Thursday, April 20, 2017

(Bill O'Gone) Rebranding Universal Basic Income As Money-Maker for Hedge Funds  (President Pussy)  Trump Tilt Back to Goldman Sachs  (Soul Stagnation Strikes)  Pundits Syrian Swoon:  Good Soldiers All  (Billions Missing)  Twitter Governance Strategy  (A Year of Blind Rats? Or Mice?) Lee & Max & Stacy & Lee!


Consider the reality of O'Reilly's career. ... He worked for Fox News for about 20 years, spewing the most vicious pack of hatred and lies he possibly could.  For this he was paid millions; his salary at the end being about $18 million a year. So let's be cautious here and guess that, over the years this scum was paid about $200 million for his contribution to the country's well-being.  Just before leaving, he signed a new contract with Fox News, which they are apparently going to honor, perhaps netting him another $60 or $80 million.  And now that he is gone, he will just be replaced by one of ten thousand essentially identical right wing robots who are willing to sell their souls to the devil.

Not a bad deal for O'Reilly, who must have known his dirty deal couldn't last forever; Fox has made him rich beyond anything he could have ever imagined, and he doesn't need to do a thing he doesn't want to do for the rest of his life.

And, really, not much of a victory for the rest of us.

Speaking of another non-victory for the "insouciant" American taxpayer....

April 19, 2017, is the 22nd anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The bombing of the federal Murrah office building was blamed by federal authorities on a bomb made from fertilizer inside a truck parked in front of the building by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

There are many anomalies associated with the official explanation, including mysterious deaths of some, including a police officer, who understood that the actual facts did not accord with the explanation. Investigators who report the actual facts are branded “conspiracy theorists” and dismissed. This has been the Deep State’s way of controlling explanations since the 1940s.

Americans, being the insouciant people that they are, never noticed that the Murrah building blew up from the inside out, not from the outside in.

However, Air Force General Benton K. Partin, the US Air Force’s top explosive expert, did notice. ...

Finally.

A surefire way to sneak coverage for the lowly serfs into the in-crowd's budget? Convince them it's a money-maker.

Rebrand Universal Basic Income As The World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund - Why Millionaires and Billionaires Should Support A Universal Basic Income

Who would have guessed that President Pussy wouldn't have been a woman?

Or even someone who doesn't respect it?

Early Sunday morning, The Atlantic published a Ron Brownstein piece, Donald Trump's Tilt Toward Convention, going through not just the campaign promises he's reneging on but the very premises for his entire presidency. "Trump’s march to the GOP nomination last spring," he wrote, "demonstrated there’s a substantial audience within the party’s rank and file - particularly among older and blue-collar Republicans - for the nationalist movement’s insular themes of resistance to trade, immigration, and foreign alliances, and embrace of government spending that benefits economically strained workers and retirees.

But Trump’s tumultuous first months in office have shown with equal clarity that such an agenda has extremely little institutional support inside the GOP beyond a constellation of sympathetic media outlets (like Breitbart News) and talk-radio and cable-television hosts (such as Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity). Lacking many champions in Congress, think tanks, conservative interest groups, or the business community, many of the movement’s most distinctive ideas - say, confronting China over trade or protecting the mostly white older population from budget cuts - have been rapidly losing ground to more conventional GOP interests and priorities."
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Both GOP wings agree on several fronts, from reducing federal regulation to cutting taxes to advancing conservative social priorities, like expanding gun-owners’ rights. But where the two camps diverge, Trump in recent weeks has consistently tilted away from his nationalist campaign rhetoric and toward more conventional GOP positions on a stunning list of issues. As Wehner put it, Trump in just weeks has hurtled “from Bannon-esque, apocalyptic, racial nationalism to Goldman Sachs, conventional, elite liberalism with nothing in between.”

Were you singing along with Barry Gibb and John Legend as Stevie Wonder played the harmonica at the "Bee Gees Tribute". . .

"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?"

