Wednesday, January 18, 2017

If It Does Away With Physical Cash - How Will the Deep State Move Weight?


NYTimes |  CIA ties to international drug trafficking date to the Korean War. In 1949, two of Chiang Kai-shek's defeated generals, Li Wen Huan and Tuan Shi Wen, marched their Third and Fifth Route armies, with families and livestock, across the mountains to northern Burma. Once installed, the peasant soldiers began cultivating the crop they knew best, the opium poppy. 

When China entered the Korean War, the CIA had a desperate need for intelligence on that nation. The agency turned to the warlord generals, who agreed to slip some soldiers back into China. In return, the agency offered arms. Officially, the arms were intended to equip the warlords for a return to China. In fact, the Chinese wanted them to repel any attack by the Burmese. 

Soon intelligence began to flow to Washington from the area, which became known as the Golden Triangle. So, too, did heroin, en route to Southeast Asia and often to the United States. 

If the agency never condoned the traffic, it never tried to stop it, either. The CIA did, however, lobby the Eisenhower administration to prevent the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the DEA's predecessor, from establishing monitoring posts in the area to study the traffic. Today, the Golden Triangle accounts for about half the heroin in circulation in the world. 

During the Vietnam War, operations in Laos were largely a CIA responsibility. The agency's surrogate there was a Laotian general, Vang Pao, who commanded Military Region 2 in northern Laos. He enlisted 30,000 Hmong tribesmen in the service of the CIA. 

These tribesmen continued to grow, as they had for generations, the opium poppy. Before long, someone - there were unproven allegations that it was a Mafia family from Florida - had established a heroin refining lab in Region Two. The lab's production was soon being ferried out on the planes of the CIA's front airline, Air America. A pair of BNDD agents tried to seize an Air America. 

A pair of BNDD agents tried to seize an Air America DC-3 loaded with heroin packed into boxes of Tide soap powder. At the CIA's behest, they were ordered to release the plane and drop the inquiry.
The CIA was made officially aware of Manuel Antonio Noriega's involvement in the drug traffic in 1972, when Mr. Noriega was chief of intelligence of the Panama National Guard, and a promising CIA asset. The BNDD found evidence that Mr. Noriega was taking payoffs for allowing heroin to flow from Spain, through Panama City airport, and on to the United States. That information was part of a lengthy file on Mr. Noriega compiled by Jack Ingersoll, then chief of the BNDD.

Mr. Ingersoll was aware of Mr. Noriega's ties to the CIA, as was President Richard Nixon. When Mr. Nixon ordered Mr. Ingersoll to Panama to warn the country's military dictator, General Omar Torrijos, about the activities of Mr. Noriega and General Torrijos's brother Moises, Mr. Ingersoll hoped that law enforcement was finally "beginning to get the upper hand in its ongoing struggle with the CIA." He was wrong. The Watergate break-in occurred shortly after his visit. Mr. Nixon needed CIA support; his enthusiasm for the drug war evaporated. Mr. Ingersoll's successors at the newly formed DEA - Peter Bensinger, Francis Mullen and John Lawn - all told me they never saw his file, although they had asked to see everything the DEA had on Mr. Noriega. The material has disappeared. 

Shortly after General Torrijos's death in a mysterious airplane crash, Mr. Noriega, with CIA assistance, took command of the Panama National Guard. 

No one in the Reagan administration was prepared to do anything about the Noriega drug connection. As Norman Bailley, a National Security Council staff member at the time, told me, "The CIA and the Pentagon were resolutely opposed to acting on that knowledge, because they were a hell of a lot more worried about trying to keep Panama on our side with reference to Nicaragua than they were about drugs." Nowhere, however, was the CIA more closely tied to drug traffic than it was in Pakistan during the Afghan War. As its principal conduit for arms and money to the Afghan guerrillas, the agency chose the Pakistan military's Inter-Services Intelligence Bureau. The ISI in turn steered the CIA's support toward Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic fundamentalist. Mr. Hekmatyar received almost half of the agency's financial support during the war, and his fighters were valiant and effective. But many of his commanders were also major heroin traffickers. 

