The Next Financial Crisis Won’t Be Caused by Fraud: This Time Will Be Different

Financial crises come in two flavors: fraud and credit-valuation over-reach.Fraud-based financial crises may differ in particulars, but they share many traits: perverse incentives are institutionalized; the perverse incentives reward figuring out how to evade oversight via fraud, embezzlement, masking risk, etc. which are soon commoditized; regulations are gutted by insider-funded lobbying; regulators fail to do their job in hopes of getting lucrative positions in the industry they’re supposed to be regulating; reports of systemic, commoditized fraud are ignored because everyone’s getting rich, and so on.

The resolution has to 1) eliminate the perverse incentives that fueled the crisis; 2) institutionalize oversight that actually functions to limit dangerous excesses and 3) all the malinvestment / bad debt must be liquidated and the losses taken / distributed.

Correspondent David E. recently sent me this insightful outline of how the Texas Savings & Loan financial crisis arose and was slowly and painfully resolved in the 1980s:

“The S&L crisis provides an excellent example of both how to make a problem worse and how to resolve it in the end. (note: I watched this play out in Texas; some of your readers may have a different perspective).

1. Prior to the mid-1970s, S&Ls lived by the 3-6-3 rule – pay depositors 3%; make home loans at 6%; and be on the golf course at 3 o’clock. This cozy little world had been in place since the 1950s.

2. Inflation in the 70s wrecked this calculation. The loans (long term home mortgages) still paid 6%, but the S&L’s were having to pay the depositors more – often more than the 6% they were making on the loans. Bankruptcy loomed.

3. The S&L owners were some of the more prominent local business people, especially in smaller towns scattered across the US – and more importantly, in Congressional districts scattered across the US.

4. They went to Congress and said, “we’re in trouble, but if we could only invest in commercial real estate, we could grow our way out of this mess, and it won’t cost the taxpayer a dime.”

5. Congress, faced with a $50 billion problem as well as the prospect of alienating multitudes of prominent local citizens, agreed, and thus kicked the can down the road.

6. At least in Texas, this is when the “cowboys” moved in. The smarter S&L owners saw what was happening and realized the game was up. They sold their institutions to the cowboys (and the smart ones took the highest cash offer, ignoring any stock or profit-sharing).

7. The predictable and well documented abuses took off (“fiduciary pornography” in the words of one regulator afterward).

8. Things went on for a few years but were beginning to unravel even before the Saudis flooded the oil market in early 1986 and drove the price of crude down to $9.

9. Now for what was done right – if only by accident. Texas was the first to tumble, and people in other states remembered our oil boom bumper stickers. “Drive 90 and freeze a Yankee” among others. As a result, there was ZERO sympathy for Texas’ economic problems.

10. Federal regulators thus had a free hand to clean house. Even large banks were declared insolvent. Shareholders lost everything. Over 1000 bank executives went to prison. I personally know at least two who slithered free in the end, but many did not. A lawyer friend spent a couple of years in the late 1980s doing little other than foreclosing houses in Highland Park (old money Dallas).

11. It was a rough 3-4 years in Texas, but two decades of accumulated rot had been burned away, setting the stage for the economic boom that followed.

The other big factor was the tax reform of 1986. People today need to be more cognizant of what really happens when marginal rates go up to 70%. Do the rich pay more tax? NO. Instead the world becomes infested with tax shelters and other avoidance schemes, which produce tremendous waste.

In late 70s/early 80s Texas, a lot of this tax shelter money intersected with the S&L pirates in the form of commercial real estate, especially apartment complexes, in an orgy of malinvestment. I still remember the TV ads in Houston marketing yuppie-villes: gorgeous women in bikinis by the pool, and one unending party. After the bust, these complexes turned into Section 8 housing almost overnight and many remained blighted for a couple of decades before they were finally torn down.

If the next bust starts out affecting only one region, there may be a chance to do the right thing (basically, let her rip and things will settle out on their own). But that didn’t happen in 2008, and probably won’t happen next time.”

Thank you, David, for a very insightful summary of how financial crises arise and how the scale of the crisis affects the resolution: in 2008, banking had become so centralized and the fraud/leverage so extreme that the implosion of a relatively marginal slice of the mortgage market (subprime mortgages) triggered a loss of faith and liquidity that very nearly brought down the entire global financial system.

Rather than clean house, politicos bailed out the banks and regulators added new regulations that left the system essentially unchanged. As was easily predictable, the regulations increased the banks’ costs and created incentives to move mortgage origination into non-bank (and thus less regulated) entities.

Interestingly, modern financial crises seem to oscillate between fraud and over-reach: the S&L crisis resulted from the commoditization of mortgage fraud, the 2000 dot-com crash resulted from extremes of over-valuation and margin debt, the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown resulted from the globalized commoditization of securitization fraud, and now the pins are being set up for the next financial crisis triggered by extremes of credit and overvaluation.

