Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Disciplining the President: West Wing Gushes Leaked Details About How Aides Locking Down Information Flow, Controlling Donald Trump

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by Matthew Boyle, Breitbart:

The West Wing is leaking like a sieve again, this time with details pouring out of the White House into the press about how the new command and control structure is attempting to contain and manage President Donald Trump. But it does not appear they will be successful.

The main goal, per many White House leaks across the media, appears to be senior staff controlling what information and reports make it to President Trump—and tamping down who the president talks to and who has access to the president.

Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Margaret Talev wrote on Thursday:

Since retired Marine Corps General John Kelly started as White House chief of staff last month, President Donald Trump has added a routine caveat before approving proposals advisers place before him: Check with ‘The General’ before moving ahead. It’s a marked departure from Trump’s instinct to manage around Kelly’s predecessor, Reince Priebus. When making a decision, one aide recalls, Trump often would caution, ‘Don’t tell Reince.’ Trump’s appointment of Kelly has imposed new order on a White House that had been riven with infighting among warring camps. But it hasn’t been the political lifeline Republican allies had hoped for, as Kelly has so far been unable to perform one of the chief of staff’s most basic duties: to stop a president from following his worst instincts.

The Bloomberg piece is hardly the only one in media about new structures in the latest round of West Wing leaks pouring out of the White House.

Aug. 16, the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Bob Costa reported that Kelly has instituted a new structure for communication with the president.

“As the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly routes all calls to and from President Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them,” Parker and Costa wrote. “He stanches the flow of information reaching the president’s desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump’s relatives — go through him to reach the president.”

Over at Politico on Thursday, Eliana Johnson and Nancy Cook got even more leaked details about the new structure Kelly is implementing. Johnson and Cook wrote:

Confronted with a West Wing that treated policymaking as a free-for-all, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, is instituting a system used by previous administrations to limit internal competition — and to make himself the last word on the material that crosses the president’s deskIt’s a quiet effort to make Trump conform to White House decision-making norms he’s flouted without making him feel shackled or out of the loop. In a conference call last week, Kelly initiated a new policymaking process in which just he and one other aide — White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a little-known but highly regarded Rhodes scholar who overlapped with Jared Kushner as an undergraduate at Harvard — will review all documents that cross the Resolute desk.

All of this comes amid a Democrat takeover of the West Wing, with Republicans being pushed out of the White House. National Security Adviser and three-star Army Gen. H.R. McMaster purged a number of Trump-backing Republicans from the National Security Council, while ex-Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman and now former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was replaced by retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly, the old Secretary of Homeland Security. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and his wife Ivanka Trump—as well as National Economic Council director Gary Cohn—have all seen a rise in prominence in the West Wing. They—McMaster, Kelly, Ivanka Trump, Kushner, and Cohn—are all Democrats.

In addition to controlling information flow to and from the president—and who communicates with him—the West Wing Democrats have aimed to force Trump to stick to pre-scripted remarks on the TelePrompTer whenever he gives speeches. They have not succeeded on that front, as Trump went on a 45-minute off-script tirade against the media, the left, the GOP establishment, and more during a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, this week.

Several people close to the president tell Breitbart News that while he is for now mostly following along with what Kelly and the others want him to do, people should not expect this to last.

“Those in the Administration who think they can shackle the President are in for a rude awakening,” one White House aide told Breitbart News. “Unlike so many other political ‘plastic men,’ he’s not a pre-programmed bot, he thinks for himself and makes his own decisions.”

The White House communications office did not comment for this piece to Breitbart News.

But, the crackdown in process by the West Wing Democrats is much broader than just what happens with the president. “Since taking over for Priebus last month, Kelly has sought to crack down not just on sneakiness and backbiting but also to impose order more broadly,” Johnson and Cook wrote in Politico. “He has tasked deputy chiefs of staff Rick Dearborn and Joe Hagin with bringing some order to the president’s schedule, pushing them to plan events further in advance and to include one public-facing event each day and one travel event each week, according to a senior White House aide. He is also reworking what were once free-flowing White House meetings. Each one now includes a list of attendees to prevent aides from inserting themselves gratuitously where Kelly does not want them.”

In Bloomberg, Jacobs and Talev quoted, “interviews with 14 current and former administration officials, congressional Republicans and people close to Trump and Kelly” most of whom, they say, “credited Kelly with imposing new processes and restrictions that have limited freelancing, drama, leaking and backbiting among staff.”

Read More @ Breitbart.com

Media Buries Podesta Group Highlighted in Group of PR Firms Subpoenaed by Mueller

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by Cristina Laila , The Gateway Pundit:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas for public relations firms that worked on an international campaign organized by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, according to NBC News.

The Podesta Group was one of the firms highlighted, but you would have to read NINE paragraphs into the article to learn this. Instead of the story having its own headline, it was buried.

Excerpt from NBC’s exclusive article. In the original article, Podesta Group is mentioned 9 paragraphs down.

NBC News:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in recent days seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort, people directly familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Manafort also was present at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lobbyist and a Russian lawyer, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Kushner. NBC News has previously reported that Kushner is under scrutiny by investigators, and that Mueller is examining whether President Trump obstructed justice.

The executive said six firms participated in the public relations effort that Manafort coordinated, paid for by a Brussels-based non-profit called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine. The stated goal was to build support for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

Two of the firms, Podesta Group and Mercury LLC, worked in Washington with Manafort partner Rick Gates, according to lobbying disclosure records. Three other firms worked in Europe, the executive said. NBC News could not confirm the identity of those three.

As TGP reported earlier Friday, the Podesta Group, run by John Podesta’s brother Tony, retroactively filed DOJ disclosures for ‘pro-Putin lobbying.’

How’s that for “collusion?”

Washington Examiner reports:

The Podesta Group belatedly filed severalnew disclosures with the Justice Department on Aug. 17 related to work the firm completed between 2012 and 2014 on behalf of a pro-Russia Ukrainian think tank.Back in April, the powerful Washington lobbying firm run by Clinton ally Tony Podesta filed a document admitting its work for the pro-Russia European Centre for a Modern Ukraine may have principally benefited a foreign government. New disclosuresrevealed dozens of previously unreported interactions the firm made with influential government offices, including Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the office of former Vice President Joe Biden, while lobbying on behalf of the center. Embattled ex-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort failed to disclose his extensive lobbying efforts on behalf of the center at the time as well.

Anyone lobbying or doing public relations on behalf of foreign governments is required to register as a foreign agent in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The Aug. 17 filings include short-form registration statements for six Podesta Group employees and an amendment to the firm’s registration statement that includes a list of political contributions made by relevant employees throughout 2013.

Read More @ TheGatewayPundit.com

Your Guide to Avoiding Internet Censorship of Independent News Journalism

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by Whitney Webb, The Anti Media:

There are lots of good strategies for beating both corporate and government Internet censors and snoops. These range from alternatives to Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter — to direct subscriptions to authors and pubs — to setting up your own VPN. All are worth the effort.

(MPN) — While Google’s Information Age dominance has long been recognized to have some unsavory consequences, the massive technology corporation has, in recent months, taken to directly censoring content and traffic to a variety of independent media outlets across the political spectrum — essentially muting the voices of any site or author who does not toe the establishment line.

This new offensive has coincided with Google efforts to clamp down on “fake news” and “extremist” content, which – on its subsidiary, YouTube – led to the categorical blocking of videos portraying war crimes and other disturbing events of the Syrian conflict and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Other independent media figures, such as Luke Rudowski and Carey Wedler, on the popular video streaming service, saw many of their videos demonetized.

Though the crackdown on YouTube was more obvious, the Google search engine – the most popular in the world – is now burying or blocking independent media sites from its search results.

Conservatives have long claimed that Google was selectively targeting their content due to the personal political bias of the company’s executives — but now, since Google announced its new guidelines, numerous progressive, transparency, and anti-war websites that act as watchdogs to the establishment have seen their traffic diminish substantially.

Counterpunch, World Socialist Website, MintPress News, Democracy Now, American Civil Liberties Union and Wikileaks are just a handful of the sites that have seen massive drops in their returns from Google searches. The World Socialist Website alone experienced a 67 percent decrease in returns from Google following the implementation of Google’s new algorithm targeting so-called “fake news.” MintPress News, however, has suffered the steepest decline, having seen a 76 percent decrease in traffic from Google since the new algorithm was put into effect.

Google has its reasons for choosing to censor viewpoints that clash with or even raise questions about the official narrative. Google shares deep connections with the U.S.’ political powerbrokers, notably with the CIA, which originally helped fund Google into existence with the intention of controlling the flow of information.

Understandably — in light of its deep connections to those who stand the most to lose from the actual free flow of information — Google has emerged as a leader of the “fight” against so-called “fake news.” The concept of “fake news” took on sudden weight following last November’s U.S. presidential election: in the tweets and rants of newly-elected President Donald Trump, media predictions of a Clinton victory were ridiculed as “FAKE NEWS,” while Clinton supporters also wound up blaming “fake news” for Clinton’s loss in the election.