As it had in Laos, the heroin traffic blossomed in the shadows of a CIA-sustained guerrilla war. Soon the trucks that delivered arms to the guerrillas in Afghanistan were coming back down the Khyber Pass full of heroin. 

The conflict and its aftermath have given the world another Golden Triangle: the Golden Crescent, sweeping through Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the former Soviet Union. Many of those involved in the drug traffic are men who were once armed, trained and financed by the CIA. 

From Davos: Stiglitz Say "Get Rid of Cash in the USA"



weforum |  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already removed 86% of his country's currency from circulation in an attempt to curb tax evasion, tackle corruption and shut down the shadow economy.

Should the US follow suit?

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize-winning economist, thinks so. Phasing out currency and moving towards a digital economy would, over the long term, have “benefits that outweigh the cost,” the Columbia University professor said on day one of the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos.

Stiglitz was speaking in the session Ending Corruption alongside Mark Pieth from the Basel Institute of Governance and APCO Worldwide Founder and Executive Chairman Margery Kraus. Stiglitz and Pieth co-authored a report, Overcoming the Shadow Economy, in November last year.

Quantifying the scale of the problem, Stiglitz said: “You can put it into the context of one of the big issues being discussed in Davos this year – the backlash against globalization, the darker side of globalization ... The lack of transparency in global financial markets, the secrecy havens that the Panama Papers exposed, just reinforced what we already knew ... There is a global framework for both corruption and tax evasion and tax avoidance.

“The fact that you can hide ill-gotten gains so easily in these secrecy havens really provides incentives for people to engage in this activity as they can get the economic returns and then enjoy the benefits of those returns. If there were not these secrecy havens then the benefits from engaging in these kinds of illicit activity would be much diminished.”

From Davos: Christine Lagarde and Larry Summers How to Fix the Middle-Class

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rats Whose Services Are No Longer Required in the Swamp...,


WaPo |  They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.

But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non gratae.

Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.

Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.

Disconnected, Lying Corrupt Thieves Convention Starts in Davos Today


libertyblitzkrieg |  I think a useful exercise for readers during this Davos circus laden week is to note whenever the word “populism” is used within mainstream media articles. From my experience, it’s almost always portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative manner. Here’s just one example from the first of the two Reuters articles mentioned above.
The global financial crisis of 2008/9 and the migrant crisis of 2015/16 exposed the impotence of politicians, deepening public disillusion and pushing people towards populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.
The key phrase in the above is, “populists who offered simple explanations and solutions.” This betrays an incredible sense of arrogance and contempt for regular citizens. Note that it didn’t offer a critique of a specific populist leader and his or her polices, but rather presented a sweeping dismissal of all popular movements as “simplistic.” In other words, despite the fact that the people mingling at Davos are the exact same people who set the world on fire, they somehow remain the only ones capable enough to fix the world. How utterly ridiculous.

The good news is that most people now plainly see the absurdity of such a worldview, and understand that the people at Davos represent a roadblock to progress, as opposed to any sort of solution. While I don’t endorse any particular populist movement at moment, I fully recognize the need for increased populism as a facet of American political life, particularly at this moment in time.

Populism can be dangerous, and it’s certainly messy, but it’s a crucial pressure release valve for any functioning free society. If you don’t allow populist movements to do their thing in the short-term, you’ll get far worse outcomes in the long-term.
In the timeless words of JFK:
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

John Lewis and the Congressional Black Caucus a Bunch of Worn Out Junius Griffins....,




thecrimson |  Super Fly, a movie about a drug pusher who escapes the law, is slickly crafted so that law and order do not triumph in the one instance they should. The film pushes the drug dealer-as-hero. The pusher has the customized Cadillac, the beautiful women, the fancy clothes, all gained by not obeying the law but by peddling death to the community. He's never caught in the end because death dealers (unlike black nationalist leaders and community workers) are allowed to go free.

AMAZINGLY, BLACK ACTOR Ron O'Neal, the star of Super Fly, steadfastly defends his role as being productive and says the movie opposes drug use. "The anti-drug commercials on TV don't do much good because the kids can't relate," he explained last summer. "We showed them just what the pusher's life is like. We showed that although the pusher has money he wants to get out. I get away in the end because it really happens that way. We interviewed lots of coke peddlers and they told us they're walking the streets today because of police corruption." The film's white producer, Sig Shore, adds: "So far as glamorizing the drug scene, if anybody has heard Curtis Mayfield's score, they know that it's all counterpoint to the action that's going on."

