying beneath the surface of normalcy. I for one have never seen the outpouring of negative emotional energy from partisan political disagreements. It has become more a matter of quasi-religious faith than a matter of fact as to whether the Russians “hacked” the U. S. election and the Democratic National Committee. The “facts” are highly dependent on one’s faith in this quasi-religious conflict; if you’re anti-Trump, the now-discredited report by a private firm reporting to the FBI (red flag #1–doesn’t the FBI have its own digital forensics assets? Why hire a flaky contractor to do this critically important national security work?) is the gospel truth. if you’re in the other camp, Julian Assange’s declaration that the DNC material was offered to him by an insider is the obvious gospel truth.
President Trump night released details of the personal finances of his staffers late on Friday, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, which once again confirmed that most of the people in his immediate circle are very wealthy. The legally required disclosure documents provided a snapshot of assets and positions held by personnel when they first entered their new jobs at the White House, and before they started selling stocks and other assets that could pose conflicts of interest, according to White House ethics officials. Curiously, the White House did not actually create a public depository of the filings, so AP, Propublica and the NYT created a shared drive for all the disclosures so far. .@nytimes @AP @politico And we're off. Since the White House is not posting the documents publicly, we ( @nytimes @AP) are: — ProPublica (@ProPublica) March 31, 2017
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 1, 2017.
Fox News’ legal analyst Andrew “Judge” Napolitano returned to the air on Wednesday morning, nine days after the network benched him when President Donald Trump cited the Fox talking head as the source of claims that Barack Obama used British intelligence to wiretap him. Napolitano refused to change his story saying he stood by his claim about spying on President Donald Trump that got him benched by the network on March 21 for an indefinite period. ‘I stand by my statement on surveillance,’ Napolitano told Bill Hemmer. According to Deadline, Napolitano was there to talk about a Fox News report that the FBI allegedly wired a staffer of former Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, who has been charged with fraud and corruption. But first, Hemmer asked Napolitano about that Obama/Brit intel wiretap claim he first made on Fox & Friends. Napolitano said that was his story and he was sticking to it.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 29, 2017.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins reminds readers: Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. IT’S A COMPLICATED WORLD Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 29, 2017.
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) officially came into effect, virtually eliminating all tariffs and trade restrictions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Bill Clinton, who lobbied extensively to get the deal done, said it would encourage other nations to work towards a broader world-trade pact. ‘NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs,’ said Clinton, as he signed the document, ‘If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.’ Ross Perot had a contrary perspective. Lobbying heavily against the agreement, he noted that if it was ratified, Americans would hear a giant ‘sucking sound’ as jobs went south of the border to Mexico. It’s a Complicated World Fast forward 20 years, and NAFTA is a hot-button issue again. Donald Trump has said he is working on ‘renegotiating’ the agreement, and many Americans are sympathetic to this course of action. However, coming to a decisive viewpoint on NAFTA’s success or failure can be difficult to achieve. Over two decades, the economic and political landscape has changed. China has risen and created a surplus of cheap labor, technology has changed massively, and central banks have kept the spigots on with QE and ultra-low interest rates. Deciphering what results have been the direct cause of NAFTA – and what is simply the result of a fast-changing world – is not quite straightforward.
Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017
Summary of the chaotic day’s key events: GOP House leaders delayed their planned vote Thursday to repeal and replace “Obamacare,” which as AP put it was a “stinging defeat” for Paul Ryan and President Trump in their first major legislative test. The decision came after Trump failed to reach agreement with a bloc of rebellious conservatives. Moderate-leaning Republican lawmakers were also bailing on the legislation, leaving it short of votes. At least 30 Republicans said they opposed the bill, enough to defeat the measure. But the number was in constant flux amid the eleventh-hour lobbying. The bill could still come to a vote in coming days, but canceling Thursday’s vote is a significant defeat. It came on the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, years that Republicans have devoted to promising repeal. “No deal,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N. C., said after he and his group of more than two dozen rebellious conservatives met with Trump to try to get more concessions to reduce requirements on insurance companies. The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies. The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 23, 2017.
In the latest attempt to stir the pot over allegations that Trump and members of his closest circle had ties to Russia, on Wednesday, the AP unearthed a 2005 memo from former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort – who was let go by the Trump campaign in the summer to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who became Russia’s richest man under Putin and whose key asset is a 48% stake in Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to which Manafort would boost Putin’s agenda and reportedly undermine anti-Russian opposition across Europe, the U. S. and former Soviet republics. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote, adding it “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” As a reminder, Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman last year from March until August. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s ruling pro-Russian political party.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 22, 2017.
