America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship

Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

Arriving behind the anti-Trump “resistance” and the Russia-gate “scandal” is a troubling readiness to silence dissent in the U.S., shutting down information that challenges Official Narratives…

A stark difference between today’s Washington and when I was here as a young Associated Press correspondent in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is that then – even as the old Cold War was heating up around the election of Ronald Reagan – there were prominent mainstream journalists who looked askance at the excessive demonization of the Soviet Union and doubted wild claims about the dire threats to U.S. national security from Nicaragua and Grenada.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin wall, Dec. 6, 2016. (Photo by Robert Parry)

Perhaps the Vietnam War was still fresh enough in people’s minds that senior editors and national reporters understood the dangers of mindless groupthink inside Official Washington, as well as the importance of healthy skepticism toward official pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community.

Today, however, I cannot think of a single prominent figure in the mainstream news media who questions any claim – no matter how unlikely or absurd – that vilifies Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country. It is all Russia-bashing all the time.

And, behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity are increasing assaults against independent and dissident journalists and news outlets outside the mainstream. We’re not just entering a New Cold War and a New McCarthyism; we’re also getting a heavy dose of old-style Orwellianism.

Sometimes you see this in individual acts like HuffingtonPost taking down a well-reported story by journalist Joe Lauria because he dared to point out that Democratic money financed the two initial elements of what’s now known as Russia-gate: the forensic examination of computers at the Democratic National Committee and the opposition research on Donald Trump conducted by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

HuffingtonPost never contacted Lauria before or after its decision to retract the story, despite a request from him for the reasons why. HuffPost editors told a BuzzFeed reporter that they were responding to reader complaints that the article was filled with factual errors but none have ever been spelled out, leaving little doubt that Lauria’s real “error” was in defying the Russia-gate groupthink of the anti-Trump Resistance. [A version of Lauria’s story appeared at Consortiumnews.com before Lauria posted it at HuffPost. If you want to sign a petition calling on HuffPost to restore Lauria’s article, click here.]

Muzzling RT

Other times, the expanding American censorship is driven by U.S. government agencies, such as the Justice Department’s demand that the Russian news outlet, RT, register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires such prompt, frequent and detailed disclosures of supposed “propaganda” that it could make it impossible for RT to continue to function in the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

This attack on RT was rationalized by the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” that was, in reality, prepared by a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. Their report included a seven-page addendum from 2012 accusing RT of spreading Russian propaganda – and apparently this Jan. 6 report must now be accepted as gospel truth, no questions permitted.

However, if any real journalist actually read the Jan. 6 report, he or she would have discovered that RT’s sinister assault on American democracy included such offenses as holding a debate among third-party candidates who were excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates in 2012. Yes, allowing Libertarians and Greens to express their points of view is a grave danger to American democracy.

Other RT “propaganda” included reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and examining the environmental dangers from “fracking,” issues that also have been widely covered by the domestic American media. Apparently, whenever RT covers a newsworthy event – even if others have too – that constitutes “propaganda,” which must be throttled to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it.

If you bother to study the Jan. 6 report’s addendum, it is hard not to conclude that these “hand-picked” analysts were either stark-raving mad or madly anti-Russian. Yet, this “Intelligence Community Assessment” is now beyond questioning unless you want to be labeled a “Kremlin stooge” or “Putin’s useful idiot.” [An earlier State Department attack on RT was equally ridiculous or demonstrably false.]

And, by the way, it was President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified under oath that the analysts from the three agencies were “hand-picked.” That means that they were analysts personally selected by Obama’s intelligence chiefs from three agencies – not “all 17” as the American public was told over and over again – and thus were not even a full representation of analysts from those three agencies. Yet, this subset of a subset is routinely described as “the U.S. intelligence community,” even after major news outlets finally had to retract their “all 17” canard.

So, the myth of the intelligence community’s consensus lives on. For instance, in an upbeat article on Tuesday about the U.S. government’s coercing RT into registering as a foreign agent, Washington Post reporters Devlin Barrett and David Filipov wrote, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the network and website push relentlessly anti-American propaganda at the behest of the Russian government.”

In the old days, even during the old Cold War and President Reagan’s ranting about “the Evil Empire,” some of us would have actually examined the Jan. 6 report’s case against RT and noted the absurdity of these claims about “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.” Whether you want to hear the views of the Greens and Libertarians or not – or whether you like “fracking” and hate Occupy Wall Street – the opportunity to hear this information doesn’t constitute “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.”

The U.S. government’s real beef with RT seems to be that it allows on air some Americans who have been blacklisted from the mainstream media – including highly credentialed former U.S. intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – because they have challenged various Official Narratives.

In other words, Americans are not supposed to hear the other side of the story on important international conflicts, such as the proxy war in Syria or the civil war in Ukraine or Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Only the State Department’s versions of those events are permitted even when those versions are themselves propagandistic if not outright false.