But as much as he was encumbered by the diseased state of his body, Chekhov was repulsed by the diseased state around him — by the sickness of the body politic. “To a certain extent,” his biographer Ernest Simmons writes, “his anxieties mirrored those of all thinking people of the Eighties, this ‘epoch of social stagnation.’ “ Tsarist Russia in the eighteen-eighties was suffused with moral and economic depravity. It was a society overrun by corruption, bribery, and nepotism. Censorship abounded. The news was frequently manipulated and false. Political dissidents were kidnapped, assassinated, or packed off to prison. The élites ensconced themselves in grotesquely opulent homes while poverty, violence, illness, and incipient famine haunted parts of the land.
It wasn’t just disease or death that Chekhov was trying to escape; it was deadliness. “There is a sort of stagnation in my soul,” he wrote to a friend. Chekhov, then, was looking to resensitize himself — to un-numb the numbness. He sought a place where he might inoculate himself against the ennui that was slowly destroying his soul.
Sakhalin Island, to put it mildly, was not a place for the faint-hearted. What Chekhov found there was a community even more depraved than the one he had left behind — an island society on the edge of sanity, law, and self-discipline. The men on this island hunted each other for sport. Women were routinely sold into prostitution. The children were malnourished and enslaved by adults. The prisoners bribed the guards, and the guards beat the convicts nearly to death.
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After he unleashed missiles on a Syrian airfield, members of Washington’s national security establishment and elite pundits swooned. Top Democrats and Republicans led the way. Good soldiers all in the military-industrial-political complex, they stood smartly at attention and saluted the commander-in-chief for sending a message to the world, although exactly what the message meant remains far from clear.

The headline above Glenn Greenwald’s story at "The Intercept" summed up the  response:  “The Spoils of War — Trump Lavished with Media and Bipartisan Praise for Bombing Syria.” The hawkish Hillary Clinton, who long had been critical of Barack Obama for not bringing Bashar Assad to heel, “appeared at an event” — and this was before the bombing even happened! — “and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning.”

Up in the choir loft, the media and pundits sang as one from the official hymnal, praising Trump’s “presidential moment” and transforming him from a pathetic dunderhead suffering from narcissistic personality disorder into the Lord of Hosts. It was CNN’s Fareed Zakaria who pronounced the decision to fire away as the “big moment” when “Donald Trump became president of the United States.”

The theatrics were perfect. The Pentagon shopped to the media a video of the missiles as they were lofted up and away. MSNBC’s Brian Williams was among those moved by the aesthetics of violence:  “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two Navy vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen:  ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

When I heard those words, I thought back to that night in 2003 when another president lit up the skies over Baghdad with the “shock and awe” of his air attack on Iraq. Suddenly the press was talking about George W. Bush as if he were George Washington, George Marshall and George Patton rolled into one. A touch of George III came later, as our newly refurbished president donned a flight suit and strutted aboard the aircraft carrier with the banner behind him that read:  “Mission Accomplished.” Not quite.

Then a more recent scene and another miraculous moment came to mind, from six weeks ago — Feb. 28, to be exact. Donald Trump spoke to a joint session of Congress. He paused, pointed to the balcony and recognized the widow of the Navy SEAL who was killed during a raid on an alleged terrorist compound in Yemen, the very first military mission dispatched into harm’s way by the brand-new commander-in-chief himself.

As we march along to the media beat with the new war drums it might serve us well to review our past endeavors in this arena.

Lucky for us, Lee Camp has done the ground work.

If only we have the conscience (conscientiousness?) to listen with empathy.


But back to today's real-time warfare . . .

The Spoils of War:  Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria


April 7, 2017

In every type of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

When asked about this yesterday by the "Globe and Mail"’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible:”
(Click to enlarge.)

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR:  “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.

The CIA has spent more than a billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.

Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning:

The Trump White House is preliminarily indicating that this was a limited strike, designed to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons, rather than a new war to remove him. But such aggression, once unleashed, is often difficult to contain. The Russian and Iranian governments, both supportive of Assad, have bitterly denounced Trump for the attack, with a Putin spokesman calling it a “significant blow” for U.S.-Russian relations. Russia already announced retaliation in the form of suspending cooperation agreements.

Even if it is contained, there are endless implications from Trump’s initiation of military force against the Syrian Government. For now, here are ten critical points highlighted by all of this:

1. New wars will always strengthen Trump:  as they do for every leader.

The instant elevation of Trump into a serious and respected war leader was palpable. Already, the New York Times is gushing that “in launching a military strike just 77 days into his administration, President Trump has the opportunity, but hardly a guarantee, to change the perception of disarray in his administration.”

