Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives - Matt Taibbi

Originally published at Rolling Stone

Whatever the truth about Trump and Russia, the speculation surrounding it has become a dangerous case of mass hysteria

So Michael Flynn, who was Donald Trump's national security adviser before he got busted talking out of school to Russia's ambassador, has reportedly offered to testify in exchange for immunity.

For seemingly the 100th time, social media is exploding. This is it! The big reveal!

Perhaps it will come off just the way people are expecting. Perhaps Flynn will get a deal, walk into the House or the Senate surrounded by a phalanx of lawyers, and unspool the whole sordid conspiracy.

He will explain that Donald Trump, compromised by ancient deals with Russian mobsters, and perhaps even blackmailed by an unspeakable KGB sex tape, made a secret deal. He'll say Trump agreed to downplay the obvious benefits of an armed proxy war in Ukraine with nuclear-armed Russia in exchange for Vladimir Putin's help in stealing the emails of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta.

I personally would be surprised if this turned out to be the narrative, mainly because we haven't seen any real evidence of it. But episodes like the Flynn story have even the most careful reporters paralyzed. What if, tomorrow, it all turns out to be true?
What if reality does turn out to be a massive connect-the-dots image of St. Basil's Cathedral sitting atop the White House? (This was suddenly legitimate British conspiracist Louise Mensch's constructionin The New York Times last week.) What if all the Glenn Beck-style far-out charts with the circles and arrows somehow all make sense?
This is one of the tricks that keeps every good conspiracy theory going. Nobody wants to be the one claiming the emperor has no clothes the day His Highness walks out naked. And this Russia thing has spun out of control into just such an exercise of conspiratorial mass hysteria.
Even I think there should be a legitimate independent investigation – one that, given Trump's history, might uncover all sorts of things. But almost irrespective of what ends up being uncovered on the Trump side, the public prosecution of this affair has taken on a malevolent life of its own. 
One way we recognize a mass hysteria movement is that everyone who doesn't believe is accused of being in on the plot. This has been going on virtually unrestrained in both political and media circles in recent weeks.
The aforementioned Mensch, a noted loon who thinks Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart but has somehow been put front and center by The Times and HBO's Real Time, has denounced an extraordinary list of Kremlin plants.

She's tabbed everyone from Jeff Sessions ("a Russian partisan") to Rudy Giuliani and former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom ("agents of influence") to Glenn Greenwald ("Russian shill") to ProPublica and Democracy Now! (also "Russian shills"), to the 15-year-old girl with whom Anthony Weiner sexted (really, she says, a Russian hacker group called "Crackas With Attitudes") to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office ("moles"). And that's just for starters.
Others are doing the same. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, upon seeing the strange behavior of Republican Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes, asked "what kind of dossier" the Kremlin has on Nunes.
Dem-friendly pollster Matt McDermott wondered why reporters Michael Tracey and Zaid Jilani aren't on board with the conspiracy stories (they might be "unwitting" agents!) and noted, without irony, that Russian bots mysteriously appear every time he tweets negatively about them.
Think about that last one. Does McDermott think Tracey and Jilani call their handlers at the sight of a scary Matt McDermott tweet and have the FSB send waves of Russian bots at him on command? Or does he think it's an automated process? What goes through the heads of such people?
I've written a few articles on the Russia subject that have been very tame, basically arguing that it might be a good idea to wait for evidence of collusion before those of us in the media jump in the story with both feet. But even I've gotten the treatment.
I've been "outed" as a possible paid Putin plant by the infamous "PropOrNot" group, which is supposedly dedicated to rooting out Russian "agents of influence." You might remember PropOrNot as the illustrious research team the Washington Post once relied on for a report that accused 200 alternative websites of being "routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season." 
Politicians are getting into the act, too. It was one thing when Rand Paul balked at OKing the expansion of NATO to Montenegro, and John McCain didn't hesitate to say that "the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin."
Even Bernie Sanders has himself been accused of being a Putin plantby Mensch. But even he's gotten on board of late, asking, "What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?"
So even people who themselves have been accused of being Russian plants are now accusing people of being Russian plants. As the Russians would say, it's enough to make your bashka hurt.
Sanders should know better. Last week, during hearings in the Senate, multiple witnesses essentially pegged his electoral following as unwitting fellow travelers for Putin.
Former NSA chief Keith Alexander spoke openly of how Russia used the Sanders campaign to "drive a wedge within the Democratic Party," while Dr. Thomas Rid of Kings College in London spoke of Russia's use of "unwitting agents" and "overeager journalists" to drive narratives that destabilized American politics. 
This testimony was brought out by Virginia Democrat Mark Warner. Warner has been in full-blown "precious bodily fluids" mode throughout this scandal. During an interview with The Times on the Russia subject a month back, there was a thud outside the window. "That may just be the FSB," he said. The paper was unsure if he was kidding.
Warner furthermore told The Times that in order to get prepared for his role as an exposer of 21st-century Russian perfidy, he was "losing himself in a book about the Romanovs," and had been quizzing staffers about "Tolstoy and Nabokov."
This is how nuts things are now: a senator brushes up on Nabokov and Tolstoy (Tolstoy!) to get pumped to expose Vladimir Putin.
Even the bizarre admission by FBI director (and sudden darling of the same Democrats who hated him months ago) James Comey that he didn't know anything about Russia's biggest company didn't seem to trouble Americans very much. Here's the key exchange, from a House hearing in which Jackie Speier quizzed Comey:
SPEIER: Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, director?COMEY: I don't.
SPEIER: Well, it's a – it's an oil company.
(Incidentally, Gazprom – primarily a natural-gas giant – is not really an oil company. So both Comey and Speier got it wrong.)
As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg noted, this exchange was terrifying to Russians. The leader of an investigation into Russian espionage not knowing what Gazprom is would be like an FSB chief not having heard of Exxon-Mobil. It's bizarre, to say the least. 
Testimony of the sort that came from Warner's committee last week is being buttressed by news stories in liberal outlets like Salon insisting that "Bernie Bros" were influenced by those same ubiquitous McDermott-chasing Russian "bots."
These stories insist that, among other things, these evil bots pushed on the unwitting "bros" juicy "fake news" stories about Hillary being "involved with various murders and money laundering schemes."
Some 13.2 million people voted for Sanders during the primary season last year. What percentage does any rational person really believe voted that way because of "fake news"?
I would guess the number is infinitesimal at best. The Sanders campaign was driven by a lot of factors, but mainly by long-developing discontent within the Democratic Party and enthusiasm for Sanders himself.
To describe Sanders followers as unwitting dupes who departed the true DNC faith because of evil Russian propaganda is both insulting and ridiculous. It's also a testimony to the remarkable capacity for self-deception within the leadership of the Democratic Party.
If the party's leaders really believe that Russian intervention is anywhere in the top 100 list of reasons why some 155 million eligible voters (out of 231 million) chose not to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton last year, they're farther along down the Purity of Essence nut-holethan Mark Warner.
Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of "unwitting" cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.
Imagine it's four years from now (if indeed that's when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.
Or, even better: that same candidate reminds us "what happened last time" when people decided to vote their consciences during primary season. It will be argued, in seriousness, that true Americans will owe their votes to the non-Putin candidate. It would be a shock if some version of this didn't become an effective political trope going forward.
But if you're not worried about accusing non-believers of being spies, or pegging legitimate dissent as treason, there's a third problem that should scare everyone.
Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia's apparent hack of DNC emails an "act of war." This coupling seemed at first like political end times: as Bill Murray would say, "dogs and cats, living together."
But there's been remarkable unanimity among would-be enemies in the Republican and Democrat camps on this question. Suddenly everyone from Speier to McCain to Kamala Harris to Ben Cardin have decried Russia's alleged behavior during the election as real or metaphorical acts of war: a "political Pearl Harbor," as Cardin put it.
That no one seems to be concerned about igniting a hot war with nuclear-powered Russia at a time when both countries have troops within "hand-grenade range" of each in Syria other is bizarre, to say the least. People are in such a fever to drag Trump to impeachment that these other considerations seem not to matter. This is what happens when people lose their heads.
There are a lot of people who will say that these issues are of secondary importance to the more important question of whether or not we have a compromised Russian agent in the White House.
But when it comes to Trump-Putin collusion, we're still waiting for the confirmation. As Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters put it, the proof is increasingly understood to be the thing we find later, as in, "If we do the investigations, we will find the connections."
But on the mass hysteria front, we already have evidence enough to fill a dozen books. And if it doesn't freak you out, it probably should.


