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From Obama to Trump, Climate Negotiations are Being Run by the Same Crew of American Technocrats

FROM OBAMA TO TRUMP, CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS ARE BEING RUN BY THE SAME CREW OF AMERICAN TECHNOCRATS

ON MONDAY, THE Trump administration hosted an event on behalf of the fossil fuel industry at the United Nations climate talks in Poland, known as COP24. It was almost identical to the one it hosted at last year’s climate talks in Germany: trying to write coal, oil, and gas into the world’s response to climate change, and bemoaning “alarmism” on climate. Both were disrupted by organizers from the United States voicing their opposition, and both received more media coverage than just about anything else happening at either talks, which this year are focused on arriving at a deeply technical rulebook to implement the Paris agreement.

What the flashy White House sideshow obscured, though, is that the U.S. position in Poland, when it comes to the substance of the talks, is indistinguishable on many fronts from the approach taken by the Obama administration. In fact, that agenda is being carried out by many of the very same people, a largely overlapping crew of career technical negotiators keeping a lower profile than Donald Trump team’s at the White House.

That’s not necessarily good news. While the rhetoric coming from the Obama administration was 180 degrees from that of the Trump administration, American negotiators under President Barack Obama were not intent on driving the world toward the most aggressive climate action possible. Quite the opposite.

Since Trump’s election, the narrative surrounding the team of U.S. negotiators at U.N. climate talks has been a largely sympathetic one, of well-meaning career diplomats simply trying to keep their heads down and make the best of it before the administration can officially pull out of the Paris agreement in late 2020.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘New World Order’ Wine Pompoured into a Pro-‘Sovereignty’ Rhetorical Bottle

‘New World Order’ Wine Pompoured into a Pro-‘Sovereignty’ Rhetorical Bottle

‘New World Order’ Wine Pompoured into a Pro-‘Sovereignty’ Rhetorical Bottle

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began his December 4 speech in Brussels at the German Marshall Fund with “a well-deserved tribute to America’s 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush,” whom he praised as “an unyielding champion of freedom around the world.” It was fitting that he did so. The heart and soul of Pompeo’s remarks extolling the return of “the United States to its traditional, central leadership role in the world” were little more than a rehash of Bush the Elder’s aggressive internationalism.

Pompeo (or his speechwriter) should be given credit for a masterpiece of misdirection. While the substance of his speech was a blast of stale air from the 1990s, the rhetoric was all Trumpism and national sovereignty – but only for countries obedient to Washington: “Our mission is to reassert our sovereignty, reform the liberal international order, and we want our friends to help us and to exert their sovereignty as well.”

What about the sovereignty of countries the US doesn’t count as “friends”? Well, that’s a different story: “Every nation – every nation – must honestly acknowledge its responsibilities to its citizens and ask if the current international order serves the good of its people as well as it could. And if not, we must ask how we can right it.” [emphasis added]

So according to Pompeo, the United States and our vassals (“we”) have an obligation (“must”) to fix international actors that in our infinite wisdom are not serving “the good of their people.” For example, “Russia hasn’t embraced Western values of freedom and international cooperation.” (Why should Russia care what “we” think of its values – and why should its values be “western,” anyway? Never mind! We “must” do something about it!)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

US forces in Syria, via ABC News

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000.

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Does Cinema War Propaganda Really Work?

How Does Cinema War Propaganda Really Work?

It goes far beyond the government entertainment liaison offices

As the co-authors of National Security Cinema, we have become known — rather inaccurately — for encouraging two major ideas:-

1. That the government is really important in making movies more militaristic.

2. That Hollywood doesn’t produce dissenting films.

While the first of these is somewhat true it is a simplification, the second is a falsehood.

The government is involved in as wide a range of entertainment projects as you can imagine, from video games to chat shows to blockbusters to docudramas. While many of these were militaristic from conception, before the government got involved, there is no doubt the the Department of Defense (a.k.a. the Pentagon) has encouraged the militarisation of popular culture and is pro-actively seeking further influence in Hollywood.