The dot-com meltdown arose from unprecedented extremes of overvaluation for tech companies profitable and unprofitable alike. High levels of margin debt ensured that the sell-off would gather steam as punters were forced to liquidate portfolios to meet margin calls.

The dot-com meltdown was famously concentrated in the tech sector: while certainly a major part of the economy, tech and the Internet high-flyers were still a relatively modest share of total assets: all stocks, all bonds, all real estate, etc.

Sector rotation enabled capital to be preserved. As the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates, the value of bonds rose and real estate got a boost as assets flowed from stocks to housing. Simply put, not every asset crashed in unison.

The brewing financial crisis will be different: the twin sins of extreme levels of debt and extreme overvaluation of assets now characterize corporate bonds, many sovereign bonds, stocks and real estate. Pretty much the only traditional assets that aren’t at nosebleed levels are precious metals and bat guano. (Cryptocurrencies are as yet non-traditional assets, though this may change in the next financial crisis.)

Extreme levels of debt and overvaluation characterize the entire global economy, and are not limited to any one nation or sector. When this crisis gathers steam, there will be few avenues of escape. Adding regulations won’t stop it, adding liquidity won’t stop it, waving chicken entrails and dancing the humba-humba around the MMT/Keynesian campfire won’t stop it.

Attempting to force extremes to even more extended extremes won’t stop it.

THREE NOTES OF NOTE:

1. I just added a new benefit for all subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics. You get other exclusive benefits with a $1, $5 or $10/month patronage via patreon.com.

2. Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change is on sale this month: $4.95 Kindle edition, $9.95 print edition, a 33% discount.

3. Did you know there are 3 new audiobooks available now?

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic

Money and Work Unchained

Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege 

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.

My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Highlights from the Mueller Report

Eric Zuesse

Following are the passages that I consider to be the chief and most important allegations that are in the opening 11% (that’s up through page 49 of the of the 448-page document) of the “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election”. That’s Robert Mueller’s March 2019 report, which had been commissioned by the U.S. Congress to find grounds to charge U.S. President Donald Trump with being an agent of the Russian Government and to replace him with Vice President Mike Pence for that reason.

https://viewfromll2.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/mueller-report.pdf

Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election

The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation — a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States. The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled. Prighozhin is widely reported to have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. …

The IRA later used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed “information warfare.” The campaign evolved from a generalized program designed in 2014 and 2015 to undermine the U.S. electoral system, to a targeted operation that by early 2016 favored candidate Trump and disparaged candidate Clinton.

The IRA’ s operation also included the purchase of political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities, as well as the staging of political rallies inside the United States. To organize those rallies, IRA employees posed as U.S. grassroots entities and persons and made contact with Trump supporters and Trump Campaign officials in the United States. The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. …

At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.

In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks. …

While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. Among other things, the evidence was not sufficient to charge any Campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government or other Russian principal. And our evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation. Further, the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

The Office investigated several other events that have been publicly reported to involve potential Russia-related contacts. For example, the investigation established that interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at the candidate’s April 2016 foreign policy speech in Washington, D.C., and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive. And the investigation did not establish that one Campaign official’s efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia. The investigation also did not establish that a meeting between Kislyak and Sessions in September 2016 at Sessions’s Senate office included any more than a passing mention of the presidential campaign.

Throughout 2016, IRA accounts published an increasing number of materials supporting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. For example, on May 31, 2016, the operational account “Matt Skiber” began to privately message dozens of pro-Trump Facebook groups asking them to help plan a “pro-Trump rally near Trump Tower.”55

To reach larger U.S. audiences, the IRA purchased advertisements from Facebook that promoted the IRA groups on the newsfeeds of U.S. audience members. According to Facebook, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000.56

During the U.S. presidential campaign, many IRA-purchased advertisements explicitly supported or opposed a presidential candidate or promoted U.S. rallies organized by the IRA (discussed below). As early as March 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements that overtly opposed the Clinton Campaign. For example, on March 18, 2016, the IRA purchased an advertisement depicting candidate Clinton and a caption that read in part, “If one day God lets this liar enter the White House as a president – that day would be a real national tragedy.”57

Similarly, on April 6, 2016, the IRA purchased advertisements for its account “Black Matters” calling for a “flashmob” of U.S. persons to “take a photo with #HillaryClintonForPrison2016 or #nohillary2016.”58 IRA-purchased advertisements featuring Clinton were, with very few exceptions, negative.59

IRA-purchased advertisements referencing candidate Trump largely supported his campaign. The first known IRA advertisement explicitly endorsing the Trump Campaign was purchased on April 19, 2016. The IRA bought an advertisement for its Instagram account “Tea Party News” asking U.S. persons to help them “make a patriotic team of young Trump supporters” by uploading photos with the hashtag “#KIDS4TRUMP.”60 In subsequent months, the IRA purchased dozens of advertisements supporting the Trump Campaign, predominantly through the Facebook groups “Being Patriotic,” “Stop All Invaders,” and “Secured Borders.” …

The IRA operated individualized Twitter accounts similar to the operation of its Facebook accounts, by continuously posting original content to the accounts while also communicating with U.S. Twitter users directly (through public tweeting or Twitter’s private messaging).

