Saturday, 25 January 2020

Baghdad million-man march: 'Big Satan Go Home!'

People from all over Iraq have descended upon its capital Baghdad, heeding the call from influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for a “million man march” calling for an end to the nearly 17 year-long U.S. occupation of the country. Images from the event show seas of peaceful crowds walking together through the city center. Sayed Sadiq al-Hashemi, the director of the Iraqi Center for Studies, estimated that more than 2.5 million took part in the demonstrations. While there are many divisions in Iraqi society, marchers hope to send a united message against American imperialism.

“Pompeo keeps going on about respecting Iraqi sovereignty. Well Iraqis want you out of their country,” said Lebanese-American journalist Rania Khalek, adding that the recent U.S. assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has seriously backfired, leading to a huge show of anti-American sentiment. She also took aim at the media coverage; “Whenever a couple hundred people protest against Iran, it trends on twitter. Yet when hundreds of thousands in Iraq protest against the US? No trending,” she said.

When Americans claimed to be a 'force for good in the region', there wasn't a dry eye in the house!


Friday, 24 January 2020

Diplomatic Immunity does not equal Diplomatic Impunity

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been ridiculed on social media for a weak response to Washington rejecting the extradition request for Anne Sacoolas, a US agent’s spouse charged with teenager Harry Dunn’s death.

Dunn was killed in a head-on crash with a car in August last year near to RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, England. Sacoolas, the driver of the vehicle, claimed diplomatic immunity and returned to the US. Her husband is thought to be a US intelligence officer.

Following the US administration’s decision, Raab took to Twitter on Friday to reveal that he had been in contact with the US ambassador to “express the [UK] Govt’s disappointment,” adding that they were “now urgently considering our options.”

Dominic Raab (Twitter)
I have just called the US Ambassador to express the Govt’s disappointment about the US extradition decision on Harry Dunn’s case. We feel this amounts to a denial of justice, and that Anne Sacoolas should return to the UK. We are now urgently considering our options.

Raab’s response has been widely criticized by people who suggested that the US was making the UK look like “amateurs.” Others claimed that this seemingly timid reaction from the UK was a sign of things to come in regards to relations with Donald Trump’s administration. “So much for the special relationship, Mr Raab,” one tweet read.

Ricky Gervais (Twitter)
Other than going to kidnap her in a SAS style raid - what are your options? If the USA say no - then surely that's a final decision? So much for a 'special relationship', Mr Raab.

One person scoffed: “I’m sure that tutting will have him [the US ambassador] quaking in his boots.” While another sarcastically joked that Raab should “Maybe light a cigarette? It’s what I used to do after getting f****d over.”

In December, the Crown Prosecution Service charged Sacoolas, 42, with causing Dunn’s death by dangerous driving. Lawyers representing the Dunn family said it is the first time in the 100-year history of the extradition treaty that such a request has been turned down by the US.


Lindsey Graham: the BIG Flip Flop

Lindsey Graham is the Most Shameless Man in American Politics

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Truth About the Trump Economy

By Joseph E. Stiglitz

It is becoming conventional wisdom that US President Donald Trump will be tough to beat in November, because, whatever reservations about him voters may have, he has been good for the American economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

January 18, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - As the world’s business elites trek to Davos for their annual gathering, people should be asking a simple question: Have they overcome their infatuation with US President Donald Trump?

Two years ago, a few rare corporate leaders were concerned about climate change, or upset at Trump’s misogyny and bigotry. Most, however, were celebrating the president’s tax cuts for billionaires and corporations and looking forward to his efforts to deregulate the economy. That would allow businesses to pollute the air more, get more Americans hooked on opioids, entice more children to eat their diabetes-inducing foods, and engage in the sort of financial shenanigans that brought on the 2008 crisis.

Today, many corporate bosses are still talking about the continued GDP growth and record stock prices. But neither GDP nor the Dow is a good measure of economic performance. Neither tells us what’s happening to ordinary citizens’ living standards or anything about sustainability. In fact, US economic performance over the past four years is Exhibit A in the indictment against relying on these indicators.

To get a good reading on a country’s economic health, start by looking at the health of its citizens. If they are happy and prosperous, they will be healthy and live longer. Among developed countries, America sits at the bottom in this regard. US life expectancy, already relatively low, fell in each of the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and in 2017, midlife mortality reached its highest rate since World War II. This is not a surprise, because no president has worked harder to make sure that more Americans lack health insurance. Millions have lost their coverage, and the uninsured rate has risen, in just two years, from 10.9% to 13.7%.

One reason for declining life expectancy in America is what Anne Case and Nobel laureate economist Angus Deaton call deaths of despair, caused by alcohol, drug overdoses, and suicide. In 2017 (the most recent year for which good data are available), such deaths stood at almost four times their 1999 level.

