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TBR News July 24, 2018

Jul 24 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. July 24, 2018:”In 2003, a computer expert, a specialist in writing codes, invented a deadly virus. If this virus, which is disguised as a normal computer function and is not detectable, it triggered, it will obliterate everything on the hard drive of the host. Backup files, if reinstalled on an affected computer, will also collapse. The trigger words, if made public, are disguised as a normal-appearing message and once they are picked up by any computer system, have a period of time before they activate the virus. This could be ten days, fifteen hours, three minutes and twelve seconds. When this point are reached, the targeted computer becomes as dead as a door-nail and worthless. Since this virus has been spreading since 2003, by the present time, the number of infected devices are legion and when, not if, the collapse comes, the results will be world-wide and economically devastating. We do live in interesting times.”

 

 

The Table of Contents

  • Striking at critics, Trump threatens former officials’ security clearances
  • Could Iran really close the Strait of Hormuz?
  • Is Putin’s Russia an ‘Evil Empire’?
  • 21st Century Witchcraft: The Real Election Meddlers
  • Most Germans support Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying US vitriol just desire to sell own gas
  • U.S. judge allows lawsuit over end of immigrant protections to proceed
  • The Flight 93 Doctrine
  • How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse
  • What is the current poverty rate in the United States?

 

 

Striking at critics, Trump threatens former officials’ security clearances

July 23, 2018

by Steve Holland and Jonathan Landay

Reuters

WASHINGTON  – The White House on Monday threatened to strip six former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, including Obama-era CIA director John Brennan, of their security clearances as President Donald Trump considers striking back at critics of his summit meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The threat against Brennan and former senior U.S. officials James Comey, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Susan Rice and Andrew McCabe represented an extraordinary politicization of the U.S. government’s security clearance process.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump is “exploring the mechanisms” to remove the security clearances. Sanders said the officials have “politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances, making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia.”

After Trump gave credence following his summit in Helsinki to Putin’s denials about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election despite findings by the American intelligence community, Brennan called Trump’s remarks “nothing short of treasonous.” In his July 16 Twitter post, Brennan added, “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”

Trump fired Comey as FBI director last year and he has become a prominent critic, calling Trump “morally unfit to be president.” Clapper, who stepped down as director of national intelligence before Trump took office last year, has accused the president of placing American democratic institutions “under assault.”

Hayden is a former director of the CIA and National Security Agency. Rice was former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. McCabe, who as the former No. 2 FBI official was involved in the agency’s investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election, was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March.

Many former U.S. officials retain their security clearances after they leave government service because they continue to advise their former agencies or because it is a condition of employment as government contractors or consultants. Stripping the clearances also represents a public rebuke of the officials and severs a connection with the intelligence community.

Sanders made reference to Brennan’s treason comment in explaining Trump’s threat toward the security clearances.

“Accusing the president of the United States of treasonous activity when you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the president of the United States, he (the president) thinks that is something to be very concerned with,” Sanders said.

Asked if Trump was punishing the former officials because of their criticism, Sanders said, “No, I think you are creating your own story there.”

Trump came under a torrent of criticism after Helsinki, including from many lawmakers in his own Republican party. One of the few who publicly sided with him last week, Senator Rand Paul, said he met with Trump on Monday and asked him to revoke Brennan’s security clearance.

‘A TERRIBLE PRECEDENT’

Clapper called the possibility of stripping the security clearances “just a very, very petty thing to do.”

“There is a formal process for doing this, but you know I guess legally the president has that prerogative,” Clapper said on CNN. “He can suspend or revoke clearances as he sees fit, and if he chooses to do it for political reasons, well I think that’s a terrible precedent. And it’s a very sad commentary. And it’s an abuse of the system.”

Hayden, a retired four-star Air Force general, said he was unbowed.

“I don’t go back for classified briefings,” he wrote on Twitter. “Won’t have any effect on what I say or write.”

A spokeswoman for McCabe, Melissa Schwartz, wrote on Twitter that his security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to what they were told was FBI policy.

“You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps,” Schwartz said.

Both the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies, said they had no comment on the White House threat.

Critics blasted the White House, with Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono writing on Twitter, “This is what totalitarianism looks like.”

Some Democrats criticized the proposal as a deflection tactic to change the conversation around what Trump may have agreed with Putin in their two-hour, one-on-one meeting.