The IRA used many of these accounts to attempt to influence U.S. audiences on the election. Individualized accounts used to influence the U.S. presidential election included @TEN_ GOP ( described above); @jenn _ abrams ( claiming to be a Virginian Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); @Pamela_Moore13 (claiming to be a Texan Trump supporter with 70,000 followers); and @America:__Ist_ (an anti-immigration persona with 24,000 followers).67 In May 2016, the IRA created the Twitter account @march_for_trump, which promoted IRA-organized rallies in support of the Trump Campaign (described below).68 …

The IRA organized and promoted political rallies inside the United States while posing as U.S. grassroots activists. First, the IRA used one of its preexisting social media personas (Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, for example) to announce and promote the event. The IRA then sent a large number of direct messages to followers of its social media account asking them to attend the event. From those who responded with interest in attending, the IRA then sought a U.S. person to serve as the event’s coordinator. In most cases, the IRA account operator would tell the U.S. person that they personally could not attend the event due to some preexisting conflict or because they were somewhere else in the United States.82 The IRA then further promoted the event by contacting U.S. media about the event and directing them to speak with the coordinator.83

After the event, the IRA posted videos and photographs of the event to the IRA’s social media accounts. 84

The Office identified dozens of U.S. rallies organized by the IRA. The earliest evidence of a rally was a “confederate rally” in November 2015. 85 The IRA continued to organize rallies even after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The attendance at rallies varied. Some rallies appear to have drawn few (if any) participants while others drew hundreds. …

From June 2016 until the end of the presidential campaign, almost all of the U.S. rallies organized by the IRA focused on the U.S. election, often promoting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. Pro-Trump rallies included three in New York; a series of pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016; and a series of pro-Trump rallies in October 2016 in Pennsylvania. The Florida rallies drew the attention of the Trump Campaign, which posted about the Miami rally on candidate Trump’s Facebook account (as discussed below).86 …

Starting in June 2016, the IRA contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States. In all cases, the IRA contacted the Campaign while claiming to be U.S. political activists working on behalf of a conservative grassroots organization. The IRA’s contacts included requests for signs and other materials to use at rallies, 107 as well as requests to promote the rallies and help coordinate Iogistics.108 While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.

III. RUSSIAN HACKING AND DUMPING OPERATIONS

Beginning in March 2016, units of the Russian Federation’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) hacked the computers and email accounts of organizations, employees, and volunteers supporting the Clinton Campaign, including the email account of campaign chairman John Podesta. Starting in April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU targeted hundreds of email accounts used by Clinton Campaign employees, advisors, and volunteers. In total, the GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. 109 The GRU later released stolen Clinton Campaign and DNC documents through online personas, “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” and later through the organization WikiLeaks. The release of the documents was designed and timed to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election and undermine the Clinton Campaign. …

By no later than April 12, 2016, the GRU had gained access to the DCCC computer network using the credentials stolen from a DCCC employee who had been successfully spearphished the week before. Over the ensuing weeks, the GRU traversed the network, identifying different computers connected to the DCCC network. By stealing network access credentials along the way (including those of IT administrators with unrestricted access to the system), the GRU compromised approximately 29 different computers on the DCCC network. 119

Approximately six days after first hacking into the DCCC network, on April 18, 2016, GRU officers gained access to the DNC network via a virtual private network (VPN) connection120 between the DCCC and DNC networks.121 Between April 18, 2016 and June 8, 2016, Unit 26165 compromised more than 30 computers on the DNC network, including the DNC mail server and shared file server.122

b. Implantation of Ma/ware on DCCC and DNC Networks

Unit 26165 implanted on the DCCC and DNC networks two types of customized malware, 123 known as “X-Agent” and “X-Tunnel”; Mimikatz, a credential-harvesting tool; and rar.exe, a tool used in these intrusions to compile and compress materials for exfiltration. X-Agent was a multi-function hacking tool that allowed Unit 26165 to log keystrokes, take screenshots, and gather other data about the infected computers (e.g., file directories, operating systems).124 XTunnel was a hacking tool that created an encrypted connection between the victim DCCC/DNC computers and GRU-controlled computers outside the DCCC and DNC networks that was capable of large-scale data transfers. 125 GRU officers then used X-Tunnel to exfiltrate stolen data from the victim computers. …

c. Theft of Documents from DNC and DCCC Networks

Officers from Unit 26165 stole thousands of documents from the DCCC and DNCnetworks, including significant amounts of data pertaining to the 2016 U.S. federal elections.

