Sunday, December 30, 2018

What Will Cause The Next Big Crash of 2018-2019? (Updated)

There is a recent article by Matt Taibbi in both Rolling Stone and Common Dreams that predicts a looming economic disaster due to three colliding problems.  And those three problems are as follows:  1) FERAL Reserve monetary tightening, both in terms of raising interest rates as well as the more subtle but significant Quantitative Tightening (QT), 2) Trump's tax cuts depending on unrealistically high economic growth to "pay for themselves", and 3) Trump's tariffs and the resulting trade war.  And the collision of all three together will not end well, according to Taibbi, and he is probably right for the most part.

But even these are mere sideshows compared to the very biggest underlying root cause of the next looming crash, even if one or more of these problems are in fact the proverbial spark that sets off the financial powder keg.   So what is this underlying powder keg, exactly?  Well, it is the mother of all stock market bubbles, artificially inflated by corporations buying back their own stock to manipulate share prices.  And famous economist Ted Bauman predicts that when it finally bursts, any day now in fact, the market will quickly plummet by 70% or more, causing a crisis that makes 2008 and perhaps even 1929 look like a walk in the park by comparison.

Recently, it looks like the stock market crash of 2018-2019 has already begun in earnest, with Trump's off-the-rails Twitter tirades and his chaos-manufacture in Washington including his stupid government shutdown being the primary catalysts.  Also, the FERAL Reserve raised interest rates yet again.  And it looks like the market has quite a way to fall still, after the worst Christmas Eve ever in history and the worst December since 1931.  The proverbial boil has now effectively been lanced, but the pus is still oozing out at a rapid pace, with much more to follow.

So how did we get here in the first place?  The story begins in the 1920s, when corporate stock buybacks were all the rage, and in fact caused the 1929 Wall Street crash.  The Great Depression soon followed.  In 1934, this highly manipulative practice was rightly outlawed, and the ban remained in effect for nearly half a century until the Reagan administration lifted this ban in 1982 as part of Reagan's deregulation platform.  And since 2010, stock buybacks have accelerated dramatically, artificially inflating the stock market numbers and lulling hapless investors into a false sense of security.  And the recent Republican tax cuts have only accelerated this trend even further (since corporations now have even more money with which to buy back their stocks).  That's right--"trickle down" theory is a myth.

And what goes up, must come down, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Dear Trump and Congressional Republicans: YOU'RE FIRED!

Well, it's official now. Trump's third government shutdown to date has begun.  All because he couldn't get Congress to give him $5 billion for his stupid border wall.   Yes, really.  And while at first he bragged about "owning" the shutdown, he then had the chutzpah to blame it on the Democrats.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is chaotic, dysfunctional, and losing officials left and right, the stock market is crashing as we speak, and Trump himself is under federal investigation for numerous crimes and will most likely be impeached and/or indicted any day now.  We clearly don't have anything close to a functional government now.   The only silver lining?  This, along with the new Syria controversy, may be the catalyst, the very last straw, for the GOP to finally Dump Trump for good.

Once again, in case we didn't make it clear already:  YOU'RE FIRED!  Now go clean out your desk and GTFO.  Goodbye, and good riddance!  Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Donald!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Why We (Partly) Agree With Trump on Syria (and Afghanistan)

Trump just announced that he will be pulling all troops out of Syria, and reducing troops in Afghanistan as well.  Predictably, this has earned him strong condemnation from both corporate duopoly parties that are invested in the military-industrial complex.  The truth, however, is more nuanced than that, even if Trump doesn't really do nuance.

It is obvious now that Trump is clearly Putin’s puppet and is pulling out of Syria for the very basest of ulterior motives: to appease Putin and Erdogan, to “wag the dog” and distract from his mounting scandals, and of course to nurture his own fat relentless ego. And he is doing it as abruptly and chaotically as possible, without so much as a heads-up beforehand to our allies, especially the Kurds who he seems to have no qualms about selling down the river to Turkey. Very base and cowardly indeed.  

That said, sometimes even a stopped clock is right twice a day. As we have noted time and time again, we need to get the hell out of out of not just Syria, but also the decades-long quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter of which is longer than Vietnam at this point. ISIL, though still in existence as a terrorist group (kinda like al-Qaeda and the Taliban, etc.) is nonetheless defeated territorially compared to 2014. Time for other countries/actors to step up to the plate and do whatever remains of the heavy lifting now.   Long past time for that, in fact.

And we also need to stop suborning Saudi Arabia’s unconscionable mass-murdering proxy war in Yemen as well (though Trump seems cool with that for now).

"Endless war" is NOT a sustainable strategy.  In fact, it is not even a strategy at all, but a concept, and an absurd one at that.  The only people who benefit from it are the oligarchs and the military-industrial complex, as the late Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler once famously noted in his 1935 book War Is A Racket.  (Of course, WWII was the exception that proves the rule.)

Whether a war is a “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” kind of war like Libya or a decade(s)-long quagmire like Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, the end result is essentially ultimately the same sort of disastrous failed state that becomes a magnet for extremists.  And once it becomes Quagmire Accomplished like it is currently, whether we leave now, a year from now, ten years from now, or 100 years from now, the result on the affected nation(s) we invade and subsequently leave is basically the same.  Quick withdrawal is thus the lesser evil on balance.

In fact, Tom Englehardt (Tom Dispatch) and Peter van Buren had the best idea of all--quick withdrawal, after getting ISIL where it really hurts by taking out their OIL.  Such targets--wellheads and oil trucks--are not at all hard to find, and are fairly easy to take out from the air.  And put diplomatic and economic pressure on Turkey and other so-called "allies" to stem the flow of Daesh oil as well.  Because oil is their primary source of funding, and removing that will cause them to quickly collapse of their own weight, and when they are seen as a failure then few would want to join them.  And once we take it out, then GTFO and let Daesh fall on their own sword.  (And apparently, we ended up doing a modest version of exactly that sort of oil campaign, with a fair amount of success, albeit late in the game and minus the withdrawal.)

The TSAP agrees with that idea, and we would also like to add to that.  We have said it before, and we will say it again.   Before withdrawing, we should give every *woman* over there an AK-47 and tell them to take over their country and mow down anyone who stands in their way. Let Allah sort it out. Problem solved. But of course, the mostly-male powers that be would not be too keen on that idea. After all, they wouldn't want women in THIS country getting any ideas, now would they?  (Of course, the TSAP believes that women should indeed take over the world in order to save it, so that wouldn't really be a bad idea, come to think of it.) Honestly, it is certainly a better idea than arming questionable male "rebels" who end up turning traitor.  Seriously, think about it.

Look, we dig why the generals don't want to pull out anytime soon, especially not abruptly, and it's not just about job security either (though that is likely part of it too). No one wants it on their conscience if things go horribly wrong afterwards, and such consequences can in any way be linked (however tangentially and speciously) to such a withdrawal.  But Trump clearly has no conscience, and it was his decision, so we now get to let any potential adverse consequences weigh on his nonexistent conscience.  Thus, the generals should really see this as a golden window of opportunity to finally extricate ourselves from the quagmire of the Middle East wars--and even in a worst case scenario, everyone's hands will be clean but Trump's either way.  So what are we waiting for?

Like the song says, if we go it will be trouble, if we stay it will be double.  And those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

JANUARY 2019 UPDATE:  Looks like the other notorious loose cannon of foreign policy, neocon John Bolton, is trying to delay the Syria pullout by "months or years".  So much for that.   In the meantime, is always fun for genuine progressives like us to watch neocons, neoliberals, neoconfederates, and Trump supporters fighting against each other.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

We Wish You A Mueller Christmas, And Impeachment Next Year

As we noted in our previous post, the walls are now closing in on the Donald as we speak. Impeachment and/or indictment are both more likely now than ever before.  There is the infamous Trump-Russia scandal, of course, along with too many other scandals to count, but did you ever think that the porn star hush money scandal (which turned out to be an illegal campaign finance violation, who knew?) would be the one that would most likely finally bring him down?  Even if that itself is somehow not enough, it seems to have been the wedge that finally got his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to flip on him and sing like a canary--and he apparently has a LOT more dirty laundry on him that will soon be aired, most likely having to do with the Russiagate scandal.

And to make matters even worse for Trump, he doesn't just have Mueller to fear either.  He actually has even more to fear from Letitia James, the new Attorney General of New York State.  And he will not be able to pardon anyone for state-level crimes.

No wonder Trump is freaking out so much right now.  He knows his days are numbered.  One domino after another is falling as we speak, and it is only a matter of time before he himself is next.

Get your popcorn, this will get very interesting.  Donald, may you live in very interesting times indeed!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

It's Mueller Time!

The Mueller investigation of the Trump Crime Family is now in its endgame, and it isn't looking good at all for the Donald or any of his cronies.  Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, along with several others, are now officially convicted (or very soon to be convicted) felons at this point, and it looks like both the Teflon Don (and probably Don Jr.) will soon be next.

Ruh roh.  (Cue the Dragnet music, Maestro!)

There is no longer any reasonable doubt at this point about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime of Russia, all technicalities aside.  Now it's more like, "what did they know and when did they know it" for each of these individuals involved, and they have already been caught in several lies in that regard.  Both Cohen and Manafort, along with Flynn and others, are apparently singing like canaries and throwing Trump and Jr. under the bus to save their own skins.  It's only a matter of time now.

Let's see:  bribery, money laundering, racketeering/RICO, conspiracy to commit election fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States are all at least on the table now as charges related to the Trump-Russia collusion scandal.  And even if somehow none of these charges end up sticking for whatever reason, there is always perjury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering as well, all of which are not only impeachable offenses, but also punishable by prison as well.  (All of which are easily proven, by the way, and in this case are so glaringly obvious now.)  And you can probably also throw tax fraud and tax evasion in there for at least some of the members of the Trump Crime Family as well.

The jig is basically up now, Donald.  And Pence will most likely be implicated as well, if he hasn't been already.  At the very least, they can likely get Pence for misprision of felony, if not conspiracy to obstruct justice (and aiding and abetting) in the firing of James Comey.  So Trump would be wise to resign right now so Pence can pardon him, but even that would only buy the administration a little more time before they are all "Out Like Flynn" if not behind bars for a very long time.  Hope you like orange, Donald, because for once your clothing and skin will actually match!

It's beginning to look a lot like TREASON, everywhere Trump goes....