It’s no secret that there is a concerted effort underway to do everything possible to remove President Donald Trump from office. From Russian ties to business conflicts of interests, both Democrats and Republicans are actively working to find chinks in the President’s armor. But for those with hope of change in their hearts, Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein says there is a possibility that Trump will eventually remove himself from office by filing his own resignation. Speaking to a crowd during a town hall-style Questions and Answers session, Feinstein was asked how Congress is going to deal with Trump’s alleged illegal activities: Journalist: We don’t know what’s happening but we know that he is breaking laws every day, he’s making money at Mar-a-lago, he’s getting copyrights in China, he has obvious dealings with Russia, the Dakota pipeline… there’s some many things that he’s doing that are unconstitutional… how are we going to get him out? Feinstein: We have a lot of people looking at this… Technical people… I think he’s going to get himself out… I think sending sons to another country to make a financial deal for his company and then have that covered with government expenses… I think those government expenses should not be allowed.. we are working on a bill that will deal with conflict of interest… it’s difficult…
This post was published at shtfplan on March 18th, 2017.
The character of events from week to week, and as discussed by both Batchelor and Cohen, is manifestly worsening. While the proxy wars are stabilizing to some little extent, we see the political wars in governments as fall out of the New Cold War in a constant state of escalation. Cohen notes a New York Times piece by Charles Blow that coined a name for what is happening as an ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the author considered this a positive thing for the country – where all the interest groups are being forced by the hate and fear campaign to align with the anti-Russian narrative whether it serves their interests or not. This past week Batchelor brings up the news about the Estonian Ambassador, Eerik Marmei and the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pavlo Klimkin who spoke to a Senate subcommittee about Russia disrupting elections in Europe, and the danger of cyber warfare by Russia. Also mentioned were the Trump charges that Obama had his Trump Tower ‘bugged’. Cohen then launched into what the consequences of this new ‘Era of Suspicion’ and the professor describes how the pressure to conform has influenced all the politicos (Flynn debacle) and the masters of industry in the United States, who want to have business dealings with Russia, into remaining cautiously silent. These and other efforts are being used to isolate Trump and neuter or redirect any chance of dtente or even honest discussion of serious geopolitical events. It is working too – with Republicans also becoming divided. Some Republicans are looking at Vice President Pence for the president’s position. Cohen also discusses the role of ‘expert consultants on Russia’ in the media and their efforts to vilify Putin and the Kremlin. All interviews using these people are factually untrue. The most egregious of these, for example, maintained that Putin was ‘deliriously happy that Washington was in complete chaos over Russian policies’. Batchelor exclaims that this is ‘complete rubbish’. It was also Batchelor’s opinion that it was serious that Trump did not mention Russia in his address to Congress. What this indicates is that dtente is getting much less likely. Cohen also mentions the resurrection of McCarthyism with a Committee of Un-American Activity being formed and concludes that disorder is the contrived tenure of modern Western diplomacy. In my opinion Trump has to decide whether folding to the will of his opposition will stop this campaign to remove him or will it show weakness that will lead to escalation. His reticence to talk about Russia may be testing the waters, or be showing weakness. Senator Graham, who talked with the president, seems to think the latter and the US will ‘push back’ against Russia. I think Trump is folding too. The push back will see more support for NATO and perhaps more military help for Ukraine. Cohen discusses the quasi NATO presence now in Ukraine, and he also brings up a potential increase in US troop presence in Syria. He discusses the dangers of a combined military presence of US and Russian assets in Syria. Cohen then discusses the simple solution to ease the danger, and it really is simple. Disengagement. But Putin needs Washington (Trump) to cooperate. But Cohen now considers this as unlikely as he thinks Trump is folding to his opposition in Washington. In Ukraine the political and economic situation is worse and where President Poroshenko is having no control over the ukronazis – who are now embargoing coal imports from the Donbass. This hurts Kiev, but also illuminates the reality of a failing central government. A personal question: Will NATO continue to base troops there? It would mean contending with or working with nazis in a failed state environment? But would most of the West hear about it? That’s where we are, living behind a virtual information wall that George Orwell would immediately recognize. From my point of view the Military Industrial Complex has shown no sense of danger in supporting a ‘confrontation for profit’ policy against Russia, and now the people of the West are effectively ‘walled off’ from learning about critical realities by a systemic corruption of the MSM. Washington is creating its own “Iron Curtain”. Not even discussions at the highest levels of Washington are tolerated unless they support the narrative. One wonders how long this can go on with the Military Industries dependent on tax dollars, and the financial sector and other interests looting the economy and destroying that same tax base. This becomes another reason to impose that ‘Era of Suspicion’ on the whole country; if one cannot advise or discuss an argument against war dangers (or government policies) without censure, then war becomes more inevitable in spite of the fundamentals that work against it. One could say, ‘unleash the dogs of war’ but first hugely increase the fiscal deficit.
By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like. — Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 12, 2017
There may have been much more to the termination of US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, than meets the casual glance. According to Reuters, which cites a law enforcement source, two days before U. S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired on Saturday, the high-profile New York prosecutor declined to take a call from President Donald Trump. Bharara reportedly contacted the DOJ for authorization to speak to the president on Thursday – one day before the DOJ announced it had requested all Obama-era attorneys to hand in their resignations. When he apparently did not receive it, Reuters adds that he called back the woman who had contacted him to say “he did not want to talk to Trump without the approval of his superiors.” As reported previously, Bharara – in his role as chief federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York – oversaw several notable corruption and white-collar criminal cases and prosecutions of terrorism suspects. He was one of 46 Obama administration holdovers who were asked to resign by the Justice Department on Friday.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 12, 2017.
