All posts by Moderator

Is hirsute Bob hoping to shrug off the Atlas Mara fiasco?

The African investment firm has its AGM this week. And Diamond’s new goatee could be telling

City types have often debated whether Bob Diamond’s impressively dark locks would retain their hue should he be caught in a heavy rain shower. But, as a City figure, Bob the Banker has been remarkably enduring.

He is back in action this week with the annual general meeting of Atlas Mara, the London-listed African investment vehicle he founded after being ousted from Barclays in 2012 over the Libor rate-rigging scandal – which has proved a total disaster.

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The Fourth Turning’s Neil Howe Warns: We Are In The 1930s, “Winter Is Coming”

Via Mauldin Economics,

From the Balkans to the US, walls are going up, not down, according to demographer and The Fourth Turning author Neil Howe.

Speaking to a packed crowd at Mauldin Economics’ Strategic Investment Conference in Orlando, Howe said we are reliving many of the same trends and changes of the 1930s.

Faith in Democracy Is Fading

“Worldwide, people are losing trust in institutions,” he said. “Trust in the military, small business, and police is still there. But trust in democracies, media, and politicians is dropping.”

 

“When was the last time we saw these changes and the rise of right-wing populism?” he asked. “The 1930s.”

Howe’s statement is borne out of a June 2016 Gallup poll. When poll takers were asked how much confidence they had in institutions in American society, the results were troubling.

Just 15% said they had a “great deal” of confidence in the US Supreme Court. Banks trailed behind at 11%, followed by the criminal justice system (9%), newspapers (8%), and big business (6%).

Meanwhile, just 16% expressed a “great deal” of confidence in the presidency, with that number plummeting to 3% for Congress.

What Does This Mean for the Future of the West?

In his keynote, Howe shared his forecasting logic:

“My method is to step back and realize one thing: There is something we know about the world in 20 years’ time. The people who live there will be all of us, 20 years older and playing a different role. I call this ‘looking along the generational diagonal.’”

The critical thing to remember about the current crisis period is that what comes next will be an era in which there is a new order.

According to the Strauss-Howe generational theory, as this new order takes root, individualism declines and institutions are strengthened.

“History is seasonal, and winter is coming,” Howe has said. But after winter, comes spring.

As the American Revolution was followed by calm, as the Civil War was followed by reconstruction and a gilded age, and as the Great Depression and World War II were followed by an age of peace and prosperity, so too will this crisis period be followed by a calm, stable era.

It’s simply a matter of time.

Believing The Russian “Hacking” Claim

Authored by David Swanson via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Government lies are common when seducing a population to support a war, but the Russian “hacking” claims are unusual in that U.S. officials supply no evidence while the “fact” is just assumed,

When the U.S. public was told that Spain had blown up the Maine, or Vietnam had returned fire, or Iraq had stockpiled weapons, or Libya was planning a massacre, the claims were straightforward and disprovable.

CIA Director John Brennan addresses officials at the Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Photo credit: CIA)

Before people began referring to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, somebody had to lie that it had happened, and there had to be an understanding of what had supposedly happened. No investigation into whether anything had happened could have taken as its starting point the certainty that a Vietnamese attack or attacks had happened. And no investigation into whether a Vietnamese attack had happened could have focused its efforts on unrelated matters, such as whether anyone in Vietnam had ever done business with any relatives or colleagues of Robert McNamara.

All of this is otherwise with the idea that the Russian government determined the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. U.S. corporate media reports often claim that Russia did decide the election or tried to do that or wanted to try to do that. But they also often admit to not knowing whether any such thing is the case.

There is no established account, with or without evidence to support it, of exactly what Russia supposedly did. And yet there are countless articles casually referring, as if to established fact to the…

“Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election” (Yahoo).

 

“Russian attempts to disrupt the election” (New York Times).

 

“Russian… interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election” (ABC).

 

“Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election” (The Intercept).

 

“a multi-pronged investigation to uncover the full extent of Russia’s election-meddling” (Time).

 

“Russian interference in the US election” (CNN).

 

“Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election” (American Constitution Society).

 

“Russian hacking in US Election” (Business Standard).”

“Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking” we’re told by the New York Times, but what is “election hacking”? Its definition seems to vary widely. And what evidence is there of Russia having done it?

The “Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections” even exists as a factual event in Wikipedia, not as an allegation or a theory. But the factual nature of it is not so much asserted as brushed aside.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in the same Congressional testimony in which he took the principled stand “I don’t do evidence,” testified that “the fact that the Russians tried to influence resources and authority and power, and the fact that the Russians tried to influence that election so that the will of the American people was not going to be realized by that election, I find outrageous and something that we need to, with every last ounce of devotion to this country, resist and try to act to prevent further instances of that.” He provided no evidence.

Activists have even planned “demonstrations to call for urgent investigations into Russian interference in the US election.” They declare that “every day we learn more about the role Russian state-led hacking and information warfare played in the 2016 election.” (March for Truth.)

Belief that Russia helped put Trump in the White House is steadily rising in the U.S. public. Anything commonly referred to as fact will gain credibility. People will assume that at some point someone actually established that it was a fact.