Stolen documents included internal strategy documents, fundraising data, opposition research, and emails from the work inboxes of DNC employees.

The GRU began stealing DCCC data shortly after it gained access to the network. On April 14, 2016 (approximately three days after the initial intrusion) GRU officers downloaded rar.exe onto the DCCC’s document server. The following day, the GRU searched one compromised DCCC computer for files containing search terms that included “Hillary,” “DNC,” “Cruz,” and “Trump.”131 On April 25, 2016, the GRU collected and compressed PDF and Microsoft documents from folders on the DCCC’s shared file server that pertained to the 2016 election.132 The GRU appears to have compressed and exfiltrated over 70 gigabytes of data from this file server.133

The GRU also stole documents from the DNC network shortly after gaining access. On April 22, 2016, the GRU copied files from the DNC network to GRU-controlled computers. Stolen documents included the DNC’ s opposition research into candidate Trump.134 Between approximately May 25, 2016 and June 1, 2016, GRU officers accessed the DNC’s mail server from a GRU-controlled computer leased inside the United States.135 During these connections, Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.136

B. Dissemination of the Hacked Materials

The GRU began planning the releases at least as early as April 19, 2016, when Unit 26165 registered the domain dcleaks.com through a service that anonymized the registrant.137 Unit 26165 paid for the registration using a pool of bitcoin that it had mined. 138 The dcleaks.com landing page pointed to different tranches of stolen documents, arranged by victim or subject matter. Other dcleaks.com pages contained indexes of the stolen emails that were being released (bearing the sender, recipient, and date of the email). To control access and the timing of releases, pages were sometimes password-protected for a period of time and later made unrestricted to the public.

Starting in June 2016, the GRU posted stolen documents onto the website dcleaks.com, including documents stolen from a number of individuals associated with the Clinton Campaign.

These documents appeared to have originated from personal email accounts (in particular, Google and Microsoft accounts), rather than the DNC and DCCC computer networks. DCLeaks victims included an advisor to the Clinton Campaign, a former DNC employee and Clinton Campaign employee, and four other campaign volunteers. 139 The GRU released through dcleaks.com thousands of documents, including personal identifying and financial information, internal correspondence related to the Clinton Campaign and prior political jobs, and fundraising files and information.140 …

2. Guccifer 2.0

On June 14, 2016, the DNC and its cyber-response team announced the breach of the DNC network and suspected theft of DNC documents. In the statements, the cyber-response team alleged that Russian state-sponsored actors (which they referred to as “Fancy Bear”) were responsible for the breach. 145 Apparently in response to that announcement, on June 15, 2016, GRU officers using the persona Guccifer 2.0 created a WordPress blog. In the hours leading up to the launch of that WordPress blog, GRU officers logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and searched for a number of specific words and phrases in English, including “some hundred sheets,” “illuminati,” and “worldwide known.” Approximately two hours after the last of those searches, Guccifer 2.0 published its first post, attributing the DNC server hack to a lone Romanian hacker and using several of the unique English words and phrases that the GRU officers had searched for that day. 146 …

3. Use of WikiLeaks

In order to expand its interference in the 20 I 6 U.S. presidential election, the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks. GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to

communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks’s private communication system. …

c. The GRU’s Transfer of Stolen Materials to WikiLeaks

Both the GRU and WikiLeaks sought to hide their communications, which has limited the Office’s ability to collect all of the communications between them. Thus, although it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks, [REDACTED] …

An analysis of the metadata collected from the WikiLeaks site revealed that the stolen Podesta emails show a creation date of September 19, 2016.171 Based on information about Assange’s computer and its possible operating system, this date may be when the GRU staged the stolen Podesta emails for transfer to WikiLeaks (as the GRU had previously done in July 2016 for the DNC emails). 172 The WikiLeaks site also released PDFs and other documents taken from Podesta that were attachments to emails in his account; these documents had a creation date of October 2, 2016, which appears to be the date the attachments were separately staged by WikiLeaks on its site. 173

Beginning on September 20, 2016, WikiLeaks and DCLeaks resumed communications in a brief exchange. On September 22, 2016, a DCLeaks email account dcleaksproject@gmail.com sent an email to a WikiLeaks account with the subject “Submission” and the message “Hi from DCLeaks.” The email contained a PGP-encrypted with the filename “wiki_mail.txt.gpg.” 174 …

d. WikiLeaks Statements Dissembling About the Source of Stolen Materials

As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence described above and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.

Beginning in the summer of 2016, Assange and WikiLeaks made a number of statements about Seth Rich, a former DNC staff member who was killed in July 2016. The statements about Rich implied falsely that he had been the source of the stolen DNC emails. On August 9, 2016, the @WikiLeaks Twitter account posted: “ANNOUNCE: WikiLeaks has decided to issue a US$20k reward for information leading to conviction for the murder ofDNC staffer Seth Rich.” 180

Likewise, on August 25, 2016, Assange was asked in an interview, “Why are you so interested in Seth Rich’s killer?” and responded, “We’re very interested in anything that might be a threat to alleged Wikileaks sources.” The interviewer responded to Assange’s statement by commenting, “I know you don’t want to reveal your source, but it certainly sounds like you’re suggesting a man who leaked information to WikiLeaks was then murdered.” Assange replied, “If there’s someone who’s potentially connected to our publication, and that person has been murdered in suspicious circumstances, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are connected. But it is a very serious matter … that type of allegation is very serious, as it’s taken very seriously by us.”181

After the U.S. intelligence community publicly announced its assessment that Russia was behind the hacking operation, Assange continued to deny that the Clinton materials released by WikiLeaks had come from Russian hacking. According to media reports, Assange told a U.S. congressman that the DNC hack was an “inside job,” and purported to have “physical proof” that Russians did not give materials to Assange. 182

Those are highlights from the opening 11% of the report, which is up through page 49 in the 448-page document. These are a prosecutor’s allegations; they are not necessarily true. Robert Mueller has a lengthy history of publicly alleging things that subsequently have come to be widely recognized to have been false. Furthermore, there are very serious reasons to doubt some of the most basic aspects of the Mueller report’s accounts of how information came to Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton’s and her campaign’s computers. Mueller even has been condemned by the FISA court for having violated the law and deceived that court. But these are his main allegations in Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World’s Hypocritical Silence as China Imprisons its Ethnic Muslims En Masse

Imagine the reaction in the global Muslim community if a western nation imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Muslims solely for being Muslim and subjected them to torture, “re-education” that amounts to treating their religious faith as a pathological mental illness, forcefully separating parents and children, incarcerating the children in state-run orphanages, and on and on in a ruthlessly efficient Nazi-like systemic oppression.

The Muslim “street” would erupt in mass protests, burning flags and calling for the downfall of The Great Satan, and the Muslim nations would cancel energy and trade contracts and lodge diplomatic protests.

But the global Muslim community, and indeed, the entire global community, is strangely silent as China pursues a high-tech suppression of its ethnic Muslims. This silence might be the one thing Tehran, Moscow and Washington have in common: a complete and utter disregard for China’s Muslim-only gulags.

While America’s ruling elite greedily rubs its hands over the wealth that will flow from a “trade deal” with China, where is America’s vaunted concern with human rights? Nowhere to be found. Where are the canceled energy and trade contracts between China and Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf States and other Muslim-majority nations?

The entire world’s ruling elites are silent because they’re terrified that even mild murmurings might limit the blood-soaked billions they want to reap from trade with China. That is the source of the world’s hypocritical silence about China’s Muslim-only gulags: the endless, insatiable, boundless greed of the ruling elites.

There’s a funny little thing called karma, or blowback if you prefer a secular label, and both China and its vast host of global ruling-elite enablers will eventually reap what they are sowing.

China employs vast armies of propagandists in the West whose favorite word is “debunked.” You can easily identify a Beijing-propaganda proxy by their use of “debunk” to counter any criticism of China’s Muslim-only gulags.

Meanwhile, the alarming reality has been covered in depth by what little remains of the global free press. If you look at only one article, start with this photo-essay: How China Turned a City into a Prison (New York Times)

Satellite Shows Sprawling ‘Re-education Camps’ For Chinese Muslims In Xinjiang Region(Zero Hedge)

China’s Uighur Camps Swell as Beijing Widens the Dragnet (WSJ.com)

Satellite images show expansion of ‘re-education’ centers in China’s Xinjiang region China has sharply expanded an internment program that initially targeted ethnic Uighur extremists but is now confining vast numbers of the largely Muslim minority group, including the secular, old and infirm, in camps across the country’s northwest.

Up to one million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in China’s Xinjiang region, have now been incarcerated in an expanding network of ‘political re-education’ camps, according to U.S. officials and United Nations experts.

Tracking China’s Muslim Gulag (Reuters)

China’s Detention Camps for Muslims Turn to Forced Labor (NYT.com)

Internet Sleuths Are Hunting for China’s Secret Internment Camps for Muslims(TheAtlantic.com)

China Is Treating Islam Like a Mental Illness The country is putting Muslims in internment camps—and causing real psychological damage in the process.(TheAtlantic.com)

THREE NOTES OF NOTE:

1. I just added a new benefit for all subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics. You get other exclusive benefits with a $1, $5 or $10/month patronage via patreon.com.

2. Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change is on sale this month: $4.95 Kindle edition, $9.95 print edition, a 33% discount.

3. Did you know there are 3 new audiobooks available now?

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic

Money and Work Unchained

Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege 

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.

My new mystery The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake is a ridiculously affordable $1.29 (Kindle) or $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format. 

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com. New benefit for subscribers/patrons: a monthly Q&A where I respond to your questions/topics.

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer 20 Basic Questions

1. What would you like the U.S. discretionary budget to look like? With 60% now going to militarism, what percentage would you like that to be?
Mike Gravel: Cut military spending by 50%.
Howie Hawkins: Cut military spending by 50%.
Bernie Sanders: Cut military spending by an unknown amount.
Marianne Williamson: Convert to a peaceful economy over 10 to 20 years.
Andrew Yang: Cut military spending by an unknown amount; move 10% to military-like infrastructure force.
Julian Castro: Website provides no positions on anything other than immigration and relations with Central America.
Tulsi Gabbard: One website provides no positions on anything, another doesn’t say. We can look to her voting record. She has voted against cutting the military budget.
Elizabeth Warren: Website doesn’t say. She has voted for enormous military budgets.
Pete Buttigieg: Website provides no positions on anything.
Beto O’Rourke: Website doesn’t say.
Kamala Harris: Website provides no positions on anything. She has voted for enormous military budgets.
Joe Biden: Isn’t running.
Amy Klobuchar: Website provides no positions on anything. She has voted for enormous military budgets.
Donald Trump: Proposes to move yet more funding from almost everything else into military spending, boosting the latter to roughly 65% of federal discretionary spending across departments, not counting another 7% for Veterans Affairs.
Cory Booker: Website provides no positions on anything. He has voted for enormous military budgets.
Eric Swalwell: Website provides no positions on anything other than guns, healthcare, and education.
Tim Ryan: Doesn’t seem to have a website.
John Delaney: Website provides an array of positions as if 96 percent of humanity and 65 percent of discretionary spending doesn’t exist: no foreign policy, except that he wants mandatory “service” with the military being one option.
Jay Inslee: Website provides no positions on anything other than climate, which position avoids mentioning the military either as a destroyer of climate or a source of funding that could be moved to climate.
Wayne Messam: Website doesn’t say, but promotes hostility toward Russia and China.
John Hickenloper: Website provides no positions on anything.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Website doesn’t say.
Howard Schultz: Website provides no positions on anything other than coffee.
2. What program of economic conversion to peaceful enterprises would you support?
Marianne Williamson hints at this topic.
Howie Hawkins hints at this topic.
Mike Gravel hints at this topic.
Trump: none.
Everybody else is silent.
3. Would you end, continue, or escalate U.S. war making in: Afghanistan? Iraq? Syria? Yemen? Pakistan? Libya? Somalia?
Tulsi Gabbard: One website provides no positions on anything, but she has voted to end the war on Yemen and said she would end the wars on Syria and Afghanistan. Another website says she would end the wars on Yemen and Syria. But she has voted to keep the AUMF in place.
Bernie Sanders: He would end the war on Yemen, and he sort-of seems to suggest that he would end the wars on Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. He has voted to end the war on Yemen and against keeping the war on Afghanistan going.
Elizabeth Warren: Website doesn’t say. She has voted to end the war on Yemen and against keeping the war on Afghanistan going, and suggested she would end the wars on Afghanistan and Syria.
Mike Gravel: Website seems to effectively communicate the intention to end each of these wars, because he would close all bases, and pursue friendly relations with all countries. However, he would also “make war Constitutional,” as if the Congress can Constitutionally violate the UN Charter and the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Howie Hawkins: Website seems to effectively communicate the intention to end each of these wars, but — like Gravel’s — doesn’t explicitly say so.
Marianne Williamson: Website seems to suggest she would end all wars, but does not say.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Website doesn’t say, but she’s voted to end the war on Yemen and supported ending the war on Afghanistan.
Andrew Yang: Website doesn’t say.
Julian Castro: Website provides no positions on anything other than immigration and relations with Central America.
Pete Buttigieg: Website provides no positions on anything.
Beto O’Rourke: Website doesn’t say.
Kamala Harris: Website provides no positions on anything.
Joe Biden: Isn’t running.
Amy Klobuchar: Website provides no positions on anything.
Donald Trump: He has escalated wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen,  and vetoed a bill to end the war on Yemen, and continued wars on Libya, Somalia, and Pakistan.
Cory Booker: Website provides no positions on anything. He’s voted to end war on Yemen.
Eric Swalwell: Website provides no positions on anything other than guns, healthcare, and education.
Tim Ryan: Doesn’t seem to have a website.
John Delaney: Website provides an array of positions as if 96 percent of humanity and 65 percent of discretionary spending doesn’t exist: no foreign policy, except that he wants mandatory “service” with the military being one option.
Jay Inslee: Website provides no positions on anything other than climate, which position avoids mentioning the military either as a destroyer of climate or a source of funding that could be moved to climate.
Wayne Messam: Website doesn’t say, but promotes hostility toward Russia and China.
John Hickenloper: Website provides no positions on anything.
Howard Schultz: Website provides no positions on anything other than coffee.
4. Would you end the exemption for militarism in Kyoto, Paris, and other climate agreements?
– – – crickets – – –
