“This site is dedicated to preying on peoples vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BIG WIN FOR ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS: UN Rejects UK Appeal on Favorable Julian Assange Ruling


UN ruling to free WikiLeaks’ Assange to stand after British appeal rejected

A national flag flies outside the Ecuadorian Embassy  in London, Britain © Peter Nicholls
The United Nations has rejected a UK appeal against its previous ruling in favor of Julian Assange as “inadmissible," thus requiring both London and Stockholm to end the WikiLeaks founder’s "arbitrary detention."

Earlier this year, a case was concluded at the UN, in which the body instructed the UK and Sweden to take immediate steps to ensure the WikiLeaks founder’s liberty, protection and enjoyment of fundamental human rights.

The UK has appealed the ruling twice, with the UN rejecting its second appeal on Wednesday by pronouncing it “not admissible," Justice for Assange reported, adding that the decision marks the end to London's "attempt to overturn the ruling."


“Now that all appeals are exhausted, I expect that the UK and Sweden will comply with their international obligations and set me free," a statement by Assange read, with the fugitive whistleblower calling his detention "an obvious and grotesque injustice."

The recent development in the Assange case at the UN forces the UK and Sweden - which are parties to his case - "to immediately put an end to Mr. Assange’s arbitrary detention and afford him monetary compensation," Justice for Assange stated, adding that a failure to do so would undermine the UN human rights' protection system.

Julian Assange faces potential, but as yet unfiled charges over rape allegations in Stockholm that date back to 2010. The whistleblower has always denied the accusations, saying that being taken to Sweden would pave the way for a further extradition to the US, where the government has launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks following a 2010 diplomatic cables leak.


He has been sheltered by the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since August 2012. Earlier this month, Swedish investigators came to interview Assange inside the embassy concerning rape charges, with the whistleblower saying he has "cooperated fully" with them.

Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary - Trump Meets With Goldman’s Cohn as Dinner Set With Romney - Ross Said to Be Trump’s Pick for Commerce Secretary

“The business of America is business” – a famously unfair misquote…


When President Warren G. Harding died from a heart-related problem in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States. 
The following year, with his popularity buoyed by a strong economy of the “Roaring Twenties”, Coolidge handily won the 1924 presidential election, using the campaign slogan “Keep Cool With Coolidge.” 
Unlike some presidents, “Silent Cal” Coolidge wasn’t known for making memorable statements. 
The most famous quote associated with him is a line about business being the business of America. 
That line is often given as “The business of America is business” or “The business of the American people is business.”
In fact, both of those versions are misquotes. 
They aren’t radically different from what he actually said, which was “the chief business of the American people is business.”
However, when this short quote or the misquote versions are cited alone, out of context, they tend to give the inaccurate impression that Coolidge was a totally one-dimensional, pro-business cheerleader. 
President Coolidge made his famous remark in an address to the Society of American Newspaper Editors on January 17, 1925 in Washington, D.C. 
The speech he gave that day was titled “The Press Under a Free Government.” It focused on the role of the press in free market democracies, like America. 
Coolidge noted that the press was far more likely to publish propaganda in autocratic or Socialist countries. 
He acknowledged concerns about whether business considerations could affect editorial positions and news reporting in a society like the US. But he pointed out the flip side, saying:
“There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences.”
Then Coolidge added his famous quote: 
“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”
It’s hard to dispute the notion that most Americans are concerned about the economy and personal prosperity. And, Coolidge made it clear that he didn't simply mean “greed is good.” 
“Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence,” he said. “But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it...But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, probably always will be, some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others.”
It’s true that Coolidge was generally a pro-business, small-government type politician; sort of a Ronald Reagan without charisma.
But, in my opinion, the spin that is often put on his famous quote about the business of America is clearly overly simplistic and unfair.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 
Related reading…

Monday, November 28, 2016

What are Somali Refugees doing in the US & Why are we in Somalia?