Political leaders across the spectrum rushed to praise Trump and support his bombing campaign. Media coverage was overwhelmingly positive. One consummate establishment spokesman accurately observed:

New wars trigger the worst in people:  their jingoism, their tribal loyalties, their instinct to submit to authority and leaders. The incentive scheme here is as obvious as it is frightening:  great rewards await political leaders who start new wars. In Federalist 4, John Jay warned of all the personal benefits a leader obtains from starting a new war – which is the reason it was supposed to be difficult for U.S. Presidents to do it:


It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.
Trump is going to see – and feel – the establishment and media respect he craves, the sensations of strength he most lacks, by dropping bombs. Every person, let alone Trump, would be tempted to keep pursuing war as a result of this warped incentive framework. Indeed, Trump himself has long been aware of this motivation as he accused Obama in 2012 of preparing to start a new war in response to falling poll numbers:

Those who instantly fall in line behind Trump as he bombs people are ensuring that he will keep doing it. As the instantly popular post-9/11 George W. Bush showed, those praising Trump for bombing Syria are also building him up in general so that he becomes stronger with everything else he wants to do.

2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

Democrats have spent months wrapping themselves in extremely nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. They have constantly accused Trump of being a traitor to the U.S., a puppet of Putin, and unwilling to defend U.S. interests. They have specifically tried to exploit Assad’s crimes by tying the Syrian leader to Trump, insisting that Trump would never confront Assad because doing so would anger his Kremlin masters. They have embraced a framework whereby anyone who refuses to confront Putin or Assad is deemed a sympathizer of, or a servant to, foreign enemies.

Having pushed those tactics and themes, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. How could they possibly do anything but cheer as Trump bombs Syria? They can’t. And cheering is thus exactly what they’re doing.

For months, those of us who have urged skepticism and restraint on the Russia rhetoric have highlighted the risk that this fixation on depicting him as a tool of the Kremlin could goad Trump – dare him or even force him – to seek confrontation with Moscow. Some Democrats reacted with rage yesterday at the suggestion that their political tactics were now bearing this fruit, but that’s how politics works.

Much as George H.W. Bush was motivated to shed his “wimp” image by invading Panama, of course Trump will be motivated to prove he’s not controlled by Putin via blackmail by seeking confrontation with the Russian leader. And that’s exactly what he just did. War is the classic weapon U.S. Presidents use to show they are strong, patriotic and deserving of respect;  the more those attributes are called in question, the greater that compulsion becomes:
(Click to enlarge.)

Trump is the prime author of his wars, and of this bombing in Syria. He, and he alone, bears primary responsibility for it. But Trump is not an island of agency; he operates in the climate of Washington. A major reason why it’s so dangerous to ratchet up rhetorical tension between two major nuclear-armed powers is because of the ease with which those tensions can translate into actual conflict, and the motivation it can create for Trump to use war to prove he’s a patriot after all.

Whatever else is true, Democrats – with very few exceptions such as Rep. Ted Lieu and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – have refrained from criticizing Trump’s bombing campaign on the merits (as opposed to process issues). Indeed, Democratic Party leaders have explicitly praised Trump’s bombing. They will have to continue to do so even if Trump expands this war. That’s what the Democratic Party has turned itself into to; indeed, it’s what it has been for a long time.

3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

As it always does, the U.S. media last night was an almost equal mix of excitement and reverence as the bombs fell. People who dissent from this bombing campaign – who opposed it on the merits – were almost entirely disappeared, as they always are in such moments of high patriotism (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes had two guests on after midnight who opposed it, but they were rare). Claims from the U.S. government and military are immediately vested with unquestioned truth and accuracy, while claims from foreign adversaries such as Russia and Syria are reflexively scorned as lies and propaganda.

For all the recent hysteria over RT being a propaganda outlet for the state, U.S. media coverage is barely distinguishable in times of war (which is, for the U.S., the permanent state of affairs). More systematic analysis will surely be forthcoming of last night’s coverage, but for now, here is Brian Williams – in all of his military-revering majesty – showing how state TV functions in the United States:

And here’s Fareed Zakaria declaring on CNN that Donald Trump has now been instantly transformed into the President of the United States in all of the loftiest and most regal senses of the term:

4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

It should be startling and infuriating that Trump is able to order a new attack on the Syrian Government without any democratic debate, let alone Congressional approval. At least when Obama started bombing Syria without Congress, he had the excuse that it was authorized by the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, since his ostensible targets were terrorist groups (even though ISIS did not exist until years after that was enacted and is hardly “affiliated” with Al Qaeda). But since there’s no self-defense pretext to what Trump just did, what possible legal rationale exists for this? None.

