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Goodbye Hillary Clinton, you won’t be missed!

The departure of Hillary Clinton and her husband from the US political scene opens the way for those who want to offer the American people a genuine left wing alternative. However given the decayed state of the Democratic Party it is doubtful if they can make use of it.

Alexander Mercouris

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In the vast ocean of words which have been written about the US Presidential election it is important to hold on to one single fact: Donald Trump won primarily because Hillary Clinton lost.

Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate, and absolutely the wrong person for the Democratic Party to propose for President.  I have previously discussed her background in some detail, and have said why merely on the strength of her public record she was a completely unsuitable person to become President of the United States of America

“Her catastrophic misjudgements about the Iraq and Libyan wars, her public gloating over the public torture and murder of Gaddafi, the utter failure of her attempted health reforms during her husband’s Presidency, and the email scandal, in any remotely well functioning system ought to have disqualified her for the highest public office.”

Beyond that there were the well-founded stories of political corruption, with the Clinton Foundation operating as a kind of combined slush-fund and laundry for what can only be described as a system of legalised bribery organised on a colossal and global scale.

Then there were the disastrous policy positions, eg. the neocon foreign policy at a time when the American people are sick of neocon adventures and the wars that come with them, and the continuing commitment to deeply unpopular turbo-charged neoliberal globalist economic policies, at a time when they have become widely despised and discredited.

Last but not least there were the obvious character flaws: the arrogance (calling people who voted for her opponent “deplorables”), the paranoia (the “alt right conspiracy”), the compulsive secrecy (the Goldman Sachs affair, the attack of ‘pneumonia’), and the obsessive habit of manipulation (too many examples to list), all of which came together to produce a campaign of ‘dirty tricks’, vilification of her opponents via a bought and controlled media, and boring and ultimately irrelevant bashing of Russia.

The extent of Hillary Clinton’s tone-deafness to the American people is for me exemplified by the way she let her attack dogs loose on FBI Director Comey when all he was doing was his job.  How Hillary Clinton thought she could sway the American people onto her side by publicly attacking whilst herself under investigation the head of one of the few institutions left in America that most Americans still admire continues to baffle me, and shows what a wretchedly bad politician she is.  The result – as I predicted – was that when she was eventually cleared the American people gave her no credit for it.

The point however to remember about this election is that this absolutely terrible candidate still managed to come first in the popular vote.

This is not a reflection of the continuing doubts many Americans still have about the personality of Donald Trump.  I find the claim that a more conventional Republican candidate – a Marco Rubio or a Jeb Bush – would have done better than Trump completely unconvincing.  Trump ultimately won the Republican nomination precisely because his mainstream Republican opponents were so much less popular than he was.  Unlike Trump none of them ever gained the slightest traction with the American people, which is why in the primaries he was able to steamroll over them so easily. 

I would add that whilst it is true that opinion polls showed that Trump suffered from large negatives, in my opinion that is less an indicator that he is unpopular, but rather that he is a deeply polarising and controversial figure.  Unlike Hillary Clinton, who many Americans voted for negatively because they saw her as “the lesser evil”, millions of Americans voted positively for Donald Trump because they enthusiastically supported him. By contrast, had the choice come down to one between Hillary Clinton and any one of the lacklustre Republican candidates who in the primaries had been Trump’s mainstream opponents, I have no doubt she would have won. 

The point is that if the Democrats had nominated a halfway decent candidate who was not Hillary Clinton, they would have won whether their Republican opponent was Trump or anyone else.  This was the Democrats’ election to lose.  By nominating Hillary Clinton as their candidate they contrived to lose it.

There has been much nonsense written about how supposedly terrible it is that the America of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln has voted for President Trump – as if Donald Trump with all his flamboyant and sometimes vulgar outspokenness was not an authentically American personality of whom there have been many examples in America’s history.

A far more valid and pertinent question is how the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to nominate someone like Hillary Clinton as its candidate for President.  The party of the common man and woman, the party that once claimed to represent the working people of America, went into this election with a charmless, arrogant, out of touch, widely mistrusted, deeply unpopular and visibly corrupt elitist as its candidate.

The short answer is that the Democratic Party has long been captured by a neoliberal/neocon elite focused on grandiose geopolitical adventures abroad and self-enrichment at home, of which Hillary Clinton was both the standard bearer and the embodiment.  The result is that all alternatives to Hillary Clinton were systematically blocked out, so that she was in the end the candidate, creating the conditions that made it possible for Trump to win.

Joe Lauria has written for The Duran how Bernie Sanders might have put up a serious challenge for the Presidency if he had had the courage and the confidence to defy the Democratic Party machine by standing as an independent.  I would add that every single opinion poll that I have seen also shows that if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic Party’s candidate instead of Hillary Clinton, he would have won the election by a landslide.

The lesson of this election is that there is an America that is prepared to vote for a left wing candidate, but that it is increasingly refusing to vote for a neoliberal/neocon Democratic party elitist machine candidate.  Instead, if denied the option of a left wing candidate who shows some genuine concern and understanding for its needs, it will consider voting for someone like Trump, who at least repudiates the elite it despises, even if he does it from the right.

The biggest danger to democracy in America today is not Donald Trump (for the record, I don’t think Trump endangers American democracy).  It is a Democratic Party which because of its entrenched institutional power in the US political system is able to block the emergence of any left wing alternative to itself, but whose own long decayed and corrupted structures prevent it from offering any genuine alternative of its own.

The result is a political system which leaves millions of Americans disenfranchised, which in a country that claims to be a democracy cannot be a good thing, and which can only store up serious trouble for the future.

In the meantime the departure of Hillary Clinton and hopefully of her husband from the US political scene can only be a good thing. 

Though I personally doubt that the Democratic Party is any longer capable of renewing itself, I am absolutely sure it cannot happen whilst the Clintons are around exercising their malign influence.

The departure of the Clintons is indeed one unequivocally good thing to have come out of this election.  It is now up to those who really care about offering the American people a genuine alternative to build on it.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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