On the evening of 4 December 1992, U.S. President George H. W. Bush made an address to the nation, informing them that U.S. troops would be sent to Somalia. The U.S. contribution would be known as Operation Restore Hope, which joined a multinational force and became known as the United Task Force (UNITAF). 

Here we are 20 years later with a Somali jihadi trying to kill Americans in Ohio.

NY TIMES:


In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War







Ugandan troops serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia in 2012. About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from African nations to carry out raids, senior American military officials said. Reuters 
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993.

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as “self-defense strikes,” though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab.

America’s role in Somalia has expanded as the Shabab have become bolder and more cunning. The group has attacked police headquarters, bombed seaside restaurants, killed Somali generals and stormed heavily fortified bases used by African Uniontroops. In January, Shabab fighters killed more than 100 Kenyan troops and drove off with their trucks and weapons.

The group carried out the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall, which killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 175 in Nairobi, Kenya. More recently it has branched into more sophisticated forms of terrorism, including nearly downing a Somali airliner in February with a bomb hidden in a laptop computer.


United States Marines advancing in Mogadishu, Somalia, to quell violence in 1993, about seven months before the “Black Hawk Down” battle. Corinne Dufka/Reuters 

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.

The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations.

Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities, including one in Puntland, a state in northern Somalia, before the detainees are transferred to more permanent Somali-run prisons, American military officials said.

The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations. But even the information released publicly shows a marked increase this year. The Pentagon has announced 13 ground raids and airstrikes thus far in 2016 — including three operations in September — up from five in 2015, according to data compiled by New America, a Washington think tank. The strikes have killed about 25 civilians and 200 people suspected of being militants, the group found.

The strikes have had a mixed record. In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a “graduation ceremony,” one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon was investigating the strike.

Some experts point out that with the administration’s expanded self-defense justification for airstrikes, a greater American presence in Somalia would inevitably lead to an escalation of the air campaign.

“It is clear that U.S. on-the-ground support to Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers has been stepped up this year,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. “That increases the likelihood that U.S. advisers will periodically be in positions where Al Shabab is about to launch an attack.”

Peter Cook, the Department of Defense spokesman, wrote in an email, “The DoD has a strong partnership with the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi operating in Somalia. They have made steady progress pressuring Al Shabab.”

The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.


The ruins of the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu last year. The Shabab claimed responsibility for the fatal bombing. Feisal Omar/Reuters 

The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”
In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”

American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”

At an old Russian fighter jet base in Baledogle, about 70 miles from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, American Marines and private contractors are working to build up a Somali military unit designed to combat the Shabab throughout the country.

Soldiers for the military unit, called Danab, which means lightning in Somali, are recruited by employees of Bancroft Global Development, a Washington-based company that for years has worked with the State Department to train African Union troops and embed with them on military operations inside Somalia.
Michael Stock, the company’s founder, said the Danab recruits received initial training at a facility in Mogadishu before they were sent to Baledogle, where they go through months of training by the Marines. Bancroft advisers then accompany the Somali fighters on missions.

Mr. Stock said the goal was to create a small Somali military unit capable of battling the Shabab without repeating the mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to build up large armies.

Still, American commanders and their international partners are considering a significant expansion of the training effort to potentially include thousands of Somali troops who would protect the country when African Union forces eventually left the country.

Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag, the commander of the American military’s task force in Djibouti, the only permanent American base in Africa, said the proposed training plan would increase and enhance the Somali national security forces, including the army, national guard and national police.

“The specific numbers of forces required is currently being assessed,” General Sonntag said. He added that it must be large enough to protect the Somali people but “affordable and sustainable over time, in terms of Somalia’s national budget.”
Independent experts and aid organizations say the Somali Army is still largely untrained, poorly paid and poorly equipped, and years away from coalescing regional militias into a unified army.

American policy makers tried to avoid direct involvement in Somalia for years after the Black Hawk Down episode. But in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Special Operations troops and the Central Intelligence Agency began paying Somali warlords to hunt down Qaeda operatives in the country.