“This is absolute nonsense, and we shouldn’t fall for it,” said Rachel Cohen, spokeswoman for Senator Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “In this country, we don’t punish people for exercising their First Amendment rights,” referring to the constitutional provision protecting free speech.

Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Eric Beech and Warren Strobel; Writing by Lisa Lambert and Mary Milliken; Editing by Will Dunham

 

Could Iran really close the Strait of Hormuz?

Iran’s president has warned the US that he could close the Strait of Hormuz after Washington threatened to halt Iranian oil exports. But could Tehran really block the most critical choke point for global oil trade?

July 23, 2018

by Michael Da Silva

DW

Donald Trump’s latest threat — to halt Iranian oil exports — has been met with defiance by Tehran.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, threatened to order the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping waterway in the Arabian Gulf, in a move that would cause substantial disruption to oil shipments, and cause a massive spike in the price of oil.

Washington initially planned to shut Iran out of global oil markets after Trump abandoned the 2015 deal that limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and demanded all other countries stop buying Iranian crude by November.

But on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line, under which he warned of additional financial penalties against Tehran. But in equal measure, the US said would it lift the new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts.

In his speech, Pompeo sought international support for an economic “pressure campaign” on Tehran, but so far the only reaction has been an angry one from Iran.

“America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” Rouhani said at the weekend.

A third of sea-traded oil passes through

The Strait of Hormuz flows between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, providing the only sea passage for crude oil from the many of the world’s largest oil producers — including Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq and the UAE — to the Indian Ocean.

Just 19 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its narrowest point, the shipping lane is only 3 kilometers wide in either direction.

With OPEC’s top five exporters inside the Arab Gulf, the volume of oil crossing the Strait has been constantly increasing each year, underlining its status as the most important maritime trade routes for black gold.

About a third of the world’s sea-borne petroleum passes through the Strait. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2016, some 18.5 million barrels of crude oil was sent through the waterway, a 9-percent increase on the previous year

The Strait is also the route for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) from lead exporter Qatar.

As long as the global economy remains so critically reliant on the supply of oil, even a partial or short-term closure would likely see a dramatic increase in oil prices and spread fear and contagion throughout the global financial markets.

Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and the UAE would see their oil shipments halted, while Saudi Arabia would be forced to export through its Red Sea ports.

Could the Strait be closed?

The United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in December 1982, defines “Territorial waters” to a maximum of 12 nautical miles beyond each country’s coastline.

With incoming vessels forced to use the North and East routes to gain access to the Persian Gulf, they would be passing through Iranian waters, meaning the country could in theory make a case for restricting the traffic that enters.

However, Iran and the US might interpret the UN convention differently and, crucially, while Iran’s government signed the 1982 agreement, their parliament never actually approved it.

In addition to these complications, by closing the waterway, Iran would not only be harming its export neighbors and the nations that import oil from the Gulf region: It would also cause considerable economic self-harm as the nation is also highly dependent on the Right of Free Passage through the Strait.

And while Iran’s warning has unnerved some politicians, the Strait has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades, and this is not first time that Tehran has made such threats.

 

 

Is Putin’s Russia an ‘Evil Empire’?

July 24, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce,” a saying attributed to Karl Marx, comes to mind in this time of Trump.

To those of us raised in the Truman era, when the Red Army was imposing its bloody Bolshevik rule on half of Europe, and NATO was needed to keep Stalin’s armies from the Channel, the threat seemed infinitely more serious. And so it was.

There were real traitors in that time.

Alger Hiss, a top State Department aide, at FDR’s side at Yalta, was exposed as a Stalinist spy by Congressman Richard Nixon. Harry Dexter White, No. 2 at Treasury, Laurence Duggan at State, and White House aide Lauchlin Currie were all exposed as spies. Then there was the Rosenberg spy ring that gave Stalin the secrets of the atom bomb.

Who do we have today to match Hiss and the Rosenbergs? A 29-year-old redheaded Russian Annie Oakley named Maria Butina, accused of infiltrating the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast.

Is Putin’s Russia really a reincarnation of Stalin’s Soviet Union? Is Russia today a threat of similar magnitude?