But counterpoints provided in theme songs are often lost on the most sophisticated of audiences, and to the millions of blacks around the country there is only one message--Freddy may be dead in the theme song but Ron O'Neal is still cruising around in his Cadillac with all those fine women. Get yourself a hustle brother, it's a lot easier than struggling for freedom.

WAAYY Past His Expiration Date: What Has John Lewis Done in the Last 30 Years?



WaPo |   In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Friday, Lewis said he did not consider Trump to be “a legitimate president” because of allegations that ­high-level Russian operatives interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf. Trump lobbed back with a tweet in the early hours Saturday that disparaged both the congressman and his district, which includes some of Atlanta’s most affluent neighborhoods.

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart,” Trump wrote. “(Not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Trump continued his taunts in another tweet Saturday evening, saying that Lewis should “finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!”

Trump’s attack on Lewis drew widespread condemnation across party lines, particularly given Lewis’s role in the fight for voting rights for African Americans.

The attack on John Lewis, however, underscores Trump’s tense relationship with black voters and seemed to echo some of his past confrontations with African Americans.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Is Trump the Back Door Man for Henry A. Kissinger & Co?


journal-neo |  What emerges is not pretty and, sadly, more than confirms my earlier piece on the Trump Deception.

However, all this misses in my view one essential component, namely the shadowy role of former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who is emerging as the unofficial and key foreign policy adviser of the Trump Administration. If we follow Kissinger’s tracks in recent months we find a highly interesting series of meetings.

On December 26, 2016 the German daily Bild Zeitung published what it said was a copy of an analysis by members of the Trump Transition Team which revealed that as President Trump will seek “constructive cooperation” with the Kremlin, a dramatic contrast to Obama confrontation and sanctions policies. The newspaper went on to discuss the role of 93-year-old former Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger as Trump’s leading, if unofficial, foreign policy adviser. The report stated that Kissinger is drafting a plan to bring Putin’s Russia and Trump’s Washington to more “harmonious” relations that includes US official recognition of Crimea as part of Russia and lifting of US economic sanctions that Obama imposed in retribution for the Crimea annexation in 2014, among other steps.

The kicker in this otherwise sensible-sounding US policy change is Kissinger’s sly geopolitical aim in “gettin’ Putin back in the (NATO) tent,” as late Texan President Lyndon Baines Johnson might have elegantly put it.

What is the aim of Kissinger? Not any “multi-polar world” that respects national sovereignty as he claims, of that you can be certain. Kissinger’s aim is to subtly erode the growing bilateral axis between China and Russia that threatens US global hegemony.

The trend of the last several years since Obama’s ill-fated coup d’etat in Ukraine in early 2014, threatened to jeopardize Kissinger’s lifetime project, otherwise called David Rockefeller’s “march towards a World Government,” a World Government in which “supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries,” to use Rockefeller’s words to one of his select groups during the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Bild Zeitung Trump-Kissinger memo states that the idea of warming up to Russia is aimed at offsetting China’s military buildup. In other words, a different game from Obama’s, but a game of power nonetheless.

Real Balance of Power
Kissinger is one of the few surviving practitioners of historical British Balance of Power geopolitics. True British Balance of Power, as practiced in British military and diplomatic history since the Treaty of Windsor of 1386, between England and Portugal, always involved Britain making an alliance with the weaker of two rivals to defeat the stronger and in the process, to afterwards loot the exhausted weaker power as well. It was extraordinarily successful in building the British Empire down to World War II.

British Balance of Power is always about what power, in this case a Kissinger-steered United States, does the “balancing.” Following the defeat of Napoleon’s France at the Congress of Vienna peace talks in 1814, British Foreign Secretary, Viscount Castlereagh, architected a treaty that insured no Continental European power could dominate over the others, a strategy that lasted until 1914 and the First World War. What many political historians ignore is that that Continental Balance of Power was essential for creation of the British Empire that dominated the world as the leading naval power for a century.

