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Chaos and rage in the imperial city: Donald Trump and the US elite – it’s all about Russia!

The furious opposition President Trump has run into in the first month of his Presidency – and the turbulence in Washington it is causing – is the direct consequence of his wish to reverse US policy and seek detente with Russia.

Alexander Mercouris

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Donald Trump’s now famous claim during his recent marathon press conference that his administration is a working like a “well-oiled machine” has provoked much ridicule.

In reality, as with so much else Donald Trump says, there is more truth to this comment than Trump’s critics allow.

The Trump administration’s problems over the first 30 days of its existence have been due less to the President’s working habits and more to the deliberate sabotage of his administration by his opponents.

Thus we have had the extraordinary delay in the Senate confirming the President’s cabinet picks, the all-too-obvious failure by the Justice Department under Sally Yates to provide proper guidance or even to defend his ‘travel ban’ Executive Order, and the political assassination of General Flynn, the President’s National Security Adviser, for having a totally innocuous telephone conversation with the Russian ambassador.

All of this has been happening alongside relentless negative briefing against the President by our old friends the ‘anonymous officials’ of the US intelligence community (most of them seem in fact to belong to the CIA).

All this has in turn fed a media campaign against the President the like of which I have never seen – and which seems wholly disproportionate to anything he has so far done – which has in turn triggered a reciprocal campaign against the media by the President and his supporters.

The result is an atmosphere of rage, hysteria and panic, which is being blamed – wrongly in my opinion – on a supposedly dysfunctional White House.

Some of the sabotage is unquestionably the product of the anger and bafflement of the Democratic Party and its supporters that its anointed candidate – Hillary Clinton – lost the election to someone they mistakenly take for a clown.

However looming over everything is the collective horror of the US elite – not just the Democratic Party elite but also much of the Republican Party elite and of the foreign policy and defence establishment, the intelligence community and the news media – at the new President’s openly expressed desire for a rapprochement with Russia.

This is the thread which links together all the elements of the campaign against Donald Trump.  All the most serious allegations made against him concern Russia.  Moreover this has been true ever since he became a serious candidate for the Presidency roughly a year ago.

The story is in fact one of repeated attempts to bully and blackmail first Trump the candidate and now Trump the President into repudiating his policy of detente with Russia, and then bafflement and alarm – now bordering on panic – when he not only refuses to do so, but goes on to win even more support from his electoral base.

This bafflement is completely understandable.  Russia has been so comprehensively demonised by the US elite and the US media for so long that many of its members have undoubtedly come to believe what they say and write about it.   It is therefore scarcely believable to them, as well as being genuinely horrifying, that it turns out that there are tens of millions of Americans who do not think about Russia in the paranoid way that they do, and that it is even possible for someone to win the Presidency who takes the opposite view.

In the case of Donald Trump what must make it even more bewildering is that there is no discernible political benefit for him in his taking the line of wanting detente with Russia that he is taking.  On the contrary it has brought him nothing but trouble.

This by the way was in my opinion even true of the fall out from the DNC and Podesta leaks affair.

Since the election a myth has grown up that it was the allegedly Russian inspired leaks of the Clinton and Podesta emails that brought about Hillary Clinton’s defeat.  No polling evidence has ever been produced to prove this, almost certainly because none exists.  For the record my impression during the election was that the revelations from the DNC and Podesta leaks barely damaged Hillary Clinton at all.  That is not surprising since the media largely ignored their contents, focusing on the unproven claims of their Russian origin instead.

In my opinion whatever damage the leaks may have done to Hillary Clinton was far offset by the damage claims of a Russian connection did to Donald Trump, especially after the US intelligence community weighed in to support those claims a few weeks before the election.  Though again I have seen no polling evidence, my opinion for what it’s worth is that the DNC and Podesta leaks affair in the end on balance did less electoral damage to Hillary Clinton than it did to Donald Trump.

In the light of this, it is completely understandable that the entirety of the US political elite – not just the US intelligence community – is baffled that Trump persists in advocating a policy of detente with Russia which is bringing him nothing but trouble.  Moreover to add to the perplexity, it is clear that he is fully aware of the trouble it is causing him, since he himself pointed it out during his press conference

If we could get along with Russia, that’s a positive thing. We have a very talented man, Rex Tillerson, who’s going to be meeting with them shortly and I told him. I said “I know politically it’s probably not good for me.” The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that’s 30 miles off shore right out of the water.  Everyone in this country’s going to say “oh, it’s so great.” That’s not great. That’s not great. I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you’ve had a lot of presidents that haven’t taken that tack. Look where we are now. Look where we are now. So, if I can — now, I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff.

(bold italics added)

What for the US elite must make the President’s advocacy of his policy of detente with Russia even more perplexing is that no-one can say where he got the idea for it from.

Anyone who regularly reads US writing on international affairs questions knows that there is a current of thought in the US which has become increasingly worried by the hegemonic policy the neoliberal/neocon dominated foreign policy establishment has foisted on the US, and which is becoming worried at the damage this policy is doing to the US’s economic and social fabric.  Many of those who think in this way are also becoming concerned that the drift of the policy is increasing the risk of it all ending in a shooting war with Russia.