For example, you’re not supposed to hear about the huge holes in the Syria-sarin cases, nor about Ukraine’s post-coup regime arming neo-Nazis to kill ethnic-Russian Ukrainians, nor about Israel’s evolution into an apartheid state. All right-thinking Americans are to get only a steady diet of how righteous the U.S. government and its allies always are. Anything else is “propaganda.”

Also off limits is any thoughtful critique of that Jan. 6 report – or apparently even Clapper’s characterization of it as a product of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies. You’re not supposed to ask why other U.S. intelligence agencies with deep knowledge about Russia were excluded and why even other analysts from the three involved agencies were shut out.

No, you must always think of the Jan. 6 report as the “consensus” assessment from the entire “U.S. intelligence community.” And you must accept it as flat fact – as it now is treated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other mainstream news outlets. You shouldn’t even notice that the Jan. 6 report itself doesn’t claim that Russian election meddling was a fact. The report explains, that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

But even quoting from the Jan. 6 report might make an American reporter some kind of traitorous “Russian mole” whose journalism must be purged from “responsible” media and who should be forced to wear the journalistic equivalent of a yellow star.

The Anti-Trump/Russia Hysteria

Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.

An early shot in this war against dissenting information was fired last Thanksgiving Day when the Post published a front-page article citing an anonymous group called PropOrNot smearing 200 Internet news sites for allegedly disseminating Russian propaganda. The list included some of the most important sources of independent journalism, including Consortiumnews.com, apparently for the crime of questioning some of the State Department’s narratives on international conflicts, particularly Syria and Ukraine.

Then, with the anti-Russia hysteria building and the censorship ball rolling, Congress last December approved $160 million for think tanks and other non-governmental organizations to combat Russian propaganda. Soon, reports and studies were flying off the shelves detecting a Russian behind every article, tweet and posting that didn’t toe the State Department’s line.

The New York Times and other leading news organizations have even cheered plans for Google, Facebook and other technology companies to deploy algorithms that can hunt down, marginalize or eliminate information that establishment media deems “fake” or “propaganda.” Already Google has put together a First Draft coalition, consisting of mainstream media and establishment-approved Web sites to decide what information makes the cut and what doesn’t.

Among these arbiters of truth is the fact-check organization PolitiFact, which judged the falsehood about “all 17 intelligence agencies” signing off on the Russian “hacking” claim to be “true.” Even though the claim was never true and is now clearly established as false, PolitiFact continues to assert that this lie is the truth, apparently filled with the hubris that comes with its power over determining what is true and what is false.

But what is perhaps most troubling to me about these developments is the silence of many civil liberties advocates, liberal politicians and defenders of press freedom who might have been counted on in earlier days to object to this censorship and blackballing.

It appears that the ends of taking down Donald Trump and demonizing Vladimir Putin justify whatever means, no matter the existential danger of nuclear war with Russia or the McCarthyistic (even Orwellian) threats to freedom of speech, press and thought.

WTF Chart Of The Day: America’s Youngest Child Brides & Grooms

Between 2000 and 2015, at least 207,468 minors were married in the United States.

As Statista's Martin Armstrong notes, despite an overall fall in child marriage since 2000 (25,583 to 9,247), there are still a shocking number of young children legally married in the country. Only 14 percent married other minors, meaning 86 percent wedded an adult.

As the infographic below shows, the youngest to marry since 2000 were three ten year olds.

Infographic: America's Youngest Child Brides & Grooms | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

According to Frontline, the three girls married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in Tennessee in 2001.

While certain conditions have to be met before a minor can marry, and consent from a parent or judge is usually required, every state in the U.S. allows children to marry to some extent.

In Oregon and Nebraska, for example, the lower limit is set at 17.

In 26 states, there is no minimum age for marriage.

Ben Garrison On Mending A Fractured America

Authored by Ben Garrison via GrrrGraphics.com,

Earlier this week I was on the Jesse Lee Peterson show out of LA.

It was a short segment early in the morning and we briefly discussed the NFL kneelers. I spoke about how they offended the fans, the veterans, and US history in general. I pointed out that black Americans have just as much stake and heritage in this country as anyone else. The first person to die in the Revolutionary War was Crispus Attucks, a black man. There were black Minute Men. I mentioned Andrew Jackson and the black battalion that was vital in defeating the the British in the Battle of New Orleans.

Peterson had one call for me – a woman who angrily denounced Andrew Jackson and how those slaves were forced to fight. I was taken aback by this, because those men were heroes and veterans to be honored regardless of slavery. Shamefully, some of those men did not get their freedom, but it does not take away from the fact that they put their lives on the line for their country. I might have added that nearly 600,000 ‘privileged’ white men died in the Civil War to end slavery.