In his 1950’s Harvard University PhD dissertation, Kissinger wrote what became a book titled, “A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822.” That study of British Balance of Power is at the heart of Kissinger’s Machiavellian machinations ever since he took his first job with the Rockefeller family in the 1960’s. In A World Restored Kissinger states, “Diplomacy cannot be divorced from the realities of force and power. But diplomacy should be divorced…from a moralistic and meddlesome concern with the internal policies of other nations.” Further, he states, “The ultimate test of a statesman, then, is his ability to recognize the real relationship of forces and to make this knowledge serve his ends.”

Trump Heavy, Trump Light, Trump Down...,


thesaker |  Just a few days into 2017 and we can already say with a great degree of confidence that 2017 will be a historical year. Furthermore, I submit that 2017 will be the “Year of Trump” because one of roughly three things will happen: either Trump will fully deliver on his threats and promises, or Trump deliver on some, but far from all, his threats and promises or, finally, Trump will be neutralized by the Neocon-run Congress, media, intelligence community. He might even be impeached or murdered. Of course, there is an infinity of sub-possibilities here, but for the purpose of this discussion I will call the first option “Trump heavy”, the second one “Trump light” and the third one “Trump down”. Before discussing the possible implications of these three main options, we need to at least set the stage with a reminder of what kind of situation President Trump will be walking into. I discussed some of them in my previous analysis entitled “2016: the year of Russia’s triumph” and will only mention some of the key outcomes of the past year in this discussion.

***********************************************************************************
That leaves me with one area of great concern to me: Latin America.

This has not often been noticed, by Latin American is the one realm of US foreign policy where Obama has been rather successful, at least if you support the subjugation of Latin American by the USA: Castro is gone, Chavez is gone, possibly murdered, Christina Kirchner is gone, President Dilma Rousseff has been overthrown in a parliamentary coup and it appears that the same fate will now befall Nicholas Maduro. Very significantly, Cuba has agreed to a deal which will give the USA a great deal more leverage over the future of the island-state. True, Evo Morales, Rafael Correa and Daniel Ortega are still in power, but the undeniable fact that the Latin American political heavyweights have fallen. Will Trump change the US policy towards Latin America? I very much doubt that, if only because “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”. And from an US imperialist point of view, the current policy ain’t broke at all, it is rather a success. I simply see no reason why Trump would decide to allow Latin American to be free and sovereign thereby reversing the almost 200 year old Monroe Doctrine. Freedom for Latin America will come at the end of a long struggle no matter who is in the White House.

So no, life in 2017 will be a far cry from life in a perfect world, but there is a better than average chance that 2017 might see some very significant and much needed improvement over the frankly disastrous past years. There is still hope that Trump might deliver and if he does, he might become on of the best US Presidents in many, many years. Whether Trump delivers or not, the world will further move away from unipolarity to multipolarity and that is an immensely desirable evolution. All in all, and for the first time in decades, I feel rather optimistic. This is such a weird and unnatural feeling for me that I almost feel guilty about it. But sometimes guilty enjoyment is also great fun!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Neocon Declaration of War Against Trump



thesaker |  This does not make this document any less dangerous, however.

First, and this is the really crucial part, there is more than enough here to impeach Trump on numerous grounds both political and legal.  Let me repeat again – this is an attempt at removing Donald Trump from the White House.  This is a political coup d’etat.

Second, this documents smears everybody involved: Trump himself, of course, but also the evil Russians and their ugly Machiavellian techniques.  Trump is thereby “confirmed” as a sexual pervert who likes to hire prostitutes to urinate on him.  As for the Russians, they are basically accused of trying to recruit the President of the United States as an agent of their security services.  That would make Trump a traitor, by the way.

Third, within one short week we went from allegations of “Russian hacking” to “having a traitor sitting in the White House”.  We can only expect a further Tsunami of such allegations to continue and get worse and worse every day.  It is interesting that Buzzfeed has already preempted the accusation of this being a smear and demonization campaign against Trump by writing that “Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.” as if most Americans had the expertise to immediately detect that this document is a crude forgery!

Fourth, unless all the officials who briefed Trump come out and deny that this fake was part of their briefing with Trump, it will appear that this document has the official imprimatur of the senior US intelligence officials and that would give them a legal, probatory, authority.  This de-facto means that the “experts” have evaluated that document and have certified it as “credible” even before any legal proceedings in court or, worse, in Congress.  I sure hope that Trump had the foresight to audio and video record his meeting with the intelligence chiefs and that he is now able to threaten them with legal action if they now act in a way contradicting their behavior before him. 

Fifth, the fact that CNN got involved in all this is a critical factor.  Some of us, including yours truly, were shocked and disgusted when the WaPo posted a list of 200 websites denounced as “fake news” and “Russian propaganda”, but what CNN did by posting this article is infinitely worse: it is a direct smear and political attack on the President Elect on a worldwide level (the BBC and others are already posting the same crap).  This again confirms to be that the gloves are off and that the Ziomedia is in full state of war against Donald Trump.

All of the above further confirms to me what I have been saying over the past weeks: if Trump ever makes it into the White House (I write ‘if’ because I think that the Neocons are perfectly capable of assassinating him), his first priority should be to ruthlessly crack down as hard as he legally can against those in the US “deep state” (which very much includes the media) who have now declared war on him.  I am sorry to say that, but it will be either him or them – one of the parties here will be crushed.

[Sidebar: to those who wonder what I mean by “crackdown” I will summarize here what I wrote elsewhere: the best way to do that is to nominate a hyper-loyal and determined FBI director and instruct him to go after all the enemies of Trump by investigating them on charge of corruption, abuse of power, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and all the other types of behavior which have gone on forever in Congress, the intelligence community, the banking world and the media.  Deal with the Neocons like Putin did with the Russian oligarchs or how the USA dealt with Al Capone – get them on tax evasion.  There is no need to open Gulags or shoot people when you can get them all on what is their normal daily behavior :-)]

I sincerely hope that I am wrong, and I admit that I might be, but I don’t have the gut feeling that Trump has what it takes to hit hard enough at those who are using any and every ugly method imaginable to prevent him from ever making it into the White House or to have him impeached if he tries to deliver on his campaign promises.  I cannot blame him for that either: the enemy has infiltrated all the level of power in the US polity and there are strong sign that they are even represented in Trump’s immediate entourage.  Putin could do what he did because he was an iron-willed and highly trained intelligence officer.  Trump is just a businessman whose best “training” to deal with such people would probably be his exposure to the mob in New York.  Will that be enough to allow him to prevail against the Neocons?  I doubt it, but I sure hope so.

Hon.Bro.Preznit Stutters And Stammers Accusations Against Russia



activistpost |  After dropping the ball twice, Obama did the only thing an embarrassed child is capable of doing by launching into a torrent of insults suggesting that Russia is small and weak and that they produce nothing but oil, gas, and arms. Apparently, Obama missed out on the irony of an American President criticizing another nation of not producing anything but oil, gas, and arms.

He then launched into a tirade of how Russia is not capable of “changing us,” seemingly not noticing that this diatribe rendered his previous hysterical propaganda that Russia had indeed “changed us” as either trivial or completely false. We are also unsure as to whether or not Obama is actually aware of which country he is talking about since Russia is, after all, not small by any means.

Obama then launched into a routine reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, scolding the American people for not trusting their intelligence agencies that already lied to get them in to a war with Iraq, law enforcement agencies that lie on a daily basis to amass convictions, and a White House that finds it impossible to utter a sentence if it contains majority truth.

This is one of those situations where, unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in the CIA, the FBI, our entire intelligence infrastructure, many of whom, by the way, served in previous administrations, and who are Republicans, are less trustworthy than the Russians! Then . . . people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say.

It’s quite interesting that Obama would use the fact that many of these “intelligence professionals” worked in the Bush administration as a positive, since it was during Bush’s tenure that the CIA openly discredited itself in the rush to war in Iraq. We need not even discuss the FBI’s treachery on 9/11. But how does stating that the individuals who are telling us the Russians hacked “our elections” worked in an administration that lied its way into a war and a domestic police state do anything other than prove the critics correct?

It is also worth noting that, while the scolding aspect of the speech was vintage Carter, the rest of the speech was vintage Bush. For a second, it seemed as if we were only inches away from Obama stating “Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories.” Instead, we were treated with Obama’s very own Bushism – i.e. if people believe that our intelligence agencies aren’t trustworthy, they should listen to the intelligence agencies. Classic.

Obama also went on a tirade about how many Republicans have “favorable views” of Vladmir Putin and bemoaned the fact that many Trump supporters want to “stop sanctioning Russia” and “work together” against “common enemies.” In other words, Obama is perplexed at Putin’s support within his own country, which is much greater than Obama’s in the United States, and thus it is cause for a characteristic narcissistic meltdown by Obama. But the outrage over the fact that some people want to stop sanctioning Russia for fighting terrorism and supporting national sovereignty and peace the world over is a very telling display. After all, that “common enemy” Obama seems to think is ridiculous to fight together is al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadist terrorist organizations, the same organizations that Americans have been committing blood, treasure, and virtually all their civil liberties toward defeating for the last sixteen years. The message of this statement was clear, however; the Nobel Peace Prize winner wants a war and certain people are getting in the way of it. Bring on the hissy fits and tears.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Skull and Bones Phukkery Fakery FAIL



Let me tell you what the British intelligence told me this morning. [Christopher Steele] was also an FBI asset at one point in time so he has an intelligence background, but he was paid for people that were working for Jeb Bush in order to discredit him. The democrats took over the contract. He kept adding to the dossier and using information given to him by the FSB in Russia, most of it fabricated, the more he put into the dossier, the more he got paid. So e made a sensationalist dossier, as fat as possible just like your lawyer charges you more billable hours in order to get paid more.

What is the Lesson Boys and Girls?



WaPo |  Venezuela’s economy is a catastrophe of Dickensian proportions. And for plenty of readers, that’s hardly a surprise. Every time I write about it, dozens pipe in with some variant on the same comment: “Socialism leading to total ruin — who would’ve thought?!” The temptation to read Venezuela’s collapse as ideological comeuppance seems to be irresistible. My country, people tell me again and again, is just the end of the line on the Road to Serfdom.

There’s just one problem with all this bashing of socialism: Bolivia.

Since 2006, Bolivia has been run by socialists every bit as militant as Venezuela’s. But as economist Omar Zambrano has argued, the country has experienced a spectacular run of economic growth and poverty reduction with no hint of the chaos that has plagued Venezuela. While inflation spirals toward the thousand-percent mark in Venezuela, in Bolivia it runs below 4 percent a year. Shortages of basic consumption goods — rampant in Caracas — are unheard of in La Paz. And extreme poverty — now growing fast in Venezuela — affects just 17 percent of Bolivians now, down from 38 percent before the socialists took over 10 years ago, even as inequality shrinks dramatically. The richest 10 percent in Bolivia used to earn 128 times more than the poorest 10 percent; today, they earn 38 times as much.

How can this be? It’s true that Bolivia has been on the receiving end of a staggering boom in natural resources for much of the past decade, as both the volume of its gas and mining exports and the price they fetch abroad jumped at the same time. Export revenue grew six-fold in the decade after Evo Morales, the charismatic hard-left president, took power, from $2.2 billion just before of his election to $12.9 billion at the peak of the boom.

So yes, that’s a bit like putting the game settings on “easy” when it comes to development. But it can hardly explain why Bolivia thrives while Venezuela spirals: Venezuela enjoyed an even bigger commodities boom, with exports climbing from $23 billion before the oil boom to $153 billion at its peak.

Turns out it’s not the boom itself that matters, it’s what you do with it.

Global Beta Test: Mexico



NYTimes |   Mr. Peña Nieto’s efforts have been handicapped, analysts say, by a seeming disconnect from the public mood.

The government looked unprepared for the violent responses to the price increases, which took effect on New Year’s Day, when most officials were on vacation. Mr. Peña Nieto himself was in the middle of a golfing trip. And as bloody unrest swept across the country, the president kept silent, finally making a public statement on the issue on Wednesday.

Even then, his comments were buried in a news conference focused on cabinet changes that included the return of Luis Videgaray, a close confidant who resigned under pressure as finance minister in September after championing an unpopular visit by Mr. Trump to Mexico.

The administration’s detached response to the upheaval contributed to the impression of a president out of touch with the population, analysts said, and gave a sense of a leadership that is adrift, blindsided by events.

The gas price increases of about 20 percent are part of a broad overhaul that ends the state’s monopoly over the energy industry. The government has long controlled and subsidized gasoline prices, but by the end of the year it will allow gas prices to fluctuate according to the market, a move intended to attract foreign investment to compete with the state oil company, Pemex.

The government has argued that ending fuel subsidies will help the country avoid spending cuts to social programs, and that the subsidies have disproportionately benefited wealthier Mexicans who own cars. But many fear that higher gasoline prices will increase costs for food and public transportation, hitting the pocketbooks of even the poorest Mexicans.

Though Mexico’s opposition parties are now condemning the price increase, most of them voted for it as part of the budget approved in October. But Mexico imports more than half of its gasoline from the United States, and Mr. Trump’s election sent the peso to a historic low, raising the price of imported gasoline in pesos greater than anybody expected.

Analysts said the government could have forestalled the fallout by designing measures that would have softened the blow for poorer Mexicans, or by creating subsidies for truck drivers or owners of older vehicles.

“They didn’t think about it,” said Vidal Romero, a political analyst at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “There is no compensation for citizens.”

Continuing High Strangeness in an Engineered Failed State


Newsweek |  Like many villages in Venezuela, Tocorón is being crushed by a national economic crisis. The government blames the collapse of oil prices and companies allegedly trying to sabotage President Nicolás Maduro. Others, however, blame a dependence on oil and years of socialist-inspired policies by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez. Either way, the country is now plagued by chronic shortages, rampant crime and waves of looting.

Yet the villagers of Tocorón are lucky. They have an ally in their desperate daily scramble for food: the local prison. This facility has all the products big cities don’t: sugar and shampoo, diapers and deodorant, toothpaste and toilet paper—all of it for sale in a bizarre black market behind bars, which has citizens—at least those who can afford it—trying to enter prison for food.

“Locals come here to do their shopping,” says Julio, an inmate at Tocorón, who like most inmates Newsweek interviewed asked only to be identified by his first name because of security reasons. “Sometimes we can’t even buy products because visitors always come first.”

Whereas most other prisons in Venezuela are on the verge of collapse, many inmates feel fortunate to have ended up in Tocorón. According to Carlos Nieto, the director of A Window to Liberty, a local nongovernmental organization, Venezuela’s prisons have close to 95,000 inmates—nine times more than the system can hold. The miserable conditions inmates face—poor sanitation, overpopulation and violence—have been exacerbated by the economic crisis. In some cases, inmates have been forced to eat stray dogs to avoid starvation.

Compared with such dire conditions, Tocorón seems like a country club. It has a gym, a pool, a nightclub, restaurants, small convenience stores and even a zoo. Sure, there’s violence, but there’s also plenty of food and no long lines. To pay for these amenities, the prison kingpin charges a monthly tax to every inmate: 1,500 bolivars—roughly 53 cents. 

Washington Behind India's Brutal Ban on Cash



washingtonsblog |  The business interests of the U.S. companies that dominate the global IT business and payment systems are an important reason for the zeal of the U.S. government in its push to reduce cash use worldwide, but it is not the only one and might not be the most important one. Another motive is surveillance power that goes with increased use of digital payment. U.S. intelligence organizations and IT companies together can survey all international payments done through banks and can monitor most of the general stream of digital data.  Financial data tends to be the most important and valuable.

Even more importantly, the status of the dollar as the world’s currency of reference and the dominance of U.S. companies in international finance provide the US government with tremendous power over all participants in the formal non-cash financial system. It can make everybody conform to American law rather than to their local or international rules. German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has recently run a chilling story describing how that works (German). Employees of a German factoring firm doing completely legal business with Iran were put on a US terror list, which meant that they were shut off most of the financial system and even some logistics companies would not transport their furniture any more. A major German bank was forced to fire several employees upon U.S. request, who had not done anything improper or unlawful.