In 2006, the United States gave clandestine support to Ethiopian troops invading the country to overthrow an Islamist movement that had taken control of Mogadishu. But the brutal urban warfare tactics of the Ethiopian troops created support for an insurgent movement that called itself Al Shabab, which means “The Youth.”

American involvement in Somalia was intermittent for several years afterward, until the Westgate attack refocused Washington’s attention on the threat the Shabab posed beyond Somalia.

The Shabab still control thousands of square miles of territory across Somalia. A Somali university student who travels in and out of Shabab areas said the group’s fighters were becoming increasingly suspicious, even paranoid, checking the phones, cameras, computers and documents of anyone passing through their territory, constantly on guard for another American attack. He said Shabab fighters were becoming younger, with a vast majority under 25 and many as young as 10.

American law enforcement officials think that the bomb that nearly brought down the commercial jet in February was most likely made by a Yemeni who is believed to have constructed other laptop bombs in Somalia. Pictures from an airport X-ray machine show the explosive packed into the corner of the laptop, next to a nine-volt battery. Several aviation experts said that the bomb was obvious and that airport security officials in Mogadishu might have intentionally allowed it through.

The bomb exploded about 15 minutes after takeoff, punching a hole through the fuselage and killing the man suspected of carrying the bomb on board, though the pilot was able to land safely. Aviation experts said that if the bomb had exploded a few minutes later, with the cabin fully pressurized, the fuselage would have most likely blown apart, killing all of the approximately 80 people on board.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Something Has to Change and Someone Had to Change it. Let it be Trump but Let’s Make Him Perform

An ‘America First' Trump Trade Policy

Pat Buchanan
|
Posted: Nov 26, 2016 12:01 AM

 An 'America First' Trump Trade Policy
Donald Trump's election triumph is among the more astonishing in history.
Yet if he wishes to become the father of a new “America First" majority party, he must make good on his solemn promise:

To end the trade deficits that have bled our country of scores of thousands of factories, and to create millions of manufacturing jobs in the USA.

Fail here, and those slim majorities in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin disappear.

The president-elect takes credit for jawboning William Clay Ford to keep his Lincoln plant in Louisville. He is now jawboning Carrier air conditioning to stay in Indiana and not move to Mexico.

Good for him. But these are baby steps toward ending the $800 billion trade deficits in goods America runs annually, or bringing back factories and creating millions of new manufacturing jobs in the USA.

The NAFTA Republicans tell us the plants and jobs are never coming back, that we live in a globalized world, that production will now be done where it can be done cheapest -- in Mexico, China, Asia.

Yet, on Nov. 8, Americans rejected this defeatism rooted in the tracts of 19th-century British scribblers and the ideology of 20th-century globalists like Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

America responded to Trump’s call for a new nationalism rooted in the economic principles and patriotism of Hamilton and the men of Mount Rushmore: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

The president-elect has declared the TPP dead, and says he and his negotiators will walk away rather than accept another NAFTA.

Again, good, but again, not good enough, not nearly.

The New International Economic Order imposed upon us for decades has to be overthrown.

For the root cause of the trade deficits bleeding us lies in U.S. tax laws and trade policies that punish companies that stay in America and reward companies that move production overseas.

Executives move plants to Mexico, Asia and China for the same reason U.S. industrialists moved plants from the Frost Belt to the Sun Belt. Given the lower wages and lighter regulations, they can produce more cheaply there.

In dealing with advanced economies like Japan, Germany, and the EU, another critical factor is at work against us.

Since the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations, 50 years ago, international trade deals have reduced tariffs to insignificance.

But our trade rivals have replaced the tariffs with value-added taxes on imports from the USA. Even to belong to the EU, a country must have a VAT of at least 15 percent.

As Kevin Kearns of the U.S. Business and Industry Council writes, Europeans have replaced tariffs on U.S. goods with a VAT on U.S. goods, while rebating the VAT on Europe’s exports to us.