The kneelers seem to have forgotten that.

Increasingly our country is divided.

 

Civility is being replaced by name calling–and even violence.

 

People want others with whom they disagree to lose their jobs.

 

Accusations of sexual impropriety are widespread.

 

Censorship is being implemented by the tech left.

 

Rational debate is replaced by name calling and fear.

 

Racial hatred is very real and always has been, but it seems worse nowadays—and our first ‘black’ president, Obama, actually set back race relations.

 

Too many people now hate our country, our history and our culture.

What is that culture? For most of our history it has been predominately European and Christian. For years we’ve had a huge influx of immigrants ‘of color’ who have a lot of children. White people will soon be a minority in the USA. There are some on the alt right calling for the protection of whites by means identity politics and segregation. Many black nationalists also want the return of segregation, after they fought so hard against it. Muslims naturally segregate themselves and demand special food, special treatment, and Sharia Law, which is completely at odds with our Constitution. The rich are getting stupendously richer and segregate themselves in gated communities. Three men in America now control more wealth than the bottom half of the US population.

Immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are now encouraged to keep their own cultures and languages. Some consider the traditional melting pot to be offensive – they say it’s ‘racist’ and ‘nativist.’

The end game of that kind of thinking will be the proliferation of ‘no go’ Balkanized zones in the United States. Trump’s brand of nationalism may be the glue needed to keep our country together. At least for a while longer.

President Trump Accelerates Drone Strikes In Somalia

President Trump’s expansion of war is most evident in the skies of Somalia where an acceleration in drone strikes have been reported.

U.S. Africa Command has conducted fourteen airstrikes since August bringing the year’s total to eighteen. The increased tempo of airstrikes started in September between the Kismayo and Mogadisu region.

Earlier this month, we reported on Trump’s administration hitting a new milestone – when U.S. Africa Command launched its first airstrike against the Islamic State-linked fighters – further accelerating the US presence..

Defense One highlights this momentous achievement…

U.S. Africa Command has released data on 18 strikes this year, more than four times the average over the previous seven years. 

The escalation of U.S. Africa Command presence in Somalia was made possible by president Trump’s order in March that ”allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct lethal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area of active hostilities in support of partner forces in Somalia.”

Defense One outlines a majority of the airstrikes have been situated around Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia where a mixture of Al-Shabab attack zones and support zones reside.

Back in October, Al-Shabab blew up a truck bomb in the capital killing 300 making it one of the nation’s worst terrorist attack ever. The devastating bombing was in response to President Trump and Somalia’s newly elected president forming new military efforts to combat the rise in Islamic State-linked fighters in the country.

Drones have been responsible for most of the airstrikes and what the report states it’s impossible to verify how many ‘extremist’ have been killed.

Defense One notes,

The Bureau for Investigative Journalism estimates that the strikes have killed as few as 88 people and as many as 124. The group also says it has tracked nearly 30 strikes for 2017, about a dozen more than the Pentagon claims.  

Micah Zenko, a writer at foreignpolicy.com, outlines (dated Nov 09) that in 5+ months Trump has bombed Somalia 17 times verse Obama bombed Somalia 29 times in 7+years. The explanation for Trump’s rapid bombardment is the geographical spread of  strikes in the country is much larger, plus he authorized a new enemy back in March – ISIS.

Earlier this year, the US military reported about 50 US troops were stationed in Somalia providing training and advice for the Somali military, but as of lately the figure now stands at 500.

Before President Trump, the US military has always maintained a small presence in the region. Now it seems with the geographical spread larger and a new enemy in the region defined; the endless wars will most certainly continue further enriching the US-military industrial complex.

 

Stockman Slams “The Awesome Recovery” Narrative

Authored by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog,

One of the great philosophers of recent times was surely Sgt. Easterhaus of "Hill Street Blues". As he assigned his men to their daily rounds in the crime infested streets of the Big Apple he always ended the precinct's morning call with his signature admonition:

"Let's be carful out there."

That wisdom has been long lost on both ends of the Acela Corridor. In the face of blatant dangers and even existential threats, their denizens whistle past the graveyard with alacrity. So doing, they turn a blind eye on virtually all that contradicts the awesome recovery narrative, the indispensable nation conceit and the Washington can Make America Great Again (MAGA) delusion, among countless other fantasies.

For example, the GOP should be literally petrified by an horrid fiscal scenario for the coming decade that entails Social Security going bust, another $12 trillion of current policy deficits and a prospective $33 trillion public debt by 2027. And even that presupposes a macro-economic miracle in the interim: Namely, a 207 month stretch from 2009 to 2027 without a recession—–a feat which is twice the longest expansion in recorded history

Image result for images of three monkeys of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Instead, they have passed a FY 2018 budget resolution which implicitly embraces all of the above fiscal mayhem, and then adds upwards of $2 trillion (so far and counting interest) of incremental deficits to fund an ill-designed tax cut that is inherently an economic dud and political time bomb.