There are many more such examples. Every internationally active bank can be blackmailed by the U.S. government into following their orders, since revoking their license to do business in the U.S. or in dollar basically amounts to shutting them down. Just think about Deutsche Bank, which had to negotiate with the US Treasury for months whether they would have to pay a fine of 14 billion dollars and most likely go broke, or get away with seven billion and survive. If you have the power to bankrupt the largest banks even of large countries, you have power over their governments, too. This power through dominance over the financial system and the associated data is already there. The less cash there is in use, the more extensive and secure it is, as the use of cash is a major avenue for evading this power.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Do the Neocons Believe They Can Take Russia's Oil by Force?


lewrockwell |  I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who have asked me what I think the “end game” is in regards to Russia. And, indeed, the government is going into extra innings with this whole Russia vilification project. This is worse than someone who has held on to a grudge for years. The government does that, too, but they haven’t done it over ideology (as with Cuba) for quite some time now. What, then, is the motive?

The motive is perfectly clear: Oil. You see, Russia has already eclipsed Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer. This means the big Saudi oil fields are drying up. And the government knows that, but they can’t tell us this because it’ll create a panic. One would think this would motivate the United States to get cozier with Russia. However, what the United States government fears is that if we do that, Russia will twig to the motive for it, and realize it has the United States over a barrel. An oil barrel. At which point the price goes up. Not to mention extracting concessions in the global sphere of influence.

Thus, what the United States is playing at here is trying to install a different “regime” in Russia. That being, one that Vladimir Putin does not control or have any influence over. This is easier said than done and the United States knows this. But the stakes are quite a bit higher than controlling the dwindling oil supply in the Middle East. Russia is obviously in control of most of the world’s remaining oil reserves. The United States needs a puppet regime in Russia to have access to that oil without paying the correct market price for it.

At some point, this gambit will fail. Russia is not the Middle East. A war with Russia cannot be won or cease-fired out of. Nor can a United States-backed “regime change” succeed over there. This is not the 1990s Russia of Boris Yeltsin. The United States, however, cannot come clean with the truth to the American people. The reason is because if the American people knew the truth, they’d never sleep nights anymore. The truth is this: Our entire economic system is based on petroleum and low-cost petroleum at that. But the actual nightmare is that our entire agricultural system is based on cheap oil.

The United States diet, especially for average Americans, is based on only three crops: Corn, wheat, and soy. Every processed food you see is based on fractions of those three staples. Meat is fed those three staples, even the farm-raised salmon you see in the store. Without those three crops, the United States would undergo a famine not seen in the United States ever at any point. The United States cannot feed itself without those three crops. What’s more, many large parts of the world depend on those three crops exported from the United States to feed themselves, too. Therefore, without them, the famine would turn into a runaway famine of global proportions.

The CIA is Already Retaliating Against Trump


lewrockwell |  No president since John F. Kennedy has dared to take on the CIA or the rest of the national security establishment or to operate outside the bounds of permissible parameters within the paradigm of the national-security state.

That might have been because post-JFK presidents just happened to find themselves on the same page as the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

But another possibility is that the one mentioned by Schumer: They knew that if they opposed the national-security establishment at a fundamental level, they would be subjected to retaliatory measures.

Kennedy had come into office as a standard Cold Warrior and as a supporter of the national-security state system, the totalitarian-like apparatus that was grafted onto America’s federal governmental system after World War II. But after he was set up and betrayed by the CIA with respect to the Bay of Pigs invasion, he was at loggerheads with that agency for the rest of his presidency. After the Bay of Pigs, he vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds. He also fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, who, in a rather unusual twist of fate, would later be appointed to the Warren Commission to investigate Kennedy’s murder.

Kennedy’s antipathy toward the CIA gradually extended to what President Eisenhower had termed the military-industrial complex, especially when it proposed Operation Northwoods, which called for fraudulent terrorist attacks to serve as a pretext for invading Cuba, and when it suggested that Kennedy initiate a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. (The latter suggestion caused Kennedy to indignantly leave the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the suggestion was made and remark to an aide, “And we call ourselves the human race.”