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Trump goes on a selling spree while Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman goes on a purging spree

There is a connection between Trump’s Asia visit and the Saudi purges. The trouble is that both sides are employing their best poker faces.

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Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, has thus far gone according to plan. During his stops in Japan and South Korea, Trump has predictably angered North Korea, but has done so in a manner that appears to be more of a weapons sales pitch to Japan and South Korea, than anything else.

Like his previous visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump’a visit to Asia is amounting to little more than a sales pitch for the US arms industry, with a cheesy photo-op with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe as a meaningless souvenir to encapsulate a geo-politically irrelevant visit.

But while Trump is busy selling his country’s military hardware to Asia, media attention has rightly been focused on the far more dynamic developments in the Middle East, namely the Saudi Purge and the related forced resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minsiter Saad Hariri.

As geopolitical expert Andrew Korbyko wrote, the purges in Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince and de-facto ruler Muhammad bin Salman, amount to a swamp draining endeavour that vastly eclipses anything Donald Trump sought to do, let alone that which he has been able to accomplish.

Mohammed Bin Salman: The Unlikely Anti-Oligarchic Bolshevik?

The next logical question is therefore: what is Donald Trump’s position on Muhammad bin Salman’s ‘great purge’?

On the surface, Trump is blissfully ignorant of the events in Saudi, while meeting with allies, plus the Chinese leadership, on the other side of the world.

But this raises the next even more pressing question: is the timing of the great Saudi purge because of or in spite of Donald Trump’s prolonged absence from the United States, his longest to-date as President? 

In late October, Rex Tillerson visited Muhammad bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Riyadh. The meeting was a failure by most accounts. The summit was supposed to reconcile the Shi’a leadership of Iraq with the Sunni Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but far from doing that, Tillerson’s admonition to Iraq demanding Baghdad “send Iranian troops home” was met with a furious response from the Iraqi government.

Iraq REJECTS US demands to expel Iranian military advisers from the country

While Tillerson had private discussions with the Saudi leadership, it is not clear what they entailed. It is well known that the CIA and many other elements of the US deep state are displeased with the behaviour of Muhammad bin Salman (MBS), favouring instead the old ‘status quo man’, former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.

The US administration’s view on MBS is less clear. What seems self-evident though is that many in the US take a cautious view of MBS’ penchant for rocking the boat. The fact that Wall Street darling Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has been arrested as part of the purges, has certainly led to protracted nail biting in Washington and New York.

Furthermore, MBS’ apparent orchestration of the country’s pivot towards Russia and China, while still embryonic, cannot sit well with many in the US.

Saudi Crown Price Mohammad bin Salman calls for “moderate Islam” in the Wahhabi Kingdom

In many ways, if one were to assume that the US is sceptical about the ‘MBS revolution’, this would be the best time to execute it. Donald Trump is away from his seat power and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s authority seems to be declining by the day. Meanwhile, the triumvirate of generals who many say hold the real power in Washington, Defense Secretary Mattis, National Security Advisor McMaster and Chief of White House Staff Kelly, seem poorly positioned to take a real stance on the Saudi problem. This is true for several reasons.

First of all, the generals appear more keen on making ‘yes or no’ decisions than on making highly complex diplomatic moves. Questions like ‘do we invade North Korea: yes or no?…seem to be the kinds of issue where the generals wield veto power over the civilians in the White House.

Secondly, if the US opposes the MBS led purge, what is to be done? The US could ask MBS to stop, but unless Trump can be distracted from his Asian trip to make such a make-or-break phone call, this seems unlikely, not least because the US would be showing its cards to the ‘new’ Saudi regime fairly early in the game, something which could cause MBS to pivot his diplomatic contacts even further towards China and Russia.

Of course, the CIA could get involved and put an end to the ‘revolution’ in one way or another, but this would lead to nothing short of a open calamity in America’s closet Arab ally. With Donald Trump set to visit China in the coming days, there is nothing that would show American weakness in front of China more than a fully blown, CIA led palace coup in Saudi Arabia.

Even if the US were to spin a CIA intervention into Saudi as a victory, in the style of the US military intervention in Lebanon in 1958, China would see it differently. For China, the US “losing control” of its close ally and resorting to a kind of counter-revolutionary regime change, would feed the Chinese stereotype (which happens to be true), that the US barks loudly and when it  bites, it bites unevenly, arbitrarily and most important, in an ugly fashion.

The other option is to wait and handle the Saudi crisis when Trump is back in Washington. But with Trump’s Asia visit on its second full day of a nearly 2 week trip, the Saudi purge could well be consolidated by the time the US President is back on US soil.

This leaves only two logical interpretations for the US position on the Saudi purge:

1. Muhammad bin Salman struck while the US President was on a long trip and distracted by other matters, knowing that the US would not be able to as effectively oppose the purges with Trump away. 

2. Donald Trump himself wanted to obfuscate responsibility for the matter and had Rex Tilleron secretly demonstrate America’s approval of the move, so long as it was done while Trump had a convenient excuse not to deal with it.

Conclusion: 

Many who support the second theory, tend to state that Donald Trump’s personal dislike of the Saudi regime as expressed during his campaign and his dislike of the now arrested Alwaleed bin Talal moreover, means that he is secretly pleased with the purges. This may well be true and certainly must be ruled in as a possibility. However, since becoming President, his relations with Riyadh have been hailed by both sides as incredibly good. Trump meanwhile has not radically realigned the position of the US diplomatically as expected. Apart from angering Russia and China even more than Barack Obama (in many respects), little has changed apart from the schism with the EU over Iran, something which Trump himself stated will not lead to the US and EU changing the overall nature of their relations.

Even Trump’s passive Tweets in favour of Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, read more like a passive statement of aloof approval, rather than a concerted attempt to engage in the situation. The Tweets stink of an ex-post-facto attempt to not appear to be left out the loop, even though, Trump may be more left out of the loop than he lets on. The more Trump approves, the more it means he has no option but to approve, it crucially does not mean the US government would have approved of the purges beforehand.

I happen to think that the US has merely been blind-sighted by a Saudi regime that they are still willing to placate, even at this hour. The US may only pounce on Riyadh when it is too late–after the purges have been effectively executed to their logical conclusion. How that would-be pounce manifests itself could still however, cause harm to stability in Saudi. At such a stage, it would be a matter of merely working with reality and decided whether to tempt the MBS regime with carrots or try to undermine it with sticks, knowing full well that such sticks will only cause MBS to grow more attracted to long term partnerships with Russia and China who are ready, willing and able to provide such a thing.

It’s helpful to remember that the US seemed equally blindsided by the eruption of the Qatar crisis in June of 2017, when Trump eventually Tweeted his support for Riyadh while the State Department remained neutral.

With Trump away and with Tillerson inclined towards moderation anyway, it appears that the ultimate conclusion the US has drawn at this stage can be summarised as: “when in doubt, do nothing”. This is exactly what the US has done, thus far.

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Denmark As A Model For American Socialists?

In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high.

The Duran

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Authored by Lars Hedegard via The Gatestone Institute:


Here are some facts to consider before American “democratic socialists” look to Denmark for guidance, as Senator Bernie Sanders did during the 2016 presidential campaign.

First of all, Danes actually pay for their brand of socialism through heavy taxation. In Denmark, everyone pays at least the 25% value-added tax (VAT) on all purchases. Income tax rates are high. If you receive public support and are of working age and healthy enough to work, the state will require that you look for a job or it will force a job on you.

The willingness of all the Danes to pay high taxes is predicated on the country’s high degree of homogeneity and level of citizens’ trust in each other, what sociologists call “social capital.” By and large, Danes do not mind paying into the welfare state because they know that the money will go to other Danes like themselves, who share their values and because they can easily imagine themselves to be in need of help — as most of them, from time to time, will be.

Whenever politicians propose tax cuts, they are met with vehement opposition: So, you want to cut taxes? What part of the welfare state are you willing to amputate? And that ends the debate.

Danes, in contrast to American socialists gaining ground in the Democratic Party, are increasingly aware that the welfare state cannot be sustained in conditions of open immigration. A political party agitating for “no borders” could never win a Danish election. Danes do not suffer from historical guilt: they have not attacked any other country for more than two centuries and have never committed a genocide.

Moreover, there is an even deeper truth to ponder: Denmark is not really socialist but constitutes a sui generis fusion of free-market capitalism and some socialist elements. Denmark has no minimum wage mandated by law. Wages, benefits and working conditions are determined through negotiations between employers and trade unions. 67% of Danish wage-earners are members of a union, compared to 19% in Germany and 8% in France. Strikes and lockouts are common, and the government will usually stay out of labor conflicts unless the parties are unable to agree.

