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A $21 Trillion Global Pandora’s Kitty?

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As US federal debt approaches $21 trillion in a matter of months, an eye-popping equivalent amount seems to have gone cumulatively missing from government coffers over the past two decades.

The missing $21 trillion was tabulated by a team of researchers led by Dr. Mark Skidmore, Morris Chair of State and Local Government and Policy at Michigan State University. Skidmore’s teamtalliedup “undocumentable adjustments” – a euphemism for accounting prestidigitations – atthe US Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) between 1998 and 2015. The study was verified by no less authority than Catherine Austin Fitts whose mainstream credentials included a stint in the George H.W. Bush presidential administration.

The most shocking instance of such book-keeping legerdemain, amounting to a colossal $2.3 trillion, was admitted by then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld on the noteworthy date of Sept 10, 2001. Rumsfeld was very specific in identifying America’s adversary: It was “closer to home”; it was the “Pentagon bureaucracy.”

The Sept 11 terror attacks the very next day however consigned these trillions into a black hole of oblivion. Yet, the black hole kept accruing ominous mass over the years;readying itself foran event horizon that may suck in nations, stock markets, livelihoods and lives into afatal vortex. 

Several imponderables remain: Who controlsthis hidden stash? Has the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) sought closure over this issue?Is the internecine civil war within the US deep state in reality a tussle overthis slush fund? Whatever the hypothesis, make no mistake: An “undocumentable” $21 trillion in limbo somewhere can fund revolutions, regime changes and wars anywhere. It can not only fix spot prices for global markets but “spot narratives” in the global mainstream media as well.

It can ensure any “days of rage” planned over US President Donald J. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would remain a damp squib until the time emerges to redraw the contours of the Middle East. Once tempers are skilfully stoked towards a Middle East endgame, global markets can be shorted to localize geopolitical attention. The “days of rage” may then be directed at local leaders who will be in desperate need of solutions to keep their regimes and societies intact.

For an added perspective, consider this: Ever wondered how George Soros, with an official net worth of $8 billion, can threaten governments in a way Li Ka-Shing with a net worth of $33.7 billion cannot?In all likelihood, funds channelled into Soros’ transnational “human rights” hydras were never quite his in the first place.  An activist billionaire is the perfect shill for deep state and transnational interests.

Such snowballing suspicions must have weighed heavily on the Pentagon. It has finally decided to conduct its first audit in history byraisingan army of 2,400 auditors from independent public accounting firms to see where the missing trillions as well as an inexplicable 44,000 US troops had disappeared to. It is rather conveniently late in the day for such an “audit” as the global economic deck seems to be stacked and ready to implode.

Oligarchic Ascendancy

The trillion-dollar drainage from US government agencies has occurredsynchronously with the relentless wealth fractionation process worldwide, along with a rise in global socioeconomic volatility. As the chart below shows, a mere 80 individuals hadthe same amount ofwealthas 3.5 billion people in 2014.

swealth

This trend is expected to worsen through 2020 and beyond.According to a 2016 McKinsey report, around 540 million young people in 25 advanced nations,including the United States, face the prospect of becoming poorer than their parents. 

This brings up an Aristotelian dilemma. The Greek sage had equated a stable society with a strong middle class.Around 2,300 years later, financial whizkidsimmersed in Reaganomics claim otherwise.The accrual of wealth among the few, according to the new wisdom,is supposed to generate more investments and jobs. The reality isjust the opposite: According to the US-based National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), about 10 percent of global GDP has been ploughed into off shore tax havens instead of national treasuries and factories. More ominously, this figure jumps to 15 percent for Europe and up to 60 percent for Gulf Arab and Latin American regions. The haemorrhage of trillions is not just limited to the United States. There are many more trillions available to the transnational oligarchy to reshape the global order.

Furthermore, accelerating technological breakthroughsare already creating a permanent global underclass. Robots alone will displace 800 million workers by 2030.  This poses a quandary for highly-populated emerging powers like India where, the richest one per cent own more than 53 per cent of the national wealth.  What will India’s unskilled,teeming millions do when factories adopt robots and related Industry 4.0 production paradigms? The “Make in India” initiative must be matched with “Train in India” and “Hire in India” programs. Time is of critical essence here to avoid mass population redundancy.

Echoes from the 30s

However, what happens when workers worldwideface mass redundancy?Rising global wealth inequality is nowseen as a transnational threat, witha 2007 study by the UK Ministry of Defence presciently warning of a coordinated global middle class uprising in the coming years.This anticipated backlash has been attributed to a pervasive decline in mainstream news quality anda countervailing rise in cyber-activism. While debt levels continue to set new records in the West, its media is blissfully peddling red herrings on an unprecedented scale. Google’s decision to de-rank articles from RT and Sputnik is just the latest manifestation of the West’s desperation to control the information matrix.

When the bubbles do burst, as they did during the Great Depression, the global oligarchy would face the collective ire of the masses. There is however a time-tested economic modelfor this sort of predicament. It is called Fascism. In a post-bubble landscape, the poor and dispossessed will no longer provide a market for mass-market products while factories that producethem willsooner or later go bust. The only ironclad economic enginesleft revving – as historical patterns reveal – will bethe ones focused on policing and militarization.

An Updated NWO

Henry Kissinger had long sensed this imminentdéjà vu, and is currently advocating a pre-emptive solution in the form of a “New World Order” based on regionalized power centres. “The contemporary quest for world order,” Kissinger wrote in a 2014 Wall Street Journal essay, “will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions and to relate these regional orders to one another.”

In a 2012 peer-reviewed paper titled ‘Class Warfare, Anarchy and the Future Society’, the author had reached a similar conclusion – from the opposite end of the Kissingerian worldview. The world would be convulsed by a series of manufactured crises to facilitate an international order governed by regional power centres.  The Kissinger solution appears like a plutocratic twist of the Gramscian Political Society; one where repressive state organs would be“counselled” by oligarchs proppedby trillions from atransnational treasury. When societies get desperate and breadlines get longer, nationalist leaders would baulk atblockingthe charities of the mega-rich. The folks in Kiev are still grateful for Victoria Nuland’s cookies even while their nation regresses into a Third World asylum. Imagine what a $21 trillion cookie jar can accomplish worldwide?

Some regions like South Asia, however, lack the basic infrastructure to impose and integrate inter-regional orders of the kind advocated by Kissinger.  This is perhaps a reason why India is being courted with much alacrity by the West. Australia, one of the quadrilateral security partners proposed for India is however staring at a $5.6 trillion housing bubble worth four times its GDP. A nation of24 million people cannot carry such a burden, unless it can induce a massive destabilizing capital flight from Third Worldnations.

When that happens,NGOs and social justice warriors worldwide can expect an unexpected bonanza in the opposite direction – in the form ofcashand cookiesto champion a new order in their hopelessly-impoverished societies!

Americas

Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics

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The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.

Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.

These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.

The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.

“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.

The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.

To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.

Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.

In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.

Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.

To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting;  guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.

Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.

“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.

Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.

The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”

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Americas

Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn

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Photo: Miller Center/ flickr

US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.

So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.

Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”. 

That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.

The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards

That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.

The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.

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Americas

Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer

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When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?

But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.

So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point. 

Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.

I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.

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