Keeping the story in the news without evidence are articles about polling, about the opinions of celebrities, and about all kinds of tangentially related scandals, their investigations, and obstruction thereof. Most of the substance of most of the articles that lead off with reference to the “Russian influence on the election” is about White House officials having some sort of connections to the Russian government, or Russian businesses, or just Russians. It’s as if an investigation of Iraqi WMD claims focused on Blackwater murders or whether Scooter Libby had taken lessons in Arabic, or whether the photo of Saddam Hussein and Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands was taken by an Iraqi.

A general trend away from empirical evidence has been extensively noted and discussed. There is no more public evidence that Seth Rich (a Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered last year) leaked Democratic emails than there is that the Russian government stole them. Yet both claims have passionate believers.

Still, the claims about Russia are unique in their wide proliferation, broad acceptance, and status as something to be constantly referred to as though already established, constantly augmented by other Russia-related stories that add nothing to the central claim. This phenomenon, in my view, is as dangerous as any lies and fabrications coming out of the racist right.

US Deploys Third Aircraft Carrier Toward North Korea

One month ago, when we first discussed that in addition to the CVN-70 Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group, the US was deploying two more carriers toward the Korean peninsula, some took the Yonhap-sourced report skeptically: after all, what’s the incremental symbolic impact of having three, or even two aircraft carriers next to North Korea when just one would more than suffice. Then, two weeks ago, the report was proven half right when US officials announced that in addition to the first US carrier already on location, the US Navy is moving the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula, where it would conduct dual-carrier training exercises with the USS Carl Vinson.

Aircraft carrier CVN-76 Ronald Reagan

After completing its maintenance period in Yokosuka, Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan departed for the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, according to the Navy. “Coming out of a long in-port maintenance period we have to ensure that Ronald Reagan and the remainder of the strike group are integrated properly as we move forward,” Rear Adm. Charles Williams said in a press release.  Once it arrives in the region, the carrier will conduct a variety of training exercises but primarily focus on certifying its ability to safely launch and recover aircraft, the service said. In other words, training for combat missions involved the North Korean capital.

We concluded our report from mid-May by saying that the US Navy may soon “further deploy the CVN-68 Nimitz, which was the third carrier reported to be eventually making its way toward Korea.”

We didn’t have long to wait, because on Friday the Kitsap Sun confirmed what we reported initially over a month ago, namely that the USS Nimitz will depart Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton on Thursday on its first deployment since 2013. Official details of the deployment were hazy, with spokeswoman Theresa Donnelly saying that The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is expected to be in the western Pacific for six months with visits to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, “though plans could change in response to world events.”

However, a subsequent report from VOAnews confirms that the ultimate destination is none other than the country the US will almost certainly attack next, North Korea:

The United States is sending a third aircraft carrier strike force to the western Pacific region in an apparent warning to North Korea to deter its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, two sources have told VOA. The USS Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, in the western Pacific.

The Nimitz will lead Carrier Strike Group 11, which includes guided-missile destroyers USS Shoup and USS Kidd from Naval Station Everett, guided-missile destroyers USS Howard and USS Pinckney and guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton from San Diego, and a conglomeration of aircraft squadrons that comprise Carrier Air Wing 11, including Naval Air Station Whidbey Island-based Gray Wolves of Electronic Attack Squadron 142. 


Aircraft carrier CVN-68 Nimitz

After returning from its last deployment, the Nimitz underwent a 20-month maintenance and modernization period at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard that was completed in October. It has spent most of the past seven months at sea undergoing training and inspections in preparation for deployment. Now the ship and crew are ready to go, said commanding officer Capt. Kevin Lenox.

“I am so incredibly proud of the entire Nimitz team and the terrific coordination and support across the entire strike group, especially in such a condensed training cycle,” he said in a news release. “The crew stepped up to the plate, and I’m confident we’re ready to meet whatever challenges lie ahead on our upcoming deployment.”

While it is rare for the U.S. military to deploy two carriers in the same region at the same time, it is almost unheard of to have three aircraft carriers in close proximity to each other absent current or imminent military action. Which may be the case soon: as VOA notes, North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is seen as a major security challenge for Trump, who has vowed to prevent the country from being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear missile. 

Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said on Friday prior to the start of the G-7 meeting in Sicily that world leaders would have a “particular focus on the North Korea problem.” The White House issued a statement on Friday which said the two leaders have agreed to “enhance sanctions on North Korea” in an attempt to prevent the further development of North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Meanwhile, as reported on Friday, the U.S. military will test a system to shoot down an ICBM for the first time next week. It is intended to simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S. The Missile Defense Agency said it will test an existing missile defense system on Tuesday to try to intercept an ICBM. The Pentagon has used the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system to intercept other types of missiles, but never an ICBM. The GMD has been inconsistent, succeeding in nine of 17 attempts against missiles without intercontinental range capability since 1999.

So, perhaps as a contingency plan, the US will soon have not one, not two, but three aircraft carriers in the proximity of the Korean peninsula “just in case.” The trip from Naval Station Everett is expected to take several weeks. Meanwhile, here is the latest deployment of US naval forces around the globe as of May 25, courtesy of Stratfor.