It is uncomplicated for enterprises to fire workers, which gives them great flexibility to adapt to shifting market conditions. To alleviate the pain, the state has in place a number of arrangements such as generous unemployment benefits and programs to retrain and upgrade redundant workers.

Danish companies must make ends meet or perish. They generally will not get handouts from the government.

Denmark is more free-market oriented than the US. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, Denmark is number 12, ahead of the United States (number 18). Venezuela is at the bottom, one place ahead of number 180, North Korea.

Mads Lundby Hansen, chief economist of Denmark’s respected pro-free-market think tank CEPOS, comments:

“Very high taxes and the vast public sector clearly detract in the capitalism index and reduce economic freedom. But Denmark compensates by protecting property rights, by low corruption, relatively little regulation of private enterprise, open foreign trade, healthy public finances and more. This high degree of economic freedom is among the reasons for Denmark’s relatively high affluence.”
Trish Regan recently claimed on Fox Business that Danes pay a “federal tax rate” of 56% on their income. This is misleading. The 55.8% is the levied on the marginaltax for the top income bracket, only on the part of their income above DKK 498,900 ($76,500). Any income under DKK 498,900 is taxed at lower rates. And the 55.8% marginal rate does not represent a “federal” or “national” rate. It represents the total of all taxes on income: national tax, regional tax, municipal tax and labor market tax. It does not, however, include Denmark’s 25% value-added tax (VAT), paid on all purchases.

Regan also claimed that Danes pay a 180% tax on cars. While it is true that there was once a maximum tax of 180% on care in Denmark, the vehicle tax rates have been lowered in recent years. Today, the first DKK 185,100 ($28,400) of the price of a gas- or diesel-powered car is taxed at 85%, and if the car’s price is above DKK 185,100, the remaining amount is taxed at 150% — which is of course bad enough.

Denmark’s total tax burden amounts to 45.9% of GDP, the highest of all countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

As pointed out in the Fox Business segment, all education for Danes is tuition-free, all the way through to a Ph.D. Not only that; the state will, within certain time constraints, pay students to study. For students at university level no longer living with their parents, the monthly cash grant comes to almost $1,000 per month. No fewer than 325,000 students out of a total population of 5.6 million benefit from this generous arrangement setting the state back to the tune of DKK 20.9 billion or 1% of GDP (latest 2018 figures just in and supplied by Mads Lundby Hansen). Denmark even pays student support to 20,000 foreign students.

Attempts by fiscal conservatives to cut down on payments to students have been successfully resisted by the vociferous and influential student organizations; at present it would appear impossible to muster anything like a parliamentary majority to limit the student handouts.

Fox Business is right that a great many Danes are on public transfer payments. Government figures from 2017 indicate that 712,300 Danes of working age (16-64) — not including recipients of student benefits — get public financial support. But Regan’s claim that most Danes do not work is ludicrous. According to Statistics Denmark, 69.9% of Danes aged 16-64 are active in the labor market.

How can Denmark pay for its comprehensive welfare state, which includes free medical care regardless of the severity of your condition? Regan claims that Denmark is “heavily in debt.” Not so. As it turns out, Denmark is among the least indebted countries in the world, even when compared to other Western countries. The Danish government’s gross debt stands at 35.9% of GDP. Compare that to, e.g., The United Kingdom (86.3 %), The United States (108%), Belgium (101%), Canada (86.6%), France (96.3%), Germany (59.8%), The Netherlands (53.5%), Italy (129.7%), Spain (96.7%) and even Switzerland (41.9%).

Comparing Denmark to the US, Madsen notes that the latter has a problem with fiscal sustainability that may necessitate tax increases. Denmark enjoys what he labels fiscal “oversustainability” (“overholdbarhed”).

At a time when socialism appears to be popular among certain sections of the American population, its proponents would do well not to cite Denmark as a model. The Danish fusion of free-market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state has worked because Denmark is a small country with a very homogeneous population. This economic and social model rests on more than 150 years of political, social and economic compromises between peasants and landowners, business-owners and workers, and right- and left-leaning political parties. This has led to a measure of social and political stability that would be hard to emulate in much larger and more diverse counties such as the United States.


Lars Hedegaard, President of the Danish Free Speech Society, is based in Denmark.

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Ron Paul: Protectionism Abroad and Socialism at Home

One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians.

Ron Paul

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Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


One of the most insidious ways politicians expand government is by creating new programs to “solve” problems created by politicians. For example, government interference in health care increased health care costs, making it difficult or even impossible for many to obtain affordable, quality care. The effects of these prior interventions were used to justify Obamacare.

Now, the failures of Obamacare are being used to justify further government intervention in health care. This does not just include the renewed push for socialized medicine. It also includes supporting new laws mandating price transparency. The lack of transparency in health care pricing is a direct result of government policies encouraging overreliance on third-party payers.

This phenomenon is also observed in foreign policy. American military interventions result in blowback that is used to justify more military intervention. The result is an ever-expanding warfare state and curtailments on our liberty in the name of security.

Another example of this is related to the reaction to President Trump’s tariffs. Many of America’s leading trading partners have imposed “retaliatory” tariffs on US goods. Many of these tariffs target agriculture exports. These tariffs could be devastating for American farmers, since exports compose as much as 20 percent of the average farmer’s income.

President Trump has responded to the hardships imposed on farmers by these retaliatory tariffs with a 12 billion dollars farm bailout program. The program has three elements: direct payments to farmers, use of federal funds to buy surplus crops and distribute them to food banks and nutrition programs, and a new federal effort to promote American agriculture overseas.

This program will not fix the problems caused by Tramp’s tariffs. For one thing, the payments are unlikely to equal the money farmers will lose from this trade war. Also, government marketing programs benefit large agribusiness but do nothing to help small farmers. In fact, by giving another advantage to large agribusiness, the program may make it more difficult for small farmers to compete in the global marketplace.

Distributing surplus food to programs serving the needy may seem like a worthwhile use of government funds. However, the federal government has neither constitutional nor moral authority to use money taken by force from taxpayers for charitable purposes. Government-funded welfare programs also crowd out much more effective and compassionate private efforts. Of course, if government regulations such as the minimum wage and occupational licensing did not destroy job opportunities, government farm programs did not increase food prices, and the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies did not continuously erode purchasing power, the demand for food aid would be much less. By increasing spending and debt, the agriculture bailout will do much more to create poverty than to help the needy.

Agriculture is hardly the only industry suffering from the new trade war. Industries — such as automobile manufacturing — that depend on imports for affordable materials are suffering along with American exporters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (who supports tariffs) has called for bailouts of industries negatively impacted by tariffs. He is likely to be joined in his advocacy by crony capitalists seeking another government handout.

More bailouts will only add to the trade war’s economic damage by increasing government spending and hastening the welfare–warfare state’s collapse and the rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Instead of trying to fix tariffs-caused damage through more corporate welfare, President Trump and Congress should pursue a policy of free markets and free trade for all and bailouts for none.

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In Monsters We Trust: US Mainstream Media No Friend of the American People

Over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day denouncing Trump, an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink.

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Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Over the course of his turbulent presidency, Donald Trump has accused various media companies, with special attention reserved for CNN, as being purveyors of ‘fake news.’ In one early-morning Tweet last year, he slammed the “FAKE NEWS media” as the “enemy of the people.”

This week, over 300 US newspapers ran editorials on the same day – an event in itself that points to some high degree of collusion and groupthink – denouncing Trump’s insensitive portrayal of them, as if the notion that journalists were not in the same sleaze league as lawyers, politicians and professional con artists never crossed anyone’s mind before. Even the peace-loving Mahatma Gandhi recommended “equality for everyone except reporters and photographers.”

But is the MSM really an “enemy of the people?”

First, it cannot be denied that the US media, taken in all its wholesomeness, has been overwhelmingly consistent in its ‘style’ of reporting on Donald Trump, the 45th POTUS. And by consistent I mean unprecedentedly critical, misleading and outright aggressive in its guerilla coverage of him. If one is not convinced by the gloom-and-doom Trump stories featured daily in the Yahoo News feed, then a study by the Media Research Center (MRC) should do the job. From January 1 through April 30, evening news coverage of the US leader – courtesy of ABC, CBS and NBC – were 90 percent negative, which is pretty much the same incredible average revealed by MRC one year earlier.

The study looked at every one of the 1,065 network evening news stories about Trump and his administration during the first four months of 2018. Total negative news time devoted to Trump: 1,774 minutes, or about one-third of all evening news airtime. That’s pretty much the definition of a circle jerk.

“Nearly two-fifths (39%) of the TV coverage we examined focused on Trump scandals and controversies, while 45 percent was devoted to various policy issues,” MRC wrote in its report.

Meanwhile, the farcical Russia ‘collusion’ story was consistently the main grabber — clocking in at 321 minutes, or nearly one-fifth of all Trump coverage. Of the 598 statements MRC calculated about Trump’s personal scandals, virtually all of them (579, or 97%) came out of the media wash cycle tarred and feathered.

If this represents an orchestrated attack on the Commander-in-Chief, and in light of those numbers it would be difficult to argue it isn’t, the strategy appears to be falling flat. Despite, or precisely because of, the avalanche of negative media coverage, Trump’s popularity rating smashed the 50 percent ceiling in early August and continues to remain high.

In Monsters We Trust

Although it can be safely stated that the MSM is an entrenched and relentless enemy of Donald Trump, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an “enemy of the American people,” as Trump argues it is. Let’s be a bit more diplomatic and say it isn’t our friend.

One yard stick for proving the claim is to consider the steadily mounting concentration of media holdings. In 1983, 90 percent of US media were controlled by 50 companies; today, 90 percent is controlled by the Big Six (AT&TComcastThe Walt Disney Company21st Century FoxCBS and Viacom control the spoken and printed word from sea to shining sea).Although many people are aware of the monopolistic tendencies of the US mainstream media, it’s important to understand the level of concentration. It means the vast majority of everything you see and hear on any electronic device or printed publication is ‘democratically’ controlled by six average white guys and their shareholders.

However, keeping track of who owns what these days is practically impossible since the dozens of subsidiary companies that fall under each main company are themselves fiefdoms, each with their own separate holdings. In fact, the already short ‘Big Six’ list is already dated, since National Amusements, Inc. has gobbled up both Viacom and CBS, while 21st Century Fox merged with Disney this year. As for the 350 US newspapers that penned tortured editorials decrying Trump’s critical opinion of them, many of those ‘local’ publications get their marching orders from either the Hearst Communications or the Gannett Company on the East Coast.

Now, with this sort of massive power and influence lying around like dynamite, it stands to reason, or unreason, that the corporate and political worlds will succumb to the law of attraction and gravitation, forging powerful and impregnable relationships. It’s no secret that the politicians, our so-called ‘public servants,’ are mostly in the game to make a fast buck, while the corporations, desperate for ‘democratic representation’ to control regulation and market share, have an inexhaustible source of funds to secure it. Naturally, this oligarchical system precludes any sort of democratic participation from the average person on the street, who thinks just because he remembers to yank a lever once every several years he is somehow invested in the multibillion-dollar franchise.

As far as media corporations being ‘private enterprises’ and therefore free to demolish the freedom of speech (even censoring major media players, like Infowars, simply because they whistle to a different political tune), that is quickly becoming revealed as nothing more than corporate cover for state-sponsored machinations.

“In a corporatist system of government, wherein there is no meaningful separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship,” writes Caitlin Johnstone. “Because legalized bribery in the form of corporate lobbying and campaign donations has given wealthy Americans the ability to control the US government’s policy and behavior while ordinary Americans have no effective influence whatsoever, the US unquestionably has a corporatist system of government.”

Meanwhile, it cannot be denied, from the perspective of an impartial observer, that the mainstream media is nearly always positioned to promote the government narrative on any number of significant issues. From the media’s unanimous and uncritical clamoring that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 (even the FBI has admitted it has no “hard evidence” that bin Laden carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon), to its gung-ho enthusiasm for the 2003 Iraq War, to the sycophantic cheerleading for a war in Syria, the examples of media toeing the government line are legion. And if US intel is in bed with Hollywood you can be damn sure they’re spending time in the MSM whorehouse as well.

Is it any surprise, then, that public trust in the US media is reaching all-time lows, while news consumers are increasingly looking to alternative news sites – themselves under relentless attack – to get some semblance of the elusive truth, which is the God-given right of any man? Truth is our due, and we should demand nothing less.

As Thomas Paine reminded the world in the face of a different foe: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

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