The only time I have seen anything like these declines in health – outside of war or epidemics – was when I was chief economist of the World Bank and found out that mortality and morbidity data confirmed what our economic indicators suggested about the dismal state of the post-Soviet Russian economy.

Trump may be a good president for the top 1% – and especially for the top 0.1% – but he has not been good for everyone else. If fully implemented, the 2017 tax cut will result in tax increases for most households in the second, third, and fourth income quintiles.

Given tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the ultrarich and corporations, it should come as no surprise that there was no significant change in the median US household’s disposable income between 2017 and 2018 (again, the most recent year with good data). The lion’s share of the increase in GDP is also going to those at the top. Real median weekly earnings are just 2.6% above their level when Trump took office. And these increases have not offset long periods of wage stagnation. For example, the median wage of a full-time male worker (and those with full-time jobs are the lucky ones) is still more than 3% below what it was 40 years ago. Nor has there been much progress on reducing racial disparities: in the third quarter of 2019, median weekly earnings for black men working full-time were less than three-quarters the level for white men.

Making matters worse, the growth that has occurred is not environmentally sustainable – and even less so thanks to the Trump administration’s gutting of regulations that have passed stringent cost-benefit analyses. The air will be less breathable, the water less drinkable, and the planet more subject to climate change. In fact, losses related to climate change have already reached new highs in the US, which has suffered more property damage than any other country – reaching some 1.5% of GDP in 2017.

The tax cuts were supposed to spur a new wave of investment. Instead, they triggered an all-time record binge of share buybacks – some $800 billion in 2018 – by some of America’s most profitable companies, and led to record peacetime deficits (almost $1 trillion in fiscal 2019) in a country supposedly near full employment. And even with weak investment, the US had to borrow massively abroad: the most recent data show foreign borrowing at nearly $500 billion a year, with an increase of more than 10% in America’s net indebtedness position in one year alone.

Likewise, Trump’s trade wars, for all their sound and fury, have not reduced the US trade deficit, which was one-quarter higher in 2018 than it was in 2016. The 2018 goods deficit was the largest on record. Even the deficit in trade with China was up almost a quarter from 2016. The US did get a new North American trade agreement, without the investment agreement provisions that the Business Roundtable wanted, without the provisions raising drug prices that the pharmaceutical companies wanted, and with better labor and environmental provisions. Trump, a self-proclaimed master deal maker, lost on almost every front in his negotiations with congressional Democrats, resulting in a slightly improved trade arrangement.

And despite Trump’s vaunted promises to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, the increase in manufacturing employment is still lower than it was under his predecessor, Barack Obama, once the post-2008 recovery set in, and is still markedly below its pre-crisis level. Even the unemployment rate, at a 50-year low, masks economic fragility. The employment rate for working-age males and females, while rising, has increased less than during the Obama recovery, and is still significantly below that of other developed countries. The pace of job creation is also markedly slower than it was under Obama.

Again, the low employment rate is not a surprise, not least because unhealthy people can’t work. Moreover, those on disability benefits, in prison – the US incarceration rate has increased more than sixfold since 1970, with some two million people currently behind bars – or so discouraged that they are not actively seeking jobs are not counted as “unemployed.” But, of course, they are not employed. Nor is it a surprise that a country that doesn’t provide affordable childcare or guarantee family leave would have lower female employment – adjusted for population, more than ten percentage points lower – than other developed countries.

Even judging by GDP, the Trump economy falls short. Last quarter’s growth was just 2.1%, far less than the 4%, 5%, or even 6% Trump promised to deliver, and even less than the 2.4% average of Obama’s second term. That is a remarkably poor performance considering the stimulus provided by the $1 trillion deficit and ultra-low interest rates. This is not an accident, or just a matter of bad luck: Trump’s brand is uncertainty, volatility, and prevarication, whereas trust, stability, and confidence are essential for growth. So is equality, according to the International Monetary Fund.

So, Trump deserves failing grades not just on essential tasks like upholding democracy and preserving our planet. He should not get a pass on the economy, either.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is University Professor at Columbia University and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute. His most recent book is People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent.


Tuesday, 21 January 2020

BREAKING! Glenn Greenwald charged with 'Cybercrimes' in Bolsonaro's Brazil!


And, indeed, today it was announced that Greenwald has been charged with "cybercrimes" for his reporting on leaked documents regarding the current Justice Minister, Sergio Moro, who was the federal judge who oversaw the trial of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Many in Brazil, including Greenwald, have argued that the corruption trial and jailing of Lula was a corrupt show trial designed to get Lula out of office and prevent his re-election in 2018 (when Bolsonaro was elected). The leaked documents showed that Moro, while presiding over the trial, worked closely with prosecutors and helped them strategize.

Since then, there has been speculation that the government was trying to build a case against Greenwald. In July, Greenwald was called before a Congressional committee in which he was directly told he should be jailed. Back in August, the Brazilian Supreme Court actually put a stop to an attempt to investigate Greenwald, after Bolsonaro himself called for Greenwald to be jailed.