The massive WikiLeaks Vault 7 release is an extremely important public service. It’s hard to find anyone not concerned by a secret CIA hacking program targeting virtually the whole planet – using malware capable of bypassing encryption protection on any device from iOS to Android, and from Windows to Samsung TVs. In a series of tweets, Edward Snowden confirmed the CIA program and said code names in the documents are real; that they could only be known by a ‘cleared insider;’ the FBI and CIA knew all about the digital loopholes, but kept them open to spy; and that the leaks provided the ‘first public evidence’ that the US government secretly paid to keep U.S. software unsafe. If that’s not serious enough, WikiLeaks alleges that ‘the CIA has lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal;’ several hundred million lines of code – more than what is used to run Facebook. Someone among the former U.S. government hackers and contractors ended up leaking portions of the CIA archive (Snowden II?). WikiLeaks also stressed how the CIA had created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ – maximum unaccountability included.
It is barely seven weeks since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Perhaps too early to figure out the details of America’s foreign policy during his presidency. However, some broad contours of his policies are taking shape, which may provide pointers to what he is likely to do in the next four years. These pointers are based partly on what Trump said during his election campaign and partly on what has happened since he became President. Actually, quite a lot has happened in the last seven weeks or so, including considerable turbulence in US domestic and foreign policy. Before proceeding further, it may be useful to recall that Trump’s victory in the Nov. 2016 elections was unexpected. Most opinion polls and the mainstream media (MSM) predicted victory for Hillary Clinton, who was the candidate of the US Establishment and the ‘Deep State’ (DS), which includes the military-industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, the MSM, Wall Street, and the Jewish Lobby. The DS is a permanent, unelected, group of institutions, lobbies, and individuals which wields enormous power from behind the scenes and continues to do so irrespective of who is the President and which party controls the US Congress. It is driven by the quest for money and power, among other things. The present DS began taking shape almost thirty-five years ago when Jimmy Carter was President. There was a DS before that too, going back to the 1950s, which came into existence after the Second World War. However, it was much less powerful and entrenched than the present one. John F. Kennedy tried to defy it but did not succeed. Some believe he paid for it with his life.
As the U. S. House of Representative marks up Paul Ryan’s American Healthcare Act, the battle between the moderate and conservative factions of the Republican Party continues to mount behind the scenes all while opposition from a variety of advocacy groups is also growing. ‘This is what good, conservative health-care reform looks like,’ House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday. ‘It is bold and long overdue. And it is us fulfilling our promises.’ Despite the public bickering, Republicans scored a victory early Thursday, pushing a measure through the House Ways and Means Committee repealing tax penalties on people who don’t buy insurance but otherwise progress on the bill has been slow. As the Wall Street Journal notes, Ryan and House Republicans have to thread a very fine needle on healthcare legislation that appeals to a sufficient number of conservatives to pass the House while not alienating the more moderate factions of the party in the Senate. House Republican leaders are under pressure to ease passage through the House by making changes that appease conservatives who want a more aggressive repeal of the ACA. Those changes risk further jeopardizing support in the Senate, where centrist Republicans have said they are concerned the proposal will cause too many people to lose coverage, particularly those with low incomes. Underscoring the Senate’s central role, a group of Republican governors representing states that expanded Medicaid under the existing law have largely given up on lobbying the House and instead are focusing their efforts on the Senate, according to two people familiar with their thinking.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 9, 2017.
The singer Lana Del Rey is attempting to use witchcraft to remove Donald Trump from the Presidency. She Tweeted: ‘At the stroke of midnight, Feb 24, March 26, April 24, May 23… Ingredients can be found online.’ The cryptic message is all about witchcraft. These dates line-up with the ‘waning crescent moon ritual dates’, which are the dates that made headlines as members of the occult claimed they would perform ceremonies to rid the world of Donald Trump each time the event occurs. A representative for Del Rey confirmed to Pitchfork that the singer-songwriter’s tweet was in reference to the occult rituals.
After just a little over one month in office, President Donald Trump has successfully loosened the big pharma industry’s grip on exorbitant drug price increases. January is traditionally the month that sees the highest list price hikes from prescription drugmakers. But on Feb. 27, The Wall Street Journal reported that pharma companies did not raise prices for as many drugs as last year and imposed fewer boosts of 10% or greater. In fact, January saw the lowest increases of drug prices in three years, with hikes over 10% limited to just 5.5% – 15% fewer than in 2015. The reason for the pullback: Big pharma execs are hoping to stay out of the spotlight at a time when President Trump has called for stronger Medicare authority in negotiating prices and a ‘total overhaul’ of the healthcare system.