It has always seemed to me that the people who hold these views are a marginal and even despised group within the US elite.  There is no evidence Trump is close to any of them, or even knows about them, and he does not seem to have taken his ideas from them.  Importantly, he has not asked any one of them to serve in his administration.

A better explanation for Trump’s unorthodox views on Russia is that – as has become increasingly clear since he became President – he is very close to the US uniformed military, and to the US oil industry, and that he has taken some of his ideas from them.

It is surely not a coincidence that Trump has gone against precedent by picking a soldier – General Mattis – for his Defence Secretary, and an oilman – Rex Tillerson – for his Secretary of State, and that despite the forced resignation of General Flynn and the refusal of Admiral Hayward to join his administration, it appears that he still wants a military officer to serve as his National Security Adviser.

Collectively the uniformed US military undoubtedly has a far better understanding of the immense dangers of a military confrontation with Russia than do the civilian neoliberal/neocon ideologues who up to now have been running US foreign policy.   Many within the US military – including the families of US servicemen – must also be tired of having to fight the endless and fruitless wars the neoliberal/neocon foreign policy establishment has been forcing on them.  The US military has its share of pathological anti-Russian neocons, such as the former NATO chief General Breedlove, but on balance it is probably better informed and more realistic about Russia than many in the civilian elite and in the media are.

As for the US oil industry, the notoriously unsentimental people who run the US oil industry probably see Russia less as a threat and more as a marvellous business opportunity.  After all Russia is not only the world’s biggest energy producer, but is the country which (if one includes its shales) has the world’s biggest energy reserves.

If President Trump is not completely isolated in seeking detente with Russia, and if he has taken some of his ideas from people in the military and in the oil industry, the fact remains that his policy of seeking detente with Russia still appears to be very much his own, and that it remains heresy for most of the US elite.

For what it’s worth my guess is that Donald Trump thinks and acts the way he does about Russia not because he has borrowed ideas from the military or the oil industry but because he is not a politician.  As a practical businessman rather than a politician it is obvious to him that it is in the US interest to get on with Russia – that after all is what he says all the time – and since he is not a politician schooled in the politician’s way of discretion he sees no reason not to say it.  I would not be surprised if the benefits of the policy seem to him so obvious that he is as baffled by the fanatical opposition to it of his critics as they are by his advocacy of it.

It is not however surprising if the professional politicians who make up the US elite and the conspiratorially minded ideologues who populate the US intelligence community, the foreign policy think-tanks and the media, find it impossible to believe this, and have convinced themselves that the President is sticking to a policy which is damaging him so much politically and which appears to them so outrageous not because he genuinely believes in it and is unafraid to say so, but because he has some dark and ulterior reason for it.

This is what explains the rage and chaos in Washington, the sabotage of the President’s administration, and the talk of a dysfunctional White House.

The hysteria, the deliberate sabotage of the President’s policies, the frantic multiple investigations to find out what the “true” reason for the President’s policy towards Russia is; these are all the products of the President’s policy of wanting detente with Russia, and the US elite’s horror at the prospect, and its inability to believe that he means it sincerely.

This is why we have all the dark hints of the President and his associates having business links with Russia, of the President being blackmailed by Russia, of claims of secret contacts between the President’s campaign team and Russia, and of the President living in a world of ‘alternative facts’, which he has supposedly learnt from Russia, and which supposedly helped him win the election.

The multiple investigations launched into the President’s connections to Russia will come to nothing.  Were there anything to find it would surely have been found by now.  The fact that after a year of bitter electoral campaigning and of multiple investigations by the FBI, CIA, NSA, British intelligence, the US tax authorities, legions of private investigators, and the news media, nothing has been found – other than one obviously fake dossier – is a sure sign that nothing exists to be found.

That will not of course satisfy the President’s neoliberal/neocon critics.  As the investigations repeatedly draw a blank, they will demand more and more investigations to find what doesn’t exist but what they are convinced is there.  The risk they run is that over time the public will become bored with a never ending saga which is going nowhere, and they will lose its attention, but in the meantime their increasingly shrill demands for more and more investigations will add to the hysterical atmosphere.

In the meantime one senses that the US intelligence community – or to be more precise the CIA, which is the agency which is driving the campaign against the President – is becoming increasingly frustrated by the President’s refusal to be blackmailed into changing his policy, and by his repeated success in seeing off their challenges.  This is leading some  of them into more and more extreme actions, with the campaign to oust General Flynn tipping over into outright illegality.

Meanwhile the senior members of the President’s administration – Pence, Mattis, Haley and the rest – all of them, unlike the President, either professional politicians or experienced public servants – seem to be as baffled by the President’s policy as everyone else is, and seem uncertain what to do.

Donald Trump’s policy of seeking detente with Russia is for real.  His press conference following the resignation of General Flynn puts that beyond doubt.  Moreover the fact he is meeting so much resistance is a sure sign that this time – unlike in the time of Obama’s ‘reset’ – the change he wants in relations with Russia is for real.  Given how difficult it is to shift gears in the runaway train that is what US foreign policy has become, the fact there are explosions in the engine room such as the resignation of General Flynn is no more that what in the circumstances one would expect, and is proof that the President is indeed trying to shift them.  Whether he succeeds – or survives – in his attempt to do so is another matter.

In the meantime the hysteria and the chaos in Washington will continue until either the President prevails or backs down or is removed from office.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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