Some 160 countries impose VAT taxes. Along with currency manipulation, this is how European and Asian protectionists stick it to the Americans, whose armed forces have defended them for 60 years.

We lose at trade negotiations, even before we sit down at the table, because our adversaries declare their VAT nonnegotiable. And we accept it.

Trump has to persuade Congress to deal him and our trade negotiators our own high cards, without our having to go to the WTO and asking, "Mother, may I?"
Like this writer, Kearns argues for an 18 percent VAT on all goods and services entering the United States. All tax revenue raised by the VAT -- hundreds of billions -- should be used to reduce U.S. taxes, beginning by ending the income tax on small business and reducing to the lowest rate in the advanced world the U.S. corporate income tax.

The price of foreign-made goods in U.S. stores would rise, giving a competitive advantage to goods made in America. And with a border VAT of 18 percent, every U.S. corporate executive would have to consider the higher cost of leaving the United States to produce abroad.

Every foreign manufacturer, to maintain free access to the U.S. market of $17 trillion, greatest on earth, would have to consider shifting production -- factories, technology, jobs -- to the USA.

The incentive to produce abroad would diminish and disappear. The incentive to produce here would grow correspondingly.

Inversions -- U.S. companies seeking lower tax rates by moving to places like Ireland -- would end. Foreign companies and banks would be clamoring to get into the United States.

With a zero corporate tax, minority businesses would spring up. Existing businesses would have more cash to hire. America would shove China aside as the Enterprise Zone of the world.

Most important, by having Americans buy more from each other, and rely more on each other for the necessities of life, U.S. trade and tax policies would work to create a greater interdependence among us, rather than pull us apart as they do today.

Why not write new tax and trade laws that bring us together, recreating the one nation and people we once were -- and can be again?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Sword with The Olive Branch: Trump should say “no thanks” to Romney and go with Petraeus

Gen David Petraeus opens door to Trump administration

David Petraeus says he would serve under Trump, who might improve relations with Russia
General David Petraeus, one of the United States’ most prominent military officers, has indicated he would be willing to serve in President-elect Donald Trump's administration if asked.


Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: "The only response can be: 'yes, Mr President'."

Gen Petraeus resigned as CIA director in 2012 following an extramarital affair with his biographer.

It later emerged he had shared classified material with her.
He served as a senior officer under Presidents Bush and Obama. He was the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, before retiring from the military to take the top position in the Central Intelligence Agency.
Asked if he thought Mr Trump had the correct temperament to be the US President, he said: “It's up to Americans at this point in time not only to hope that that is the case, but if they can, endeavour to help him."

He then indicated he would personally serve under Mr Trump if asked.
“If you're asked, you've got to serve - put aside any reservations based on campaign rhetoric... and figure out what's best for the country," he said.


“I've been in a position before where a president has turned to me in the Oval Office in a difficult moment, without any pleasantries, and said 'I'm asking you as your president and Commander in Chief to take command of the international security force in Afghanistan.'

"The only response can be: 'yes, Mr President,'" he continued.
NOVEMBER 22: President-elect Donald Trump walks through the lobby of the New York Times following a meeting with editors at the paperGetty Images
Mr Trump has spent most of his time in recent weeks picking his administration team
A number of media outlets have linked the retired general with positions in the new administration.

A report in The Guardian last week linked Gen Petraeus to the race for secretary of state, citing diplomatic sources.

Mr Trump has been putting together his administration made up of friends, family, and former rivals - but several key positions, including secretary of state, remain open.

General Petraeus was indirectly critical of some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the presidential election campaign, describing the president elect's anti-Muslim comments as toxic. 

However, he said he had heard good things from those who have been speaking with Mr Trump since the election result.
In this July 18, 2011 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus salutes during a changing of command ceremony in Kabul, AfghanistanAP
“It's interesting that those who have been talking to him have said, you know, he's very personable, very hospitable, very gracious guy, full of questions and dialogue," he said.