As to the former, the GOP is lost in ritual incantation and foggy Reagan-era nostalgia. Unlike the giant Reagan tax cut of 1981, the pending bills do not cut marginal tax rates measurably—or even the individual income tax burden in any meaningful sense.

In fact, if you set aside the so-called pass-thru rate for unincorporated businesses (see below), the entire 10-year tax cut on the individual side amounts to just $480 billion. In the scheme of things, that's a tiny number; it represents only 2.2% of the $22 trillion CBO baseline for individual income tax collections over the next decade; and it also is equal to just 0.2% of the projected nominal GDP over the period.

By way of comparison, the Reagan tax cut amounted to 6.2% of GDP when fully effective; and the net cut for individuals taxpayers alone averaged 2.7% of GDP over a decade. In today's economy, that would amount to a tax cut of $6.5 trillion during 2018-2027 or 14X more than the $450 billion net figure estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

To be sure, the abused citizens of America are more than entitled to even this tiny tax cut and much more. That is, if their elected representatives were willing to cut spending by an equal amount or even raise alternative, more benign sources of revenue (i.e. a VAT on consumers vs. the current levy on producer and worker incomes). But unless a rapidly aging society wishes to bury itself in unsupportable public debt, it simply can't afford deficit-financed tax cuts for either the principle or the politics of the thing.

Moreover, to pretend that the tax concoction fashioned by Congressman Brady—- with a pack of Gucci Gulch jackals nipping at his heels— will actually generate enough growth and jobs to largely pay for itself is to make a mockery of Sgt. Easterhaus' admonition. Rather than an exercise in fiscal carefulness, it is the height of recklessness to assume that much enhanced domestic growth, employment and Treasury receipts will result from any part of the $2.8 trillion cut for the rich and corporations that is at the heart of the GOP tax bill.

Actually, it's the heart and then some. With recent modifications (including dropping of the $150 billion corporate excise tax intended to prevent companies from hiding domestic profits via over-invoicing of imports from their own affiliates), the net revenue loss of the Brady bill is calculated at about $1.7 trillion.

That means, of course, that fully 165% of the net tax cut goes to: (1) 5,500 dead rich people's heirs per year ($172 billion for estate tax repeal); (2) 4.3 million very wealthy loophole users ($700 billion for the minimum tax repeal); and (3) the top 1% and 10% of households who own 60% and 85% of business equities, respectively, who will get most of the $1.95 trillion of business rate cuts.

In this context, we cannot stress more insistently that Art Laffer's famous napkin does not apply to business tax cuts in today's world of globalized trade and labor rates and artificially cheap central bank enabled debt and capital.

That's because the business income taxes are born by owners, not workers. The wage rates and incomes of the latter are determined in a saturated global labor market where the China Price for Goods and the India Price for internet based services sets wages on the margin.

At the same time, owners are not deterred from making investments by the proverbial "high after-tax cost of capital". That's because it isn't.

Even at the current statutory 35% tax rate (which few pay), the absolute cost of equity and debt capital is cheaper than ever before in modern history.

In fact, the after-tax cost of equity to scorched earth investment juggernauts like Amazon is virtually zero, while the cheap debt-fueled boom in conventional plant, equipment, mining, shipping and distribution assets over the last two decades has stocked the planet with sufficient capacity for decades to come.

In short, if you lower the business tax rates to 20% and 25% for corporations and pass-thrus, respectively, you will get more dividends, more stock buybacks and other returns to shareholders. Those distributions, in turn, will go to the very wealthy and to pension funds/non-profits. The latter will pay no taxes on these distributions while the former will pay 15%-20% at current law rates of o%, 15% and 20% on capital gains and dividends, which the Brady bill does not change.

In short, maybe the $2.8 trillion of tax cuts for business and the wealthy will generate a few hundred billion of reflows over the decade. And even that will not be attributable to the "incentive effect" of the Laffer Curve at all; it's just tax collection mechanics at work as between the personal and business taxing systems.

By the same token, the Sgt. Easterhaus principle is also being ash-canned by the GOP on the politics side of the tax bill, as well. In fact, Republicans have been chanting the "tax cut" incantation for so many decades that they apparently can't see the obvious. Namely, that among the middle quintile of households (about 30 million filers between $55,000 and $93,000 of AGI) the ballyhooed "tax cut" will actually be a crap shoot.

When fully effective, roughly two-thirds of filers (20 million units) would realize a $1,070 per year tax cut, while another 31% (roughly 9.5 million filers) would experience a $1,150 tax increase!