But nobody in Washington really cares about such legalities. Indeed, we have purposely created an omnipotent presidency. Recall that in 2011, Obama went to war in Libya not just without Congressional approval, but even after Congress rejected such authorization.

What happened to Obama as a result of involving the U.S in a war that Congress had rejected? Absolutely nothing, because Congress, due to political cowardice, wants to abdicate war-making powers to the President. As a country, we have decided we want an all-powerful president – one who can bomb, and spy, and detain, and invade with virtually no limits. That’s the machinery of the imperial presidency that both parties have jointly built and have now handed to President Trump.

Indeed, in 2013, Obama explicitly argued that he had the right to bomb Assad without Congressional approval – a precedent the Trump White House will now use.

5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the last 24 hours has been watching those who have vilified Trump as an Evil Fascist and Bumbling Clown and Unstable Sociopath suddenly decide that they want him to bomb Syria. Even if you’re someone who in the abstract wanted the U.S. to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a completely unstable and incompetent monster prevent you from endorsing this war, with Trump as the Commander-in-Chief?

What happened to all the warnings about Trump’s towering incompetence and core evil? Where are all the grave predictions that he’s leading the world on a path of authoritarianism, fascism and blood and soil nationalism? They all gave way to War Fever:

During the campaign, Trump explicitly vowed to commit war crimes:  to torture detainees and purposely murder the families of terrorists. Back in April of last year, I summarized Trump’s mindset this way:  “he favors fewer wars, but advocates more monstrous, war-criminal tactics for the ones US does fight.”

Given everything that has been claimed about Trump by his critics, how can any of them justify cheering for a bombing campaign led by him? Do they experience no cognitive dissonance at all in having spent months depicting Trump as a lying, deceitful fascist, only to now turn around and trust him to bomb other countries with care, humanitarianism and efficacy?

6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

Central to the conspiracy theories woven for months by Democrats is the claim that Putin wields power over Trump in the form of blackmail, debts or other leverage. As a result, this conspiracy theory goes, the Kremlin has now infiltrated American institutions of power and controls the U.S. Government, because Trump is unwilling – indeed, unable – to defy Putin’s orders.

Yet here is Trump – less than three months after being inaugurated – bombing one of the Kremlin’s closest allies, in a country where Russia has spent more than a year fighting to preserve his government. Will any of this undermine or dilute the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin controls the White House? Of course not. Warped conspiracy theorists are not only immune to evidence that disproves their theories but, worse, find ways to convert such evidence into further proof of their conspiracies.

Already, the most obsessive Democratic conspiracists have cited the fact that the U.S. military advised Russia in advance of the strikes – something they would have been incredibly reckless not to do – as innuendo showing that Trump serves Putin. If Trump tomorrow bombed Red Square, Democrats – after cheering him – would quickly announce that he only did so to throw everyone off the trail of his collusion with Putin.

7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

In the last two months, Trump has ordered a commando raid in Yemen that has massacred children and dozens of innocent people, bombed Mosul and killed scores of civilians, and bombed a mosque near Aleppo that killed dozens. During the campaign, he vowed to murder the family members of alleged terrorists. He shut America’s doors to Syrian refugees, and is deporting people who have lived in the U.S. since childhood despite committing no crimes.

Given all that, could American elites possibly believe him when he says that he is motivated by humanitarianism – deep-seated anger over seeing Syrian children harmed – in bombing Syria? Yes, they could, and they are. That’s because American elites always want to believe – or at least want others to believe – that the U.S. bombs countries over and over not out of aggression or dominance but out of love, freedom, democracy and humanitarian concern.

The U.S. Government does not wage war, and the U.S. military does not blow things up, out of humanitarianism. It does so when it believes there is some benefit to be obtained for itself. Again, Federalist 4 warned us:  “nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it.” If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. in Syria, it would take in massive numbers of refugees, but it hasn’t. If humanitarianism is what motivated the U.S. bombing of Libya, it would have given large amounts of aid to that country in the aftermath to help it deal with the ensuing anarchy and misery, but it didn’t. That’s because humanitarianism is the pretext for U.S. wars, not the actual motive.

But the psychological comfort of believing that the only reason your government bombs more countries by far than any other is because your country is just so uniquely devoted to humanitarian love is so powerful that it overrides all rational faculties. That’s why all wars – even the most malicious and aggressive – are wrapped in humanitarian packaging. And no matter how many times we see that this packaging is a lie – in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Libya – we keep wanting to believe that, this time, our bombs will be filled with love, help and freedom.

