24/03/2017

The Swamp Drains Trump - James Howard Kunstler

The Washington political scene is looking less like The Apprentice and more and more like the old Marlon Perkins Wild Kingdom show, with giant crocodiles slithering down the muddy banks to encircle Donald Trump paddling fecklessly in his leaky dugout while a chorus of angry birds shrieks in the surrounding treetops. Yes, it really looks that bad all of a sudden for Ole Number 45, the Golden Golem.
RussiaGate is flaring to a toxic shock level event. Everything that spun out of Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing made all parties look bad. The spooks are everywhere and nowhere. The spooks are leaking to the press. The president is tweeting instead of governing. The two parties are literally at war in congress, and the news media is playing it all like a Stockhausen cantata for kazoo and trashcan lid.
One can’t help marveling at the way the “Russian interference” motif has shifted the spotlight off the substance of what Wikileaks revealed about Clinton Foundation and DNC misdeeds onto Trump campaign officials “colluding” with Russians, supposedly to support their interference in the election. It’s true that the election is way over and the public is no longer concerned with Hillary or her foundation (which is closing shop anyway). But the switcheroo is impressive, and quite confusing, considering recently retired NSA James Clapper just two weeks ago said on NBC’s Meet the Press that there was “no evidence” of collusion Between Trump and Russia. Okay… uh, say what?
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey revealed that his agency had been investigating the Trump Campaign since at least last August. Is that so…? Investigating how? Some sort of electronic surveillance? Well, what else would they do nowadays? Send a gumshoe to a hotel room where he could press his ear on a drinking glass against the wall to eavesdrop on Paul Manafort? I don’t think so. Of course they were sifting through emails, phone calls, and every other sort of electronic communication.
Trump’s big blunder was to tweet that he’d been “wiretapped.” Like the FBI patched into a bunch of cables with alligator clips in the basement of Trump Tower … or planted a “bug” in the earpiece of his bedside phone. How quaint. We also don’t have ice boxes anymore, though plenty of struggling weight-watchers across the land speak guiltily of “raiding the icebox.” But if it’s true, as Mr. Comey said, that the FBI had been investigating Trump’s campaign, the people around him, and Trump himself, since August, how could they not have captured some of Trump’s conversations?
Anyway, the action on Monday shifted to the question of how General Michael Flynn was “unmasked” after the CIA recorded a phone conversation between him and the Russian ambassador. (The CIA is expressly forbidden from spying on US citizens, and anything overheard incidentally when bugging foreigners is supposed to remain suppressed or “masked.”) Somebody at the CIA just handed the info straight to The New York TimesThe WashPo, and CNN. That story broke in back in January. How come the CIA has not rooted out the culprit and handed him/her/zhe over to the Department of Justice?
For the record, apart from the General Flynn matter, I have no idea what connections Trump & Co. may have had with Russia before, during, or after the election. But nobody has yet demonstrated that the allegations about Hillary, her email, her foundation, the DNCs treatment of Senator Sanders, or the John Podesta letters were anything but truthful, either, and that was why Hillary lost the election.
It is also worth considering that candidates for high office in all advanced nations have relationships with people in other countries. It’s not against the law per se to speak to people in Portugal, Singapore, Germany, Argentina, and a hundred other places, including, yes, Russia — which, by the way, is no longer a communist imperium bent on world domination, though Senator Chuck Schumer would like you to think so.
Then, on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Cal) told the news media that an “unnamed source” in the Intel community informed him that Trump had indeed been surveilled during the transition period following the election. Was he just blowing smoke up America’s ass? I guess we’ll have to stand by on that one.
So, the long and the short of it is that the RussiaGate story is spinning out of control, and Trump’s adversaries — who go well beyond Congress into the Deep State — might be getting enough leverage to dump Trump. Either they will maneuver him and his people into some kind of perjury rap, or they will tie up the government in such a web of investigative procedural rigmarole that all the country lawyers who ever snapped their galluses will never be able to unravel it.
While the nation remains entertained by all this, the Potemkin financial system will wobble, crash, and burn and the humiliation of Donald Trump will be complete. Abandoned by the Republican Party, isolated and crazed in the White House, tweeting out mad appeals to heaven, he’ll either voluntarily pass the baton to Mike Pence or he will be declared unfit to serve and removed under the 25th amendment.
The after-effects of that will be something to behold: a “lose-lose” for both old-line political parties. The Trumpists will never forgive the Republican Party, and the Democrats will have gained nothing. Don’t let the door bang you on the butt on your way out.

18/03/2017

From Nuisance to Threat: The High Cost of Truth — Paul Craig Roberts

When one gives so much scarce time and energy from one’s life to a large and unknown public, one needs to know that it is sufficiently appreciated to be a worthwhile use of one’s time and energy. This is especially the case when there are large costs associated with the commitment. 
Your response to my quarterly request for donations showed me that enough of you value what I am doing to justify its continuation. 
I am convinced that the US, and probably the entire Western world, that is, the American Empire, has entered an era in which respect for truth does not exist in public and private institutions. We have been watching this develop for some time. Think, for example, back to August 3, 2002, a recent time in terms of our present predicament, but a time prior to political consciousness of anyone younger today than 33 years old. In the summer of 2002, the world was being prepared by propaganda for a US invasion of Iraq. On August 3 of that year, the prestigous British publication, The Economist, summed up the consensus of ruling opinion in two sentences: “The honest choices now are to give up and give in, or to remove Mr. Hussein before he gets his [nuclear] bomb. Painful as it is, our vote is for war.” 
As Lewis Lapham, myself and others asked at the time, what bomb? The only evidence of a bomb was fabricated and known to be fabricated. The UN weapons inspectors concluded that the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction were a creation of US propaganda. President George W. Bush eventually acknowledged that Iraq had no such weapons. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the lies he was deceived by the Bush regime into telling the UN about Saddam Hussein’s WMD are a stain on his career.
Despite the 2003 US invasion known to have been based entirely on lies, US troops were not pulled out of Iraq until 2011, and whether or not they were pulled out, they are back in Iraq now. None of these facts has had any impact on the good opinion that Washington and the media have of themselves.
Unchastened, Washington and its presstitutes lied about Libya and destroyed that prosperous country. They lied about “Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people,” and would have destroyed Syria also had it not been for the Russians. 
Blocked by Russia, Obama, Hillary, and Victoria Nuland turned on Russia, first overthrowing the democratically elected government in Ukraine, and when Crimeans voted practically unanimously to reunite with Russia, the Obama regime and its media whores falsely alleged “Russian invasion of Ukraine.” 
This false charge, repeated endlessly still today by the Western presstitutes, became the justification for economic sanctions against Russia that Washington imposed on its European vassals, entirely at their expense, which shows what craven cowards European governments are. If Washington orders “jump,” the UK Prime Minister, the German Chancellor, the French President ask, “How High?” 
One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected president was his commitment to normalizing relations with Russia and reconsidering the continuation of NATO a quarter century after its purpose ceased to exist with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Trump’s commitment constituted a direct threat to the power and profit of the US military/security complex, whose $1,000 billion annual budget requires a major threat that only Russia can provide. 
Consequently, Russia and its president have been demonized. American propaganda, bald-faced lies, spread fear of Russia and Putin throughout the American Empire. The Empire’s response to those who confront the propaganda with the facts is to denounce those with the facts as “Russian agents” or “Putin’s dupes.” The hatred of Russia that has been inculcated by the neocons and presstitute media has resulted in Republican Senator John McCain, representing Arizona (to the disgrace of Arizonians), calling on the Senate floor Republican Senator Rand Paul, representing Kentucky, a person who “is now working for Vladimir Putin” for objecting to tiny Montenegro being made a NATO member. http://news.antiwar.com/2017/03/15/sen-john-mccain-rand-paul-is-working-for-vladimir-putin/ 
When this website was included on a list of 200 Russian agent/dupe websites by a secret, undisclosed group called PropOrNot, I wondered whose money was behind this entity as well hidden as an offshore money laundering operation. I made a joke of it, which amused the Russians. 
As no one knows what PropOrNot is, the site has no credibility. So the forces for war moved up several levels to Harvard University Library. On that website someone posted what is essentially the PropOrNot list. Harvard does not say that the list is vetted or explain why anyone should believe it. The list is attributed to a Melissa Zindars, an assistant professor of communication and media at some unnamed institution. It is a list, she says, that she uses in her class to teach students how to avoid “fake and false news.” In other words, the list reflects her own ignorance and biases. 
As one reader observed, Melissa tells on her own indoctrination by the presstitute, CIA-serving US media: “I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives (Truth-Out).”
So here we have the Western world informed by Harvard University Library of who is safe to read on the basis of an unknown young woman’s biases. Those safe to read are the lying presstitute media who serve the cause of war and the police state.
When you witness this level of total corruption at what pretends to be America’s finest university, and it is on top of the 24 years of nothing but lies from the previous three two-term presidents, who between them have murdered and dislocated millions of people in numerous countries, and not been held accountable for even one of the millons of lives destroyed, you cannot avoid realizing that for the United States and its corrupt vassal states, Truth is something to be avoided at all costs. 
When Trump collapsed under pressure and fired his National Security Adviser, Gen. Flynn, he unintentionally gave credence to the charge that any and all who think well of normalized relations with the other major nuclear power are “Russian agents,” and that to be a “Russian agent” means that you are guilty of treason and deserve to be impeached if you happen to be the President of the United States. 
The consequence of Flynn’s removal from office has been to enable the Russophobic forces to define as treason the desire for detente with Russia. If this had been imposed on US presidents during the First Cold War, probably life on earth would not exist today.
What is scary about the US and Europe is not merely the gullibility and insouciance of such a large percentage of the populations. What is very frightening is the willingness of the media, government officials, military, and members of professional organizations to lie for the sake of their careers. Try to find any shame among the liars that their lies expose humanity to thermo-nuclear annihilation. It is not to be found. They don’t care. Just let me have the Mercedes and the McMansion for another year. 
The Saker, an observant being, says that the color revolution being conducted by the neoconservatives, the Democratic Party, the presstitutes, the liberal/progressive/left, and by some Republicans against President Trump is “de-legitimizing the entire [democratic] political process which brought Trump to power and upon which the United States is built as a society.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46658.htm The consequence, says The Saker, is that “the illusion of democracy and people power” has been destroyed both domestically and abroad. The propaganda picture of “American Democracy” has lost its believability. As the false picture crumbles, so does the power that was based on authority constructed by propaganda. 
The Saker asks: do we face an endless horror or a horrible end?
As George Orwell said decades ago, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
This is the way the criminals who rule us see it, and it is the way their whores in the media see it. If you tell the truth in America, you are a purveyor of fake news and possibly a traitor.
As long as you support this site, I will continue to face the obvious consequences. Perhaps Neo will turn up.

11/03/2017

Truth Is Rare and Hard to Find — Paul Craig Roberts

Recent developments show how important and necessary websites such as paulcraigroberts.org are. The latest Wikileaks release of CIA documents code-named Vault 7 reveal that the CIA has the capability and the intent to mask the cyber-attacks it commits by making them seem as if they originated from another source. 
This capability destroys the concept of evidence. The CIA can carry out a cyber attack or steal information and leave a fingerprint, so to speak, of the country or person it wants blamed. If the CIA can leave the fingerprint of an innocent party, we must assume the CIA can also put secret documents or child pornography on a person’s computer. Because of the CIA’s capability, henceforth we cannot know if any evidence presented in any trial against any defendant is real of faked.  http://www.globalresearch.ca/wikileaks-reveals-cias-umbrage-allows-agency-to-carry-out-false-flag-cyber-attacks/5578786 and
https://www.rt.com/news/380051-assange-malware-cia-fingerprints/ 
Maria Zakharova points out another reason that sites such as this one are crucial. The fake news promoted by CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC, and all the rest of the Western presstitutes has undermined the credibility of all traditional Western media, leaving only Internet sites that vary in commitment to truth from which the public can form an opinion. In a press conference, Zakharova said that the Western media is shameful, a form of vandalism. She asks if the Western media has yet hit bottom “or can they dive a little lower?” The US media is engaged in “a total disinformation campaign not only for their internal audience, but also for the global audience. . . This is Orwell, 1984. Now we know who he wrote about when he wrote about Big Brother. Big Brother, in America, is now the media, which has stepped so far outside of professional ethics, as well as their own competency. They accuse and judge, based on entirely fabricated lies. . . That which is happening now is a global tragedy, the destruction of trust in the authority of media. What is going to happen in the future?” http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/03/big-brother-is-here-zakharova-warns-of.html 
The future of truth lies with websites, such as the one you are reading. This website has faithful donors. They are the people who pushed me out of retirement back into the fray. Many of them make automatic monthly donations. Others have joined them. But most of the people who use this site do not support it.
As we see President Trump collapse on his promise of normalized relations with Russia, we witness another president captured by the military/security complex.
For an individual website to go up against powerful forces controlling billions of dollars requires your support. If you are with me, I need your financial support. 
If you have any doubts that the media are a propaganda agency for the ruling elite, note that when Julian Assange released the CIA documents given to WikiLeaks that show the CIA’s ability to blame its hacks on innocent parties, ABC presstitute Brian Ross was uninterested in the documents and attempted to discredit the WikiLeaks release with the question if Assange had ever been paid by the Russian government. Assange replied “no” but that it was a “pretty sad question” which tried to divert from the content of the released documents. “Quite interesting,” Assange said, “to see ABC taking that line.”  https://www.rt.com/viral/380044-assange-denies-russian-funding-msm/ 
In other words, when the CIA’s own documents are presented to the whores who comprise the Western media, the well-trained whores cast aspersion on the person who makes the documents public, not on the crimes of those that the documents reveal.
As I wrote some years ago, “Truth Is Imperiled.” You cannot acquire truth from the Western media, but you can get truth from this site. So support it.

10/03/2017

Canadian Housing, Banking System Vulnerabilities and Wikileaks - by Jeff Fitchett

Recently, I’ve had a number of requests from clients for my thoughts on the Canadian housing market.  To put it simply; I think Canadian housing prices are extremely over valued.  Incomes have not kept pace with the drastic increase in real estate prices. As well, foreign investors have piled into specific housing markets and this has helped push real estate values higher.   

Interest rates are at historic lows and this has increased ‘affordability’ so to speak.  As you are likely aware, debt is increasing exponentially and this has triggered an uptick in the value of  assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, art, etc.  

Some people argue that ‘this time is different’ and the good times will continue unabated.  Fractures in the global real estate market are beginning to appear in places such as New York.   A recent report from Elliman noted a drop in  the rental markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.  In a recent ZeroHedge article titled: Manhattan Retail Vacancies Soar the article highlights the decline in commercial real estate.  

Richard Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters, stated in the latest earnings call that “retail square feet per capita in the United States is more than six times that of Europe or Japan. And this doesn't count digital commerce. Our industry, not unlike the housing industry, saw too much square footage capacity added in the 1990s and early 2000s. Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared. This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst. We are seeing the results: doors shuttering and rents retreating. This trend will continue for the foreseeable future and may even accelerate.” Source

The 2008 financial crisis was triggered by a drop in the US housing market.  I think the analogy that if the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold is appropriate in describing the predicament we find ourselves in here in Canada.  As I have chronicled numerous times over the past number of years, debt levels have continued to march higher all the while incomes have remained stagnant.  The fact that many retailers are shuttering stores, there are mall closings and a decline in the value of  commercial real estate all should be noted. Canada is not immune to the ebbs and flows of global commerce. I’m of the opinion that global monetary policies have been the key catalyst for propping up asset values.  

What does this mean for the banking sector in Canada and how do are banks compare with those of other nations?  On March 6th, The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) released their latest report on global financial flows.  The report highlights that debt has continued to rise globally and that a number of countries are at risk.  Canada was highlighted not in a good way:  

Early warning indicators for financial crises continue to signal vulnerabilities in several jurisdictions. Table 1 summarises the early warning indicators for domestic banking risks produced by the BIS, with data up to Q3 2016 for most countries.7 Relative to previous readings,8 the set of countries showing large and positive credit-to-GDP gaps remained the same (first column). The credit gap for China remained high at 26.3% of GDP, well above the threshold of 10%.9 Canada, as well as a group of Asian countries, saw increases in the credit gap since September 2016. The size of the property price gap (second column) remains in line with historical trends in many jurisdictions, with the exception of Canada, Germany, Greece, Japan, Portugal and a group of central and eastern European countries, for which the gaps remain relatively large. However, a high reading need not indicate accelerating price growth - for Greece, Japan and Portugal, the high property price gap does not necessarily indicate vulnerabilities, as it is driven by property price growth returning to normal levels after long periods of decline.”  

“The last two columns of Table 1 present two alternative measures of debt service ratios, which aim to capture aggregate principal and interest payments in relation to income for the total private non-

financial sector. For most countries, debt service ratios stand at manageable levels under the assumption of no change in interest rates (third column). Under more stressed conditions - a 250 basis point increase in rates - and assuming 100% pass-through, the numbers point to potential risks in Canada, China and Turkey (fourth column). However, the figures are meant to be only indicative, and are not the outcome of a proper stress test: a rise in rates would take time to translate into higher debt service. The degree of pass-through depends on the share of debt at floating rates, debt maturities and possible changes in borrowing behaviour.”

From my perspective, I think that the path Canada is on will lead to a crisis.  The continued growth of debt is fuelling a housing bubble all the while macro-economic issues & geo-political tensions are increasing.  Did you notice in the table on the second page of this report that Canada is the only country that had three of the four "financial crisis early warning indicators” highlighted in red?

Update on Caterpillar 

Two weeks ago I highlighted the disconnect in underlying economic fundamentals of Caterpillar and the company’s share price. On March 7th, the New York Times published an article titled: Caterpillar Is Accused in Report to Federal Investigators of Tax Fraud. “Leslie A. Robinson, an accounting professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and the author of the report stated; “I believe that the company’s noncompliance with these rules was deliberate and primarily with the intention of maintaining a higher share price. These actions were fraudulent rather than negligent.”  

In last weeks missive I highlighted the disconnect between macro-economics and broad based market indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500.  Perhaps we will learn that government statistics have been ‘massaged’ to give the appearance of a healthier economy. Statistics  relating to inflation, unemployment, debt, budget deficits, economic growth expectations are questionable in my opinion (I have highlighted discrepancies in economic data for years).

Interesting Geo-Political News Item

Earlier this week Wikileaks once again made headlines following its release of the “largest ever publication of U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents.”  I highly recommend you spend a few moments and look into this because it is alarming to say the least. “Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized "zero day" exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”  Click here to read a summary  It is very important for everyone to protect their digital property and be aware of what is occurring in the cyber world.  

In Closing

There never seems to be a dull moment these days.  The topics to write about are almost endless and every day new stories emerge.  Like many of you, I too wonder how things are going to play out in the coming years.  I think it safe to say that populist movements around the world will likely intensify and the news coverage of these movements will continue to be biased towards the status quo.  As economic and political instability worsens the likelihood of another financial crisis increases.   

I think it is important for people to be cognizant of what is going on in the world because it allows each of us to make decisions that can better our own unique situation and help the world at large.  Small steps can travel a long path.  This weeks video is a 10 minute motivational compilation focused on retraining our minds.



Have a great weekend!