He also suggested that Mr Trump could forge closer ties with Russia, comparing his political position to that of President Nixon's overtures to China in the 1970s.
"Only Nixon could have gone to China. Anyone else would have been criticised from the right,” he said.

“I think that the current president would have been criticised from the right had he tried some of the kinds of outreach that, in fact, President-elect Trump may pursue." 


But he warned that any such outreach should be attempted "with your eyes wide open".

Trump Signals a US Policy Favoring Stability in the Middle East Over Chaos and Regime Change

Trump’s Syria Shift Begins as Son Meets Opposition Figure in Paris

Kassis Is Part of 'Pro-Russia' Opposition Block in Syria

Since the election, there have been talks of President-elect Donald Trump dramatically shifting US policy in Syria, moving away from supporting the rebels to focusing on fighting ISIS, with the expectation that he will align more closely to the Russian government in joint strikes on ISIS.
That appears to be happening already, with Donald Trump Jr. attending a Paris meeting with Randa Kassis, a Syrian opposition figure who has supported Russian intervention and has supported the idea of a peaceful political transition including the Assad government’s leadership.
Kassis was part of the early Syrian National Council rebel faction, but left in 2012. She participated in the Geneva peace talks earlier this year at the invitation of the Russian government, and is considered part of the “patriotic opposition” in the country, which is generally opposed to the Islamist factions.
That Kassis has been favorable to Russia and vice versa has meant by and large the Obama Administration and its allies want nothing to do with her group. That Trump is already having his family attending meetings portends a change away from supporting the war and toward supporting a political transition.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Monday, November 21, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Don’t Borrow Money to Finance Infrastructure, Print It.

Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan: Lincoln Had a Bolder Solution