8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits:  “Do Something” and “Look Strong.”

Those who oppose Trump’s new bombing campaign – or any U.S. bombing campaign – are instantly met with the predictable objection:  we must “Do Something” about Syria. This mentality is predicated on a terribly false, and terribly dangerous, premise:  that the U.S. military can and should solve every world evil.

But sometimes, the U.S. lacks the ability to solve other problems. Often, having the U.S. drop bombs exacerbates suffering, rather than alleviates it. As upsetting as it is to accept, sometimes doing nothing is the least bad of all the options. Again, if humanitarianism really were the motive, there are many things the U.S. could do besides bombing Syria and killing civilians, such as giving refuge and humanitarian aid. But the idea that a war can be justified by appealing to the vague imperative that we must “do something” is incredibly irrational and immoral.

The same is true – indeed even more so – of this horribly toxic premise long endorsed by the world of U.S think tanks that a President must go to war to preserve “credibility” – meaning that he must drop bombs and kill people to show the world that he, and the country he leads, is “strong.” To see that hideous premise in action, look at how the New York Times gloriously depicted Bush 41’s senseless invasion of Panama in the above article, or how the NYT yesterday described the view of “experts” about Trump’s need to bomb Syria:
(Click to enlarge.)

There may be some things more evil and immoral than starting a new war based on the desire to avoid “looking weak,” but it’s hard to think of many things that qualify. And yet this belief continues to be gospel among America’s war-loving think tank and Foreign Policy Community.

9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

Despite insisting that he had the power to do so without Congress, Obama resisted bipartisan demands to use military force against Assad. I personally view this as one of Obama’s smartest and best decisions and, according to today’s New York Times, so does he:  “Mr. Obama said he was ‘very proud of that moment’ because he had stepped back from the Washington establishment’s warnings. Few of his top foreign policy advisers agreed.” Indeed, by the end of his presidency, the U.S. stopped claiming it was even seeking regime change.

But those who insist that the U.S. has a moral obligation to remove Assad or at least bomb him become tongue-tied when it comes to assessing Obama. If, as many claim, Assad is our generation’s Hitlerian figure – and recall how many recent foreign leaders were depicted as The New Hitler when some wanted them attacked –  does that make Obama this generation’s Neville Chamberlain for his refusal to attack Assad? And does it mean that Trump has acted more morally than Obama by doing what Obama refused to do?

Again, I side with Obama in this dispute because I never believed that U.S. military had any positive role to play in Syria. But those who have long insisted that U.S. military action against Assad is morally imperative should follow those premises through to their conclusions when it comes to Obama and Trump.

10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

Every time Trump drops another bomb, Democratic pundits declare vindication over those always-unnamed people who they claim argued during the campaign that Trump was more anti-war than Clinton:

Who are the people who argued that Trump would be more anti-war than Clinton? Their numbers were tiny; Maureen Dowd is one of the very people with a prominent platform to claim this. Trump expressly vowed to bomb more frequently and more aggressively, as was often pointed out.

It’s certainly true that any attempt by Trump to remove Assad would violate his oft-stated campaign vows. But whatever else is true, this specific bombing campaign is a bizarre instance to try to defend Clinton given that Clinton, for years – and again yesterday – endorsed this military action. Indeed, Clinton has long endorsed far more extensive military action in Syria than what Trump yesterday ordered, often advocating a no-fly-zone over parts of Syriawhich would be a massive and incredibly dangerous military undertaking – and even yesterday calling for the destruction of Assad’s air force.

It’s certainly true that Trump vowed to involve the U.S. in fewer wars than Clinton wanted, and for a narrower range of reasons. And that may still end up happening. Indeed, many of Trump’s most vocal supporters yesterday were expressing anger even over this limited bombing campaign in Syria. But to take a military action that Clinton herself favored and try to use it to suggest that Clinton would have been less hawkish is just bizarre and deceitful beyond belief.

Ultimately, what is perhaps most depressing about all of this is how, yet again, we see the paucity of choice offered by American democracy. The leadership of both parties can barely contain themselves joining together to cheer the latest war. One candidate – the losing one – ran on a platform of launching this new war, while the other – the victor – repeatedly vowed to avoid it, only to launch it after being in office fewer than 100 days.

The one constant of American political life is that the U.S. loves war. Martin Luther King’s 1967 denunciation of the U.S. as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” is more accurate than ever.

UPDATE:  While Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday urged an investigation before any action is taken, once Trump’s bombs fell, he issued a statement expressing full support, directly contradicting his earlier statements:  “President Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored.”
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As is becoming increasingly clear to everyone but Donald Trump, yelling at people (or businesses or countries) over Twitter is not a wholly effective strategy for governance. Despite Trump’s threats, American jobs are continuing to pour across the border into Mexico, with Illinois Tool Works Inc. leaving Mazon, Illinois, this month for Cuidad Juarez; Triumph Group reducing its presence in Spokane, Washington, and shifting production to Zacatecas and Baja California; and T.E. Connectivity closing its plant in Pennsauken, New Jersey, for warmer climes in Hermosillo. Now, the owner of Fast Retailing Co., which owns the wildly popular Uniqlo, has said it will pack up its things and move to Japan if Trump doesn’t drop his protectionist racket. Per "Fortune":

Tadashi Yanai doesn't like being given an ultimatum by Trump. “If I was directly told to [make all of our clothes in the U.S.], I will withdraw from the United States,” Yanai told Japanese newspaper "The Asahi Shimbuni" this week when he was asked about Trump's Made in the U.S.A push.

Uniqlo currently has 51 stores in the U.S. Yanai said the company plans to open at least 20 more stores this year, although it's watching what Trump and Congress do on trade. Yanai doesn't want to see a tax on foreign imports to the U.S. He argues any sort of tariff would raise costs and be bad for shoppers.


Uniqlo is the latest foreign company to warn that there will be consequences from any moves to curb foreign trade. And some experts worry that if Uniqlo and other companies pull out of America, that could make life even tougher for many struggling shopping malls. Uniqlo and other fast-fashion chains like Forever 21, Zara, and H&M are actually doing reasonably well while many traditional retailers such as Macy's, Kohl's, and Sears struggle. “Not only is Uniqlo a major retailer and employer in the U.S., it is also a major tenant of landlords in a landscape of retail distress,“ noted Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group in Virginia in his morning note on Friday.
The C.E.O.-in-chief, ladies and gentlemen!

Ex-Jefferies banker fined in world’s saddest insider-trading case.

Typically, when a person passes material non-public information he or she learned at work to a friend, there's a pretty good reason. Not a legal reason, but one in which a reasonable person could say, “O.K., I understand what the rationale is here, in the context of committing a crime.” Generally, that reason is to make money. But Christopher Niehaus, a former managing director at Jefferies, is not your typical insider trader. Bloomberg reports that Niehaus was recently fined 37,198 pounds ($46,000) by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority for sharing information about two of his clients with a friend and personal acquaintance “on a number of occasions in early 2016” and that “in one instance he sent his friend, who was also a Jefferies client, confidential information about a deal involving the friend’s competitor.” Neither Niehaus nor the acquaintance or friend “dealt in any securities in relation to the information Niehaus shared.” So he’s out $46,000 without even having consummated the insider trade, which is sad enough, but wait, it gets so much worse.


Niehaus told the F.C.A. he “didn’t know” why he disclosed the information other than he wanted to impress his friends.
Incidentally, Niehaus was caught when he had to hand over his phone to his employer in an unrelated matter and his WhatsApp messages with his friends were discovered. WhatsApp, Bloomberg also reports today, is the messaging app of choice for bankers and traders looking to evade compliance (WhatsApp and the equally popular Signal encrypt their messages). That’s not a great plan for two reasons, one of which is that if you are in a situation wherein your employer gets ahold of your actual phone, and the messages haven’t been deleted, all the evidence is there for them to see. Also, it’s been specifically banned by a number of banks and if it hasn’t, in general employees are required to “sign agreements prohibiting unmonitored communications for work.”

Swiss bank under fire for being a Swiss bank

We kid the Swiss but really:  no matter how much regulators try to crack down on tax evasion, i.e., the thing Swiss banks were put on this earth to do, the fact of the matter remains that the heart wants what the heart wants. Per Reuters:

Credit Suisse has been dragged into yet more tax evasion and money-laundering investigations, after a tip off to Dutch prosecutors about tens of thousands of suspect accounts triggered raids in five countries. Coordinated raids began on Thursday in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, France and Australia, the Dutch office for financial crimes prosecution (F..IO.D.) said on Friday, with two arrests confirmed so far. The Dutch are “investigating dozens of people who are suspected of tax fraud and money laundering,” the prosecutors said, adding that suspects had deposited money in a Swiss bank without disclosing that to authorities.
Credit Suisse has responded by launching its own internal investigation, telling Reuters:  “If any individuals are implicated or have violated against these processes or procedures or policies that are in place then we will identify that very quickly.”

Area pastor allegedly did a bad thing

Larry Holley is in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission and probably also God. Here’s the regulator’s thoughts on the matter (via Matt Levine):

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges and an emergency asset freeze obtained against a Michigan-based pastor accused of exploiting church members, retirees, and laid-off auto workers who were misled to believe they were investing in a successful real-estate business.

The S.E.C. alleges that Larry Holley, the pastor of Abundant Life Ministries in Flint, Michigan, cloaked his solicitations in faith-based rhetoric, replete with references to scripture and biblical figures. Holley allegedly told prospective investors that as a person who “prayed for your children,” he was more trustworthy than a “banker” with their money. According to the S.E.C.’s complaint, Holley held financial presentations masked as “Blessed Life Conferences” at churches nationwide during which he asked congregants to fill out cards detailing their financial holdings, and he promised to pray over the cards and invited attendees to have one-on-one consultations with his team. He allegedly called his investors “millionaires in the making.”

According to the S.E.C., Holley scammed his flock out of approximately $6.7 million by “guaranteeing high returns” in a “profitable real-estate company with hundreds of residential and commercial properties.” The S.E.C. also claims Holley’s business associate, Patricia Enright Gray, “advertised on a religious radio station based in Flint and singled out recently laid-off auto workers with severance packages to consult her for a financial increase.”
Steven Mnuchin is Sorry

Not for making people deeply uncomfortable when he described Donald Trump as having “perfect genes” but for saying everyone should take their kids to see Lego Batman, a movie he executive produced, in a past life, and whose ticket sales he stands to benefit from financially.

“It was not my intention to make a product endorsement,” Mnuchin said in a letter to the Office of Government Ethics. “I should not have made that statement.” Nearly immediately following Mnuchin’s apparently unintentional product endorsement, Senator Ron Wyden called for the ethics office to look into the new treasury secretary’s comments, which Wyden said showed a “blatant disregard and disrespect to the office he serves.”

Yeah!

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker abruptly left the U.S. central bank on Tuesday after admitting that a conversation he had with a Wall Street analyst in 2012 may have disclosed confidential information about Fed policy options.

The 2012 leak had triggered a criminal investigation after research firm Medley Global Advisors told its clients the details of a key Fed meeting a day before the Fed released its own record of the discussion.

At the Fed's September 2012 policy meeting, officials laid the groundwork for the massive bond-buying stimulus they were to roll out later that year. Early knowledge of that discussion could have given some traders an unfair edge.

Lacker who had previously announced he would retire in October, on Tuesday said he decided to make his departure effective immediately because of his role in the leak.

It was not clear if Lacker was pushed out of his post. The Richmond Fed said in a statement that it took "appropriate actions" after learning the outcome of government investigations into the leak.

Lacker's lawyer said he would not be facing charges. The Fed's inspector general, Mark Bialek, said in a separate statement that he was closing an investigation into the leak.

"I crossed the line," Lacker said in a statement, saying he never intended "to reveal confidential information" and that he may have broken rules against giving people an edge in business.

Lacker admitted to talking to an analyst from Medley in October 2012, but did not say he provided her with details about the Fed's policy options, which aimed to boost the economy following the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Lacker said it was the Medley analyst who brought up confidential Fed information.

"I should have declined to comment and perhaps have ended the phone call. Instead, I did not refuse or express my inability to comment and the interview continued," Lacker said.

In addition, Lacker said he had not fully disclosed details about his discussion with the Medley analyst when he was interviewed by a Fed lawyer later in 2012. But he said he did disclose further details in a 2015 interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Lacker gave no reason for the time gap between the 2015 interview and his statement on Tuesday.

The Medley report triggered furor in the U.S. Congress and became a source of friction between the Fed and lawmakers, leading to a criminal investigation.

"This development could hurt the Fed politically," said Roberto Perli, an economist at Cornerstone Macro. . . .

CRIMINAL INQUIRY

Lacker, one of the U.S. central bank's most reliable proponents of interest rate increases, had led the Richmond Fed since 2004.

During his tenure, he became known for his dissenting votes on policy. He voted against several Fed policy decisions in 2006 because he favored interest rate increases, while in 2009 he opposed Fed purchases of mortgage-backed securities, which were part of its bond-buying stimulus program.