However, that appears not to have actually stopped the government's attempts to find some reason to throw Greenwald in jail. The charges against Greenwald argue that he wasn't just reporting on the leaked documents, but that he was part of a "criminal organization" and worked with people to hack into the phones of officials in order to access the documents:

Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.”
For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks.
Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app.

Full story.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire?

Many here suspect that the upcoming UK break with the EU will mean an inevitable further alignment with Washington.

Want a free trade deal with the US? Then align with Washington not Brussels on foreign policy, former Trump aide tells BoJo

A former aide to US President Donald Trump, Richard Goldberg [a Jewish Ziombie], has warned British PM Boris Johnson that if the UK wants a free trade agreement with the US, then he’ll need to follow Washington and not Brussels on foreign policy.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday, Iran hawk Richard Goldberg – who recently stepped down from his role on the National Security Council following his part in ramping up US tensions with Tehran – ostensibly issued Johnson a veiled threat.

Goldberg suggested that Johnson think long and hard about the UK’s position on the Iran nuclear deal and foreign policy more generally. He insisted that in post-Brexit Britain, it’s “less important what Brussels thinks and far more important what Washington thinks.”

It’s absolutely in his interest and the people of Britain’s interest to join with President Trump and the United States, to realign your foreign policy away from Brussels, and to join the maximum pressure campaign to keep us all safe.
Goldberg’s comments have been widely panned on social media, with many interpreting his words as an ultimatum, rather than a “choice” being presented to PM Johnson. Green MP Caroline Lucas claimed that it was “clear” that if the UK is to secure a trade deal with the US then “we’d have to follow Trump’s dangerous foreign policies.”
Caroline Lucas (Twitter)
We've not even left the EU yet and it's already clear that if we want a US trade deal, the US administration will try to force us to accept their food standards & drug prices, and we'd have to follow Trump's dangerous foreign policies

Others online insisted Trump’s former aide was in reality proposing that the UK becomes “a US vassal state & to fall in line on Iran, Israel” and the Middle East. While another angrily tweeted: “So much for Take Back Control.”

Susannah Tarbush (Twitter)
Richard Goldberg goes from White House's Iran director to Freedom Foundation & draws a clear link between Johnson's falling in behind Trump policy, and a UK-US trade deal after Brexit. UK clearly expected to be a US vassal state & to fall in line on Iran, Israel, M East.

On Tuesday, Johnson signaled that he was falling in line behind the US president and would seek to tear up the current Iran deal and replace it with a ‘Trump deal’. “Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the ‘Trump deal’ instead,” Johnson told BBC Breakfast.


Poland wanted to ‘erect magnificent monument’ to honor Hitler’s plan to send Jews to Africa – Putin cites WWII archives

Some nations in Europe that colluded with Adolf Hitler and applauded his anti-Semitic crusade, now demolish Soviet war memorials and seek to equate the USSR with Nazi Germany, the Russian president noted, during a formal speech.

Vladimir Putin recalled the vicious developments that preceded the Second World War, in an address to the Defense Ministry board on Tuesday, telling his audience there was one particular fact in the archive files that touched him the most. Back in 1938, Adolf Hitler hosted the Polish Ambassador to Germany Jozef Lipski and shared with him a plan to send European Jews to Africa where they would surely perish, Putin said.

“The Ambassador in Poland replied, and then wrote it down in his cable to the Polish Foreign Minister: ‘I told Hitler that, if he does, we will erect a magnificent monument to him in Warsaw’,” the President quoted from the archive data, before turning somewhat emotional.

He was a bastard, an anti-Semitic pig, there’s no other way of saying it. He fully agreed with Hitler in his anti-Semitic sentiments and, moreover, promised him he’d erect a monument in Warsaw to his abuse of the Jewish people.

Putin’s words were aimed at a bizarre resolution by the European Parliament, which claimed that the 1939 non-aggression treaty between the USSR and Nazi Germany – known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by the names of Soviet and German Foreign Ministers – had “paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War.”

But to Putin, signing a pact with Hitler was choosing between bad and worse, namely, the Soviet Union having less time to prepare for the German offensive. Meanwhile, other European nations did not behave any better, he reminded.

Starting from 1938, when Hitler lodged his claims to a part of Czechoslovakia, Great Britain and France surrendered their ally, although [Prague] had a mutual assistance agreement with France, and provided Hitler with the opportunity to seize [the German-inhabited regions of the country].

A year later, the Third Reich invaded Poland, the Eastern European country that had actually “colluded” with Hitler before the war, as historical records tell.

“It is these people who negotiated with Hitler back in the day, it is this sort of people that demolish monuments commemorating Red Army soldiers, who liberated European countries and peoples from the Nazis,” the President concluded. “They are their followers.”