He Said That? 2/19/17

Hat tip to The Burning Platform for today’s quote, from Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), American financial journalist, author, and editor:

The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects – his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity.

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S&P 500 Earnings Stuck at 2011 Levels, Stocks up 87% Since, by Wolf Richter

If anyone doubted the assertion in SLL’s review of Robert Prechter’s book that earnings have no consistent relationship to stock prices, here’s further proof. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Grounded in some sort of new reality? LOL

The S&P 500 stock index edged up to an all-time high of 2,351 on Friday. Total market capitalization of the companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion. That’s 106% of US GDP, for just 500 companies! At the end of 2011, the S&P 500 index was at 1,257. Over the five-plus years since then, it has ballooned by 87%!

These are superlative numbers, and you’d expect superlative earnings performance from these companies. Turns out, reality is not that cooperative. Instead, net income of the S&P 500 companies is now back where it first had been at the end of 2011.

Hype, financial engineering, and central banks hell-bent on inflating asset prices make a powerful fuel for stock prices.

And there has been plenty of all of it, including financial engineering. Share buybacks, often funded with borrowed money, have soared in recent years. But even that is now on the decline.

Share buybacks by the S&P 500 companies plunged 28% year-over-year to $115.6 billion in the three-month period from August through October, according to the Buyback Quarterly that FactSet just released. It was the second three-month period in a row of sharp year-over-year declines. And it was the smallest buyback total since Q1 2013.

Apple with $7.2 billion in buybacks in the quarter, GE with $4.3 billion, and Microsoft with $3.6 billion topped the list again. Still, despite the plunge in buybacks, 119 companies spent more on buybacks than they’d earned in the quarter. On a trailing 12-month basis, 66% of net income was blown on buybacks.

To continue reading: S&P 500 Earnings Stuck at 2011 Levels, Stocks up 87% Since

 

Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy, by Nermeen Shaikh and Glenn Greenwald

This is the transcript of an interview between Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, and Glenn Greenwald, who has changed his tune quite a bit from his article SLL posted last Wednesday. From Shaikha and Greenwald from informationclearinghouse.info:

Transcript
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We’re looking at the growing scandal over the Trump administration’s alleged dealings with Russia before and after the November election. In early January, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show and suggested the intelligence community may try to get back at Donald Trump.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So, even for a practical, supposedly, hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, in January.

Some supporters of Trump, including Breitbart News, are now accusing the intelligence agencies of attempting to wage a “deep state coup” against the president. Meanwhile, some critics of Trump are openly embracing such activity, like Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard. He wrote on Twitter, “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

So, still with us, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Glenn, explain what the deep state is, and respond.

GLENN GREENWALD: The deep state, although there’s no precise or scientific definition, generally refers to the agencies in Washington that are permanent power factions. They stay and exercise power even as presidents who are elected come and go. They typically exercise their power in secret, in the dark, and so they’re barely subject to democratic accountability, if they’re subject to it at all. It’s agencies like the CIA, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies, that are essentially designed to disseminate disinformation and deceit and propaganda, and have a long history of doing not only that, but also have a long history of the world’s worst war crimes, atrocities and death squads. This is who not just people like Bill Kristol, but lots of Democrats are placing their faith in, are trying to empower, are cheering for as they exert power separate and apart from—in fact, in opposition to—the political officials to whom they’re supposed to be subordinate.

To continue reading: Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy

 

Why Was the FBI Investigating General Flynn? by Andrew C. McCarthy

This article contains a fair amount of neoconservative cant, but it asks and answers an important question. From Andrew C. McCarthy at nationalreview.com:

There appears to have been no basis for a criminal or intelligence probe.

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was dismissed amid a torrent of mainstream-media reporting and disgraceful government leaks (but I repeat myself). Among the most intriguing was a New York Times report the morning after Flynn’s resignation, explaining that the former three-star Army general and head of the Defense Intelligence Agency was “grilled” by FBI agents “about a phone call he had had with Russia’s ambassador.”

No fewer than seven veteran Times reporters contributed to the story, the Gray Lady having dedicated more resources to undermining the Trump administration than the Republican Congress has to advancing Trump’s agenda. Remarkably, none of the able journalists appears to have asked a screamingly obvious question — a question that would have been driving press coverage had an Obama administration operative been in the Bureau’s hot seat.

On what basis was the FBI investigating General Flynn?

To predicate an investigation under FBI guidelines, there must be good-faith suspicion that (a) a federal crime has been or is being committed, (b) there is a threat to American national security, or (c) there is an opportunity to collect foreign intelligence relevant to a priority established by the executive branch. These categories frequently overlap — e.g., a terrorist will typically commit several crimes in a plot that threatens national security, and when captured he will be a source of foreign intelligence.

Categories (a) and (b) are self-explanatory. It is category (c), intelligence collection, that is most pertinent to our consideration of Flynn.

To continue reading: Why Was the FBI Investigating General Flynn?

 

 

It Is About Time That We Had A President That Was Willing To Go To War With The Mainstream Media, by Michael Snyder

The mainstream media needs to be confronted and challenged in the worst way. From Michael Snyder at theeconomiccollapseblog.com:

Thursday afternoon’s press conference was perhaps the most memorable moment of Donald Trump’s presidency so far. Trump’s blistering attack on the media was quite a spectacle, but the truth is that it was desperately needed. For decades, the mainstream media has dominated political discourse in this country no matter who has been in control of the White House or Congress. They have become masters of guiding and shaping public opinion, and in recent years they have completely discarded any pretense of being “unbiased” or “objective”. These monolithic media organizations relentlessly push the progressive agenda of their owners (the global elite), and that is why the “news” always seems to be just about the same no matter which network it is coming from. Their monopoly is slowly being broken by the rise of the alternative media, but the truth is that most Americans still rely on just a handful of ultra-powerful media organizations for their news.

So when Trump brutally attacked the mainstream media at his press conference on Thursday, millions upon millions of Americans greatly rejoiced, because they finally got what was coming to them. And then on Friday, Trump posted a message to Twitter calling the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN “the enemy of the American people”…

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
2:48 PM – 17 Feb 2017
46,485 46,485 Retweets 145,043 145,043 likes

After Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in November, many in the mainstream media started referring to the pro-Trump alternative media as “fake news”, but now Trump has totally turned that insult against them.

For weeks Trump has been referring to CNN as “fake news”, but on Friday he said that he was now going to refer to them as “very fake news”. The following exchange between Trump and CNN’s Jim Acosta comes from the official White House website…

Q Just because of the attack of fake news and attacking our network, I just want to ask you, sir —

THE PRESIDENT: I’m changing it from fake news, though.

Q Doesn’t that undermine —

THE PRESIDENT: Very fake news now. (Laughter.)

To continue reading: It Is About Time That We Had A President That Was Willing To Go To War With The Mainstream Media

Jay Sekulow: Obama Should Be “Held Accountable” For The “Soft Coup” Against Trump, by Tyler Durden

Just before he left office, Barack Obama made it very difficult to track down leakers within the intelligence agencies. It’s surely just a coincidence that the intelligence agencies have been copiously leaking since Trump took office. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

In light of the recent flurry of leaks by the so-called “deep state”, which includes such agencies as the NSA and FBI and which last week lead to the resignation of Mike Flynn after a phone recording of his phone conversation with the Russian ambassador was leaked to the WaPo and other anti-Trump publications, an article published on January 12 by the NYT has generated renewed interest. One month ago, the NYT reported that “In its final days, the Obama administration expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.”

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

While previously the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and furthermore N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information, following passage of Obama’s 11th hour rule, “other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.”

To continue reading: Jay Sekulow: Obama Should Be “Held Accountable” For The “Soft Coup” Against Trump

The Appalachian Messenger, 2/17/17

This week’s Appalachian Messenger.