That's a whole lot of rolling dice—-depending upon family size, sources of income and previous use of itemized deductions. Yet for the heart of the middle class as a whole—-30 million filers in the aforementioned income brackets—the statistical average tax cut would amount to $6.15 per week.

That's right. Two Starbucks cappuccinos and a banana!

So we'd call the GOP's noisy advertising of a big tax cut for the middle class reckless, not careful. Indeed, the Dems will spend hundreds of millions during the 2018 election season on testimonials and tax tables which prove the GOP's claim is a pure con job.

They will also prove the opposite— that the overwhelming share of this unaffordable tax cut is going to the top of the economic ladder. After all, the income tax has morphed into a Rich Man's Levy over the last three decades. So if you cut income taxes—-the benefits inherently and mechanically go to the few who actually pay.

Thus, in the most recent year (2015), 150.5 million Americans filed for income taxes, but just 6.8 million filers (4.5% of the total) accounted for 35% of all AGI ($3.6 trillion) and 59% of taxes paid ($858 billion).

By contrast, the bottom 64 million filers reported only $928 billion of AGI, and paid just 2.2%  ($20 billion) in taxes. That is, owing to the standard deduction, personal exemptions and various credits the bottom 44% of taxpayers accounted for only 1.4% of personal income tax collections.

Even when you widen the bracket to the bottom 123 million tax filers (82%), you get $4.3 trillion of AGI and just $284 billion of taxes paid. In other words, the bottom four-fifths of filers pay only 6.6% of their AGI in tribute to Uncle Sam. They may not be getting their money's worth from the Washington puzzle palaces, but you can't get blood from a turnip, either.

In short, Flyover America desperately needs tax relief for the 160 million workers who actually do pay up to 15.5% of their wages in employer/employee payroll tax deductions. Yet by ignoring the $1.1 trillion per year payroll tax entirely and recklessly and risibly claiming that its income and corporate tax cut bill materially aids the middle class, the GOP is only setting itself up for a thundering political backlash.

Nothing makes this clearer than some recent (accurate) calculations by a left-wing outfit called the Institute for Policy Studies that boil down to the proposition that "It Takes A Baseball Team".

That is, the top 25 US persons (like the full MLB roster) on the Forbes 400 list now report about $1 trillion in collective net worth. That happens to match the net worth of the bottom 180 million (56%) Americans.

Needless to say, that egregious disproportion does not represent free market capitalism at work; it's the deformed fruit of Bubble Finance and the vast inflation of financial assets that the Fed and other central banks have enabled over the past three decades.

In terms of the Sgt. Easterhaus metaphor, monetary central planning has planted some exceedingly dangerous political time bombs in the precincts, neighborhoods, towns and cities of Flyover America. Accordingly, if the GOP succeeds in passing some version of its current tax bill, it may be what finally brings the Dems back into power on an out-and-out platform of socialist healthcare (single payor) and tax redistributionism with malice aforethought.

Even as the GOP recklessly plunges forward with gag rules and its sight unseen legislative steamroller (echoes of ObamaCare in 2010), it will never be able to hide what is buried in the bill's tax tables. Namely, an average tax cut for the top 1%—even after accounting for elimination of upwards of $1.3 trillion of itemized deductions—-that would amount to $1,000 per week.

Moreover, for the top o.1% (150,000 filers), the Dem campaign ads will show a cut of $5,300 per week; and for a subset of 100,000 of the top 0.1% filers, the GOP's tax cut would amount to $11,300 per week .

That's right. Each and every one of the very ultra rich would get a tax break equivalent to that which would accrue to every 2,000 middle bracket filers under the Brady bill.

As Sgt. Easterhaus might have said: They have been warned!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Acela Corridor, the good precinct sergeant gets no respect, either. Indeed, gambling in today's hideously over-valued and unstable casino is exactly the opposite of being careful; it's certain to lead to severe—even fatal—financial injuries on the beat.

In this context, we have been saying right along that the essential evil of monetary central planning is that it systematically falsifies asset prices and corrupts all financial information. That includes what passes for analysis by the Cool Aid drinkers in the casino.

But when we ran across this gem from one Steve Chiavarone yesterday we had to double check because we thought perhaps we were inadvertently reading The Onion.

But, no, he's actually a paid in full (and then some) portfolio manager at the $360 billion Federated Investors group who appeared on CNBC, and then got reported by Dow-Jones' MarketWatch just in case you had the sound turned off during his appearance on bubblevision.

So here's how the bull market will remain "alive for another decade." According to Chiavarone, millenials who don't have two nickels to rub together will make it happen. No sweat.

“Millennials are entering the workforce, but their wages are going to be under pressure their whole career,” he explained to CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Friday. “They won’t make enough money to pay down their debt, fund their life and fund retirement where there is no pension. So, they’re going to need equities.”