However, we want to emphasise that government support is by no means a prerequisite for Hollywood making militaristic movies. The sub-genre we have proposed — “national security cinema” — does not necessarily require the involvement of the actual national security apparatus in the production process.

National Security Cinema — Beyond the Government

Some of the examples are truly striking. Consider Rambo III (1988), set in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The film demonised the Soviets and depicted our allies of the time, the Islamic mujahideen, as heroic — albeit wild and stupid (in keeping with long-standing Hollywood stereotypes about Arabs).

This portrait is consistent with other films set in that war both before and since, such as the James Bond movie The Living Daylights (1987) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). While Rambo III did technically receive some support from the State Department, this did not affect the script, and the film very much reflected US government policy on steroids.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Slipping Rig Count Can’t Keep Oil Prices From Falling

Slipping Rig Count Can’t Keep Oil Prices From Falling

BHGE rig

Baker Hughes reported a 4-rig decrease for oil and gas in the United States this week—a loss in rigs for the third week in a row. The four-rig decline was all on the oil-rig side, with gas rigs holding steady.

The total number of active oil and gas drilling rigs now stands at 1,071 according to the report, with the number of active oil rigs decreasing by 4 to reach 873 and the number of gas rigs holding steady at 198.

The oil and gas rig count is now 141 up from this time last year, 126 of which is in oil rigs.

Crude oil prices fell sharply near the close of the week on Friday despite production losses in OPEC’s Libya and an agreement within OPEC+ to cut 1.2 million bpd from the expanded cartel’s October production.

The WTI benchmark was trading down 2.26% (-$1.19) at $51.39—a loss of more than $2 per barrel week over week—at 11:39am EST. Brent crude was trading down 1.84% (-$1.13) at $60.32—also down more than $2 per barrel from last week

Canada’s oil and gas rigs for the week decreased by 12 rigs this week after losing 17 rigs last week, bringing its total oil and gas rig count to 174, which is 64 fewer rigs than this time last year, with a 7-rig decrease for oil rigs, and a 5-rig decrease for gas rigs.

The EIA’s estimates for US production for the week ending December 7 continues to weigh on prices, averaging 11.6 million bpd­—a drop off from the previous 11.7 million bpd for the previous four weeks.

By 1:07pm EDT, WTI had decreased by 2.68% (-$1.41) at $51.17 on the day. Brent crude was trading down 2.03% (-$1.25) at $60.20 per barrel.

The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS
Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The War Against Globalism

The War Against Globalism

The War Against Globalism

We are the Little Folk—we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the State!
-A Pict Song, Rudyard Kipling

Belgium has joined the list of countries that are rebelling against their elected leadership. Over the weekend the Belgian government fell over Prime Minister Charles Michel’s trip to Morocco to sign the United Nations Migration Agreement. The agreement made no distinction between legal and illegal migrants and regarded immigration as a positive phenomenon. The Belgian people apparently did not agree. Facebook registered 1,200 Belgians agreeing that the Prime Minister was a traitor. Some users expressed concern for their children’s futures, noting that Belgian democracy is dead. Others said they would get yellow vests and join the protests.

The unrest witnessed in a number of places is focused on some specific demands but it represents much broader anger. The French yellow vests initially protested against proposed increases in fuel taxes that would have affected working people dependent on transportation disproportionately. But when that demand was met by the government of President Emmanuel Macron, the demonstrations continued and even grew, suggesting that the grievances with the government were far more extensive than the issue of a single new tax. Perhaps not surprisingly, the French government is seeking for a scapegoat and is investigating “Russian interference.” The US State Department inevitably agrees, claiming that Kremlin directed websites and social media are “amplifying the conflict.”

Some commentators looking somewhat more deeply at the riots in France have even suggested that the real issue just might be regime change, that the Macron government had become so disconnected with many of the voters through both its policies and the rhetoric justifying them that it had lost its legitimacy and there was no possibility of redemption.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

US Demands Europe to Join Its War Against Russia

US Demands Europe to Join Its War Against Russia

US Demands Europe to Join Its War Against Russia

In recent decades, the US Constitution’s clause that requires a congressional declaration of war before invading any country, has been ignored. Furthermore, ever since 2012 and the passage by Congress of the Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russia, economic sanctions by the US Government have been imposed against any company that fails to comply with a US-imposed economic sanction; a company can even be fined over a billion dollars for violating a US economic sanction. And, so, sanctions are now the way that the US Congress actually does authorize a war — the new way, no longer the way that’s described in the US Constitution. However, in the economic-sanctions phase of a war — this initial phase — the war is being imposed directly against any company that violates a US-ordered economic sanction, against Russia, Iran, or whatever target-country the US Congress has, by means of such sanctions, actually authorized a war by the US to exist — a ‘state of war’ to exist.

For the US Congress, the passage of economic sanctions against a country thus effectively serves now as an authorization for the US President to order the US military to invade that country, if and when the President decides to do so. No further congressional authorization is necessary (except under the US Constitution). This initial phase of a war penalizes only those other nations’ violating companies directly — not the target-country. Though the US Government punishes the violating corporation, the actual target is the targeted (sanctioned) country. Sanctions are being used to strangle that target. The fined companies are mere ‘collateral damage’, in this phase of America’s new warfare.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Imagine If Saudi Arabia Was Not A US Ally

Imagine If Saudi Arabia Was Not A US Ally

The US Senate has voted 56 to 41 to sorta-kinda eventually end America’s part in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, one step out of a great many that will need to happen in order to end the worst humanitarian crisis on the face of the earth.

The joint resolution still allows US drones to patrol Yemeni airspace and rain death from above in its “war on terror” against Al Qaeda, and it is unable to pass in the House this year due to an unbelievably sleazy rider that House Republicans attached to the unrelated Farm Bill. The resolution isn’t expected to change much in terms of actual US participation in the war besides some  intelligence and reconnaissance assistance to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against the Houthi rebels, since the US has already ended its assistance in refueling Saudi jets on their bombing campaigns as of last month. Trump is expected to veto any Yemen resolutions, and the Senate resolution was not passed with a veto-proof supermajority.

Still, it’s a step. A step in the right direction, both toward congress imposing some checks and balances on the Executive Branch’s heretofore obscenely unchallenged war powers, and toward the US government moving into opposition to the brazen war crimes being inflicted upon the Yemeni people by America’s close ally Saudi Arabia. And I think that last bit is worth taking a moment to think about.


The Senate vote to end U.S. involvement in the War is a big step forward, and the House should do the same in early 2019. But to actually force an end the Saudi war, Congress must cut off the Saudi Air Force’s spare parts, without which it can’t fly..


…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Faux Capitalism Works in America

How Faux Capitalism Works in America

Stars in the Night Sky

The U.S. stock market’s recent zigs and zags have provoked much squawking and screeching.  Wall Street pros, private money managers, and Millennial index fund enthusiasts all find themselves on the wrong side of the market’s swift movements.  Even the best and brightest can’t escape President Trump’s tweet precipitated short squeezes.

The Donald mercilessly hits the shorts with a well-timed tweet. But as it turns out, this market is in a really bad mood at the moment. [PT]

The short-term significance of the DJIA’s 8 percent decline since early-October is uncertain.  For all we know, stocks could run up through the end of the year.  Stranger things have happened.

What is also uncertain is the nature of this purge: Is this another soft decline like that of mid-2015 to early-2016, when the DJIA fell 12 percent before quickly resuming its uptrend?  Or is this the start of a brutal bear market – the kind that wipes out portfolios and blows up investment funds?

The stars in the night sky tell us this is the latter.  For example, when peering out into the night sky even the most untrained eye can identify the three ominous stars that are lining up with mechanical precision.

These stars include a stock market top, followed by a monster corporate debt buildup, and a fading economy.  In short, the stock market’s latest break is presaging a corporate credit crisis and global recession.

 

BofA/Merrill Lynch US high yield Master II Index yield – this looks like a quite convincing breakout, impossible to tweet down. In other words, the corporate debt build-up is beginning to bite back – and rather bigly, if we may say so (ed note, in case you’re wondering: the little poems are from a Spectator competition in which people used phrases from actual tweets to put together Donald haikus and poems). [PT]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In Just 2 Years, US Debt Grew The Size Of The Entire Brazilian Economy

In Just 2 Years, US Debt Grew The Size Of The Entire Brazilian Economy

In a mere two years, the United States debt has massively grown.  In fact, the amount of debt the US incurred equaled the size of the entire Brazilian economy.

U.S. government debt is on track this year to rise at the fastest pace since 2012,reported the Los Angeles Times.  The strong yet quickly weakening economy is failing to keep pace with the wave of red ink that’s rising under the Trump administration and there appears to be no end to the spending in sight.

The total public debt outstanding has jumped by $1.36 trillion, or 6.6%, since the start of 2018, and by $1.9 trillion since President Trump took office, according to the latest Treasury Department figures. The latter figure is about the size of Brazil’s gross domestic product.

As of Monday, the nation’s debt stood at a record $21.9 trillion. The borrowing is needed to cover a budget deficit that expanded by an estimated $779 billion in Trump’s first full fiscal year as president, the widest fiscal gap in six years, since Barack Obama’s term. By the end of Trump’s first term, the debt is expected to rise by $4.4 trillion despite historically low unemployment, relatively low interest rates and robust growth.

In other words; the United States is actively committing suicide.


America Is Committing Suicide: Over The Past 12 Months, The U.S. National Debt Has Increased By 1.271 Trillion Dollars

All throughout history, great societies have been done in by greed, sloth, corruption and laziness, and we are headed down the exact same path. If we want to survive, emergency surgery is necessary, but at this point nobody is even tending to the dying patient.


Debt has become the default, but at some point, the entire system will crumble.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

No, The U.S. Is Not A Net Exporter Of Crude Oil

No, The U.S. Is Not A Net Exporter Of Crude Oil

Oil tanker at sea

Last week Bloomberg created quite a stir with this story: The U.S. Just Became a Net Oil Exporter for the First Time in 75 Years. I have seen a number of follow-up stories that praised the significance of this development, but others laughed it off as misleading or incorrect.

There is some truth to both viewpoints. Yes, the headline is somewhat misleading and requires some context. But there continues to be a trend in the direction of energy independence for the U.S. So, today I want to break down the numbers so readers can understand the truth about U.S. petroleum production, consumption, and exports.

Domestic Crude Production Has Surged

The Bloomberg story is based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Each week the EIA publishes detailed statistics on U.S. oil production, consumption, exports, and inventories in a report called the Weekly Petroleum Status Report. So, let’s go straight to the source.

For the week ending 11/30/18, the EIA reported that the U.S. produced 11.7 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil. That represents a 2 million BPD increase from the year-ago number. This number is generally accepted even by those who believe the Bloomberg headline was misleading.

Further down in the report, the category of Products Supplied is listed at 20.5 million BPD. This is approximate U.S. crude oil consumption for the week. Thus, as some skeptics of the story suggested, the bottom line is that the U.S. is burning more than 20 million BPD while producing less than 12 million BPD. Thus, the conclusion for some was that the U.S. isn’t close to being energy independent.

Other Supply

But there is important context between these numbers. First, the 20.5 million BPD is a fairly accurate representation of U.S. consumption, but there is a large U.S. production number that isn’t included in the crude oil production numbers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

This article is an overview of the principal factors likely to drive the gold price in 2019. It looks at the global factors that have developed in 2018 for both gold and the dollar, how geopolitics are likely to evolve, the economic outlook and how it is worsened for the dollar by President Trump’s tariff war against China, the availability and likely demand for bullion, and the technical position in paper markets. Taken together, the outlook is bullish for gold.

2018 reprise

For gold bulls, 2018 was disappointing. From 11 December 2017, when gold made a significant bottom against the dollar at $1243, it has ended virtually unchanged today, after being 4.2% up. Gold had to struggle against a rising dollar, whose trade-weighted index rose a net 3.7% over the same period, and as much as 9.4% from its mid-February low.

Dollar strength has been driven less by trade imbalances and more by interest rate differentials. A speculating bank for its own book or for a hedge fund client can borrow 3-month Euro Libor at minus0.354% and invest it in 3-month US Treasury bills at 2.36%, for a round trip of over 2.7%. Gear this up ten times or more, either on a bank’s capital, or through reverse repos for annualised returns of over 27%. To this can be added the currency gain, which at times has added enough to overall returns for an unhedged geared position to double the investment.

Not that these forex returns have been guaranteed, but you get the picture. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have been frozen into inactivity, reluctant to raise rates to correct this imbalance, and the punters have known it.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Did Baby Boomers Ruin America?

Did Baby Boomers Ruin America?

boomers1.JPG

Referring to someone as a sociopath is strong language. After all, just between 3 and 5 percent of Americans are really sociopaths , people who initially seem charming, but, due to bad neurological wiring, lack a conscience and are unable to feel remorse. They are exceptional liars and cheats, and have no capacity to feel guilt.

But according to author and multi-millionaire tech hedge fund manager, Bruce Cannon Gibney, anyone born between 1946 and 1964 (baby boomers) that are still living are sociopaths.

“There is something wrong with the Boomers and there has been for a long time,” writes Gibney in the forward to A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America and the author’s beatings continue for 400-plus pages.

He doesn’t let any of us Boomers off the hook, but really focuses on “generational representatives like Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, and Dennis Hastert–a stew of philanderers, draft dodgers, tax avoiders, incompetents, hypocrites, holders of high office censured for ethics violations, a sociopathic sundae whose squalid cherry was provided in 2016 by Hastert’s admission of child molestation, itself a grotesque metaphor for Boomer policies.”

Gibney’s point being us Boomers are molesting younger generations because Social Security and Medicare might remain solvent just long enough for Boomers, but no one else, to collect. And, the author preaches from the environmentalist good book every chance he gets. Any skepticism about climate change is viewed as having “negative feelings about reality and science” because, for Boomers, sacrifices for the environment are, “incompatible with sociopathic desires.”

Boomers didn’t have a chance because their moms read Dr. Spock, were too easy on their kids, and parked us in front of the television. “TV’s essential characteristics make it the perfect education for sociopaths, facilitating deceit, acquisitiveness, intransigence, and validating a worldview only loosely tethered to reality,” the author opines.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Demise of the Official Future

Americans are more likely to think the US is heading in the right direction since Donald Trump’s election. Why?

The poll results are extraordinary: the proportion of Americans who thought the country was ‘heading in the right direction’ rose sharply when Donald Trump became president of the US, while the proportion who thought it was ‘off on the wrong track’ dropped. The numbers were even at about 50%.

Negative perceptions have increased again since, but remain lower than during the Obama presidency. In September 2010, the earliest US data in the recent Ipsos report, ‘What worries the world’, about 70% thought the US was on the wrong track, 30% that it was heading in the right direction. In September 2018, the ratio was about 60% ‘wrong track’ to 40% ‘the right direction’ – about the same as the world average.

The US findings are at odds with so much of the media commentary about Trump, especially in the liberal media: his loss of the popular vote, the gerrymandering, the Russian interference, his low approval rating, the sustained criticism of him in the mainstream media. What can explain the trends? I want to offer one explanation, based on a social, not political, analysis; there may be others.

The answers we get in survey questions depend critically on their wording. In this case the question was not asking anything about the presidency, Trump and his actions and utterances. It asked Americans, ‘Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction, or are they off on the wrong track?’

I have long argued that people’s concerns about modern life and the future have been poorly reflected in politics, and it is this that lies behind the unease and disenchantment in the electorate, not just the conduct of politicians and the merits of specific policies.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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