Gerald Celente - Pro-Life V.P. Pence Promoting Mass Murder

The Anything President And The Everything Bubble - David Stockman

The lemmings were running hard towards the cliffs yesterday. Despite a renewed burst of bombs and drones careening into the already rubble-strewn wastelands of Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
Or the outbreak of cold war style nuclear brinksmanship on the Korean peninsula — what one commentator properly called a Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.
Likewise, forget that the vacationing Congress is set to return on April 25 to an endless sequence of shoutdowns, showdowns and shutdowns on continuing resolutions and debt ceiling increases.
That is, it will be struggling to keep the fiscal lights on in the Imperial City, not enacting the Donald’s DBA (dead before arrival) fantasy about making the American economy great again.
Indeed, while the Donald has been out huffing and puffing in his new role as global Spanker-in-Chief, the domestic front has turned from bad to worse. His economic policy machinery has now been seized entirely by the Vampire Squid’s latest chieftains in the White House — Gary Cohn, Steve Mnuchin and Jared Kushner.
I am quite confident that none of these three has ever voted Republican in their life or have even the foggiest idea of how to craft a fiscal plan and tax program that could coalesce the warring GOP factions from the hardline Freedom Caucus to the moderate Tuesday Group.
And if the Goldman trio should even attempt to go the old Boehner-Obama “bipartisan” route, as Wall Street devoutly wishes, Speaker Ryan will come to understand what it means to be drawn-and-quartered.
As I stated earlier, it should be crystal clear by now that there will be no great Trump Stimulus. And what lies ahead is an unprecedented outbreak of dysfunction, paralysis and unmitigated mayhem in the Imperial City.
Moreover, the fact that the Donald is now flipping, flopping, pivoting and whirling on issues in an almost random manner is surely compounding the dysfunction.
While the clucking commentariat at CNN may find the Donald’s betrayal of core campaign positions and constituencies to be evidence of a “refreshing” flexibility — or even as “presidential” — it is actually just the opposite.
It’s proof that the Donald didn’t mean a thing he said during the campaign.
And that for GOP politicians on Capitol Hill, lining-up behind a whirling dervish of impetuous unpredictability is fast becoming a career hazard with vanishing appeal.
After all, the Donald has now flip-flopped not on campaign brochure footnotes, but on five core issues:
China’s blatant currency manipulation over two decades, the Fed’s egregious bubble finance that left Flyover American behind, the Export-Import bank’s crony capitalist subsidies to Boeing and GE, NATO’s obsolescence and intervention on both sides of the Syrian civil war were all front and center to the Donald’s appeal.
Yet the fact that he jettisoned his clear positions on these issues in less than a week’s time indicates that he is truly flying by the seat of his ample britches, and that his attention span does indeed compress into 140 characters or less.
Yet, when the bell rung yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 index was still up an unjustified 12% since November 8. So I will say it again with renewed emphasis: This century’s third great bubble’s days are numbered and in just a few digits.
The remaining bullishness and buy-the-dips robo-trading that temporarily sustained the dotcom bubble through March 2000 and the housing bubble through September 2008 will soon give way.
That’s especially true because the Fed is out of dry powder, and is raising interest rates and preparing to shrink its massive balance sheet in order to prepare for the next recession.
Given that the global economy languishes under $225 trillion of debt and massive excess capacity, the stock market is surely in the midst of the “Everything Bubble.”
As I stated above, the median stock is now trading at the highest multiple of earnings in history — including 2000 and 1929.
To top it all off, the state of American retail is indeed perilous.
With the recent chapter 11 filing by Payless shoes, it now appears that upwards of 3,500 stores will close in early 2017 alone.
Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ fudge factory seems to be getting the word about the scorched earth condition of the malls.
During the last two months, it has reported a 60,000 decline in the seasonally maladjusted job count; and a 758,000 drop in the actual count since the December holiday peak. By the way, that compares to only a 644,000 drop over December-March during the prior year.
The fact is, other than easy credit-fueled auto sales, which are now also rolling over, and purchases through Amazon’s cut rate e-Commerce juggernaut, the American consumer has been quasi-comatose for nearly three years now.
Reported sales at general merchandise stores in February were no higher than they were 30 months ago in August 2014 — and I do mean “nominal” sales. Since the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is up 2.8% during the last year alone, inflation adjusted sales are actually already well into recession territory.
More importantly, the plunge in department store sales — which comprise the anchor and driver of 70% of mall traffic — have not abated in the slightest. As of the most recent reading, the monthly sales rate was down 30% from the pre-crisis peak.
Again, that’s in nominal dollars. In real terms, department store sales have fall by upwards of 50% since the early years of this century.
Moreover, debt-encumbered American consumers are dropping, not shopping, because this entire so-called recovery has been wasted. That is, consumers can’t spend energetically because there has been no significant deleveraging since the 2008 crisis.
Despite all the Fed’s madcap money-printing, they are impaled on Peak Debt.
In a word, the retail mall sector is facing insuperable headwinds and the worst of both worlds. That is, flagging demand and immense over-capacity.
It now appears, in fact, that nearly 150 million of retail square footage could close during 2017 — an all-time record.
Does the foregoing paint a picture of economic health? Hardly. Quite the contrary, in fact.
So contrary to what the Wall Street stimulus junkies would have you think, the U.S. and global economies are hardly “accelerating.”
Of course, they have been preaching the same gospel since 2013. But this time, reality will come breaking in and finally shatter the delusion.
The U.S. economy is sliding toward recession. And with the Imperial City impossibly gridlocked, the chances that the “stimulus” baton will be handed off to some ballyhooed Trump Reflation are lower than those of the proverbial snowball in the hot place.
Which leads me to my sincerest piece of advice: get out of the casino before it’s too late.


The Great Western Economic Depression - Jeff Nielson

Western economies are “recovering”. How do we know this? We are told this, over and over and over again by our governments. Then this assertion is repeated thousands of times more by the dutiful parrots of the Corporate media.
The problem is that in the real world there is not a shred of evidence to support this assertion. In the U.S.; ridiculous official lies were created claiming the creation of 15 million new jobs . In reality, there are three million less Americans with jobs today than at the official end of the “recession”.
These imaginary jobs are invented by assorted statistical frauds, with the primary deceit being so-called “seasonal adjustments”. To be legitimate, all seasonal adjustments must to net to zero at the end of each year. Instead, in the U.S.A., the biggest job creator in the nation every year is the calendar.
Beyond the grandiose but absurd claims of new jobs in the U.S., there have been few signs of economic health across the Corrupt West. Despite this, these traitorous regimes continue the pretense that their horrific mismanagement of our economies is making things better rather than worse.
There are numerous subtle means of demonstrating that Western economies have never been in more calamitous ill health than they are today. Fortunately, there are also two very large and important indicators which provide absolute proof that all of the economies of the Corrupt West are in a Greater Depression : interest rates and energy demand.
Regular readers have often seen the observation in these commentaries that interest rates across the West have never been this low for this long in the entire history of these nations – not even close. Why not? Two reasons:
  1. Interest rates this low have always been perceived (by our governments and all legitimate economic commentators) as being so reckless that any short-term benefit from such rates would have been more than offset by long-term harm.
  2. The reason why our governments have always deemed interest rates this low to be reckless is that in remotely healthy economies such rates would cause these economies to “over-heat” so rapidly and extremely that they would reach unsustainable levels of production and demand.
Are our economies over-heating? No. Nothing could be further from the truth. We see nothing but over-capacity all around us: one hundred million permanently unemployed people across the West, relentless business closures , declining real wages, and near-empty shopping malls (in “consumer economies”).
Interest rates this low are supposed to cause such rapid business expansion that the economy suffers from a labour shortage. Why are there a hundred million people unemployed across the West instead of labour shortages?
Regular readers have seen this question answered in the past in the form of a metaphor. Consider 0% and near-zero interest rates to be the economic equivalent of a defibrillator: the most-extreme, last-resort attempt to “stimulate” the human body when it is near death.
Our economies have had this economic defibrillator attached to them for more than eight years – without the slightest glimmer of life. What would happen to a human body if it was defibrillated continuously for more than eight years? Charred meat. This is what Western economies have become: charred meat.
In the case of the Corrupt West, we see this charred meat in the form of asset bubbles. Why are extremely low interest rates deemed to be so incredibly reckless? Asset bubbles. Near-zero interest rates are literally rocket fuel for the acceleration of asset bubbles.
We’ve been fueling our housing markets and our equity markets with this bubble-producing rocket fuel for more than eight years. What has been the result? Surprise, surprise: we see the biggest asset bubbles in history – especially in real estate markets .
In the United States, both its stock market bubble and bond market bubble are at all-time highs, simultaneouslyThis is not even theoretically possible in legitimate markets. Stocks and bonds are counter-cyclical markets.
These insane, reckless bubbles have created a thin veneer of “health” in Western economies. The absurd bubble levels (and temporary prices) in equity markets create what crooked bankers like B.S. Bernanke call “a wealth effect”: bubble prices create the illusion of greater wealth. However, with more than 80% of all equities held by the top-10%, it’s a fairly narrow illusion.
Much broader is the “wealth effect” (illusion of wealth) seen in our real estate markets. Real estate is held across a larger segment of society than equities. Also, constructing millions of superfluous housing units across the West just to satisfy the demand from speculators has created significant amounts of temporary employment in the construction and real estate industries.
What happens when the bubbles are burst, all of this illusory “wealth” evaporates, and all of the temporary employment disappears? Don’t answer that question yet.
Some readers may still refuse to believe that Western economies are mired in a permanent depression, despite the fact that eight years of defibrillation-by-interest-rate has produced no discernible reaction in these Corpse Economies. Eight years of hard-core “recovery” propaganda can be very convincing.
However, as stated at the beginning, there is a second means of proving that Western economies are mired in a Greater Depression: energy demand – meaning the lack of energy demand in the West.
It’s a simple equation. Economies use energy. Growing economies use more energy. There is no exception to this economic tautology. Even very efficient economies will require some incremental amounts of energy to grow. And our economies are not “very efficient” from an energy standpoint – the Right Wing has fought very hard for decades to prevent this.
For our economies to grow, they must consume more energy. Western economies are not consuming more energy.
Over the past eight years, all increases in global energy demand have come from the Rest of the World. According to the Western media, growth rates in the Rest of the World over the past eight years have been dismal, and those economies are using more energy.
Observe this July 2015 headline from the World Economic Forum:
The surprising decline in US petroleum consumption
The only reason this declining consumption is a “surprise” is because the corrupt liars in the U.S. government continue to pretend that this train-wreck economy is growing. If the U.S. government was honest and acknowledged the U.S. Greater Depression, this is the headline we would have seen at the WEF:
The decline in U.S. petroleum consumption is expected 
Growing economies use more energy; shrinking economies use less energy. And if the Corrupt West wasn’t using its energy-intensive war machine so regularly, the collapse in energy demand in the Western world would have been even more pronounced. No economy with flat energy demand can pretend to be growing. No economy with its interest rates set permanently at near-zero levels can pretend to be growing. Both of those preceding statements are economic tautologies. Absolute proof. Western economies are not growing because two absolutely unequivocal economic fundamentals indicate such growth to be impossible. Here is a quote from the WEF article:
Petroleum consumption in the US was lower in 2014 than it was in 1997, despite the fact that the economy grew almost 50% over this period.

Here is the correction to that quote:

Petroleum consumption in the US was lower in 2014 than it was in 1997, despite the fact that the U.S. government pretended that the economy grew almost 50% over this period. The convenient thing about imaginary economic growth is that it requires no energy to fuel it. There has been some small degree of divergence in the U.S. from petroleum consumption into alternative energy sources. Putting the statement above into context, since 1997, there has been very little real growth in the U.S. economy – and none in the last ten years.

Note one of the implications of two decades of imaginary U.S. GDP. The U.S. government claims the U.S. economy generates total GDP of $16.77. But in 1997; official U.S. GDP was below $10 trillion – and now we can see that most of the “GDP” since then is just more statistical smoke-and-mirrors.
The U.S. national debt might have already hit $20 TRILLION by the time this article is read. And that number excludes countless $trillions of debt which previous regimes have hidden with assorted accounting frauds. This is how/why U.S. “unfunded liabilities” exceed $200 TRILLION – because significant amounts of actual debt have been transformed into mere “liabilities” via accounting fraud. 
Real U.S. debt is well above $20 trillion. Real U.S. GDP is down around $10 trillion. Without this extreme, permanent accounting fraud and years and years of falsifying GDP, it would be impossible for the U.S. government to pretend that the United States wasn’t already bankrupt. Other Western economies are only in marginally better condition – while their Traitor Governments run these economies into the ground as quickly as possible. 
Look at the extreme, reckless (criminal) interest rates across the Western world. Understand what those rates mean. Look at the anemic energy demand across the Western world. Understand what it means. 
The Western world is mired in a Greater Depression. To people who are paying attention, it couldn’t be more obvious.

[ Chris Martenson ] - 19 April 2017 --- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare


Martin Armstrong-Economic Downturn Will Take World to War

Former hedge fund manager Martin Armstrong, who is an expert on economic and political cycles, says, “You have to understand what makes war even take place? It does not unfold when everybody is fat and happy. Simple as that. You turn the economy down, and that’s when you get war. It’s the way politics works.”

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with renowned economist Martin Armstrong of ArmstrongEconomics.com.


Wonderland - James Howard Kunstler

Support  James Howard Kunstler by visiting Jim’s Patreon Page!

There are times in the course of events when a society cannot tell what the fuck is going on, or what to do about it, and this is one of those moments in history here in the USA. The quandaries of life on the home front — how to make a living, how to care for ourselves and loved ones — get shoved aside by misadventures in foreign lands with their own quandaries. One delusion leads to another until you enter a zero gravity of the mind. Case in point du jour: Syria.

The persistent hyperRussomania of the US Dem-Prog alliance and its sob-sisters in the media seeks to make a bad situation worse in Syria and probably for the worst reasons. How many Americans have even the dimmest idea what’s going on in Syria, who the cast of characters there represent, and where the USA fits into all of it?

There is the head of government, one Bashar al Assad (son of the previous president, Hafez al Assad). The Assads had run Syria as a mostly secular Arab state until the civil war within Islam, Sunni against Shia, spilled out of Iraq. The Assads belonged to the tiny Alawite sect of the Shia. They comprise only 13 percent of the Syrian population, which has a Sunni majority. Under the Assads, Syria has tilted toward Iran, the Shia home state, and away from the Sunni Arabs elsewhere in the neighborhood. Russia has cultivated Iran and support its “friends,” the Assads.
A mash-up of Sunni jihad armies fights the Assad government in Syria’s civil war. These are Isis, al Qaeda, and Jabhat al Nusra. The US government had made official noise about supporting the more “moderate rebels” in the Syrian conflict. Who are they exactly? Do you have a clue? Which army among those three rebel groups are “moderates?” And what is their moderate goal under jihad? To topple Assad. And then what? To set up a new theocratic government perhaps? How is it in America’s interests to promote Islamic jihadi theocracy?

One hypothesis is that the struggle is over who gets to run gas and oil pipelines through Syria to get easier access to the Mediterranean Sea and the European energy market. Iran would very badly like to do that. But they are in competition with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the little giant emirate of natural gas. So, you have the Iran/Shia gang on one side and the KSA/Qatar/Sunni on the other side. Anybody who had scanned the news since 1979 can probably tell whose side the US is on. By the way, this hypothesis has had no airing among the mainstream media triumvirate: The New York Times, CNN, and The WashPo. These news orgs won’t even entertain that angle of the story… but as I said, it’s only a hypothesis.

It was not so many weeks ago that President Trump met with the crown prince of KSA at the White House to give assurances of American friendship and support. KSA is supposedly America’s chief ally against Isis in Syria. Yet, KSA and the USA are dedicated to getting rid of the Assad government as well as Isis. That is, we are against both sides in the Syrian civil war. Still wondering why the American public is confused by all this? Do you know who our choice is to replace Assad? Can you name an opposition figure? Of course you can’t. There is nobody. What the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the NSA seem to have in mind is the familiar failed state policy that has worked so well in the past (not).

Which brings us to the curious case of Bashar Assad’s recent supposed poison gas bombing of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun. The media triumvirate was avid to play along with the story. I don’t know about you, but I have to ask myself: what would Assad’s strategic goal be in gas bombing women and children? To gin up worldwide positive PR? To get the Syrian people on his side against Isis and other jihadis? What advantage could Assad possibly gain? In warfare generally, the tacticians strike against military targets. There’s a hypothesis that Assad’s air force sought to strike a rebel arms depot in Idlib province — a military target. The hypothesis goes further, saying that the depot contained phosgene and chlorine gas, but not Sarin. The wind carried these released gases among civilian homes and streets in Khan Sheikhoun. People suffered and died. Evidence for the absence of Sarin gas is that the gassing victims were handled manually by doctors and aid workers in street clothes. Sarin can kill on skin contact and doctors have to treat it in protective gear. So, maybe the gas wasn’t Sarin and maybe it wasn’t dropped in bombs from Assad’s planes. But, like the pipeline angle of the story, this hypothesis is missing in the media triumvirate’s pages.

President Trump was lauded mostly for the missile strike against the Syrian air force base that followed. The Dem/Progs and The New York Times gave him brownie points, if only for it being a swipe against Russia. It seemed so clever, what with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago dinner table where, presumably, the subject of the maniac in North Korea came up. Days later, a US aircraft carrier group steamed to the waters off Kim Jong Un’s fortress state. Which brings forth another hypothesis: that the Syria missile strike was solely a demonstration of US military will vis-a-vis the more ominous threat over in Asia — an attempt to get Xi to do something about the Kim Jong Un before we do.

It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. The big fear is that in the event of a rumble, Kim will turn Seoul into an ashtray. The South Korean capital is only a few miles from the DMZ between the two states. The US couldn’t find a jucier enemy than Kim Jong Un, a character so improbable he might have been dreamed up in a Batman comic. Hence, he’s comprehensible to an American public that more and more looks like the ever-present crowd of perplexed bystanders in a Batman movie.


Syrian Gas Attack is a Lie - "Stop Your Governments!" - Russia

Jeff Fitchett: This is worth a watch.  

On April 7th, US warships delivered an illegal blow to a Syrian airbase in Homs. Their justification was the recent "chemical weapon" attack on behalf of the Syrian government in Idlib. The Kremlin condemned the strike as an act of aggression against a sovereign state, and a violation of international law. Meanwhile, at the UN, representatives of Western governments attempt to push through a resolution that is based on information taken out of thin air. It includes the removal of Assad, whether or not he was behind the attack.

It is noteworthy, that the only real source of information on what took place, are the videos made by the White Helmets, an infamous propaganda organisation as it pertains to the Syrian civil war. In this clip, Maria Zakharova calls on Western respresenatives/ journalists to hear Russia, and what it has to say. The attack against the Syrian government, much like the Ghouta gas attack in 2013, which precipitated the Syrian civil war, is a giant facade for the military industrial warhawks in the US, to put their money where their mouth is.


More Fake News From Washington; this time it is about employment Paul Craig Roberts

The US government continues to lie about everything, not just Russia, Syria, Iran, and China. The US government is incapable of telling the truth about something as straightforward as employment. According to the government, March produced only 98,000 new payroll jobs, an insufficient amount to reduce unemployment, but the unemployment rate fell from 4.7 to 4.5 percent. 
How did that happen? Not because the unemployed found jobs. The unemployment rate fell because the government did not count as unemployed large numbers of unemployed people who did not look for a job during the four week period prior to the survey. The US has a low unemployment rate, because the government does not count the unemployed. 
The government knows the reported unemployment rate is wrong, because other data are inconsistent with the low rate. For example, the labor force participation rate consistent with a 4.5% unemployment rate is 67%, whereas the current participation rate is a low 63%, which implies a much higher rate of unemployment than 4.5%. 
The 4.5% reported unemployment rate is also inconsistent with the Conference Board help wanted data, which has been in a downward trend since 2010 and shows a March 2017 year over year decline of 17%. 
I don’t see the financial press investigating the inconsistencies among the data, asking the government qustions, and providing the public with explanations. John Williams at shadowstats.com does, but the economics profession shows no observable interest.
Just as the government doesn’t measure unemployment, it doesn’t measure inflation. The government has created the myth of a growing real GDP since a recovery was declared in June 2009. However, when the implicit price deflator is adjusted for the government’s understatement of inflation, as John Williams does, real GDP growth has been flat since June 2009.
The government uses fake facts in order to create a fake picture of the economy so that the stock market’s rise is perceived to be real and not the result of Federal Reserve manipulation and corporations using their profits and borrowing money in order to buy back their own stocks. The buy-backs drive up the stock prices and executive “performance bonuses.” Stock prices are higher than can be expained by profits and real retail sales. Indeed, stock prices are so high that one would think there would be massive business investment, but there is very little.
One would think that someone in the financial press would be interested in the many inconsistencies in reported data, just as one would think that reporters would be more interested in the inconsistencies in the government’s stories about Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, 9/11, Snowden, Julian Assange, and reformist Latin Amerian heads of state, who Washington always finds reasons to overthrow. But reporters aren’t interested and neither are their editors. 
The facts are inconsistent with the propaganda, so the facts are ignored. In the place of facts, we have fake facts that sustain the propaganda. By controlling expanations, the government maintains The Matrix that serves the One Percent and war and is driving the world to destruction.


The Impending Clash Between the U.S. and Russia by Mike Whitney

Originally Published on Counterpunch

President Donald Trump’s missile attack on the Shayrat Airfield in Western Syria was a poorly planned display of imperial muscle-flexing that had the exact opposite effect of what was intended. While the attack undoubtedly lifted the morale of the jihadists who have been rampaging across the country for the last six years, it had no military or strategic value at all. The damage to the airfield was very slight and there is no reason to believe it will impact the Syrian Army’s progress on the ground.
The attack did however kill four Syrian servicemen which means the US troops in Syria can no longer be considered part of an international coalition fighting terrorism. The US is now a hostile force that represents an existential threat to the sovereign government.
Is that the change that Trump wanted?
As of Friday, Russia has frozen all military cooperation with the United States.  According to the New York Times:
“In addition to suspending the pact to coordinate air operations over Syria, an accord that was meant to prevent accidental encounters between the two militaries, Russia also said it would bolster Syria’s air defense systems and reportedly planned to send a frigate into the Mediterranean Sea to visit the logistics base at the Syrian port of Tartus….
Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, said that the cruise missile strikes on Friday represented a “significant blow” to American-Russian ties, and that Mr. Putin considered the attack a breach of international law that had been made under a false pretext. “The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons at its disposal,” Mr. Peskov said.” (New York Times)
The missile attack has ended all talk of “normalizing” relations with Russia. For whatever the reason, Trump has decided that identifying himself and the United States as an enemy of Moscow and Damascus is the way he wants to conduct business. That, of course, is the President’s prerogative, but it would be foolish not to think there will be consequences.
Russia’s Minister of Defense Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov issued a statement saying:
“All the accusations against Damascus that it violated the Chemical Weapons Convention of 2013 given by the USA as reasons for the strike are groundless. The Russian Defence Ministry has repeatedly explained that the Syrian troops had not used chemical weapons….
It is to be stressed that in the years 2013-2016 the Syrian government undertook all measures to eliminate chemical weapons, its delivery systems, production facilities. All chemical weapons stocks have been eliminated. The components for their production have been transported from the Syrian Arab Republic to the enterprises of the United States, Finland, Great Britain, and Germany where they have been destroyed.”
This is a hotly contested issue and one that requires greater clarification. The rational approach would be for the UN to send a team of chemical weapons and forensic experts to the site of the bombing to try to figure out what really happened.  Trump decided he couldn’t be bothered with such trivialities as a formal investigation. He was more interested in projecting the image of a strong and decisive leader which is why he decided to shoot first and ask questions later. His action was applauded by leaders around the world including Angela Merkel,  Fran├žois Hollande,  Recep Erdogan of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel none of who believe that the United States should have to get the nod from the UN Security Council before bombing a sovereign country.
I don’t know who is responsible for the chemical attack at Khan Shaikhoun, but there is an interesting interview on Thursday’s Scott Horton show that suggests that things may not be what they seem. In a 14 minute interview,  former CIA officer and Director of the Council for the National Interest, Philip Giraldi, explains what’s happening behind the scenes in the Middle East where “military and intelligence personnel,” “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, say that the narrative that Assad or Russia did it is a “sham.”
I have transcribed a 5 minute segment of the interview here– not because it provides conclusive evidence one way or the other— but because curious readers will find it intriguing. (Any mistakes in the transcript are mine.)
Philip Giraldi– I am hearing from sources on the ground, in the Middle East, the people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence available are saying that the essential narrative we are all hearing about the Syrian government or the Russians using chemical weapons on innocent civilians is a sham. The intelligence confirms pretty much the account the Russians have been giving since last night which is that they hit a warehouse where al Qaida rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties. Apparently the intelligence on this is very clear, and people both in the Agency and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented what he should already have known — but maybe didn’t–and they’re afraid this is moving towards a situation that could easily turn into an armed conflict.
Scott Horton– Tell me everything you can about your sources or how you are learning about this?
Philip Giraldi– Okay. These are essentially sources that are right on top of the issue right in the Middle East. They’re people who are stationed there with the military and the Intelligence agencies that are aware and have seen the intelligence And, as I say, they are coming back to contacts over here in the US essentially that they astonished at how this is being played by the administration and by the media and in some cases people are considering going public to stop it. They’re that concerned about it, that upset by what’s going on.
Scott Horton– So current CIA officers are thinking about going public right now?
Philip Giraldi– They are, because they’re that concerned about the way this thing is moving. They are military and intelligence personnel who are stationed in the Middle East and are active duty and they are seeing the intelligence the US government has in its hands about what happened in Syria,  and the intelligence indicates that it was not an attack by the Syrian government using chemical weapons… There was an attack but it was with conventional weapons–a bomb– and the bomb ignited the chemicals that were already in place that had been put in there by the terrorist group affiliated with al Qaida.
Scott Horton– You say this thing is moving really fast. How fast is this thing moving?
Philip Giraldi– It’s moving really fast. Apparently the concern among the people who are active duty personnel is that the White House is anticipating doing something to take steps against the Syrian government What that might consist of nobody knows. But Trump was sending a fairly clear signal yesterday and so was our ambassador to the UN. about the heinousness of this act. Trump talked about crossing numerous “red lines” and they are essentially fearful that this is going to escalate . Now bear in mind, Assad had no motive for doing this. If anything, he had a negative motive. The Trump said there was no longer any reason to remove him from office, well, this was a big win for him. To turn around and use chemical weapons 48 hours later, does not fit ant reasonable scenario, although I’ve seen some floated out there,  but they are quite ridiculous.” (The Scott Horton Show)
I think you’ll find that listening to the whole show is worth the time.
Giraldi’s observations are persuasive but not conclusive. There needs to be an investigation, that much is certain. (The show was taped before the missile attack, which does show that Giraldi was right about “how fast” things were moving.)
Media analysts appear to be surprised that Russia hasn’t responded militarily to Thursday’s attack. Some even see it as a sign of weakness. But Moscow’s approach to Washington’s impulsiveness has been fairly consistent for the last decade or so. With as little fanfare as possible, Moscow goes about its business and works discreetly to protect its interests. Unlike Trump, Putin is not a man who likes to attract a lot of attention to himself. He likes to operate off the radar. Even so, Russia has a coherent policy in Syria (fighting terrorism and preserving the sovereign government) and it’s not going to veer from that policy.  Most Americans don’t seem to understand that. Russia’s not going to budge, which is why the Kremlin cut off cooperation with Washington, shored up its missile defenses in Syria, and moved a frigate to the Mediterranean. Moscow does not want a broader conflict, but it will be prepared if one breaks out.
The Russians are concerned about Trump’s sudden escalation, but they’re not surprised.  They have spotted a pattern in US war-making and they’re able to comment on it quite calmly despite its terrible implications. Here’ more from the Russian Minister of Defense:
“The US administrations have changed but the methods for unleashing wars have remained the same since bombardments of Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya. Allegations, falsifications, grandstand playing with photos and test-tubes with pseudo results in international organizations became the reason for  initiating aggression  instead of an objective investigation.”
Lie, bomb, kill, repeat. Konashenkov doesn’t sound surprised at all, does he? It’s a pattern, a deadly, frightening pattern. The only thing that changes is the names of the victims.
And here’s another thing readers might find interesting: The Russians have an impressive grasp of Washington’s global strategy, in fact, their analysis is vastly superior to anything you’ll read in either the western journals or the establishment media.  Here’s a short clip from a recent speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:
“The concept of managed chaos appeared long ago as a method of strengthening US influence. Its basic premise is that managed chaos projects should be launched away from the United States in regions that are crucial for global economic and financial development. The Middle East has always been in the focus of politicians and foreign policy engineers in Washington. Practice has shown that this concept is dangerous and destructive, in particular for the countries where the experiment was launched, namely Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan…In Iraq, Syria and Libya, this chaos was created intentionally.
…Responsible politicians have come to see that the managed chaos theory is destroying life in many regions. Some parties can benefit in the short term from fluctuations on the raw materials markets provoked by the revolutions orchestrated by external forces, but this theory ultimately backfires at its engineers and executors in the form of massive migration inflows, which terrorists use to enter these countries. We can see this in Europe. Terrorist attacks have been staged even in the United States. The Atlantic Ocean has not protected it from the terrorist threat. This is the boomerang effect.” (Lavrov)
“Managed chaos”. Brilliant. That’s Washington’s foreign policy in a nutshell. That’s why there’s been no effort to create strong, stable, secular governments that can provide security for their people in any of the countries the US has destroyed in the last 16 years, because this long string of failed states that now stretches from North Africa, through the Middle East and into Central Asia (The ‘arc of instability’)  create a permanent justification for US military intervention as well as strategic access to vital resources. So why waste money and time on nation building when nation building runs counter to Washington’s strategic objectives? Instead, decimate the nation state wherever you go, and leave the people to scratch out a miserable hardscrabble existence for themselves while fending off the relentless violence and persecution of tribal elders or local warlords.
Is that a fair assessment of US foreign policy?
Indeed, it is. And the Russian leadership understands the far-reaching implications of that policy. They know that Washington’s ambitions could result in a war between the two nuclear-armed adversaries. They fully understand that.
Even so, they’re not going to budge. They’re not going to let Syria become another Iraq. They’re not going to let that happen.
So, it’s all coming to a head. The unstoppable force is fast approaching the immovable object. There’s going to be a collision.