In Donald Trump’s victory speech after the presidential election, he vowed:
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.
It sounds great; but as usual, the devil is in the details. Both parties in Congress agree that infrastructure is desperately needed. The roadblock is in where to find the money. Raising taxes and going further into debt are both evidently off the table. The Trump solution is touted as avoiding those options, but according to his economic advisors, it does this by privatizing public goods, imposing high user fees on the citizenry for assets that should have been public utilities.
Raise taxes, add to the federal debt, privatize – there is nothing new here. The president-elect  needs another alternative; and there is one, something he is evidently open to. In May 2016, when challenged over the risk of default from the mounting federal debt, he said, “You never have to default, because you print the money.” The Federal Reserve has already created trillions of dollars for the 1% by just printing the money. The new president could create another trillion for the majority of the 99% who elected him.
Another Privatization Firesale?
The infrastructure plan of the Trump team was detailed in a report released by his economic advisors Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro in October 2016. It calls for $1 trillion of spending over 10 years, funded largely by private sources. The authors say the report is straightforward, but this writer found it hard to follow, so here the focus will be on secondary sources. According to Jordan Weismann on Slate:
Under Trump’s plan … the federal government would offer tax credits to private investors interested in funding large infrastructure projects, who would put down some of their own money up front, then borrow the rest on the private bond markets. They would eventually earn their profits on the back end from usage fees, such as highway and bridge tolls (if they built a highway or bridge) or higher water rates (if they fixed up some water mains). So instead of paying for their new roads at tax time, Americans would pay for them during their daily commute. And of course, all these private developers would earn a nice return at the end of the day.
The federal government already offers credit programs designed to help states and cities team up with private-sector investors to finance new infrastructure. Trump’s plan is unusual because, as written, it seems to be targeted at fully private projects, which are less common.
David Dayen, writing in The New Republic, interprets the plan to mean the government’s public assets will be “passed off in a privatization firesale.” He writes:
It’s the common justification for privatization, and it’s been a disaster virtually everywhere it’s been tried. First of all, this specifically ties infrastructure—designed for the common good—to a grab for profits. Private operators will only undertake projects if they promise a revenue stream. . . .
So the only way to entice private-sector actors into rebuilding Flint, Michigan’s water system, for example, is to give them a cut of the profits in perpetuity. That’s what Chicago did when it sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group. Users now pay exorbitant fees to park in Chicago, and city government is helpless to alter the rates.
You also end up with contractors skimping on costs to maximize profits.
Time for Some Outside-the-box Thinking
That is the plan as set forth by Trump’s economic policy advisors; but he has also talked about the very low interest rates at which the government could borrow to fund infrastructure today, so perhaps he is open to other options. Since financing is estimated to be 50% of the cost of infrastructure, funding infrastructure through a publicly-owned bank could cut costs nearly in half, as shown here.
Better yet, however, might be an option that is gaining traction in Europe: simply issue the money. Alternatively, borrow it from a central bank that issues it, which amounts to the same thing as long as the bank holds the bonds to maturity. Economists call this “helicopter money” – money issued by the central bank and dropped directly into the economy. As observed in The Economist in May 2016:
Advocates of helicopter money . . . argue for fiscal stimulus—in the form of government spending, tax cuts or direct payments to citizens—financed with newly printed money rather than through borrowing or taxation. Quantitative easing (QE) qualifies, so long as the central bank buying the government bonds promises to hold them to maturity, with interest payments and principal remitted back to the government like most central-bank profits.
Helicopter money is a new and rather pejorative term for an old and venerable solution. The American colonies asserted their independence from the Motherland by issuing their own money; and Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, boldly revived that system during the Civil War. To avoid locking the government into debt with exorbitant interest rates, he instructed the Treasury to print $450 million in US Notes or “greenbacks.” In 2016 dollars, that sum would be equivalent to about $10 billion, yet runaway inflation did not result. Lincoln’s greenbacks were the key to funding not only the North’s victory in the war but an array of pivotal infrastructure projects, including a transcontinental railway system; and GDP reached heights never before seen, jumping from $1 billion in 1830 to about $10 billion in 1865.
Page 2 of 2
(Page 2)
Indeed, this “radical” solution is what the Founding Fathers evidently intended for their new government. The Constitution provides, “Congress shall have the power to coin money [and] regulate the value thereof.” The Constitution was written at a time when coins were the only recognized legal tender; so the Constitutional Congress effectively gave Congress the power to create the national money supply, taking that role over from the colonies (now the states).
Outside the Civil War period, however, Congress failed to exercise its dominion over paper money, and private banks stepped in to fill the breach. First the banks printed their own banknotes, multiplied on the “fractional reserve” system. When those notes were heavily taxed, they resorted to creating money simply by writing it into deposit accounts. As the Bank of England acknowledged in its spring 2014 quarterly report, banks create deposits whenever they make loans; and this is the source of 97% of the UK money supply today. Contrary to popular belief, money is not a commodity like gold that is in fixed supply and must be borrowed before it can be lent. Money is being created and destroyed all day every day by banks across the country. By reclaiming the power to issue money, the federal government would simply be returning to the publicly-issued money of our forebears, a system they fought the British to preserve.
Countering the Inflation Myth
The invariable objection to this solution is that it would cause runaway price inflation; but that monetarist theory is flawed, for several reasons.
First, there is the multiplier effect: one dollar invested in infrastructure increases gross domestic product by at least two dollars. The Confederation of British Industry has calculated that every £1 of such expenditure would increase GDP by £2.80. And that means an increase in tax revenue. According to the New York Fed, in 2012 total tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 24.3%. Thus one new dollar of GDP results in about 24 cents in increased tax revenue; and $2 in GDP increases tax revenue by about fifty cents. One dollar out pulls fifty cents or more back in the form of taxes. The remainder can be recovered from the income stream from those infrastructure projects that generate user fees: trains, buses, airports, bridges, toll roads, hospitals, and the like.
Further, adding money to the economy does not drive up prices until demand exceeds supply; and we’re a long way from that now. The US output gap – the difference between actual output and potential output – is estimated at close to $1 trillion today. That means the money supply could be increased by close to $1 trillion annually without driving up prices. Before that, increasing demand will trigger a corresponding increase in supply, so that both rise together and prices remain stable.
In any case, today we are in a deflationary spiral. The economy needs an injection of new money just to bring it to former levels. In July 2010, the New York Fed posted a staff report showing that the money supply had shrunk by about $3 trillion since 2008, due to the collapse of the shadow banking system. The goal of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing was to return inflation to target levels by increasing private sector borrowing. But rather than taking out new loans, individuals and businesses are paying off old loans, shrinking the money supply. They are doing this although credit is very cheap, because they need to rectify their debt-ridden balance sheets just to stay afloat. They are also hoarding money, taking it out of the circulating money supply. Economist Richard Koo calls it a “balance sheet recession.”
The Federal Reserve has already bought $3.6 trillion in assets simply by “printing the money” through QE. When that program was initiated, critics called it recklessly hyperinflationary; but it did not create even the modest 2% inflation the Fed was aiming for. Combined with ZIRP – zero interest rates for banks – it encouraged borrowing for speculation, driving up the stock market and real estate; but the Consumer Price Index, productivity and wages barely budged. As noted on CNBC in February:
Central banks have been pumping money into the global economy without a whole lot to show for it . . . . Growth remains anemic, and worries are escalating that the U.S. and the rest of the world are on the brink of a recession, despite bargain-basement interest rates and trillions in liquidity.
Boldness Has Genius in It
Quantitative easing, as practised by the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve, merely flooded the financial sector with money to the benefit of bondholders. This did not create a so-called wealth affect, with a trickle-down to the real producing economy.
. . . If the EU were bold enough, it could fund infrastructure or renewables projects directly through the electronic creation of money, without having to borrow. Our government has that authority, but lacks the political will.
In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt boldly solved the problem of a chronic shortage of gold by taking the dollar off the gold standard domestically. President-elect Trump, who is nothing if not bold, can solve the nation’s funding problems by tapping the sovereign right of government to issue money for its infrastructure needs.
Ellen Brown is an attorney and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at EllenBrown.com. She can be heard biweekly on “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Michael Flynn National Security Advisor?

The quandary that faces President-elect Donald Trump and Michael Flynn

As political circles buzzed with the news that former Defense Intelligence Agency director and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is likely to be named national security adviser by President-elect Donald Trump, Flynn was regaling a Museum of American Armor dinner Wednesday night in Old Bethpage.

Flynn is a Democrat and an early Trump loyalist who stood at the New York billionaire’s side from the start of his astonishing campaign. NSA chief is a great spot with which to reward Trump’s top military and defense supporter: It does not demand Senate confirmation.

Flynn’s speech was nonconfrontational by his standards, focusing on celebrating the men and women of the military, the Constitution as an oft-misunderstood document dedicated to individual liberty, the necessity of a strong United States leading the world, and the need to embrace the rule of law. It was largely stuff nearly no American would disagree with, though Flynn’s assertion that “we have been the best enemies in the world” because we telegraph our intentions to adversaries might raise some ire in the Obama administration he once served.
Flynn’s prediction was that enemies will test the Trump administration, probing for signs of weakness and a lack of will. He specified Russia, China, North Korea and the Islamic State, which has been the focus of his renown and his proxy work for Trump.

In a 30-minute speech at the Republican National Convention in July, a gathering far more contentious than the one in Old Bethpage, Flynn led chants of “U-S-A!” and “Lock her up!” but focused his policy talk on the necessity of understanding and naming the threat of radical Islamic terrorism in the United States and the world.

Recognizing the threat of ISIS early is Flynn’s great achievement, and understanding it and naming it as he does is the root of his break with Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s Middle East and anti-terrorism policies are among the great uncertainties of his coming administration. Flynn will likely have a huge part in defining them.

Trump has promised Americans exactly what they, very reasonably but probably unrealistically, want: a quick, decisive defeat of ISIS via his “secret” plan, and a continued tamping down of terrorism in the region afterward that does not involve endless occupation, resulting in huge expense and U.S. military casualties.
That’s the conundrum we’ve been caught up in since 2003.