5. Would you sign / ratify any of these treaties: Paris Climate Agreement? Convention on the Rights of the Child? International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights? International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights optional protocols? Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women? Convention Against Torure optional protocol? International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families? International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance? The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities? International Convention Against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries? Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court? Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Principles of International Cooperation in the Detection, Arrest, Extradition, and Punishment of Persons Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity? Convention on Cluster Munitions? Land Mines Convention? Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons? Proposed treaties banning the weaponization of space and banning cyber crimes?
Mike Gravel: He lists a few of these he would support and suggests that there would be others.
Howie Hawkins: Website only says: “a recommitment to the recently abandoned arms treaties and to vigorous new negotiations for further reductions toward complete nuclear disarmament.”
Beto O’Rourke: Supports Paris agreement.
Jay Inslee: Website provides no positions on anything other than climate. Has supported the Paris agreement.
Bernie Sanders: Website doesn’t say. Has supported the Paris agreement.
Tulsi Gabbard: Website provides no positions on anything, or doesn’t say. Has supported the Paris agreement.
Elizabeth Warren: Website doesn’t say. Has supported the Paris agreement.
Marianne Williamson: Website doesn’t say.
Andrew Yang: Website doesn’t say.
Julian Castro: Website provides no positions on anything other than immigration and relations with Central America.
Pete Buttigieg: Website provides no positions on anything.
Kamala Harris: Website provides no positions on anything.
Joe Biden: Isn’t running.
Amy Klobuchar: Website provides no positions on anything.
Donald Trump: No.
Cory Booker: Website provides no positions on anything.
Eric Swalwell: Website provides no positions on anything other than guns, healthcare, and education.
Tim Ryan: Doesn’t seem to have a website.
John Delaney: Website provides an array of positions as if 96 percent of humanity and 65 percent of discretionary spending doesn’t exist: no foreign policy, except that he wants mandatory “service” with the military being one option.
Wayne Messam: Website doesn’t say.
John Hickenloper: Website provides no positions on anything.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Website doesn’t say.
Howard Schultz: Website provides no positions on anything other than coffee.
6. Would you halt or continue expenditures on the production and so-called modernization of nuclear weapons?
Mike Gravel: He would get rid of all nukes.
Howie Hawkins: He would get rid of all nukes.
Beto O’Rourke: Website mentions “nuclear disarmament.”
Bernie Sanders: Website doesn’t say.
Tulsi Gabbard: Website provides no positions on anything, or doesn’t say. But she has voted to fund new nukes.
Elizabeth Warren: Website doesn’t say.
Marianne Williamson: Website doesn’t say.
Andrew Yang: Website doesn’t say.
Julian Castro: Website provides no positions on anything other than immigration and relations with Central America.
Jay Inslee: Website provides no positions on anything other than climate.
Pete Buttigieg: Website provides no positions on anything.
Kamala Harris: Website provides no positions on anything.
Joe Biden: Isn’t running.
Amy Klobuchar: Website provides no positions on anything.
Donald Trump: Continue.
Cory Booker: Website provides no positions on anything.
Eric Swalwell: Website provides no positions on anything other than guns, healthcare, and education.
Tim Ryan: Doesn’t seem to have a website.
John Delaney: Website provides an array of positions as if 96 percent of humanity and 65 percent of discretionary spending doesn’t exist: no foreign policy, except that he wants mandatory “service” with the military being one option.
Wayne Messam: Website doesn’t say.
John Hickenloper: Website provides no positions on anything.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Website doesn’t say.
Howard Schultz: Website provides no positions on anything other than coffee.
7. Would you end weapons sales and the provision of military training to any governments? Which?
Mike Gravel would end weapons sales and bring all troops home.
Howie Hawkins would convert weapons dealers into “nonprofit public enterprises.”
Trump: none.
Everybody else is silent.
8. Would you close any foreign bases? Which?
Mike Gravel would close them all.
Howie Hawkins seems to suggest he would close at least some of them.
Trump: no.
Everybody else is silent.
9. Would you halt or continue the practice of murder by missiles from drones?
Every website is silent. Candidates who have said in the past that they would use drones to murder include: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Donald Trump.
10. Do you recognize the ban on war, with exceptions, contained in the United Nations Charter? And the ban on threatening war?
– – – crickets – – –
11. Do you recognize the ban on war, without exceptions, contained in the Kellogg-Briand Pact?
– – – crickets – – –
12. Will you end discriminatory bans on immigrants?
Mike Gravel: Yes.
Howie Hawkins: Yes.
Julian Castro: Yes.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Yes.
Bernie Sanders: Yes.
Marianne Williamson: Yes.
Tulsi Gabbard: Yes.
Donald Trump: No.
Andrew Yang: Not clear.
Beto O’Rourke: Not clear.
John Delaney: Not clear.
Wayne Messam: Not clear.
Everybody else is silent.
13. Should actual, non-military, no-strings-attached foreign aid be eliminated, reduced, maintained, or increased? How much?
– – – crickets – – –
14. 84% of South Koreans want the war ended immediately. Should the United States block that?
Mike Gravel: No.
Tulsi Gabbard: No.
Everybody else is silent.
15. Should NATO be maintained or abolished?
– – – crickets – – –
The House voted on a bill to “support NATO” in January 2019, but Rep. Gabbard did not vote.
16. Should the CIA be maintained or abolished?
– – – crickets – – –
17. Should the ROTC be maintained or abolished?
– – – crickets – – –
18. Should domestic police forces be trained by, collaborate with, and be armed by militaries?
– – – crickets – – –
19. Should the U.S. military pay sports leagues, secretly or openly, to celebrate militarism?
– – – crickets – – –
20. How large should the U.S. military’s advertising budget be, and how much should the U.S. government spend promoting the concepts of nonviolent dispute resolution and the abolition of war?
– – – crickets – – –
Posted in General | Leave a comment