In short order, the term became a term of derision and dismissal applied to any and all disagreeable reporting. With the “fake news” net cast so wide, the ground was fertile for a campaign against the official story-challenging work of independent media — dependent for its reach, to a far greater extent than its mainstream media counterparts, upon the good graces of monster Internet traffic cops such as Google.

The following guide offers a variety of solutions and options for those concerned with Google’s overreach and its decision to become the Internet’s unelected “Ministry of Truth.

Dumping Google Search

Dominating over 80{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of global searches made on the Internet, Google’s chokehold on the flow of information is undeniable. Now that its algorithm has been shown to target news sites critical of the establishment on both sides of the aisle, finding an alternative becomes an essential task irrespective of one’s political leaning.

However, don’t expect other brand name search engines like Microsoft’s Bing or Yahoo to come to the rescue, as these too have been caught censoring search results in the past. Microsoft, in particular, is very untrustworthy, given its eager participation in the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program — where it illegally shared the Internet user data, including search queries, of U.S. citizens without their knowledge. Given its willingness to cooperate with the government against the interest of American citizens, Microsoft would be perhaps more willing even than Google to censor access to so-called “fake news.”

Yahoo is little better, as it too was an early adopter of the PRISM surveillance program, second only to Microsoft. Like Microsoft, they willingly cooperate with government censorship efforts – as well as the outing of dissidents – in other countries.

Thankfully, as far as search engines go, there are other options available that not only respect your privacy but also offer fairer searches, including some features that even Google doesn’t offer.

DuckDuckGo

Of all the viable Google alternatives, DuckDuckGo is the most well-known, having been promoted by PCMag.com, the Guardian, and The New York Times as a “long-term” threat to Google’s search dominance. It was even one of the top 50 sites of 2011, according to Time magazine.

However, the “mainstream” accolades are, in this case, well-deserved. DuckDuckGo is best known for its motto “the search engine that doesn’t track you,” complete with Tor browser functionality.While this is a clear boon for privacy enthusiasts – or anyone concerned about illegal NSA spying – it also results in search results that are not filtered based on your search history. In other words, users are more likely to be presented with search results that challenge their existing ideas.

DuckDuckGo also boasts an impressive search algorithm that excludes Google results but includes results from other well-known search engines, mixed with the data obtained by DuckDuckGo’s own web crawler bot. The results are filtered for spam and re-ordered using its trademark “Instant Answers” platform, which places high-quality answers above other results and advertisements. The “Instant Answers” platform gathers answers provided by top popular websites, like Wikipedia, in addition to community-built answers.

For those tech-savvy users who don’t trust the spam filtering or even the “Instant Answer” platform, these functions — as well as DuckDuckGo itself — is open-source and also offers DuckDuckHack, where users can create their own plug-ins for use in DuckDuckGo and even help improve the search engine overall.

For less savvy tech users, DuckDuckGo conveniently functions like any other search engine, in addition to providing several features even Google doesn’t offer. It also has a search app for both iPhone and Android, as well as plug-ins for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, and offers support in several languages.

Ixquick/StartPage

Ixquick is an American/Dutch meta-search engine, meaning it simultaneously searches multiple databases and other search engines, including Google, across the Internet. It uses a “star system” to rank search results, placing a star next to each result for every search engine that ranks that result as one of its 10 best for a given search. A five-star result, for example, means that five search engines considered that result to be among the 10 most relevant.

Ixquick — which has now merged with its subsidiary, StartPage — also tackles the issue of privacy by not storing user-specific details such as cookies or past search results. Like DuckDuckGo, Ixquick offers unfiltered search results generated by Google’s “personalized” searches. Privacy enthusiasts may recognize Ixquick as the default search engine for the Tor browser.

Ixquick is supported in 17 languages and offers a plug-in for Mozilla Firefox. They also offer a privacy-minded, encrypted email server called StartMail.

Gibiru

Gibiru, like the aforementioned search engines, prides itself on offering maximum privacy. It avoids tracking its users by providing anonymous and encrypted searches. It describes itself as “the preferred Search Engine for Patriots” and offers non-personalized, anonymous web results while emphasizing the disdain of its developers for the NSA. Part of what sets Gibiru apart is its claim to offer “uncensored” searches, as their web crawlers intentionally include pages that Google has blocked or buried in its search results.

Gibiru also has a unique feature called “Uncensored News.” In addition to aggregating results from other search engines, Gibiru adds its own algorithm that specifically looks for results from independent media outlets, particularly those that tend to “promote ‘alternative’ views from the mainstream.” Recognizing that mainstream media results are picked up by Google and Bing, Gibiru does not use its bandwidth searching through these results. Even up-and-coming independent media sites can gain inclusion in Uncensored News results by communicating with the Gibiru team.

Gibiru offers both a toolbar and a plugin for Mozilla Firefox.

Subscribe directly to your favorite pages

Though the above search engines can assist in more accurate and less censored internet searches, the best way to get news you trust is directly from the source. Anyone who reads independent media eventually develops preferences for certain sites and authors whose content they consistently find reliable and interesting.

If you are concerned with Google’s clampdown on independent media, the most surefire way to ensure your access to the sites you enjoy is by subscribing directly to them via email. Most independent media pages offer you the option to subscribe to their mailing lists, where you receive their top stories on a daily basis. Some pages charge for subscriptions, but most – such as MintPress News’ Daily Digest – are free and allow you to unsubscribe at any time. Some websites, including MintPress, also offer apps for Android or iPhone, which allow users direct and convenient access to the content of those pages.

If you are concerned that all of the newsletters and stories of the pages you want to follow will clutter your email, there are several good options. Some mail servers allow you to label certain types of incoming mail, and creating a specific label for “news” can streamline the process of following all of your favorite pages in one place. Alternatively, you can create an email account dedicated to news in order to keep it separate from email accounts more focused on work or socializing.

In some cases, however, your favorite writers may not regularly publish in the same place, making their work difficult to follow via email subscription. Many authors have either their own web pages dedicated to their work or publish on websites such as Medium — a site offering both free and premium membership options, that hosts the writings of many big names in independent news from across the political spectrum.

Signing up for Medium allows you to follow any writer you like, even mainstream ones – a boon, for instance, if you like a certain writer at, say, The Wall Street Journal but don’t trust the paper as a whole. Certain popular writers in independent media — such Nafeez Ahmed’s Insurge Intelligence — even publish some of their biggest stories exclusively on Medium.

Dump social media for news

Though some may value their Facebook account for keeping in touch with friends and family, the social media giant is quickly becoming unreliable for receiving news content posted by your friends as well as the people or pages you follow. Facebook and Twitter have each been caught censoring on several occasions and both now openly patrol for “fake news” and “hate speech” — burying stories that users would otherwise see, based on the recommendations of Facebook or Twitter-approved flaggers. Many of these flaggers have been found to publish “fake news” themselves or have a strong bias against particular viewpoints, particularly those critical of conservative politics.

Read More @ TheAntiMedia.com

Trump Continues War For Opium in Afghanistan

by James Corbett, The International Forecaster:

…the Afghan war is not about protecting America’s interests or ridding the world of terrorists, and the war on drugs is not about helping to end the opioid crisis.

For all those pundits out there who were concerned that Trump wasn’t “Presidential” enough to actually be President, I have some great news for you! This past week Trump wiped out any such fear by doing the most presidential thing that can possibly be imagined: Continuing the never-ending war in Afghanistan!

That’s right, the longest war in the history of the United States is not coming to an end any time soon. And just in case you were still operating under the delusion that the current puppet figurehead was any different at all from any of the stuffed shirts who previously occupied the Oval Office, Trump is even copying Obama’s failed 2009 “surge” strategy to keep the whole charade going for another 4 (or 8 or 12 or 200) years.

As Mark Perry notes in his article on the subject, quoting an unnamed Pentagon official who was privy to the deliberations on the plan:

“This Trump plan, at least so far as I understand it, sounds a lot like the kind of plan we’ve come up with again and again since the end of World War Two,” a senior Pentagon officer says. “We’re going to surge troops, reform the government we support and put pressure on our allies. In this building [the Pentagon] there’s a hell of a lot of skepticism. And that’s because we all know what this new strategy really means – and what it means that the only way we can get out of Afghanistan is to get further in. You know, it seems to me that if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that that doesn’t work.”

Bah! Work shmirk. The point is that copying Obama’s failed “surge” strategy will look aggressive and manly and will pump even more of that Fed-issued fiat debt paper into the pockets of the Pentagon and their contractor buddies, so now Trump is officially “Presidential” according to all the neocons on the right and the warmongers on the left.

The Trump dupes, of course, will argue that their “God-Emperor” has somehow or other (gosh darn, wouldn’t you know it?) been put under a magical hypnotic spell by the Deep State and converted from a freedom-loving man of peace into a warmonger. They are, as always, delusional. This is the same Trump who said he was the most “militaristic” candidate in the GOP primary field and promised to “bomb the shit” out of those dastardly terrorists in Sy-raq (instead of, oh, I don’t know, not creating, funding, training, equipping and protecting them), bring back waterboarding (and worse), target and kill family members of the (CIA-sponsored) terrorists, and take the resources from America’s vanquished in future resource wars. More to the point, as Micah Zenko accurately pointed out in the wake of this annoucnement, “Trump has now expanded US military presence and/or airstrikes in EVERY combat theater he inherited from Obama.”

But hey, he pretended to criticize Obama’s Afghan strategy a few years ago, so what difference does all of that make?

In fact, it’s impossible to think of a single, rational, defensible reason for the idiocy that is this Obama Surge 2.0 that Trump is greenlighting. It is a proven failed strategy, it is a waste of money, it only further destabilizes a region in turmoil and, as we have seen, even the Pentagon officials behind the scene resent it. And, oh yeah, it’s a bloody and murderous and illegal invasion of a country, if that counts for anything anymore.

The Afghan war itself was never about ousting (CIA patsy) Bin Laden or protecting America from Al CIAda or preventing the next 9/11, as we can clearly see in 2017, long after the “murder” of “Bin Laden” in Abbottabad and the fact that Al CIAda are the good guys again. No, as I stated in my video on the 15th anniversary of the invasion last year, the Afghan war is a resource grab, a foothold in a key square of the geopolitical chessboard, and a ploy to keep the CIA’s precious drug money flowing from their opium operations in the country.

The great irony here is that this move comes less than two weeks after Trump’s declaration that America’s ongoing opioid crisis, now claiming the lives of 100 Americans a day from overdoses alone, is a national emergency. “The opioid crisis is an emergency and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” he told reporters in New Jersey earlier this month. “We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”

This is a direct insult to the intelligence of Americans (and people the world over) who recognize that the four decades of the failed “war on drugs” strategy has done nothing but (in fact, was never intended to do anything but) exacerbate the problem, leaving more people addicted to and more people incarcerated from drug use than before the so-called war started. Of course, Attorney General Sessions has vowed to pursue that War on Drugs all the harder during his tenure, because why not double down on a strategy that is a demonstrable failure when it provides a great excuse for an authoritarian police state and a steady stream of prisoners for the incarceration-industrial complex?

But now the Trump administration is rubbing salt in that wound by continuing the Afghan war that has caused the Afghan poppy crop to go from near-eradication pre-9/11 to record levels post-invasion. As the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime pointed out last year, two-thirds of all the arable land dedicated to poppy crops in the entire world lie in Afghanistan. And as they pointed out the year before that, fully 77{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of the world’s heroin supply is processed in Afghanistan. This is why Uncle Sam’s loyal troops literally guard the poppy fields (and openly brag about it on national television), and this is one of the reasons why the Afghan war is not ending any time in the foreseeable future.

Read More @ TheInternationalForecaster.com

Your Bitcoin is NOT Anonymous: IRS Moves To Track Bitcoiners With New Chain Analysis Tools

by Mac Slavo, SHTFPlan:

Last month Alt-Market.com founder Brandon Smith warned that Bitcoin may not be all that it’s cracked up to be in terms of its purported anonymity:

For years, one of the major original selling points of bitcoin was that it was “anonymous.” It always surprised me that so many people in the liberty movement bought into this scam. Surely after the revelations exposed by Edward Snowden and organizations like Wikileaks, it is utterly foolish to believe that anything in the digital world is truly “anonymous.” The feds have been proving there is no anonymity, even in bitcoin, for some time, as multiple arrests using bitcoin tracking have indeed occurred when the FBI decided it was in their interest. Meaning, when the feds want to track bitcoin transactions, they can, and it does not matter how well the people involved covered their actions.

Because every transaction exists on a public blockchain ledger, an enterprising organization – say like the NSA or IRS – could conceivably implement blockchain analysis tools to track down Bitcoin fund transfers around the globe. These days most bitcoin transactions are originated on “trusted” exchanges that exist in Western nations, where governments have always found new and innovative ways to ensure citizens have no privacy whatsoever, especially when it comes to personal finances. This means that there is more than likely a record of your original Bitcoin transaction, perhaps involving a credit card or bank transfer, and if regulators ask an exchange to turn over the information you can bet they’ll do so in order to avoid unwanted government scrutiny. Moreover, most exchanges now require a driver’s license, passport and even a phone number in order to approve your account for trading.

The point is, for government investigators with a bone to pick, your crypto currency activities online may not be as anonymous and private as you may think.

In fact, so exposed is the blockchain to Big Brother monitoring and interference, that the Internal Revenue Service has now implemented blockchain analysis tools to help them track down individuals who are profiting off the crypto currency and not declaring these profits on their tax returns.

Via Bitcoin.com:

According to a contract recently obtained by the Daily Beast, the IRS can now track bitcoin and other cryptocurrency addresses. They can do this to route out potential tax evaders. They purchased software from the blockchain analysis group Chainalysis.

The document details that “criminals” have used digital currencies to launder money, deal drugs, and commit other unlawful behavior. However, criminals have also been using digital currencies to ignore tax liabilities and evade responsibility. The Daily Beast article elaborated:

The document highlights how law enforcement isn’t only concerned with criminals accumulating bitcoin from selling drugs or hacking targets, but also those who use the currency to hide wealth or avoid paying taxes.

Reason for IRS Crackdown; Tracking Bitcoiners

The reason the IRS is cracking down on digital currencies appears to be because only 802 people declared bitcoin profits or losses in 2015. The Daily Beast article suggests that many people may have not expected the IRS to collect on digital currencies. Others may have just thought they could easily sidestep this alleged obligation.

Read More @ SHTFPlan.com

Negative interest rates have come to America

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by Simon Black, Sovereign Man:

One of the truly mind-boggling absurdities in modern finance has been the creation of ‘negative interest rates’ around the world.

Negative interest rates are particularly prominent in Europe.

Starting back in 2014, the European Central Bank (ECB) slashed its main interest rate to below zero.

One bizarre effect of this policy is that some banks have passed on these negative interest rates to their retail depositors.

This trend has persisted across Europe, Japan, and many other parts of the world.

Yet at least Americans were able to breathe a sigh of relief that negative interest rates hadn’t crossed the Atlantic.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Recently I was reading through Bank of America’s most recent annual report; it’s filled with some shocking facts about the -real- level of wealth in the Land of the Free… which I’ll tell you more about next week.

But here’s one of the things that caught my eye: Bank of America has $592.4 billion in deposits from retail customers, i.e. regular folks who bank at BOA.

And according to its annual report, BOA paid its retail depositors an average interest rate of 0.04{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} last year.

Seriously. That’s a tiny, laughable amount of interest. But hey, at least it’s positive.

That 0.04{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} average rate means the bank paid its retail depositors a total of $236 million in interest.

Yet at the same time, Bank of America charged those very same retail depositors $4.1 BILLION in fees.

So in total, small depositors forked over a net sum of $3.8+ billion to Bank of America last year for the privilege of holding their money at the bank.

Based on the bank’s total consumer deposits of $592.4 billion, it’s as if the bank had charged its customers a negative interest rate of 0.64{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}.

What’s the point?

It’s one thing to pay fees to a bank that will safeguard your capital and act in the most conservative way possible.

People pay fees to storage companies to safeguard their wine collections, baseball card collections, all sorts of stuff.

We even pay fees for safety deposit boxes to store important documents.

So in principle there’s nothing wrong with paying a bank a reasonable fee to safeguard your money.

But that’s not what banks do.

They use our savings to speculate on whatever the latest investment fad of the day happens to be… whether it’s sub-prime auto loans, collateralized debt obligations, or some exotic derivative that no one understands.

Your savings are not sitting in a vault being guarded by burley men with shotguns.

To be frank, we have no idea what they’re doing with our money.

And it hardly seems worth paying the bank to let them gamble with your hard-earned savings.

We’re talking about an industry, after all, where hardly a month goes by without some major scandal.

They’ve been caught red-handed opening phony accounts, manipulating interest rates, fixing exchange rates, front-running their customers, etc.

Earlier this week, in fact, the CEO of Wells Fargo announced that more bad news of a major scandal would soon hit the news headlines.

It never stops.

Why does anyone continue to have confidence in these people… AND pay them… when there’s absolutely zero doubt that they cannot be trusted?

There are MUCH easier options. For one, consider holding at least a portion of your savings in cash. And I mean physical cash.

Buy a safe (they’re cheap) and become your own banker. Eliminate the corrupt middleman who stands between you and your money.

Worst case, you save money. No more fees. No more being treated like a criminal terrorist.

And what are you missing out on? 0.04{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} interest. Not much of an argument there.

Read More @ SovereignMan.com

Why The Shale Oil “Miracle” Is Becoming A “Debacle”

by Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity:

Energy is everything. 

This is an amazingly important concept. Yet it’s almost universally overlooked.

Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the magical role energy plays in our daily lives because most of what we experience is a derivative of it. The connection is hidden from direct view.  Because of this, most people utterly fail to detect or appreciate the priceless and irreplaceable role of high net-energy fuel sources (such as oil and gas) to our modern lifestyle.

With high net-energy, society enjoys increasing complexity and technological advances. It’s what enables us to pursue massive goals like desalinating billions of gallons of seawater, or going to Mars.  But without high net-energy fuel sources, our capabilities quickly regress to those of decades — or even centuries — past.

Which is why understanding where we truly are in the ‘net-energy story’ is so incredibly important. Is the US on the cusp of being “energy independent” from here on out? Is the “shale miracle” ushering in a glorious new ‘boom’ era that will vault America to unprecedented prosperity?

No. The central point of this report is that the US is deluding itself when it comes to energy abundance (generally) and oil (specifically).

Yet that’s not what we hear from the cheerleaders in the industry or in our media. From them, we hear a silver-tongued narrative of coming riches — a narrative that contains some truth, some myth, and a lot of fantasy. 

It’s those last two parts — the myths and fantasies — that are going to seriously hurt many investors, as well cause a lot of extremely poor policy and investment decisions. 

The bottom line is this: The US shale industry resembles a fraudulent Ponzi scheme much more so than it does any kind of “miracle”.

How do I know that?  Because, collectively, US shale companies have lost cash in every year of their existence.  The burned through cash when oil was $100 — and again when it was $90, $80, $70, $60, $50, $40, and $30 a barrel.  They burned through cash in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

You don’t have to be a finance guru to appreciate or understand that any industry that persistently burns through cash is a bad deal.  Especially one whose prime product – shale wells – principally deplete (-85{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}) in roughly three years.  If you’ve been in business for 9 years drilling wells that mostly run out in 3 years, and you haven’t managed to produce positive cash flow at any point along the way, then it’s time to admit that your business model simply doesn’t work.

As even The Economist magazine recently noted:

The [US shale] industry has also lifted productivity. Drilling is faster, more selective and more accurate, and leakage rates are lower. Wells are being designed to penetrate multiple layers of oil that are stacked on top of each other.

But the fact that the industry makes huge accounting losses has not changed. It has burned up cash whether the oil price was at $100, as in 2014, or at about $50, as it was during the past three months.

The biggest 60 firms in aggregate have used up $9bn per quarter on average for the past five years.

As a result the industry has barely improved its finances despite raising $70bn of equity since 2014. Much of the new money got swallowed up by losses, so total debt remains high, at just over $200bn.

(Source)

Let’s run that math. Five years is 20 quarters. That times $9 billion/quarter is $180 billion dollars in cumulative operating losses. This begins to give us a sense of the magnitude of losses investors will face when the music finally stops.

Or we could note the $200 billion of total debt outstanding for the industry.  Hmmmm…with WTIC oil at $47/barrel, a typical wellhead price (that the operators actually receive being less than WTIC, always) might be closer to $40.  $200 billion divided by $40 means that 5 billion barrels of future wellhead production is required just to pay back the debt! 

If the industry decided to use the next 5 billion barrels coming out of the ground to debt reduction (it never would decide this, but bear with me for the sake of this intellectual exercise), we’d also need to include the time value of money (and actual production rates over time) and observe that the debt carries an interest rate of 5{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} to 8{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} (depending on the company). Taking that into consideration, then the next 6 billion barrels would be required to satisfy the debt, plus interest payments! 

Oh, right. And then there’s the issue of repaying the $70 billion of equity raised since 2014. With some sort of return, if possible, of course.

I hope you see the same staggering disconnect in these numbers I do. Which is why, without have to go too far out on a limb, I’ll state that massive losses are coming to the (bag)holders of all this debt and equity.

So why care? Because you need to understand these details in order to position yourself properly for the future. The implications are enormous.

The Danger Behind Myths and Fantasies

Once you become aware of the magical thinking involved, you then have a chance of knowing why the future is going to be very difficult for the shale industry, its investors, and then the nation(s) depending on its oil production.

Hey, sometimes myths and fantasies are harmless to hold. Like dreaming that someday you’ll be a major rock star.

But some can be incredibly damaging because they lead to poor life choices and decision-making. Like emptying your bank account to bet on the Powerball lottery, where your chances of winning are 292,201,338 to one. Or committing your nation to a ground war in Asia thinking you can “win”. 

The promise of US shale oil is a very dangerous siren song. It was so carefully marketed to gullible investors that even Obama’s speechwriter and fact checkers got swept along.  This is from Obama’s State of the Union speech from 2014:

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy.  The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

(Source)

What does “energy independence” mean?  It turns out, this crowd-pleasing phrase is a fantasy that lacks any useful grounding in reality.  What  those who claim “energy independence” are doing are lumping all forms and sources of energy into a single bucket, and then asking if the size of that bucket matches our current demand.

This is an inappropriate and dangerously misguided way to look at things is because the various types and sources of energy are not interchangeable.  They don’t function the same way. They generally can’t be substituted for each other. And they don’t cost the same.

For example, your automobile might run on gasoline which costs $2.50 a gallon.  Suppose instead you could buy coal cheaper than gasoline on a BTU basis; is that any help to you as an auto driver?  Would you suddenly put crushed coal into your gas tank instead of gasoline? No, of course not.

What if you had a micro hydro plant operating in your backyard and could extract a more Kilowatt hours of electricity from it each week than you needed. Would that make you “energy independent?”

Not if you drive a car that requires gasoline. Or cook on a gas-powered stove. Or heat your house with an oil-burning furnace.

The same is true for the US (or any country). A country is not “energy independent” unless it can meet all of its national energy demands with enough BTUs in each of the needed fuel types. Just looking at oil alone, the US still imports millions of barrels per day — even with the “shale miracle”. I’ll get into this more deeply in just a moment.

Read More @ PeakProsperity.com

Brave Congressman Explains How US Keeps Afghan Heroin Trade Alive at Your Expense

by Matt Agorist, Mint Press News:

This week, President Donald Trump, just like his predecessor Obama, promised to continue the utterly corrupt failure of a brutal occupation that is Afghanistan—despite running on a campaign to end it. For decades, the United States has been subsidizing—to the tune of billions of US tax dollars—failed projects, infrastructure, military, police, and yes, even terrorism. Yet Afghanistan is worse off today than they were before the government lied to Americans, claiming they were responsible for 9/11 instead of Saudi Arabia.

 MARJAH, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Corporal Mark Hickok, a 23-year-old combat engineer from North Olmstead, Ohio, patrols through a field during a clearing mission April 9. Marines with Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, learned basic route clearance techniques from engineers like Hickok, who are deployed with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John M. McCall)
MARJAH, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Corporal Mark Hickok, a 23-year-old combat engineer from North Olmstead, Ohio, patrols through a field during a clearing mission April 9. Marines with Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, learned basic route clearance techniques from engineers like Hickok, who are deployed with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John M. McCall)

This week, President Donald Trump, just like his predecessor Obama, promised to continue the utterly corrupt failure of a brutal occupation that is Afghanistan—despite running on a campaign to end it. For decades, the United States has been subsidizing—to the tune of billions of US tax dollars—failed projects, infrastructure, military, police, and yes, even terrorism. Yet Afghanistan is worse off today than they were before the government lied to Americans, claiming they were responsible for 9/11 instead of Saudi Arabia.

In a recent speech on the state of the Afghanistan quagmire, Congressman Thomas Massie (R) KY, exposed some hard truths that very few people in Washington are courageous enough to address. While most politicians cheered Trump’s insane decision to increase US presence in Afghanistan this week, Massie Blew the lid off of it.

For years, Massie has pointed out that the US has blown billions of dollars on failed projects alone. As of last year, the number of failed projects totaled over 100 billion.

To put this number in perspective, the entire amount of money the United States allocates to spend on rebuilding America’s crumbling highways every year is less than half of what it’s blown on failed projects alone in Afghanistan.

Massie noted that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on a hydroelectric damn that the US thought the Taliban would destroy. However, they did not destroy it. Want to know why, Massie asked, “The get the electricity! We’re paying the light bill for the Taliban now. They get 30 percent of the electricity in exchange for not blowing it up, or shooting the operators who are running the damn.”

Read the rest of this article @ MintPressNews.com

James O’Keefe What Drives Him To Speak Truth & His New Book “Breakthrough”

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from veritasvisuals:

At FreedomFest on July 20, 2017, C-SPAN interviewed James O’Keefe about his 2014 book entitled “Breakthrough: Our Guerilla War to Expose Fraud and Save Democracy.”