Days before his conversation with the Medley analyst, Lacker voted against increasing asset purchases at the Fed's September 2012 meeting.

Lacker said his interview in 2015 with the FBI also involved the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Reserve Board and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional reserve banks that are part of the U.S. central bank. They process payments and help regulate banks, while their presidents take turns as members of the Fed committee that sets interest rates.

Read the entire essay here.

U.S. Regulator Fines Credit Suisse Unit, Adviser Over Improper Investments
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The film is set in Santiago in 1948, at the outset of the cold war. The facts are these:  already renowned for his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Neruda stood up in the senate (where he represented the Communist Party) and condemned Chile’s then-president, Gabriel González Videla, for turning against the party that had helped bring him to power and for behaving as thuggishly as Franco in Spain. (Neruda had witnessed Franco’s brutality – and the murder of his friend and fellow poet, Federico García Lorca – while Chilean consul in Madrid in 1936.)

Then began what Neruda himself called “a year of blind rats”. For his courageous outspokenness, Neruda was deprived of his parliamentary immunity and forced into hiding, rushed from one safe house to another, sometimes in the middle of the night, to avoid being captured. Had he been, he might well have been taken to the concentration camp at Pisagua, in the northern Atacama desert (where the commandant was a certain Augusto Pinochet – 25 years before he led the military coup against president Salvador Allende). Although we do not see this in the film, Neruda eventually escaped across the Andes on horseback into Argentina and made his way to Europe using the passport of his fellow writer, the Guatemalan novelist, Miguel Ángel Asturias.

In Neruda, Larraín tells much of the story from the perspective of the fedora-wearing police inspector, Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), who is leading the manhunt. After it is decided that Neruda must flee Chile, the poet (Luis Gnecco) exclaims:  “I’m not going to hide under the bed. This has to become a wild hunt!” And wild it certainly becomes. Both he and his pursuer crave fame. Both want to be remembered – one as a poet, the other for capturing a poet. But both come reluctantly to realise, especially in the film’s increasingly elegiac second half, that they are, in some way, validating each other.

Larraín has read the books about Neruda. He is an admirer of realistic film-makers such as Mike Leigh, but says he is incapable of making such movies himself:  “For me, cinema is related to the old magicians, the illusionists.” Instead, he sought a structure more akin to a story by Jorge Luis Borges:  “I realised it could work as a meta-fictional labyrinth. All these characters – Neruda, Óscar the detective, the narrator who narrates himself into the story – are creating each other because they need each other to tell the story. The film is about storytelling and how we need to tell stories in order to survive life.”

. . . The movie is complex and multilayered. Larraín maintains it has elements of film noir, cat-and-mouse chase thriller, road movie, western and black comedy. Neruda, himself a lifelong lover of detective novels, would have enjoyed the suspense. However, it also indulges in Buñuelesque surrealism, which the poet had rejected at this time in his life. In the opening scene Neruda is seen pissing in the chamber of the Santiago senate, which mysteriously doubles as an opulent urinal, a scene that could have come straight from Buñuel. Elsewhere, Larraín injects Hitchcockian artifice:  for example, the use of an obvious back projection as Peluchonneau is driving his car.

Gabriel García Márquez called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language”. Carlos Fuentes said he was “the King Midas of poetry:  everything he touched turned to gold.” Larraín, however, is not interested in reverentially reinforcing such reputations, but rather in capturing a bigger picture. As he told one interviewer:  “I’m Chilean. Neruda is in the water, in the earth, in the trees … This is a movie about the Neruda cosmos.”

. . . Larraín does allow genuine details from the poet’s life to slip in. Neruda requests textbooks, especially on natural history, to help him in writing his epic work, Canto General (with its twin themes of betrayal:  the personal betrayal by President Videla and the savage betrayal of pre-Columbian civilisation by the Spanish conquistadors). Many of the people who harboured Neruda in hiding assured me that he frequently made requests for such books at this time. He did disguise himself as a heavily bearded ornithologist to escape the clutches of the authorities. (It was a wonderfully apt choice – Neruda was exceptionally knowledgeable about Chile’s birdlife and would go on to write a delightful collection, The Art of Birds, in 1966.) And Neruda’s close friend, Pablo Picasso, did give his one and only public address in support of the fugitive poet.

Ah!

Both poetry and artistic visions rule.

Who'd a thunk it?