Then again, aspiration and capability are not exactly the same thing. In fact, the frequent yawning difference between the two puts us in mind of the Donald's characterization of his primary opponent as Little Marco Rubio. The latter never stops talking about himself as the very embodiment of the American Dream come true—-so for all we know perhaps Marco did aspire to be an NBA star.

But when he famously couldn't reach his water bottle from atop a stool during his nationwide TV rebuttal of an Obama SOTU speech a few years back, it was evident that NBA stardom wasn't ever meant to be.

Nor during the coming decade of stagnant wages and rising interest rates is it any more obvious how millennials will beg, borrow or steal their way to massive purchases of equities. That is, how they will finance what will actually be an avalanche of stock sales by 80 million fading baby boomers who will need the proceeds to pay their nursing home bills.

But never mind. MarketWatch caught the full measure of  what shines on the inside of Mr. Chiavarone's financial beer goggles:

 The risk is not being in this market,” says Chiavarone, who helps run the Federated Global Allocation Fund. The firm’s current price target is for 2,750 on the S&P by the end of next year and 3,000 for 2019.

 

“We are probably frankly low on both of them,” he said. “Tax reform could push up the markets.” That’s not to say there won’t be some pain along the way, specifically the potential for a recession in 2020 and 2021, according to Chiavarone.

 

What’s an investor to do in that case? “Buy the recession,” he said.

Indeed, it doesn't come any stupider than the market blather that is constantly published on MarketWatch. Today it also informs us that not only have US earnings been galloping forward in recent quarters, but its actually a global trend:

However, this is hardly a U.S.-only story. Corporate earnings have been improving globally, and some of the fastest growth has come from international companies, as seen in the following chart from BlackRock, which looks at U.S. growth against the globe, excluding the U.S.

The chart below is supposed to be the evidence, but we are still scratching our heads looking for the point. It seems that global corporate earnings ex-US based companies have surged…..all the way back to where they were in 2011!

You can't make this stuff up. Did these geniuses notice that China just went full retard in credit expansion to insure that the coronation of Mr. Xi was the greatest since, apparently, the Ming Dynasty invited the civilized world (not Europe) to the coronation of its fourth emperor in 1424?

In fact, the 19th Party Congress is now over, and the Red Suzerains of Beijing are back to the impossible task of reining in the massive malinvestment, housing, debt and construction bubbles which have turned China's economy into a $40 trillion powder keg. So right on cue it reported a sharp cooling of its red hot pre-coronation economy last night.

Thus, value-added industrial output, a rough proxy for GDP, expanded by just 6.2% in October compared to double digit increases a few months back.

Likewise, fixed-asset investment climbed 7.3% in the January-October period from a year earlier. Notably, that's way down from high double digit rates during most of the century, and, in fact, is the slowest pace since December 1999.

Needless to say, the latter data point amounts to a clanging clarion. At the end of the day, the ballyhooed Chinese growth miracle is really a story of construction and debt-fueled asset investment gone wild. And that party is now over.

So whatever Sgt. Easterhaus actually meant during the seven seasons of "Hill Street Blues" which always started with his famous admonition, we are quite sure that today it would not have meant buying the dips in a casino that is rife with unprecedented danger.

Finally, when it comes to real danger we think the most precarious spot along the Acela Corridor is about one mile from Union Station. We are speaking, of course, of the Oval Office and the Donald's questionable tenure therein.

Even as he meandered around Asia double-talking about trade and basking in the royal reception put on by his duplicitous hosts in Tokyo, Seoul and most especially Beijing, the Donald did manage to hit a fantastic bull-eye stateside.

Indeed, his takedown of the three stooges—Brennan, Clapper and Comey—–of the Deep State's spy apparatus will be one for the ages. Not since Jimmy Carter has a president even vaguely admonished the intelligence agencies, but as it his wont, the Donald held nothing back—naming names and drop-kicking backsides good and hard:

“And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it — I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker,” Trump told the reporters on Air Force One…..   

Yes, the next day he backed away in what appeared to be a pro forma nod to be his own courage-challenged appointees.

We don't think so, however.

Image result for picture of brennan, comey and clapper in prison uniforms

The truth is, the Deep State is already in the precinct house. And Sgt. Easterhaus is talking to the wall.

 

Can You Do A Backflip? Because This Robot Can

Since being founded in 1992 with funding from DARPA, robotics company Boston Dynamics has unveiled one nightmarish robotic creation after another. But the company outdid itself this week when it introduced the latest iteration of its ‘Atlas’ robot.

The company caused a stir after publishing a video on YouTube showing the hulking humanoid robot jumping across platforms of varying heights and even perform backflips on command – some of the most advanced capabilities demonstrated by any bipedal robot.

If you’re wondering how this seemingly trivial ability portends imminent warfare between mankind and the machines, then you need to ask yourself: When was the last time you did a standing backflip?

Unless you’re a gymnast, the answer is probably never.

Unsurprisingly, the video inspired a cascade of commentary about humanity’s impending obsolescence:

 

 

 

 

Though apparently there are still some mundane tasks that Atlas has not yet mastered…

 

 

Boston Dynamics also made headlines earlier this week by introducing a polished dog-like robot that sits somewhere along the slope of Freud’s 'Valley of the Uncanny'…

The robot is called the SpotMini. The company has released few details about it other than a promotional video showing it trotting across a grassy field and the teaser text “Coming Soon”.

Meanwhile, an international group of scientists have seemingly taken a cue from Elon Musk and are demanding that governments take steps to regulate automated lethal weapons systems before the technology comes into its own, purportedly to prevent the plot of the Terminator series from unfolding in real life.

It’s been a big week for the robots, sure. However, while humanoid robots like Atlas are becoming more adept at completing tasks in the physical world, their cousins on Wall Street still can’t quite figure out how to buy the fucking dip.


 

The Blues Triangle

Renowned blues-rock guitarist, singer/songwriter, and 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Steve Miller returns to Rose Theater for a journey through the Blues Triangle. I am excited about this!   Steve Miller, Jimmie Vaughan & Charlie Musselwhite Having learned his first chords at age five from his godfather Les Paul, how to play…

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The post The Blues Triangle appeared first on The Big Picture.

Why People Will Happily Line Up To Be Microchipped Like Dogs

Authord by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

So…some people actually want to be microchipped like a dog. They’re lining up for it. They’re having parties to get it done. It if isn’t available to them, they’re totally bummed out.

I’m not even going to venture into the religious aspect of having a microchip inserted into a human being. Let’s just talk about the secular ramifications.

Certain folks won’t be happy until everyone has a computer chip implanted in them. Here’s how this could go.

  • Initially, it would be the sheep who blindly desire to be chipped for their own “convenience” leading the way.
  • Then, it would become remarkably inconvenient not to be chipped – sort of like it’s nearly impossible to not have a bank account these days.
  • Then, the last holdouts could be forcibly chipped by law.

Read on, because I could not make this stuff up.

Some employers are chipping workers.

Last summer, the internet was abuzz about a company in Wisconsin that wanted to microchip their employees. Workers at the technology company, Three Market Square, were given the option of having a chip implanted in their hands and 50 out of 80 eagerly lined up for the privilege.

Why? So they could buy food or swipe their way through building security with a wave of their hand. Software engineer Sam Bengtson explained why he was on board.

“It was pretty much 100 percent yes right from the get-go for me. In the next five to 10 years, this is going to be something that isn’t scoffed at so much, or is more normal. So I like to jump on the bandwagon with these kind of things early, just to say that I have it.” (source)

He wasn’t alone. In fact, they had a microchipping party and some people got chipped live on TV so the rest of us reluctant humans could all see how cool it was to get microchipped. Watch what fun they had!

It isn’t just this American company chipping workers. Here’s an example in Sweden.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

 

“The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.” (source)

Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, warns that this might not be a good idea. (Although it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to realize this.)

“Companies often claim that these chips are secure and encrypted…But “encrypted” is “a pretty vague term,” he said, “which could include anything from a truly secure product to something that is easily hackable.”

 

Another potential problem, Dr. Acquisti said, is that technology designed for one purpose may later be used for another. A microchip implanted today to allow for easy building access and payments could, in theory, be used later in more invasive ways: to track the length of employees’ bathroom or lunch breaks, for instance, without their consent or even their knowledge.

 

“Once they are implanted, it’s very hard to predict or stop a future widening of their usage,” Dr. Acquisti said. (source)

Pretty soon, experts say everyone will want to be microchipped.

Many sources say that it’s inevitable that we’re all going to get chipped. Noelle Chesley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says it’s inevitable.

“It will happen to everybody. But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.” (source)

Another pro-chipping advocate, Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures, says that we just have to get past that silly social stigma and then everyone will be doing it within 50 years. Why? Oh, the benefits.

The company, which sells corporate cafeteria kiosks designed to replace vending machines, would like the kiosks to handle cashless transactions.

 

This would go beyond paying with your smartphone. Instead, chipped customers would simply wave their hands in lieu of Apple Pay and other mobile-payment systems.

 

The benefits don’t stop there. In the future, consumers could zip through airport scanners sans passport or drivers license; open doors; start cars; and operate home automation systems. All of it, if the technology pans out, with the simple wave of a hand. (source)

There are other companies who are on board with chipping everyone.

At a recent tech conference, Hannes Sjöblad explained how a microchip implanted in his hand makes his life easier. It replaces all the keys and cards that used to clutter his pockets.

 

“I use this many times a day, for example, I use it to unlock my smart phone, to open the door to my office,” Sjöblad said.

 

Sjöblad calls himself a biohacker. He explained, “We biohackers, we think the human body is a good start but there is certainly room for improvement.”

 

The first step in that improvement is getting a microchip about size of a grain of rice slipped under the skin. Suddenly, the touch of a hand is enough to tell the office printer this is an authorized user.

 

The microchips are radio frequency identification tags. The same technology widely used in things like key cards. The chips have been implanted in animals for years to help identify lost pets and now the technology is moving to humans.

 

Tech start-up Dangerous Things has sold tens of thousands of implant kits for humans and some to tech companies in Europe.

Sjöblad said he even organizes implant parties where people bond over getting chipped together.  (source)

Will microchipping parties be the next generation of those outrageously expensive candle parties? Will folks be pimping microchips like they do those scented wax melts? Will it become some kind of MLM thing to make it even more socially acceptable?

A UK newspaper, the Sun, explains how awesome it is to be microchipped.

The woman sat next to you could be hiding an implant under the skin which slowly releases hormones to stop her from getting pregnant.

 

Nans and granddads across the nation come installed with cutting-edge technology installed just to boost their hearing and vision seeing or help them walk with comfort.

 

We’re preparing ourselves for the next form of evolution in which humans will merge with artificial intelligence, becoming one with computers.

 

At least that’s the belief of Dr. Patrick Kramer, chief cyborg officer at Digiwell, a company that claims to be dedicated to “upgrading humans”. (source)

Seriously, who wouldn’t want all that awesomeness in their lives?

There are some serious pitfalls

While the current chips being “installed” in humans are said not to have GPS tracking, don’t you figure it’s just a matter of time? And also, how do you KNOW that there is no GPS tracking technology in that teeny little chip? Just because they tell you so?
Then there is the issue of the chip in your body being hacked.

“This is serious stuff. We’re talking about a nonstop potential connection to my body and I can’t turn it off, I can’t put it away, it’s in me. That’s a big problem,” said Ian Sherr, an executive editor at CNET.

 

“It’s very easy to hack a chip implant, so my advice is don’t put your life secrets on an implant, Sjöblad said…

 

“It’s about educating the people and giving every person the tools…not only how to use the technology but, more importantly, when it’s being used against you,” Sjöblad warned.  (source)

And microchipping won’t stop with a payment chip in your hand.

The endgame is microchipping people’s brains. And folks are chomping at the bit to get them. Scientists are saying that they can fix mental health issues with brain chips, they can make people smarter, and help them “merge” with AI. A chipped person could, theoretically, think his thoughts right onto his computer.

Watch this video…

So, with these chips in our brains, we’ll actually be merging with computers to some degree. The robot overlords will have a pretty easy takeover if our brains can be accessed like this.

Microchips may not be optional one day.

This horror movie gets even scarier. There is already a law on the books that potentially allows human beings to be forcibly chipped.

Oh, it’s couched in warm, fuzzy language and they say it’s just to help keep track of folks with Alzheimer’s or other developmental disabilities, but remember that the most unpatriotic law ever passed was also called the Patriot Act.

H.R.4919 was passed in 2016.

It directs the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to award competitive grants to health care, law enforcement, or public safety agencies, and nonprofit organizations, to develop or operate locally based proactive programs to prevent wandering and locate missing individuals with dementia or children with developmental disabilities. The BJA must give preference to law enforcement or public safety agencies partnering with nonprofit organizations that use person-centered plans and are directly linked to individuals, and families of individuals, with dementia or developmental disabilities. (source)

Despite the fact that the bill requires everyone to use privacy “best practices,” it’s not that much of a stretch to see what a slippery slope this is. Who gets to decide whether a person “needs” to be chipped for their own good? Law enforcement. Scary.

Could this lead to a cashless society?

If “everyone” is getting microchipped like these experts predict, that could be the next step in the push toward a cashless society. Think about the lack of privacy then. If everything is purchased via a chip unique to you, then no purchases could be under the radar. Whether a person was stocking up on food, watching X-rated movies, reading books on revolution, or buying ammo, it would all be recorded in a database. Our purchases could be used in some kind of pre-crime technology, ala Minority Report, or they could be used to profile us in other ways.

If there is no way to make purchases but with a chip, many people will have to reluctantly comply. The same chips could be a requirement for medical care, driver’s licenses, jobs – you name it. No matter where you tried to hide, your GPS locator would mean that you would be found. It would be like everyone being forced to have one of those ankle bracelets that criminals wear, except it would be inside your body.

If you think the atmosphere of control is unnerving now, just wait. When everyone is microchipped, the net will be even tighter.

Between the pending robot apocalypse that I wrote about earlier this week and forcible microchipping, it seems like we won’t have to wait for “climate change” or a war of Mutually Assured Destruction to get us. Technology just might be the end of humanity.