He Said That? 7/25/16

From Chris Hedges (born 1956), American journalist, activist, author, and Presbyterian minister, Death of the Liberal Class (2010):

If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be impossible to embrace the myth of war. If we had to stand over the mangled corpses of schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan and listen to the wails of their parents, we would not be able to repeat clichés we use to justify war. This is why war is carefully sanitized. This is why we are given war’s perverse and dark thrill but are spared from seeing war’s consequences. The mythic visions of war keep it heroic and entertaining…

The wounded, the crippled, and the dead are, in this great charade, swiftly carted offstage. They are war’s refuse. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they tell is too painful for us to hear. We prefer to celebrate ourselves and our nation by imbibing the myths of glory, honor, patriotism, and heroism, words that in combat become empty and meaningless.

Hillary Clinton: Class President of A Failed Generation, by David Stockman

The baby boom generation has a lot to answer for. From David Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Hillary Clinton has always been at the head of her class. That includes being among the leading edge of the 80-million strong baby boom generation that first started arriving in 1946-1947.

She did everything they did: Got out for Barry Goldwater in high school; got upwardly mobile to Wellesley and social liberation during college; got “Clean for Gene” and manned the anti-war barricades in the late 1960s; got to Washington to uplift the world in the 1970s; got down to the pursuit of power and position in the 1980s; joined the ruling class in the 1990’s; and has helped make a stupendous mess of things ever since.

The baby boom generation which started with so much promise when it came of age in the 1960s has ended up a colossal failure. It has turned America into a bloody imperial hegemon aboard and a bankrupt Spy State at home where financialization and the 1% thrive, half the population lives off the state and real main street prosperity has virtually disappeared from the land.

Quite a deplorable legacy, that. And all the while Hillary has been our class president. God help the world if she becomes our nation’s President. She has betrayed all that was right about the baby boomers in the 1960s; and has embraced all the wrong they did during their subsequent years in power.

It starts during our defining moment when peace finally had a chance in the spring of 1968. We drove a sitting President from office, and, at that, one whose megalomaniacal will-to-power was terrifying.

We called bull on the cold war hysteria that had once put us under our desks at school and now claimed that peasants in far off rice paddies threatened our security. We stopped the Vietnam War cold, dented the Cold War deep and put the whole Warfare State apparatus on the run—–the Pentagon, CIA, the generals and admirals, the military-industrial complex. Within a few years the warfare state budget was down by 40% in constant dollars.

So it was an epochal chance to break the deadly cycle of war that had started a half-century earlier in the bloody trenches of northern France during the Great War; that had been rebooted for a future reprise in the vengeful folly of Versailles; that had been made inexorable by the rise of nationalism, statism, autarky and militarism during the 1930s; and that had been unnecessarily and dangerously extended by the clash of military machines that both victors refused to demobilize after they won the peace in 1945, supplanting the silence of the German and Japanese war guns with the nuclear nightmare of the Cold War.

True enough, the defeat and retreat of the American Imperium by the idealism and defiance of the baby boomers was interrupted by the Reagan defense and Cold War revival. But that historical error is what makes the Clintons all the more culpable…..

It was their job as the first baby boom co-Presidents to finish the work of 1968, and by the time they entered the White House it was a lay-up. The Soviet Union was no more and Mr. Deng had just declared that to get rich is glorious.

The Clintons’ job in 1993 was to have at least the vision of Warren G. Harding. After all, he did demobilize the US war machine completely, eschewed the imperial pretensions of Woodrow Wilson and actually launched a disarmament movement which resulted in the melting down of the world’s navies and the Kellogg-Briand treaty to outlaw war.

To continue reading: Hillary Clinton: Class President of A Failed Generation

Hillary Clinton is in Deep Trouble – “Hordes of Wall Street Executives” Descend Upon Philly, by Michael Krieger

Hillary Clinton is determined to reassure the oligarchs and dump on Bernie’s supporters. That may backfire spectacularly. From Michael Krieger at libertyblitzkrieg.com:

Political pundits throughout the land are tripping over each other to compose the latest bland, uninsightful screed proclaiming the death of the Republican Party. This makes sense, because the primary purpose of a political pundit is to state the obvious years after it’s already become established fact to everyone actually paying attention.

Yes, of course, Trump winning the GOP nomination marks the end of the party as we know it. After all, some neocons are already publicly and actively throwing their support behind Hillary. While this undoubtably represents a major turning point in U.S. political history, many pundits have yet to appreciate that the exact same thing is happening within the Democratic Party. It’s just not completely obvious yet.– From February’s post: It’s Not Just the GOP – The Democratic Party is Also Imploding

I believe Hillary Clinton lost the Presidency this past week. While the explosive DNC leaks will undoubtably have a long lasting effect, this post will barely reference the leaks. Rather, it will explain how recent decisions by the Hillary campaign played right into Trump’s hands by essentially waving a gigantic middle finger to the 73% of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

What Hillary Clinton did in selecting Tim Kaine as VP was send a clear signal that not only is she the status quo candidate, she is proud of it. She didn’t just double down on being the establishment candidate, she tripled and quadrupled down. There is now no denying that Hillary Clinton is implicitly running on only two themes.

1. Trump is scary. I am not Trump.
2. Things aren’t really bad. I’ll continue along the path we’ve been on.

This message will result in a guaranteed loss against an opponent who is telling the American public “I know you’re angry, I’m angry too, and I’m going to blow up the status quo.” Recall that 73% of the U.S. public thinks the country is headed in the wrong direction. As the Wall Street Journal noted:

Some 73% in the new survey say things have gone off-course, with only 18% saying the nation is headed in the right direction.

Numbers such as those are usually seen in times of national crisis, such as during the government shutdown of 2013, when only 14% said the nation was on-course, or during the 2008 financial crisis, when 11% said things were headed in the right direction.

In this post, I will prove that Hillary is signaling a “business as usual” approach to the status quo, and in return, the status quo is uniformly and excitedly rallying around her. This will disgust most Americans and lead to a Trump victory. People who dislike Trump more than Clinton will vote for him anyway, because they dislike the status quo even more.

So let’s take a look at Tim Kaine, starting with the topic of banks. Here are a few excerpts from a recent Huffington Post article titled, Tim Kaine Calls To Deregulate Banks As He Campaigns To Be Clinton’s VP:

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is on Hillary Clinton’s short list of potential vice presidential nominees. He’s also actively pushing bank deregulation this week as he campaigns for the job.

Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks ― one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.

As Kaine joins the deregulatory fight, several other lawmakers are pushing the CFPB in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, 28 senators sent a letter to the agency urging them to toughen up their new rule against abusive payday lending. Kaine didn’t sign it.

To continue reading: Hillary Clinton is in Deep Trouble – “Hordes of Wall Street Executives” Descend Upon Philly

 

Afghanistan: President Obama’s Vietnam, by Jonathan Marshall

We’re coming up on the fifteenth anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, and nobody from President Obama on down has articulated a clear and convincing rationale why we are still there. From Jonathan Marshall at consortiumnews.com:

Historians still debate whether President John F. Kennedy would have withdrawn U.S. troops from Vietnam had he lived to win re-election in 1964. Since President Barack Obama recently announced his intention to keep at least 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency, the only debate will be over why he never withdrew but chose instead to bequeath an unwinnable war — the longest in U.S. history — to his successor.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan will officially pass the 15-year mark in a few months. But like Vietnam, where the United States began aiding French colonial forces in the late 1940s, Afghanistan has been the target of Washington’s war-making for more than three-and-a-half decades.

On July 3, 1979, President Carter first authorized the secret provision of aid to armed opponents of the leftist regime in Kabul. A senior Pentagon official advocated the aid to “suck the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire.”

When Moscow took the bait and sent troops that December to support the Afghan government against a growing rural insurgency, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski gleefully wrote President Carter, “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.”

Call it blowback, or just an irony of history, but Afghanistan has turned instead into America’s second Vietnam War. The Soviets finally had the good sense to pull out after being bloodied for a decade. The Obama administration envisions staying there indefinitely. Under the Bilateral Security Agreement that President Obama got Kabul to sign in 2014, U.S. troops may remain in Afghanistan “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

President Obama explicitly rejected any analogy to Vietnam in a speech nearly seven years ago. But like Vietnam, our ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has become a hopeless quagmire, marked by official lies, atrocities, pervasive corruption and poorly led government forces who survive in the field thanks mainly to U.S. bombing. Like Vietnam, Afghanistan represents a staggering waste of lives (more than 300,000 direct casualties through early 2015) and resources (more than two trillion dollars).

Even more than Vietnam, it is a conflict for which no one in Washington bothers to offer any strategic rationale. The best that President Obama could come up with in his July 6 statement on Afghanistan, was “I strongly believe that it is in our national security interest — especially after all the blood and treasure we’ve invested in Afghanistan over the years — that we give our Afghan partners the very best opportunity to succeed.”

The same logic is what keeps gamblers coming back to Sheldon Adelson’s casinos year after year to lose more money.

‘Precarious’ or Unwinnable?

In Vietnam, the United States couldn’t win with more than half a million troops. In Afghanistan, the United States couldn’t beat the Taliban with 100,000 troops. Obama doesn’t really think he can win with a mere 8,400 troops — especially with the Taliban making steady gains.

To continue reading: Afghanistan: President Obama’s Vietnam

 

5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win, by Michael Moore

Yes, that Michael Moore, famous liberal filmmaker, is saying—seriously—that Trump will win. From Moore at michaelmoore.com:

Friends:
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now.

I can see what you’re doing right now. You’re shaking your head wildly – “No, Mike, this won’t happen!” Unfortunately, you are living in a bubble that comes with an adjoining echo chamber where you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him. And then you listen to Hillary and you behold our very first female president, someone the world respects, someone who is whip-smart and cares about kids, who will continue the Obama legacy because that is what the American people clearly want! Yes! Four more years of this!

You need to exit that bubble right now. You need to stop living in denial and face the truth which you know deep down is very, very real. Trying to soothe yourself with the facts – “77% of the electorate are women, people of color, young adults under 35 and Trump cant win a majority of any of them!” – or logic – “people aren’t going to vote for a buffoon or against their own best interests!” – is your brain’s way of trying to protect you from trauma. Like when you hear a loud noise on the street and you think, “oh, a tire just blew out,” or, “wow, who’s playing with firecrackers?” because you don’t want to think you just heard someone being shot with a gun. It’s the same reason why all the initial news and eyewitness reports on 9/11 said “a small plane accidentally flew into the World Trade Center.” We want to – we need to – hope for the best because, frankly, life is already a shit show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. We can’t handle much more bad news. So our mental state goes to default when something scary is actually, truly happening. The first people plowed down by the truck in Nice spent their final moments on earth waving at the driver whom they thought had simply lost control of his truck, trying to tell him that he jumped the curb: “Watch out!,” they shouted. “There are people on the sidewalk!”

To continue reading: 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win

The Hunt for Red Trump-tober, by Justin Raimondo

Shades of her male alter ego Richard Nixon! Hillary Clinton is trying to link Donald Trump with commie-at-heart, bent-on-world-domination Vladimir Putin. From Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com:

Julian Assange has done it again: exposed the inner workings – and crimes – of our political class, that is. This time his target is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, whose emails were hacked by a Romanian who calls himself “Guccifer 2.0,” and posted online by WikiLeaks. As revelations tumble out of the enormous data dump – e.g. DNC staffers conspired to target Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, as an “atheist” – the collusion of the party leadership with the Clinton campaign to marginalize Sanders threatens the Democrats with a potential explosion on the eve of their convention. It’s “gas meets flame,” as one Democratic party leader put it.

The Clinton campaign has responded by pushing a bizarre conspiracy theory that recalls the darkest days of the cold war: the DNC leak, they claim, is part of a plot by the Kremlin to elect Donald J. Trump President of these United States.

Yes, seriously.

Here is Clintonista-in-chief Robby Mook telling Jake Tapper that “Experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” Echoing neoconservative complaints that efforts to insert a call for giving Ukraine offensive weapons were scotched by the Trump campaign, Mook pointed to this as “evidence” that the Russians have infiltrated and taken over the Republican party. That’s their answer to the flood of scandal pouring out of the DNC emails – a reiteration of the plot of “The Manchurian Candidate,” with a little bit of “Red Dawn” thrown in for good measure.

Who are these vaunted “experts”? On the technical side, Mook is referring to a company being paid by the DNC to “investigate” the hacking of their server. If you think there’s a bit of a conflict of interest that throws CrowdStrike’s objectivity into question, you may be quite right. Other experts, with no financial stake in this, disagree with the widely-touted contention that the hackers were Russians or Russian agents:

“What top U.S. technologists know for sure is that at least two groups of hackers were willing to take a major risk – and make a substantial investment – to access the DNC’s network. Who is behind the attacks remains unclear – and, unfortunately, a satisfying answer isn’t likely to come any time soon.

“’Attribution is incredibly difficult – I wouldn’t say impossible, but it’s very difficult,’ Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity strategy at Illumio, told Time. ‘Investigations like this do not wrap up quickly and often do not wrap up at all because it’s very hard to tell where they came from.’

“Amit Yoran, the president of the cybersecurity firm RSA was also noncommittal on whether there’d ever be a smoking gun.

“’I think attribution is one of those topics that people like to rush to because it makes for sexier reporting – you want to make a meaningful story for non-technologists,’ he told Time. ‘Saying you know who was responsible makes for a very compelling story. But it’s also very hard to do well in the cyber domain, especially over a short period of time with a sophisticated actor.’ ”

Gleicher was the National Security Council’s White House cybersecurity director – but hey, compared to Robby Mook, what does he know?

To continue reading: The Hunt for Red Trump-tober

Why this Spike Will Perforate Yield Chasers, by Wolf Richter

Jim Grant once said that reaching for yield during a market configuration of bond yields and risk remarkably like today’s (except it was slightly less risky) was like reaching for a razor blade in the dark. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Record moneys suddenly pile into the material of debt crises.

The Institute of International Finance opined last week that “the ‘low for long’ interest rate outlook now looks more like ‘low forever’ – an outcome that has unleashed a powerful renewed search for yield.”

They’re all doing it.

Japanese investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, are swarming into US Treasuries now more than ever.

According to the Ministry of Finance, for the week ended July 16, Japanese investors bought a net ¥1.718 trillion ($16.2 billion) of foreign “long-term” debt (everything except “short-term” debt). The week before, they’d bought a net ¥2.55 trillion, the highest on record. And according to the MOF, they were mostly buying US Treasuries.

For them it makes sense: the 10-year punishment yield of the Japanese Government Bond is a negative -0.22%. But the 10-year Treasury yield is still a positive 1.57%. And with the Bank of Japan being outspoken about wanting to crush the yen, the hapless Japanese have even more reason to seek refuge in US paper. We can’t blame them.

Europeans are doing the same thing, buying US Treasuries, but also US corporate bonds, and even US junk bonds.

“NIRP refugees” we’ve come to call them. They’re trying to escape their central bank’s iron-fisted financial repression where bond buyers are guaranteed to lose money if they hold bonds to maturity, which many institutional investors need to do – such as pension funds and insurance companies. It impacts everyone since they’re managing the money of regular folks.

Over $12 trillion of bonds are trading with punishment yields these days. So investors are chasing positive yield where they can, thereby transferring the effects of central-bank policies from their bailiwicks to the US, and in turn pushing down yields in the US.

But where do American investors go to chase yield, now that Treasury yields are disappearing before their very eyes?

Junk bonds. And they have soared, and yields have plunged over the past few months.

And dividend stocks. Even classic bond buyers are switching to stocks that pay a dividend, to get a little extra yield. But companies can eliminate dividends in no time, and the yield goes to zero while the stock dives. A bond would be in default if the issuer were to stop paying the coupon. By that time, bankruptcy lawyers are circling. But cutting a dividend is routinely done during market downturns, and yield investors who switched from bonds to dividend stocks have a rude awakening.

And now everyone has rediscovered another source of yield. The Financial Times, about what happened over the past two weeks:

Investors are piling into emerging market bond funds at the fastest pace on record as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other big institutions follow more seasoned specialists into riskier asset classes in search of yield.

“This is capitulation,” Sergio Trigo Paz, head of EM fixed income portfolio management at BlackRock, told the Financial Times. “The big, big investors are starting to move.”

More comprehensive data from the Institute of International Finance show that last week, cross-border flows to EM stocks and bonds hit their highest level since the US Federal Reserve shocked markets by pulling back from a rise in interest rates in September 2013.

To continue reading: Why this Spike Will Perforate Yield Chasers