Americans: Are you represented in Congress by a stooge of Saudi Crown Prince Salman?

Eric Zuesse

You can find out here by clicking there to see how your Representative and your two Senators voted on the resolution to stop U.S. arming and aid to Prince Salman’s war to starve millions of Houthis to death. In neither house did the resolution pass with enough votes to be able to override Salman’s stooge Trump’s veto of it, and so our Government will continue to support this extermination.

The Sauds’ plan is to saturation-bomb the narrow access-route that supplies all food into the Houthis’ region of Yemen so as to starve the Houthis to death and thereby enable Prince Salman’s stooge to run Yemen.

This plan would have no chance to succeed if the U.S. withdrew its backing of and participation in it.

“If we suspend providing spare parts for their F-15s, their air force would be grounded in two weeks” — Robert Jordan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia

In other words: this slaughter-campaign isn’t only Prince Salman’s, it is Trump’s, too. In fact, you can see the entire Saudi-led coalition that’s backing this extermination-campaign, by clicking here.

So: if your vote means anything at all, and if you voted for a Representative and/or for one or both of the Senators who backs stooge Trump on this extermination-campaign, then you, too, are actually supporting this exterminationist government — today’s U.S. Government — and not only supporting Crown Prince Salman’s effort to take over Yemen.

Back when Barack Obama was the U.S. President, there was bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for Prince Salman’s extermination-campaign in Yemen and therefore no such possibility for stopping it; but, now, as the 2020 U.S. Presidential campaign is getting under way, Democrats especially have come out publicly against it, because the Republican President, Trump, is so strongly in favor of it, and so the Yemen-issue can help win the voters who want “Change.” Nonetheless, for example in the Senate, Republicans Lisa Murkowski, Todd Young, Jerry Moran, Rand Paul, Susan Collins, Steve Daines, and Mike Lee, joined all Democratic Senators and both Independent Senators, in supporting this resolution, which the current, Republican, President, Trump, then vetoed, thus continuing the U.S. Government’s decades-long service as a vassal-nation to the Saud family — even if not also to Israel’s Government, as well. (Israel, of course, being far more favored by America’s voters than is Saudi Arabia, presents far more danger for members of Congress to oppose than Saudi Arabia does; and, so, there are no resolutions in Congress that challenge Israel as the current resolutions have been challenging Saudi Arabia. And even the congressional challenges to the Sauds might be basically for political show, rather than serious policy-positions.)

The present news-report, including its links that enable any reader to know where each of his/her supposed representatives (or else Saud-stooges) stand on this extermination-campaign, is being submitted simultaneously to all U.S. national news-media, so that Americans (or at least ones who are receiving honest news that’s linked to all its sources so that you can decide for yourself what the facts are) can become easily informed regarding the true character of the given citizen’s federal representatives. To vote in ignorance is slavery.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment