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Richard Mellor / Big data, fake news and global growth
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Today at 06:00:57 PM »
Big data, fake news and global growth

by Michael Roberts

This week, it was reported that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week was the lowest since 1969!

The official unemployment rate is also near an all-time low.  In  Japan and the UK too, the unemployment rates are near lows and in  Europe, the official rate is heading back to pre-global crash levels.

As I have reported in previous posts,  measures of economic activity from various sources suggest that the  world capitalist economy has been picking up pace in growth since the  near slump of 2015-16.  This is particularly the case for the most  important capitalist economy, the US.

Below is the world composite PMI (purchasing managers index).  This  is a survey globally of the state of economic activity in both  manufacturing and service industries as the corporate executives see  it.  If the measure is above 50, world economic activity is rising.   Currently, the PMI shows a return to trend expansion after the near  contraction of 2015.

Next week we shall get the first estimate of US real GDP growth for  the second quarter of 2018.  It is likely to be strong.  The Atlanta  Federal Reserve has a ?high frequency? forecast measure for each  quarter?s growth and it currently expects the Q2 figure to come in at a  4.5% annual rate.  That means real growth in Q2 would be about 1% point  above Q1.  If that turns out to be right, it means that the US economy  would have motored along at about 3% for the first half of 2018.

No doubt President Trump will make much of this apparent fast  expansion and claim it for his policies of tax cuts for the corporate  sector and the top 10%.  However, as a recent study has shown,  this will be ?fake news?.  The study by some European economists found  that there was no difference between the post-election performance of  the US economy under Trump and a synthetic ?doppelganger? US economy  without Trump, suggesting that there has been no ?Trump effect?. ?The  employment performance of the US economy since the election was no  different from its doppelganger. There is nothing in the data that  indicates an acceleration of employment creation because of President  Trump.?

But the most usable surveys of economic activity in the US do show  that the economy is expanding at a reasonably fast rate (if no faster  than the average of 3.3% since 1945).  Here is a graph that combines  various surveys of economic activity in the US.  Anything above 0 (LHS)  or 50 (RHS) implies that the economy is growing.  The current RHS rate  is close to 60 which implies fast expansion ? certainly compared to 2016  when the measure was below 50, implying contraction and, of course,  much higher compared to the Great Recession when output collapsed.

The other major capitalist economies do not seem to be doing as well  as the US, despite previously optimistic reports.  The EU is growing at  about 1.6% annually, the UK at under 1%, and Japan is actually  contracting.  Nevertheless, global growth is expected to show an  acceleration in 2018 over 2017, when all the emerging economies of  China, India etc are included.

But can we get more frequent and comprehensive measures that could  actually forecast accurately what will happen in future quarters and  years?

The huge eruption of what is called ?big data? from the internet,  social media and other sources in the last ten years has led to a new  industry of forecasting that aims to deliver more frequent and accurate  estimates of future developments, in the same way that weather  forecasting has improved.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has refined this big data in its own survey of US economic activity.  And as long ago as 2013, the Bank of England?s economists looked at the use and efficacy of big data.  They looked at indicators for global growth in industrial production  and trade.  They found that sharp changes in various indicators were a  good guide to future production and growth.  However, the problem with  these indicators of future expansion is that they are not that timely,  with data only on a monthly (if you are lucky) but more usually on a  quarterly basis.

The statistical economists have recently looked for more timely data and a Bank of England economist recently published a paper on the best predictors of global growth. The paper found that the daily movement in metals prices was a reasonably accurate measure of global economic activity.  ?Metals prices are highly correlated with world activity? and perform well at predicting world GDP in the near-term.?

In other words, the pace of change in metals prices in this month of  July will give a reasonable estimate of world real GDP growth for July  (and eventually Q3), well ahead of any official data (Q3 world growth is  not going to be available until January 2019).

The Bank of England economists used the S&P metals prices index as their metals prices indicator.

As you can see (circles), the metals index fell sharply during the  Great Recession in real GDP and predicted the subsequent recovery  exactly in mid-2009.  Similarly it predicted the recovery from the  relative slump in 2015.  Remember the actual real GDP figures for most  countries do not become available until up to two quarters later or even  more.  So the metals index becomes a ?high frequency? indicator for  growth.

Copper is the largest constituent of the index and it is a metal used  in just about every important industrial and consumer appliance or  service.  So the copper prices index is also likely to be a good  indicator, in my view.  When I ran the copper price against world GDP  growth, the correlation was very good.

So looking ahead, what do the metals price and copper price indexes  tell us about the current Q3 period and onwards?  I did the trend  measure of the copper price, and it shows that expansion from the trough  of 2015-16 seems to have peaked.  That suggests the global expansion  from 2017 which was above the trend rate has now subsided back to the  trend and may fall below.

The metals price index also suggests that the peak in the current  acceleration of global (and US?) growth ended in June 2018 and the  direction is now downwards in Q3 (the period beginning in July).

So don?t be overwhelmed by the good news stories about US real GDP figures for Q2 2018 next week.
Source: Big data, fake news and global growth
Roger Stone Ally 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis Is Reportedly Being Subpoenaed by Mueller


The Russia investigation appears to be zeroing in on Roger Stone.

Kristin Davis, a long-time associate of Roger Stone known as the ?Manhattan Madam,? is being subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to multiple reports.

TMZ first reported the news, and NBC News later confirmed it.

Davis told NBC that she knows nothing about the special counsel?s Russia investigation, though she admitted to having ties to Stone, who was an ally of Trump during the 2016 election.

Other associates of Stone have been subpoenaed by the Mueller team, including Sam Nunberg, who worked on the Trump campaign. Nunberg has said he believes Mueller is going after Stone.

Stone has said he has not yet been interviewed by Mueller, which legal experts believe indicates he is likely a target of the ongoing investigation. Stone has admitted to being in contact during the campaign with Guccifer 2.0, who Mueller?s team revealed to be a false identity for Russian intelligence officers who hacked Democrats? emails and intervened in the 2016 election.



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Source: Roger Stone Ally 'Manhattan Madam' Kristin Davis Is Reportedly Being Subpoenaed by Mueller
FFWP Conference Call July 14th. Arizona Teacher's Leader Shares Experiences

Arizona Teachers March Through Phoenix April 2018
This blog, known as Facts For Working People holds weekly conference calls. The most recent one was the second time we have had one of the new leaders of the teachers and educators strikes and movements from West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Puerto Rico, join our calls and share their experiences. This Blog has on a number of occasions posted videos of three of these new leaders and articles from another. We would ask our readers to please check out this material.  Links to these are included below. Also, go to the Puerto Rico label on the right to read more on the huge struggles that have been taking place in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the hurricane and around education.

Last weekend Rebecca Fligelman Garelli, a leading activist of the Teachers and Educators movement in Arizona joined our conference call and helped us understand the great developments that are taking place in this state. What was made clear is that we are seeing the beginning of a new movement of working people. Arising out of these struggles are new leaders from the rank and file of the movement who are not prepared to accept any longer the refusal of the established leadership to fight back against the bosses' attacks. This is a development of the greatest importance.

 Sister Garelli laid out her and her movements' experience. It was extraordinary. It was inspiring.

When the movement in Arizona began, there were only 20,000 members in the union, a tiny minority of the teachers, and with a trade union leadership that was not prepared to fight, in fact, opposed any attempt to fight in any serious way, and was in a state controlled by the Republican Party. The new leadership in Arizona went on the Internet and reached out to all teachers, union and non-union in public schools and so-called charter schools. Charter schools are the way that the US profit motivated corporations and their capitalist system is moving to privatize education.

Also, a very important step taken by the new leadership that had arisen initially among the teachers was that they called on all workers in education to vote whether they were in a union or not, in a public school or Charter School, canteen workers, cleaners, or grounds people. They got a huge majority vote to take action to defend and expand public education and spending on education.

The Republican state government frightened by these developments approved a measly raise, but only for the teachers. This was prior to the threat of a walk out. The new movement said NO; it was going to take action. Faced with this the Republican state government offered around $60 million.

This new movement through its new leadership drew up 5 demands:

- 20% wage increase for all.
- Return education funding to level of 2008.
- Moratorium on all tax cuts. (The tax cuts were going to the rich and corporations.)
- A different salary structure. Reinstate the steps (years of experience) and lanes (professional growth, i.e. degrees/credits) salary structure
- Competitive wages for all workers in education.

Faced with the new movement's rejection of its offer and its decision to go ahead and act for its five demands, the Republican state government which had been forced to offer a $60  million increase in education spending, suddenly found it could spend $406 million rather than the earlier offer of $60 million. By their action, the teachers and educators increased the offer from $60 million to $406 million. This was, and is, an enormous victory. This shows that resolute action and a mobilized rank and file with a determined leadership can win gains for working people. This new movement must receive the gratitude and the support of all working people.

But if anybody thinks that the increase to $406 million is the end of the matter they must think again. The new movement's demand for a return to the 2008 spending level would mean an increase of around $1.1 billion. So this new movement is fighting on for the other 600 million plus. 151,000 signatures were needed to put this increase of spending back to where it was in 2008 on the ballot in November. The level of support was astounding and the campaign received 270,000 signatures, almost twice the amount needed.

This is now on the ballot in November. The corporation bought and paid for capitalist politicians of both parties, the Republicans and Democrats are not happy. Both have over the years cut education spending and been moving to destroy public education, promote charter schools and privatize, that is, make profit out of education. President Obama, Arne Duncan, Eli Broad and Bill Gates all have worked toward privatizing public education

The new teachers and educators movement in Arizona is now taking the fight on to the electoral front in the coming elections. This movement has created Legislative District (LD) Facebook pages as a platform for educators to discuss candidates. This is the way the new movement in Arizona is approaching the coming elections and taking their battle on to the electoral plane. This is a positive development.

While respecting the decisions this movement makes as it continues to battle on for a better education system, this Blog advocates that the various struggles should run their own candidates out of these struggles. One way to approach that in this situation in Arizona is only to support candidates that pledge to support the five demands. This Blog also stands for the building of a mass party of the working class rooted in the work places and working class communities and rooted in the new democratic union movement which will develop. These teachers and educators movements are the early steps in this direction.

These new movements of workers in education have a number of distinctive features. They are overwhelmingly led by women. This Blog has been continually emphasizing that women have moved in their tens and tens of millions into the paid workforce over the past decades. This Blog has emphasized that today an estimated 50% of factory workers in the world are women. This means a huge strengthening of the working class. This Blog has insisted that the new workers' movement that will develop and that is beginning to develop to take on the corporate capitalist offensive, will have a leadership which involves women as never before. This is shown in these new teachers and educators movements.

Another feature of these new movements is the use of the Internet. In Arizona the new teachers and educators movement has 55,000 people on its Face Book page. In Arizona and all the other movements of the teachers and educators throughout the US, activists are using the Internet in a big way. This is an important step forward.

Another feature of these new movements which is extremely important and positive is that they are working together and very much linked up and linked up not only through through social media. A meeting has been organized for the weeks ahead which will be attended by the elected leaderships of the education workers in all the states where this movement has developed. Its purpose is to discuss coordinated action.

Another feature of this movement which shows its maturity and consciousness is its approach to the existing trade union leadership. These new movements are aware that the existing trade union leadership has shown that they are not prepared to fight; this is true throughout organized labor. As a result these new leaderships are determined to keep the leadership of their struggles in their own hands. But they are not ultra left. They are prepared to relate to and accept any help they can receive from the existing trade union leadership but they are clear on the role that these leaders have played and would play again if they got control of the movement so this new leadership is keeping control of its struggle and forces in its own hands.

In relation to this point we wish to make the following comment. It is related to the various left organizations that exist in the country. The overwhelming major of these, from the largest, the Democratic Socialists of America, through Labor Notes and others, do not openly explain and confront the role of the trade union leadership. That role being to capitulate to the offensive of the corporations, the bosses. Some do it by hiding behind super rrrrevolutionary phraseology and not taking part in the union struggles against the bosses and against the policies of the union leadership, particularly the disastrous Team Concept that argues that bosses and workers have the same interests.

Some do it by taking part in union work but in doing so refuse to take up and explain and oppose the role of the union leadership and their policy of capitulation to the corporations and bosses. This Blog believes this is a very mistaken policy. Here's a few posts from this blog on these issues and please browse through the labels for issues that matter to you.

Those of us who were on Facts For Working People conference call last Saturday 14th July were and are extremely enthusiastic about the participation of the Arizona teachers and educators leader on the conference call and what we learned from this activist. Just as was the situation with the participation of the teachers and educators workers leader from Kentucky on a previous call. And we understand how privileged we are to receive information from and to hear from and learn from these leaders and these new movements. We are now passing on what we have learned and the opinions expressed to all workers and people who read this Blog. We ask our readers to share this as widely as possible. And to organize support for these workers in struggle. contact these new movements, learn from these new movements. A genuine discussion took place on our conference call. An exchange of views and experiences, a genuine dialogue.

One question that was raised in the discussion was where did the movement see the money coming from to meet its demand for a return to the spending level of 2008. The state government are trying to take it from other programs, such as medicare and medicaid or through some sort of vehicle tax. The plan of the state government which represents the corporations and the rich and their capitalist system is that if they have to give some concessions to the education workers they will take it from other workers and in this way they wish to achieve two objectives. One - protect the tax cuts and the welfare they hand out to the corporations and the rich. And two - divide the working class by having other workers blame the teachers and education workers for cutting into programs or raising taxes on other working people.

The leaders of this educators movement, it consciously calls itself that to make sure it includes all workers in education not just teachers, have taken the position that they want what they call a "Dedicated Funding Source" that is, that it has to be spelled out where the money is to come from. And it is not to come from other programs which benefit working people or by taxes on motor vehicles which is what the state government is seeking in an effort to both shield the rich and the corporations and also divide and rule the working class. This is still being struggled over. 

Facts For Working people Blog had heard from activists who follow our Blog in Britain that a major trade union there called Unite has set a Unite Community organizational structure with a very low dues amount and to which anybody who opposes the corporate capitalist attacks on working people and the environment can join. The information about the web site of this trade union community initiative has been put on this Blog and is now being shared directly with the new teachers and educators movements. These movements are very interested in hearing more on this development. This shows the importance not just of linking together the working peoples struggles in the US but also in drawing together and learning from and sharing experiences with the struggles of working people world wide. See a video of Unite?s Community Membership here.

Source: FFWP Conference Call July 14th. Arizona Teacher's Leader Shares Experiences
AlterNet / Here's Why That ?Clean Swimming Pool? Smell Is Actually Bad for Your Health
« Last post by AlterNet on Today at 06:12:03 AM »
Here's Why That ?Clean Swimming Pool? Smell Is Actually Bad for Your Health

The chlorine that is used to kill bacteria and protect the health of swimmers is linked to the creation of toxic chemicals.


It?s recently been reported that scientists have managed to create a test to measure how much urine is in a swimming pool. It seems that peeing in the pool has become commonplace, and even high-profile swimmers have admitted to doing it during rigorous training sessions, arguing that the chlorine ?kills it?. Not only is this untrue, but the chemical reaction that occurs between your pee and the chlorine creates a chemical that has been linked to asthma and other respiratory issues.

Nitrogen trichloride, also known as trichloramine, is made when the urea in your pee reacts with chlorine ? the disinfectant widely used in swimming pool water. Nitrogen trichloride is largely made by accident in pools these days, but this compound was originally made for interest in 1812 by Pierre Louis DuLong.

DuLong made the chemical by bubbling chlorine gas through a solution of ammonium chloride. But, despite his success, DuLong?s joy at having made it was probably short-lived ? he hadn?t counted on the fact that it would be explosive ? the chemical exploded without warning and cost him an eye and a finger. It?s extremely sensitive and will explode even under gentle shock or when exposed to sunlight.

Scientists Sir Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday also fell victim to the substance when they repeated DuLong?s work shortly after. An explosion also caused Davy to lose the use of an eye temporarily and Faraday did permanent damage to his fingers.

Luckily for professional swimmers, only pure nitrogen trichloride is explosive, and so the fact that it is mixed with water and other substances in a swimming pool should be reassuring. However, research suggests that nitrogen trichloride, among other products formed when you pee in chlorinated water, such as chloramine and dichloramine, is linked to eye and upper airway irritation.

It?s rather ironic that the chlorine that is used to kill bacteria and protect the health of swimmers, is linked to the creation of toxic chemicals. But also that the aroma that people associate with a clean pool, is actually the stench of nitrogen trichloride and an indicator of plenty of pee.

Occupational Health Hazard

It is a volatile chemical, meaning it easily turns into a gas and hangs around in the air around the pool. One study has shown that people who work in swimming pools or spend a lot of time around them, such as lifeguards, have a higher level of airway issue symptoms in comparison with the general population ? poolside workers showed more frequent work-related upper respiratory issues than administrative staff.

It?s reported that one study found that a public swimming pool of 830,000 litres, can contain as much as 75 litres of urine in the water at one time, which could react to form nitrogen trichloride. This may not sound like a lot, but the toxicity of chemicals is often in the dose and repeated exposure, so even low levels of nitrogen trichloride, will have damaging health effects.

But it isn?t just pee that we should worry about ? the dirt on people?s bodies can consume up to 30% of the chlorine in the water on its own and in athletic swimmers, sweat ? which also contains urea ? can also contribute to the production of nitrogen trichloride.

So what can we do to combat it? Research which models the amounts of nitrogen trichloride in a swimming pool over time has led some researchers to suggest that lowering the levels of chlorine in a pool, while remaining above the legal lower limit, would reduce the amount of chlorine available to react to form the toxic chemical. However, this study was limited to a single pool, so more research is required to establish whether this could be a feasible solution.

Don't pee like a pro

Swimming pools have long encouraged swimmers to take a shower before they swim, but the health implications of not showering are not emphasised enough. It?s not enough to recommend a shower to ?reduce irritants? ? swimmers need to know that these irritants can cause respiratory issues, and not just for them but also the pool staff.

Swimmers should also be encouraged to pee before they get into the pool, something that should extend to elite athletes too ? Michael Phelps might think it?s an accepted part of the sport, but it only gives licence to others if the professionals are doing it ? they need to lead the way in pool hygiene.

The ConversationUnfortunately, the ?swimming pool dye? which changes colour on pee contact seems to be a mere myth in most countries and there do not appear to be any feasible alternatives to chlorine which can disinfect a pool and not expose the staff to some harmful chemicals. So maybe it?s best to keep up the pretence if the prospect of embarrassment means people will actually go to the toilet.

Simon Cotton, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry, University of Birmingham and Laura Finney, PhD Candidate, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Source: Here's Why That ?Clean Swimming Pool? Smell Is Actually Bad for Your Health
Richard Mellor / Ocasio Cortez Retreats. DSA Must Act.
« Last post by Richard Mellor on Yesterday at 06:00:11 PM »
Ocasio Cortez Retreats. DSA Must Act.

Here's Ocasio Cortez reflecting the pressure she is now coming under from the Democratic Party establishment and also the many Zionist Jews (and Christians) she will have to answer to. She chose to apologize for using the term "occupation" with regard to the Zionist occupation of Palestinian lands and for the term "massacre" in a tweet in reference to Israel's massacre of children back in May.

Using the excuse that she said those things when she was an "activist" and now she is a politician is even worse. She is apologizing to the US bourgeois, the Zionist lobby, the Democratic Party hacks and part of that apology is admitting that in running for office she did what all the establishment politicians do, she lied. She said what people wanted to hear not what she sincerely believed and what she would fight for in order to get the votes and win the position.

This is one of the reasons why Trump gets an echo, why some people support him. She confirms what Trump says, they're all liars, they're all  dishonest when it comes to the average voter. He may be in the same boat but he comes right out there and says it. It is not possible to accept Ms Cortez' implication that she's not very knowledgeable about the Middle East.  The whole Israel/Palestine issue is regularly discussed fodder especially in NYC. It's one of the world's major crisis areas. She ran for Congress and is not familiar with the issue? She was when she wanted people's votes apparently.

I know next to nothing about her base or if there is a base that can pull her back but it's unlikely. Facts For Working People explained in a previous post how while we do not support the Democratic Party or see it as vehicle for change, her election was positive because it would increase the tension between the Democratic Party hacks, the Pelosi, Schumer wing and the increasingly vocal leftish wing, increasing the divisions in that party. It would add impetus to the developing division in the party which would be helpful in ending the two capitalist party monopoly, as it would bring closer the splitting to act party at a time when the republican party is also heading for a split. Cortez winning against Crowley sent shock waves through the establishment and not wanting to lost that corporate money, the likes of Pelsoi and co rushed to confirm that the party is not "socialist". Their fears have probably subsided somewhat with Cortez' comments. What appears to be a rapid capitulation to the establishment is also likely to increase the divisions in the party making the possibility of a split even more likely.

Ocasio Cortez and DSA

Note: I am adding this an hour or two since this was posted. On thinking more about it I understand that Ms Cortez in in the Democratic Socialists Of America. (DSA). If she is, DSA should demand that she retract her capitulation to the Schumer/Pelosi right wing and stand by her original comments about the Zionist "massacre" of children and also her term "occupation" which is what the Israeli occupation is. She used these terms knowingly when she wanted to make sure she addressed the mood and feelings of those that voted for her and understood the situation quite clearly then. She got elected and then, faced with the reality of the pressure from the Democratic Party hacks, the Zionist lobby and Congress, backtracked instead of using this opportunity to wage an open war against the establishment. DSA should give her the opportunity to reverse course or expel her from membership. RM

Ocasio-Cortez hedges criticisms of Israel? ?I may not use the right words?

US Politics

Source: Ocasio Cortez Retreats. DSA Must Act.
AlterNet / Trump Is Ramping Up the GOP's War on the Poor ? And No One's Noticed
« Last post by AlterNet on Yesterday at 06:00:07 PM »
Trump Is Ramping Up the GOP's War on the Poor ? And No One's Noticed

Recently the Trump administration announced that the War on Poverty is over: On the evidence, the rich won

 Donald Trump, the Republican Party and their voters and supporters have shamed America before the world. We saw a vivid example of that this week in Helsinki, of course, but I refer to something else: Recently, a United Nations special rapporteur named Philip Alston, who "acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world," as the Guardian puts it, has condemned the Trump administration for its institutional cruelty, suggesting that it is "deliberately forcing millions of Americans into financial ruin" and "depriving them of food and other basic protections while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy." 

?This is a systematic attack on America?s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can?t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty,? Alston told the Guardian.

Millions of Americans already struggling to make ends meet faced ?ruination?, he warned. ?If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic.?

The Trump administration shows no signs of ending their willing addiction to cruelty. Earlier this week, in a move that attracted almost no notice amid the constant madness of the news cycle, the Trump administration announced that the War on Poverty is over. Why? Because the problem of poverty has supposedly been eradicated in the United States. Daniel Politi of Slate explains:

Republicans have long railed against the country?s social safety nets as expensive and inefficient. The long-running War on Poverty was frequently a target for these critics who were fond of saying it was a huge failure that did not actually help a significant number of Americans out of poverty. But now the Trump administration is trying a new tactic, saying that the reason why social safety net programs need to change is because the War on Poverty was actually a huge success.

President Trump?s Council of Economic Advisers declared in a report earlier this week that the war on poverty ?is largely over and a success,? saying only around three percent of Americans are really poor and the best way to help them is to boost the economy as a whole.

Of course, such claims about poverty in America are not true. For Donald Trump, his administration, and members of his political cult, such lies are akin to the oxygen that nurtures fire. These claims about the success of the War on Poverty are also profoundly disingenuous: Trump and other Republicans believe these programs do not work and want to eliminate them.

The facts are clear: The United States has one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the developed world. Infant mortality rates are the worst relative to other wealthy countries, and increasing as well. When including other measures such as homelessness and overall well-being, the United States ranks near the bottom among its wealthy peers.  

READ MORE: Donald Trump's startling global agenda: Taking white supremacy worldwide

Life expectancy is decreasing for working-age whites ? especially among poor and working-class white people ? because of drug abuse and other stressors. This phenomenon is exceptionally acute in those areas where support for Donald Trump is high. Here, Trump?s sadism is actually hurting the people who love him the most.

"Sadopopulism" ties Trump?s ?human deplorables? to him.

Poverty among elderly Americans is increasing. More Americans aged 85 and older are working because they do not have the resources to retire.

Wealth and income inequality continues to increase in the United States to such an extreme that 1 percent of families own roughly 40 percent of America's wealth. Wages are stagnant if not decreasing. Unions are under assault by Donald Trump and the broader right wing, although that is certainly nothing new. The very idea of the commons is also being further eviscerated by the American right, as further empowered by Trump?s regime. This is a form of collective violence that diminishes individuals? life chances and thus increases poverty in America.

While Trump does not possess a coherent political vision or philosophy, unfortunately for the American people he is surrounded and enabled by people who do.

There is a vast right-wing network of organizations and individuals, exemplified by the Koch brothers, who -- as Nancy MacLean explains in her new book ?Democracy in Chains? -- want to destroy the social safety net in the United States and curtail the ability of those who are not rich, white, Christian and male to do anything to stop their campaign of carnage.

For these right-wing ideologues, democracy and the 20th century are thee enemy. Presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the New Deal, and Lyndon B. Johnson, with the Great Society, worked to create a more humane society through such programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and, of course, the changes compelled by the African-American freedom struggle and the civil rights movement.

This gangster capitalist effort to expand the neoliberal nightmare is an example of Social Darwinism and Malthusian thinking, imported from the early 19th century to the present.

For right-wing ideologues, poor people and other vulnerable populations, are ?useless eaters.? The problem of poverty is best solved by making them literally disappear.

Perhaps if Donald Trump and other right-wing extremists would rethink their goals if they could speak with those people who are being made to suffer as a result.

Alice Wong?s editorial ?My Medicaid, My Life? in the New York Times would be a good beginning:

I am a Medicaid welfare queen. When Republicans talk about safety net programs like Medicaid, Social Security and food stamps, they evoke images of people like me gabbing on their smartphones, eating steak and watching TV from the comfort of home. Political rhetoric and media coverage paints us as unmotivated and undeserving individuals, passive consumers of taxpayer dollars who are out to ?game the system,? taking resources away from hard-working people.

The reality of being a disabled person on Medicaid is far more complex and nuanced. Many people do not even know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare and simply consider them ?entitlement programs,? as if tax breaks and corporate subsidies aren?t entitlements by another name. Medicaid is more than a health care program. It is a life-giving program. ... When Republicans talk about freedom and choice, they don?t realize that Medicaid gives those very things to people with disabilities. ... When I was young, I felt shame and embarrassment at being one of ?those people? on benefits. Today I am unapologetically disabled and a fully engaged member of society. None of that would be possible without Medicaid.

Unfortunately, Wong?s strength, candor, logic, intelligence and vulnerability will not spark an epiphany or cause a radical rethinking of the hostility and cruelty that Donald Trump, the Republican Party and far too many self-described Christians feel towards poor people, those living with disabilities and other human beings they view as being "less than."

There is, however, a group of people in the United States that Trump and other conservatives believe need and deserve further assistance: the rich. Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz points out this absurdity and moral failing in an interview with The Guardian:

Can you believe a country where the life expectancy is already in decline, particularly among those whose income is limited, giving tax breaks to billionaires and corporations while leaving millions of Americans without health insurance? ... This administration inherited a bad situation with inequality in the US and is now fanning the flames and worsening the situation. What is so disturbing is that Trump, rather than taking measures to ameliorate the problem, is taking measures to aggravate it.

Ultimately, the Trump administration believes that the War on Poverty should be replaced with a War on the Poor. As with virtually everything else, Donald Trump and his spokespeople are just too cowardly to tell the truth. 

Source: Trump Is Ramping Up the GOP's War on the Poor ? And No One's Noticed
Ex-DOJ Official Exposes Truth Behind Bombshell Report Trump Saw Proof of Russian Meddling: US Intel Fears He's A Double Agent

What was the driving force behind a leak to the New York Times regarding Trump's knowledge of Putin's role in election interference?


A new bombshell report reveals intelligence officials showed President Donald Trump ironclad proof that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered cyberattacks against the U.S. election ? and yet continues to cast doubt on the evidence.

MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the Department of Justice and attorney general Eric Holder, explained the significance of the New York Times reportand how that information was revealed to the public.

?One, the fact that the U.S. intelligence had obtained texts and emails of senior Russian officials and made it clear that Putin was involved,? Miller said, ?and, two, even more importantly, that there was a human source close to Vladimir Putin who was cooperating with the intelligence community and providing information. That was key to this conclusion that Putin had directly ordered the intervention in the election.?

 Miller said it was extraordinary that revelation of sources and methods was revealed to the public, and reflected an apparent deep mistrust of the president by the intelligence community.

?That is really the crown jewels of U.S. intelligence, and the fact that it made it out publicly was concerning to me,? Miller said. ?I will say, after I found out, after I read that story last night and found that the president has known going back to a year and a half now about what exactly Vladimir Putin did, and he helped him cover up that crime by lying about it it publicly and help him cover up that crime by standing up on Monday and lying about it publicly, and it made U.S. intelligence officials wonder what happened in the meeting.?

Trump insisted on meeting alone with Putin, without any other officials present, and Miller said those conditions would have been highly suspect to anyone who already knew what the Times reported Wednesday night.

?I can?t believe this is something I?m saying about the president of the United States,? Miller said. ?But it made me wonder if people are suspicious that he revealed sensitive, classified intelligence, including human source information, to the president of the Russian Federation. That is a real concern that I had after reading the story.?


Source: Ex-DOJ Official Exposes Truth Behind Bombshell Report Trump Saw Proof of Russian Meddling: US Intel Fears He's A Double Agent
CNN's Anderson Cooper Cracks Up His Show's Staff as He Mocks Trump's Ridiculous Doublespeak


The White House press briefing has turned into a circus.


CNN's Anderson Cooper broke into open mockery of President Donald Trump and his aides' recent absurd attempts to backtrack on his claims about Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The latest ridiculous spin came after Trump told a reporter on camera that he didn't believe Russia is continuing to target the United States, as the entire intelligence community believes. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said that when Trump said "no" to a reporter's direct question about whether there is an ongoing attack, he meant that he wouldn't take any more questions.

This meager excuse was too much for Cooper to take seriously, and he mimicked Trump's repeating of the word "no," complete with facial expressions.

Then, speaking with White House reporter Jim Acosta, Cooper joked again about the president's contradictions and reversals.

"Sarah Sanders has a credibility problem when she comes into that briefing room and tries to clean things up in that fashion," Acosta said. "Her job is not to come into the briefing room and gaslight the American people."

"Do you mean she has a credibility problem or hasn't a credibility problem?" quipped Cooper. "I just want to be clear. We've had a lot of problems with apostrophes in the last couple days."

"I would say she has a credibility problem, and I would not say that she doesn't," said Acosta, drawing more laughs.

Watch the clip below:


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Source: CNN's Anderson Cooper Cracks Up His Show's Staff as He Mocks Trump's Ridiculous Doublespeak
AlterNet / Here's How Trump Is About to Send World Oil Prices Soaring Even Higher
« Last post by AlterNet on July 19, 2018, 06:13:28 AM »
Here's How Trump Is About to Send World Oil Prices Soaring Even Higher

America?s bullheaded president is about to cause a lot of economic pain.

From its office in Paris (France), out of sight of the drama of Trump?s European adventure, the International Energy Agency?s Oil Market Report makes for sober reading. Its June report suggests that the oil market will be ?finely balanced next year,? which is a polite way of saying that it will be turbulent and?essentially?a mess. The embargoes of Iran and Venezuela have already set the oil market on edge, with Libya?s continued disruption making things very tight. Any further problem, the International Energy Agency says, and the price of oil is likely to spike out of control. Brent Crude, the index for oil prices, could whip from today?s price of just above $70/barrel to $250/barrel.

Trump?s War on Iran

The main point of disruption is the policy of the United States against Iran. In May of this year, U.S. President Donald Trump jettisoned U.S. commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He called for a total embargo of Iranian oil exports by November of this year. Iran relies upon the export of oil. This May, as a result of the nuclear deal, Iran?s oil exports rose to a high point of 2.7 million barrels per day (bpd). In February, Iran?s oil ministry said that the country had hoped to raise this to 4.7 million bpd within the next four years. It is likely that Iran?s oil will be substantially off-line. This will have catastrophic effects for Iran, certainly, but also for the price of oil outside Iran.

Iran has hoped that its Asian buyers?who buy the bulk of Iranian oil?will not follow U.S. sanctions. They have pinned their hopes on China, which buys the bulk of the oil, as well as on India and Turkey. Already, Iran?s two other buyers?Japan and South Korea?have begun to cut their oil imports. China has indicated that it would not honor the U.S. sanctions. It is likely that the so-called petro-yuan will become a lifeline for the Iranian economy. This new mechanism for pricing oil remains outside the dollar?s institutions, and so not so exposed to U.S. pressure. India, vulnerable to U.S. pressure, has said that it would only buy Iranian oil if it is able to get a waiver against sanctions from the U.S. government. Turkey has also indicated that it would like to get a waiver, although it is likely that Turkey will also try and push against the sanctions regime.

When Trump was in Europe, he reminded the Europeans about the sanctions and the new U.S. posture toward Iran. The European firms, integrated into the U.S. economy, are unlikely to challenge the U.S. sanctions against Iran. After Trump made his remarks in May, the presidents of Russia (Vladimir Putin) and of France (Emmanuel Macron) said that they would protect their companies from U.S. sanctions, since they did not agree with the withdrawal from the nuclear deal. But neither Putin nor Macron has the pulse of his own businesses. Total (France) and Severstal (Russia) have already walked away from doing business with Iran. More will follow.

The Iranian government watches its buyers buckle before the pressure from Trump and the United States government. If Iranian oil exports decline to 700,000 bpd or even fewer, its treasury would be swiftly depleted. Even that amount is only possible if China?which imports 650,000 bpd?actually stands up to the United States. Devaluation of the rial by the Central Bank of Iran in March and April?prior to Trump?s May announcement?already showed the vulnerability of the Iranian economy. Fleeing from the cash economy, those Iranians with cash in hand have gone to the gold coin market, to the real estate market and into unofficial foreign exchange markets (a three-tier exchange rate system is now in operation?a harbinger of serious monetary problems). These Iranians are looking for somewhere to preserve their threatened value as the peril of economic collapse stares Iran in the face.

When Prices Rise?.

In November, the United States will have a midterm election. It is an axiom of politics in the United States that high oil prices produce murder at the polls. Jimmy Carter faced re-election in 1980 with oil prices at $1.25 per gallon (or, adjusted for inflation to March 2018 dollars, at $3.89 per gallon). The gas price is currently at $2.88?about a dollar less than the price faced by Carter in his ill-fated attempt at re-election.

The Trump administration has said that it wants purchases of Iranian oil to come to zero by November 4, 2018. Two days later, the U.S. electorate will go to the polls. If prices rise as a consequence of the drawdown of purchases from Iran, it will have an impact on the polls. Trump and his team recognize the idiocy of lifting oil prices just before an important election. This is why the U.S. government is pushing for at least three means to keep prices reasonably low.

  1. Waivers. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicated this week that the Trump administration would ?consider exceptions? to the sanctions regime against Iran. This would be a return to the policy followed by the Obama administration?it allowed waivers to any country that could show that it was making good faith attempts to cut its oil purchases from Iran. The standard was high?imports had to fall by 20 percent every 180 days. Mnuchin?s remarks suggest that the Trump administration will take some sort of action that mimics the Obama policy. Japan, South Korea and the Europeans have been eager for the Trump administration to make this gesture. It would?at least?put off their own problems with energy supply.

  2. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. After the Oil Weapon had been unsheathed by the oil-producing countries in 1973, the U.S. government began to hold a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The U.S. government currently holds about 660 million barrels in its underground tanks in Louisiana and Texas. Last year, the U.S. consumed 7.26 billion barrels of oil or about 19.88 million barrels per day. That means that the U.S. has about a month?s worth of oil in its Reserve. The Trump administration is considering a test sale of about 5 million barrels of oil and then releasing about 30 million barrels into the market. This is a very small amount, but it is highly symbolic.

  3. OPEC+ Increases. Saudi Arabia, which detests Iran, has already begun to violate OPEC limits and pump oil to keep prices down. In June, Saudi Arabia pumped 10.49 million bpd (its OPEC limit is 10.06 million bpd). The Kingdom, suffering its own economic crisis, is nonetheless willing to cut off its nose to spite its face. Saudi Arabia claims that it has 2 million bpd of excess capacity?not enough to plug a major hole in the world oil market. Nor do the other OPEC countries (UAE and Kuwait) that have said that they would pump oil to make up for the slack supply. Nor does Russia (not an OPEC member), which has also indicated?despite the U.S. sanctions against it?that it would pump part of its excess capacity of 300,000 bpd.

Can these three approaches make up for the decline of 900,000 bpd cut since September (two-thirds of this from Venezuela) and for the decline of a further 1 million bpd from Iran after November? It is unlikely.

Underinvestment in the oil industry as well as new tensions in Libya further weaken confidence that oil prices can be held at a reasonable level. If oil prices rise and if there is pressure on impoverished states to cut oil subsidies, the kind of protests that took place in Haiti recently should be expected.

A Shooting War

Last week, a senior Iranian military commander said that his country would?if pressured?close its territorial waters to international oil tankers. A fifth of the world?s oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz, almost half of the oil brought to the surface in West Asia.

The legal ground for such a closure is not clear. Iran points to the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Law of the Sea, whose Article 16 says that coastal states might ?take the necessary steps in its territorial sea to prevent passage which is not innocent.? Iran could make the case that the economic war on the country is being deepened by the transit of oil from Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait to international markets. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea affirmed this notion of ?innocent passage.?

But even if Iran is on solid ground, it would have a difficult time closing the Straits, which?at its narrowest?has a width of 34 miles. The U.S. naval base in Bahrain is entirely there to keep the Straits open. The possibility of a small war or even a big war is not so far off.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.


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Source: Here's How Trump Is About to Send World Oil Prices Soaring Even Higher
The IRS Just Made It Easier for Powerful Political Nonprofits to Conceal Who Donates to Them

IRS drops ?dark money? rule, will no longer require disclosure of donors to political nonprofits

President Donald Trump has just removed an old IRS rule that required specific types of nonprofit organizations to disclose the identities of their large donors.

As the Department of Treasury explained on its website:

The Treasury Department and IRS announced today that the IRS will no longer require certain tax-exempt organizations to file personally-identifiable information about their donors as part of their annual return.  The revenue procedure released today does not affect the statutory reporting requirements that apply to tax-exempt groups organized under section 501(c)(3) or section 527, but it relieves other tax-exempt organizations of an unnecessary reporting requirement that was previously added by the IRS.

Nearly fifty years ago, Congress directed the IRS to collect donor information from charities that accept tax-deductible contributions.  That statutory requirement applies to the majority of tax-exempt organizations, known as section 501(c)(3) organizations, receiving contributions that can be claimed by donors as charitable deductions.  This policy provided the IRS information that could be used to confirm contributions to those organizations.

By regulation, however, the IRS extended the donor reporting requirement to all other tax-exempt organizations?labor unions and volunteer fire departments, issue-advocacy groups and local chambers of commerce, veterans groups and community service clubs.  These groups do not generally receive tax deductible contributions, yet they have been required to list the names and addresses of their donors on Schedule B of their annual returns (Form 990).

As The New York Times reported, "the change, which has been long sought by conservatives and Republicans in Congress, will affect labor unions, social clubs and, most notably, many political groups like the National Rifle Association and the Koch network?s Americans for Prosperity, which collect what is known as 'dark money."?

Treasury officials said the reporting change would protect privacy and reduce compliance costs for nonprofits, and that the IRS could still request donor information from groups in the rare event that it was needed for tax scrutiny.

?Americans shouldn?t be required to send the I.R.S. information that it doesn?t need to effectively enforce our tax laws, and the IRS simply does not need tax returns with donor names and addresses to do its job in this area,? Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement on Monday evening.

"Treasury Secretary Mnuchin?s announcement is a thinly-veiled attack on transparency in political campaigns," Adav Noti, senior director at the Campaign Legal Center and a former associate general at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), told Salon by email. "The information that he is allowing organizations to withhold from the IRS was one of the very few remaining protections for voters against the influence of foreign dark money in elections. So the administration has made a choice to deprive law enforcement agencies of the information they need to detect and deter illegal campaign spending by foreign powers."

Noti's concerns were echoed by Steven Rosenthal from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

"There?s a lot to this administrative rule under the semblance of reducing paperwork," Rosenthal told the Times. "It adds another layer of opaqueness to the tax-exempt funding."

By contrast, Republican lawmakers ? many of whom claimed that the existing laws had allowed the IRS to inappropriately target various political groups during the administrations of President George W. Bush and Barack Obama ? celebrated the new policy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that it was "particularly welcome news to those of us who intently are focused on defending the First Amendment, for those of us who over the years have raised concerns during the last administration about activist regulators punishing free speech and free association. It?s a straightforward, common sense policy decision."

Similarly, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, declared that "for years, Members of the Ways and Means Committee have fought for an I.R.S. that is accountable to the taxpayer and does not target or single-out any person or entity based on their political beliefs."

The Wall Street Journal also lauded the decision in an editorial on Tuesday:

Presidents swear an oath to ?protect and defend the Constitution,? and that includes guarding against restrictions on political speech. So congratulations to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter for advancing that cause on the controversial issue of donor privacy.

Treasury announced Monday evening that the Internal Revenue Service will no longer require most 501(c) organizations to include donor names and addresses on their tax Form 990 Schedule B. Nonprofits have had to divulge those sensitive details for donations above $5,000. From now on, only 501(c)(3)s that receive a tax deductible benefit will have to provide such donor information. This new IRS revenue procedure will exempt some 45,000 nonprofits from the reporting rule, including unions and social-welfare groups.

Donor names are supposed to remain private, but the government has inadvertently revealed donor lists. IRS employees also used donor-information demands as part of their harassment of Tea Party organizations during the Obama Administration. State Attorneys General have even sought to require nonprofits to release Schedule B details to state regulators, with a goal of requiring public disclosure that could tee up donors for political harassment?a threat to free speech. The new IRS policy means states won?t be able to exploit this donor information as easily.

By contrast, Democrats condemned the decision as one that would only help the rich continue to remain unaccountable, with Sen. Jon Tester of Montana describing it as "the swampiest, darkest, dirtiest decision."

This doesn't mean that nonprofits are completely off the hook.

"Organizations still need to keep the identities of donors on file, and the IRS has the power to request that information," Noti told Salon by email. "If there is reason to believe that an organization is illegally funneling foreign funds into U.S. elections, the Department of Justice or the Federal Election Commission could open an investigation."

Source: The IRS Just Made It Easier for Powerful Political Nonprofits to Conceal Who Donates to Them
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