The United States can control the situation in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East in general, keep the peace and stamp out terrorist cells if it is willing to commit people and money. The nation is tired of committing people and money, but cannot tolerate the threats of terrorism that arise when we remove our focus.

Flynn is as knowledgeable as anyone on how to address this, and there’s no reason to believe Trump isn’t serious about fixing it. But the conundrum feels almost impossible to change.

And it wasn’t surprising that Flynn didn’t touch the quandary that has bedeviled leaders of both parties for more than a decade.

Lane Filler is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rand Paul says he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent one name proffered as a Trump appointment, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton from becoming Secretary of State.

45 After Dark: The Purge — Transition Week

A week into the Donald Trump transition, the president-elect’s team is showing shades of the most dysfunctional days of his campaign — full of personal rivalries, steered by heavy family involvement and hamstrung by opposing factions working to undermine each other.

“It’s an absolute knife fight,” one Trump insider told POLITICO’s Eli Stokols. “But that just makes it Tuesday.” 

The most obvious sign of unrest Tuesday was the surprise ouster of former Rep. Mike Rogers, who had been leading Trump’s national security transition efforts. Rogers’ ouster is part of a broader effort to diminish the influence of those connected to Gov. Chris Christie, who lead Trump’s transition effort before getting demoted in favor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

It’s also the latest blow to the GOP’s national security and foreign policy establishment — always perhaps the most ruffled by Trump’s rise.

The “mood has darkened sharply since the weekend,” POLITICO’s Michael Crowley and Shane Goldmacher report, as names like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani have emerged as contenders for Secretary of State. Foreign policy hands are particularly leery of Giuliani’s potential conflicts of interest. Another foreign policy adviser, Matthew Freedman, was also removed on Tuesday, The New York Times reported


The man at the center of Tuesday’s bloodletting, Rogers, seemed to both downplay his ouster and acknowledge some level of tumult in Trump’s operation. He called his departure part of a “natural course” but also told CNN, “Is there a little confusion in New York right yet? I think there is, but I think this is growing pains,” Rogers said. “And once they integrate people who have been doing it [in Washington] with people in New York I think you'll see a smoother transition.”
And Trump, the man at the center of the maelstrom, has done something he has rarely, if ever, done since riding down the escalator in the summer of 2015: keep mostly quiet, and keep out of sight. He has tweeted occasionally hasn’t been spotted publicly since Thursday. (Though, very early transition pool reports suggest that he may — repeat “may” — have slipped out late Tuesday night for dinner.)
Here’s some other things that might have slipped by you today: 

SESSIONS STAKES: Could key Donald Trump ally Sen. Jeff Sessions face a confirmation fight? His racially charged statements held up a Senate confirmation once before. 
MILLIONAIRE: Hillary Clinton now leads in the popular vote by 1 million voters. 
KUSH GIG: Donald Trump wants Jared Kushner to sit in on his presidential briefings, once he gets security clearance (NBC News
FULL HOUSE: GOP Budget hawks are still leery of Donald Trump’s potential policies. (Los Angeles Times
WARREN PARTY: Elizabeth Warren says she will fight Donald Trump every step of the way if he doesn’t get rid of all the lobbyists on his transition team. (Boston Globe
GETTING READY: Mexico’s government says it is preparing for a change to Donald Trump’s immigration policies. 
CASTING A PAUL: Rand Paul says he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent one name proffered as a Trump appointment, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton from becoming Secretary of State. 
TRUMP INC.: Donald Trump’s various and layered business holdings pose ample opportunity for conflicts of interest. (The New York Times
LESS THAN GRAND STAND: D.C.’s City Council is considering downsizing its Inaugural grandstand after Donald Trump’s surprising victory. (Washington Post

And, there you have it, you’re caught up on the the Trump transition. Here’s a serene stream, for a calmer time. 
Authors: