The shutdown has exposed Trumponomics for what it is: a disaster | Robert Reich

When the president is proud to close government and proud to slash taxes for the rich, American workers get shafted

One of the least talked-about consequences of the partial shutdown of the US government – courtesy of Donald “I’m proud to shut down the government” Trump – is its negative effect on the US economy.

Related: Republicans’ lack of alarm over the shutdown reveals a disturbing truth | Ross Barkan

The tax-cut steroid wore off within six months of its passage

Trumponomics is an abject failure because its premises are flawed

Related: How Trump has changed America in two years

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good.

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Is The Violent Dismemberment Of Russia Official US Policy?

Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation. But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

NYC’s Housing-Market Weakness Spreads From Manhattan To The Outer Boroughs

Throughout vast swaths of New York City, members of the city’s vast middle class work force can barely afford even a modest apartment. Yet for years after the post-crisis housing market recovery began, that reality did little to slow down the rise in home valuations as foreign capital and rock bottom interest rates fueled a buying frenzy, pushing rents ever-higher. But after citywide rents peaked in 2014, the NYC housing market, particularly the most expensive areas of Manhattan, has started to soften.

But whereas only a few quarters ago that weakness was largely confined to the top tiers of the city’s housing market, the pressure on sellers to lower their asks has swiftly spread. Now, in almost every neighborhood in Manhattan and in nearly every one of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods, more than one-fifth of sellers have been forced to lower their asks – sometimes substantially so – as mortgage rates rise and global growth begins to slow.

NYC

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

In almost every Manhattan neighborhood, at least a fifth of the listings got a price cut in the last three months of 2018, data from StreetEasy show. The biggest share was in the East Village, where 33 percent of homes were offered for less.

Inventory is piling up across the city, and that’s good news for buyers in search of a bargain. For sellers with dreams of making a big profit, it’s time for a reality check.

“What we’re seeing right now is a lot of folks being forced to adjust their expectations,” said Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy. “We expect that prices are going to have to come down even more for it to make sense for a lot of buyers who are in the market.”

In Brooklyn, 21 percent of listings in trendy Williamsburg were reduced. The share was 22 percent in nearby Greenpoint, and 39 percent in Fort Greene.

Unsurprisingly, one exception to the trend of price declines in trendy neighborhoods is Queens’ Long Island City, soon to be the host of Amazon’s new HQ2 (or one of them, at least). Only 12% of sellers in LIC had to lower their expectations.

SN

LIC

As we pointed out earlier, the softness in NYC is having a knock-on effect on markets outside of NYC: In tony Greenwich, Conn., home sales plunged during Q4 as buyers who were forced to lower the ask on their NYC apartments cut their budget for homes in Greenwich. And with brokers warning about the looming impact of Trump’s SALT elimination, sellers who are holding out for a better price might soon wish they had sold sooner.

5G, Huawei, and Us – America Hates Competition

Authored by Tom Luongo,

While no one, including me, doubts that the intensity of corporate espionage that goes on in the tech industry the latest news in the Trump Administration’s assault on Chinese telecom giant Huawai should dispel any doubts as to what the real issue is.

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order that could significantly restrict Chinese state-owned telecom companies from operating in the U.S. over national security concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.

Reached by Bloomberg, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council wouldn’t confirm whether an order is in the works, but did state that “the United States is working across government and with our allies and like-minded partners to mitigate risk in the deployment of 5G and other communications infrastructure.” In the statement, spokesman Garrett Marquis also said that “communications networks form the backbone of our society and underpin every aspect of modern life. The United States will ensure that our networks are secure and reliable.”

As always with statements in stories planted in major U.S. media houses like these what isn’t said is more important than what is said.

There are two major bones of contention with Huawei from the U.S. government’s perspective.

First is that Huawei is way ahead of everyone else in 5G technology.

They have the only end-to-end technology stack in the industry. Turnkey 5G networks from antennas and chips to the power stations needed to operate them. Simply peruse their website to see what I’m talking about.

All across the “Five Eyes” countries we have seen announcement after announcement of their banning Huawei 5G equipment from their networks. This is as much economic protectionism as it is about ‘national security.’

But, the real issue here is that, in very short order, Huawei has become a global leader in 5G infrastructure technology which the U.S. is falling behind on.  And now with this arrest [Huawei CFO Weng Wanzhou] Trump is betting that he can scare everyone else into not buying their superior products through the ruinous application of sanctions policies.

The West has been systematically cutting Huawei out of the global 5G rollout because of ‘security’ concerns. More like profit concerns.  It is, simply, typical protectionism by Mr. Tariff himself.

And he’s made no bones about any of this.  Trump has stated quite emphatically that all a policy has to do is pass his ‘America First’ sniff test and it’ll get implemented.

And since he’s not a deep thinker, all he cares about are first-order effects and how he can sell it on his Twitter feed to his now brain-dead base who believes all of this ‘China hacked muh everything’ narrative we’re being inundated with all of a sudden.

So that’s the first angle on this.

But, the real issue isn’t just Huawei’s technological advantage which will put it in the driver’s seat to connect most of the unconnected world.

The real issue is that nothing has changed since a 2014 report from The Register that Huawei categorically refuses to install NSA backdoors into their hardware to allow unfettered intelligence access to the data that crosses their networks.

However, documents disclosed by Edward Snowden this year suggest Huawei may be more sinned against than sinner. The US National Security Agency’s ‘Tailored Access Operations’ unit broke into Huawei’s corporate servers, and by 2010 was reading corporate email and examining the source code used in Huawei’s products.

“We currently have good access and so much data that we don’t know what to do with it,” boasted one NSA briefing. The slides also disclose the NSA intended to plant its own backdoors in Huawei firmware.

So, make no mistake, the China hawks in the Trump administration are willing to derail a much-needed technology rollout in order to maintain complete control over data flow which four years ago was beyond their ability to process.

John Bolton is willing to start WWIII over a couple of pipe bombs thrown at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, for pity’s sake. Is it so far-fetched to believe he doesn’t want us to have 5G data access without the security blanket of spying on anyone he wants at any time?

Never forget that when they are presenting you with one bogeyman it is to distract you from the real one — them. We know from the myriad of leaks and data breaches that all of our data winds up in the hands people we didn’t give consent to.

We know that the NSA has access to any information it wants, obtained via the fiction of ‘legal channels.’ So why should we go through the fiction of pretending like Huawei is the real threat?

They may very well be, but it hasn’t been proven and it would be bad business for them to actually do so.

The national security angle is simply about Huawei refusing the U.S. repeatedly on granting backdoor access to our information.

It reveals both an insecurity and an insanity that grips every society in the late stages of Imperialism. As the competitive edge is lost the threat of competition fuels paranoia and the need to control everything.

But it is this need for control and the diverting of an ever-increasing proportion of the country’s resources to it that drives further loss of competitive edge.

Simply put capital isn’t going into innovation, it’s going into defending your moats, as Warren Buffet would put it. Moats around your business aren’t permanent. They require maintenance and innovation to remain strong.

Banning Huawei’s 5G network technology will ensure the communications gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world remains since the best products will not be on the market to spur competition, drive prices and costs down which fuel the next round of innovation.

Even as patriots worried about China’s most nefarious schemes we should not be applauding this. Because 5G itself is technology so far in advance of where we are now it means a completely different Internet architecture.

We’re staring at one capable of resisting the ham-fisted control techniques currently in place to keep us bottled up behind pay-walls, app-stores and, most importantly, hub and server connectivity.

Bandwidth so wide it means peer-to-peer networks so fast we won’t need sites like YouTube or Periscope to do citizen journalism. Deplatforming will become harder and harder. Decentralized data storage on blockchains which they can’t hack, etc.

And that’s what truly scares these people. What happens when the net itself becomes so decentralized they won’t be able to pick up a phone and take you offline?

As always, regulators and generals like John Bolton are fighting the last war. And if history tells us anything those people always lose.

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