Russia is “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” thundered Mitt Romney in 2012, now cited as a sage by liberals who used to castigate Republicans for any skepticism of detente during the Cold War.

Perhaps it is time to contrast the USSR of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev with the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

By the beginning of Reagan’s tenure in 1981, 400,000 Red Army troops were in Central Europe, occupying the eastern bank of the Elbe.

West Berlin was surrounded by Russian troops. East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria were all ruled by Moscow’s puppets. All belonged to a Warsaw Pact created to fight NATO. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine were inside the USSR.

By the end of the Jimmy Carter era, Moscow had driven into Ethiopia, Mozambique and Angola in Africa, Cuba in the Caribbean, and Nicaragua in Central America, in the greatest challenge ever to the Monroe Doctrine.

The Soviets had invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The Soviet navy, built up over 25 years by Adm. Sergey Gorshkov, was a global rival of a U.S. Navy that had sunk to 300 ships.

And today? The Soviet Empire is history. The Soviet Union is history, having splintered into 15 nations. Russia is smaller than it was in the 19th century. Russia is gone from Cuba, Grenada, Central America, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique.

The Warsaw Pact is history. The Red Army is gone from Eastern Europe. The former Warsaw Pact nations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria all belong to NATO, as do the former Soviet “republics” of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.

When the flagship of Russia’s navy, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, sailed from Murmansk to Syria, it had to pass through the North Sea, the Channel, the east Atlantic, the Straits of Gibraltar, and then sail the length of the Med to anchor off Latakia.

Coming and going, the Kuznetsov was within range of anti-ship missiles, aircraft, submarines and surface ships of 20 NATO nations, among them Norway, Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, and many U.S. bases and warships.

Entering the Med, the Kuznetsov had to travel, without a naval base to refuel, within range of the missiles, planes and ships of Spain, France, Italy and Greece. Along the banks of the Adriatic and Aegean there are only NATO nations, except for Kosovo, which is home to the largest U.S. base in the Balkans, Camp Bondsteel.

To sail from St. Petersburg through the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic, Russian warships must pass within range of 11 NATO nations — the three Baltic republics, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Britain and France.

The Black Sea’s western and southern shores are now controlled entirely by NATO: Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey. Russia’s lone land passage to its naval base in Crimea is a narrow bridge from the Kerch Peninsula.

With the breakup of the USSR, Russia has been reduced to two-thirds of the territory and half the population of the Soviet Union.

Its former republics and now neighbors Georgia and Ukraine are hostile. Its space launches are now done from a foreign land, Kazakhstan. Its economy has shrunk to the size of Italy’s.

It has one-tenth the population and one-fifth the economy of its looming neighbor, China, and, except for territory, is even more dwarfed by the United States with a GDP of $20 trillion, and troops, bases and allies all over the world.

Most critically, Russia’s regime is no longer Communist. The ideology that drove its imperialism is dead. There are parties, demonstrations and dissidents in Russia, and an Orthodox faith that is alive and promoted by Putin.

Where, today, is there a vital U.S. interest imperiled by Putin?

Better to jaw-jaw, than war-war, said Churchill. He was right, as is President Trump to keep talking to Putin — right through the Russophobia rampant in this city.

 

21st Century Witchcraft: The Real Election Meddlers

July 24, 2018

by David Stockman

AntiWar

The most chilling thing about the just released Carter Page FISA application is right at the top. It essentially says that if you talk to any foreign government not approved by Washington about any civilian topic such as energy policy, you can be accused of being a foreign agent, wiretapped and charged with a crime:

……The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a U.S. person, and an agent of a foreign power, described in detail below.”

Well, that which is described in the document is all about Page’s doings in international energy policy meetings and forums, which is not surprising because that was his academic and business field of endeavor. But in no way, shape or form is it about the theft or compromise of military secrets, which is the only possible justification for governments to spy on their own citizens.

So let’s cut to the chase. Since Carter Page self-evidently had nothing to do with military secrets, officials of the Obama Administration had no excuse whatsoever for wiretapping him – even if he had been a paid energy advisor on Vlad Putin’s personal payroll.

By wantonly infringing upon his constitutional right to free speech at home and abroad, therefore, Obama officials committed the gravest possible assault on American democracy: They misused the vast machinery of national security to meddle in a presidential election for partisan advantage – an heinous action which cuts right to the quick of democracy’s survival in America.

Indeed, the FSA application – slathered in blackout ink as it is – proves that the real meddlers in the 2016 election are the names listed below who signed the originally approved application. That is, the very top tier of Obama’s national security team including John Brennan, Susan Rice, James Clapper and the secretaries of Defense and State.

That’s because the case against Carter Page is so bogus and thin that their only purpose for the wiretap was to set up a listening post in the Trump campaign. The aim of the latter, of course, was to spy on other higher-up advisors and possibly even Trump himself – and for the ultimate purpose of disrupting his campaign and defeating his candidacy.

If that smacks of a preventative Deep State coup – it was. After all, spying on the campaign of the nominee for President of one of the two major political parties could be justified only by the very gravest evidence that the candidate was a secret agent of an avowed and dangerous enemy of America.

Neither pertained in this case. When the first FISA application on Carter Page was submitted in July of 2016 (and rejected by the court) the Intelligence Community (IC) had nothing on Trump except the unverified and ridiculously salacious initial reports of the so-called Steele Dossier.

Likewise, by any reasonable reading of the evidence Russia was an uncooperative adversary of US foreign policy. But it was not a mortal enemy or existential threat to the homeland by any stretch of the imagination – and therefore one that would justify extraordinary intervention in the election process by the national security machinery of the state.

Instead, what Brennan & Co. actually objected to was a twofold complaint that is simply outrageous as justification for launching what amounts to a fishing expedition in the Trump campaign through a tap on Carter Page’s phone.

First, and most outrageously, they found Donald Trump so personally distasteful that they took it upon themselves to assault the very essence of America’s constitutional democracy via an “insurance policy”. That is to say, as the Peter Strzok/Lisa Page text messages make abundantly clear, the real reason for the FISA warrant was to generate dirt and calumny to stop, if need be, even the remote possibility that Trump might be chosen by the electorate.

Beyond that, Trump was openly advocating an abandonment of Obama’s rapidly escalating Russian confrontation policy in favor of an attempt at rapprochement with Putin based on the Donald’s brimming confidence in his own prowess at the Art of the Deal.

But so what?

By whatever manner Trump might have come to his conclusions about Russia policy, it was a valid alternative to be decided by the electorate – not a mortal threat to national security that warranted a surreptitious attack on his candidacy by the Deep State.

At bottom, the motivation for using Trump’s completely justifiable openness to a Russia policy of rapprochement rather than confrontation as the basis this unprecedented Intelligence Community (IC) assault on the nation’s constitution and election machinery was truly frightful. To wit, the Obama national security apparatchiks were nearly rabid with petty spite against a foreign leader who had countermanded their efforts at regime change in Syria and NATO expansion in eastern Europe.

As we described at length in Part 2, Washington had turned on Putin with malice aforethought after he adroitly and constructively defused the Syrian chemical weapons canard in 2013 and justifiably came to the defense of Russian speaking populations in Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 after the US fostered coup by anti-Russian nationalists and crypto-fascists in Kiev.

Yet for these alleged transgressions against the writ of the Empire, Putin has been virtually turned into the Devil Incarnate by official Washington; and any American who has come within a country-mile of his allegedly sulfurous vapors is now apparently fair game to be accused of being his sinister agent.

If that is not the equivalent of 21st century witchcraft, we do not know what is.

And if the banshees of the MSM and Dem apparatus screeching about Trump’s “treasonous” behavior in Helsinki are not the equivalent of the nine- and twelve-year-old girls of Salem Massachusetts who brought 19 alleged “witches” to the gallows for being agents of the Devil, we are hard-pressed to think of another explanation for today’s sheer hysteria in the Imperial City.

After all, any one in possession of even a modicum of adult reasoning should be able to see that there are two sides to the Syria and Crimea story. Accordingly, Washington’s retaliation policy for both alleged offenses – slapping “sanctions” on certain Russian officials and businessmen – was not an utterly necessary measure of national self-defense against an existential threat.

To the contrary, the Russian sanctions were recently minted and thoroughly debatable and reversible policies of a President whose term was expiring. They had nothing to do with protecting military secrets, the vital security of the homeland or even sacred national commitments written in stone owing to their embrace by generations of officials who had gone before.

Accordingly, any candidate for president had the right to loudly denounce Obama’s sanctions policy for the whole world to hear; and to promise to change or eliminate them in a manner consistent with a less confrontational view of America’s national interests.

For crying out loud, the essence of constitutional democracy and free elections is that candidates for public office are free to criticize any and all government policies; it’s the very reason we have elections – for candidates to proffer choices and for the voters to choose among them.

Yet to hear the MSM and Dem narrative your think that Obama’s idiotic sanctions were chiseled in the Constitution itself or at least Mt. Rushmore; and that any one who dared question their appropriateness and validity was at least a “useful idiot” doing Putin’s work unwittingly – or an actual agent collaborating with the Kremlin’s nefarious schemes to disrupt American democracy.

We cannot make the last point strongly enough. What the Carter Page FISA application really proves is that candidate Trump’s broadly-based policy dissent against Obama’s post-2013 confrontationist policies on Russia was a prima facie reason for suspicion that his campaign was collaborating with the Kremlin.

Otherwise, why would you wiretap a low level volunteer flunky in the campaign who by his own admission had never spoken with Donald Trump outside of the one meeting of Trump’s foreign policy advisory committee?

In fact, that occurred in late March 2016 and was held for the purpose of damage control after the Donald had averred that he got his foreign policy advice mainly by watching TV!

As it happened, however, virtually the entire GOP foreign policy establishment was then in the Never Trump Camp – so Trump headquarters virtually polled the phone book to get some names on a list that could be paraded before the press.

That’s how no-counts like 29-year old George Papadopoulos (indicted for allegedly lying to the FBI about the date of an irrelevant meeting) and Carter Page got on the foreign policy advisory committee – a phony campaign operation that held a single meeting, which was essentially a photo op.

And that’s why Page has been able to keep repeating – without being indicted for perjury – what he said on an ABC interview awhile back:

“I never spoke with him (Trump) any time in my life,” Page said on Good morning America this morning. Stephanopoulos followed up, asking, “no e-mail, no text, nothing like that?”

Page replied: “never.”

Surely that’s also the reason why his appointment to the advisory committee back in March 2016 elicited a “who-he?” harrumph from the MSM:

Carter Page was one of the five members of then-candidate Donald Trump’s foreign policy advisory team that he named to The Washington Post editorial board on March 21, 2016. The announcement initially drew attention because Page, who owns (and is the sole employee of) the energy consulting firm Global Energy Capital, was a relative unknown….

Well, of course he was an unknown no count. That’s all Trump’s seat of the pants campaign could recruit for the photo op on short notice.

Nevertheless, the facts of Carter Page’s Russia connection are straight forward and completely innocent. Moreover, a national security investigation worthy of the name could have determined that in a day or two by simply reading the newspaper and consulting the FBI closed case on the unwitting and harmless contacts he had had with Russian government personal during the 2012-2015 period.

As FBI Special Agent Gregory Monaghan noted in an originally sealed complaint against several alleged Russian spies, Page had been the target of a recruitment effort around 2013, but never took the bait and was even ridiculed by his would be handlers as not one of the sharpest tools in the shed.

In the complaint, Monaghan attested to how Page was the target of efforts by Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) agents Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy to recruit sources in New York City. According to the documents, Page and Podobnyy first met at an energy symposium in New York in January 2013. At this conference, Podobnyy gave his contact information to Page, who subsequently followed up with the Russian both by email and in-person to talk about energy policy. Page transferred unspecified “documents” to Podobnyy “about the energy business,” but Monaghan did not recommend that any charges be levied against Page. In fact, the section of the document discussing Page never characterizes him as a conscious spy or security risk, instead framing him as a victim of Sporyshev and Podobnyy, who expressly denied that Page knew about their status as intelligence agents.

Agent Monaghan followed this up by also detailing how Page cooperated with FBI officials in telling them about his contact with Podobnyy during their subsequent interview with him:

On or about June 13, 2013, Agent-2 and I interviewed Male-1 (Carter Page). Male-1 stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, PODOBNYY gave Male-1 PODOBNYY’s business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-1’s outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business.

Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-1’s outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business.

That’s it folks. There was nothing more to Carter Page’s alleged clandestine Russia connections than this brief encounter with some sketchy Russian operatives, and on that brief incident the FBI itself gave him a clean bill of health.

Yet the rabid anti-Trumpites in the fifth estate insist on absolute silliness like the following as proof that Page was a tool of the Russkies. Yet any one with a modicum of common sense can see that Page was merely pitching his credentials as an international energy export of standing:

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

The context for this boast of sorts is straightforward. Carter Page had been a stock analyst in the Merrill Lynch Moscow office between 2002 and 2007, and thereafter set out to peddle himself as an international energy expert and the proprietor of a two-bit international energy advisory firm (of which he was the only employee).

In that capacity he bounced around various international energy conferences in New York, London and St. Petersburg and undoubtedly attempted to burnish his credentials by touting his contracts in Moscow.

Even then, his invitation to speak at a Moscow conference in July 2016 resulted in nothing more than a follow-on effort by CIA operative Stefan Halper to entrap him. All the rest of the material in the FISA application is false, and was cycled from the Steele Dossier in three different ways.

That is, it is cited directly in the application as fact and also through the Harry Reid letter to the FBI of September 2016 and the Michael Isikoff story in Yahoo News – both of which came via leaks from the Steele Dossier.

The fact is, the Washington swamp is crawling with operatives who live in the lap of luxury advising foreign government about how to influence US policy. By some estimates that involves upwards of 20,000 high paid agents of Washington law firms, consultancies and other racketeering organizations which generate billings of billions per year.

And some of the governments they advise – often being paid with money these government get from Uncle Sam – make ol’ Vlad Putin look like a saint.

For instance, General Sisi in Egypt has executed more than 1,000 political enemies and imprisoned tens of thousands more from the $1.5 billion per year he gets form Washington. Even the most rapid anti-Russkie neocons have never accused Putin of doing anything close to that.

At the end of the day, Carter Page was really nothing more than a small time Swamp Creature plying his trade in the international energy policy arena. Self-evidently, he had nothing to do with either stealing military secrets or advising candidate Trump on Russia policy.

Instead, the hapless Carter Page was simply the human bait that Obama’s operatives dangled before a FISA court in order to wiretap the Trump campaign and attempt to nullify an unwanted outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.

When it comes to a real threat to American democracy, it doesn’t come any bigger than that.

David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.

 

Most Germans support Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying US vitriol just desire to sell own gas

July 23, 2018

RT

The majority of Germans support Nord Stream 2, a poll revealed Monday. It also showed that most dismissed Donald Trump’s negative comments on the pipeline as a tactic to promote US liquefied gas in Europe.

Two thirds of respondents support the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline because it would help provide Germany with a more reliable supply of natural gas, according to the the Forsa poll, which surveyed 1,004 Germans. Nord Stream 2 is a project to expand the existing Nord Stream main gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

During the recent NATO summit Donald Trump called Nord Stream 2 a mistake saying that Germany buying Russian gas made it its ‘captive’. But just under 84 percent of respondents to Monday’s poll brushed off Trump’s comments, labelling his statement “completely absurd”.

The poll showed 92 percent were even more cynical, saying that they suspected that Trump’s motive for making the comments was primarily to promote the sale of US liquefied gas in Europe and Germany.

The poll also indicated that over half of Germans think that Europe can defend itself without US military support, with only 37 percent of respondents saying they believed Europe depended on US military help. The Forsa poll results come less than two weeks after US president Donald Trump threatened to pull support over defence spending.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is planned to pass through the exclusive economic zones and territorial waters of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany and is scheduled for completion at the end of 2019. According to Washington, the pipeline violates the energy security of the EU and undermines the interests of Ukraine.

In an attempt to dissuade NATO allies from participating in the pipeline project, the US has previously threatened to impose sanctions on those European energy companies involved.

Russia has defended the pipeline, saying that Moscow is a guarantor of Europe’s energy security. Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that President Trump’s criticism of Nord Stream-2 is an egregious example of unscrupulous competition and it worries Moscow.

 

U.S. judge allows lawsuit over end of immigrant protections to proceed

July 23, 2018

by Nate Raymond

Reuters

BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal judge in Boston on Monday rejected a bid by the Trump administration to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that its decisions to end temporary protections for immigrants in the United States from Honduras, Haiti and El Salvador were racially motivated.

U.S. District Judge Denise Casper in Boston ruled that a group of immigrants and two non-profit organizations could move forward with a lawsuit challenging the administration’s termination of the protective status enjoyed by thousands of people from those three countries.

The lawsuit had cited statements it said showed President Donald Trump’s “dislike and disregard for Latino and black immigrants,” most recently in reported remarks in January by Trump saying immigrants from Africa and Haiti come from “shithole countries.”

The U.S. Justice Department, which represented the administration in court, had no immediate comment.

Temporary protected status, or TPS, offers protection from deportation to immigrants already in the United States, including those who entered illegally, from countries affected by natural disasters, civil conflicts and other problems

The Trump administration, under U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, has moved to revoke this special status and to expel tens of thousands of protected immigrants.

The actions came amid a crackdown on legal and illegal immigration by the government under Trump, who has promised to strengthen the nation’s borders and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Sandra Maler and Lisa Shumaker

 

The Flight 93 Doctrine

Donald Trump’s Kamikaze Attack on Globalism

July 23, 2018

by John Feffer

TomDispatch

As presidencies approach their midpoints, pundits begin the inevitable search for that elusive creature: the doctrine. It’s often a quixotic quest, since presidents rarely boil down their foreign-policy visions — if they even have them — to some pithy essence. Then there’s Donald Trump.

Conjuring up the current president’s foreign-policy doctrine is like arguing that the Teletubbies have a theology. After all, this president approaches global affairs the way a teenager with attention-deficit disorder might tackle War and Peace. To call Trump scattershot in his approach would be generous. He doesn’t even have sufficient command of the relevant vocabulary to formulate a doctrine. His linguistic universe, with its “covfefe,” big-league malapropisms, and contradictory pronouncements, often seems to come straight out of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky.”

Yet punditry abhors a vacuum, so the search for some sort of policy coherence never ends. Many observers have suggested that the Trump doctrine, stripped to its musculature, is simply a reassertion of American power in the crudest form. In The Atlantic, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg canvassed Trump administration officials for their take on the president’s doctrine and concluded that the most succinct formulation for it was: “We’re America, bitch.” Another possibility: forget the doctrine; Trump is merely asserting his own authority in an increasingly empowered executive branch to do whatever comes into his head. In other words, we’re not talking unilateralism but unileaderism.

A third possibility: that Trump is defining himself and his policies entirely in opposition to his predecessor. The Obama Doctrine, according to administration insiders, boiled down to don’t do stupid shit. In his eagerness to reverse everything his predecessor ever did, Trump seems to have turned his doctrine inside out as well. His recent trip to Europe, with its falsehoods and gratuitous insults, not to speak of the near sundering of transatlantic relations, suggests that the administration continues to come up with new and creative ways of doing stupid shit on a daily basis.

There’s truth in all of this, but something’s still missing.

Although Trump’s approach to global affairs seems to have no particular rhyme or reason, it does have a certain rhythm. It has an insistent, urgent beat, something like the notorious two-note theme of the movie Jaws. The president not only wants you to believe that the world is a dangerous place, but that those dangers are approaching at a terrifying pace. Only Trump, he would have you believe, can save you from those sharp teeth inches from your throat.

Let’s call this approach Trump’s Flight 93 doctrine, after an infamous article, “The Flight 93 Election,” published in September 2016 in the far-right Claremont Review. According to its pseudonymous author, later revealed to be former George W. Bush administration staffer Michael Anton, liberals like Hillary Clinton were piloting America into catastrophe, aided, electorally, by “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty.” Only Donald Trump and his conservative backers — like the heroes who charged the cockpit of hijacked United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 — could avert such a tragedy. “A Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian roulette with a semi-auto,” Anton wrote. “With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”

The analogy is, unfortunately, all too apt. Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard. It was heroism, yes, but at a very steep price. And playing Russian roulette with any kind of weapon rarely ends well.

No surprise, then, that, as the president spins the cylinder of the gun pressed to all our heads, the Trump Doctrine of non-stop risk-taking has turned out to be the most self-defeating approach ever adopted by a modern American president. In fact, it may turn out to be the last doctrine that the White House ever has the luxury to formulate.

The Uses of Doctrine

Doctrines are inherently conservative. Among the many ways the U.S. could deploy its forces and resources overseas, they spell out the one that is best believed to preserve the status quo of American power and at the same time advance a select number of national interests.

Before the first identifiable presidential doctrine — the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 — George Washington warned of forming anything but impermanent alliances with foreign powers. In his farewell address as president, he lauded the “detached and distant situation” that the United States found itself in and cautioned that “foreign influence” could wreak havoc upon the republic. His successor, Thomas Jefferson, spoke similarly against the dangers of “entangling alliances.”

Those warnings, though falling short of doctrinal, were influential in the early republic. In 1821, four years before he became president, John Quincy Adams famously spoke of the dangers of Americans heading overseas “in search of monsters.” The country’s glory, he insisted, “is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace.”

Stirring words, but it was not to be. A mere two years later, President James Monroe made the first effort to link U.S. national interests to a project outside its borders. Latin America, Monroe said in 1823, was effectively part of a U.S. sphere of influence. It was still a far cry from the kinds of imperial intervention that would come in the era of Theodore Roosevelt, more than 80 years later. Monroe, however, did cast aside the warnings of his predecessors and begin a flirtation with a new kind of imperial dominion.

In the twentieth century, such presidential doctrines evolved far beyond simply protecting spheres of influence. They came instead to justify U.S. military intervention on a global scale, while attempting to discriminate between areas worth the risk of war and those beneath U.S. concern. The Truman Doctrine rationalized U.S. efforts to contain the spread of Communism, while spreading the U.S. military and the CIA far and wide. In the midst of the disastrous Vietnam War, the Nixon Doctrine tried to pass on much of global enforcement there and elsewhere to subservient allies. The Carter Doctrine articulated the priority of protecting U.S. access to oil resources in the Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf. The Reagan Doctrine put forward a particularly aggressive policy of actually rolling back Communism — and recovering from a disastrous defeat in Vietnam — while George W. Bush applied Reagan’s framework to a new enterprise, the Global War on Terror.

All of these doctrines were designed to preserve and expand Washington’s preeminent imperial power and authority in the world, while justifying to an American public the increasingly enormous sums ploughed into the military budget. They also signaled to allies what to expect from the United States in terms of its big-picture allocation of resources and attention.

Barack Obama, with his preference for addressing issues on a case-by-case basis, recoiled from any attempt to develop a doctrine. If anything, he wanted to repudiate the doctrinal mistakes of the recent past: America’s fixation on the Middle East, on a borderless global war on terror, and on self-defeating attempts to isolate Cuba and Iran. There was no single theme that brought together all of Obama’s initiatives, though he did put a lot of chips into a so-called Pacific pivot, a shift in military and diplomatic focus from the Middle East to Asia (which never quite came about).

In the end, Obama remained imprisoned in the failed initiatives of the past, including an unending war in Afghanistan and Bush’s Global War on Terror, even as he tried to address new and amorphous threats like climate change. Still, he showed a sincere belief in diplomacy and the synergy of countries working together to solve global problems.

Not so his successor.

Trump Rushes the Cockpit

For the Pentagon, a notoriously risk-averse institution, doctrines are a kind of security blanket. They reassure the generals that civilian leaders will not send U.S. soldiers into harm’s way everywhere at once. Even during the Bush era, with global counterterrorism the primary focus of the moment, the military felt reasonably certain that the administration wouldn’t also pick fights with Russia and China or send troops into Latin America.

Donald Trump doesn’t look at the world that way. He seems to have no ability to prioritize among various real and imagined threats to U.S. national interests because he doesn’t think in any structured way about the nature of such problems. He seems to believe that the country has been, or will soon be, hijacked and so he spots potential hijackers everywhere. Because of the urgency of the situation, he’s always in red-alert mode.

For Trump, immigrants are a clear-and-present danger and so he has repeatedly pushed for extreme measures to keep them out of the United States: a wall, a travel ban, a zero-tolerance family-separation policy. For Republican Party supporters of the president, immigration may well represent an electoral challenge, the means by which the Democratic Party can eventually secure a lock on the presidency. But for Trump, the threat transcends the political. It’s a matter of blood and soil, the touchstones of extreme nationalism. Trump is eager to spend billions of dollars and undermine the American legal system in pursue of his policy of ethnic cleansing.

The global economy is another arena where he has quickly shifted to an emergency footing and taken out after everyone in sight, subjecting allies and adversaries alike to mounting tariffs. Canada, Europe, Japan: they’re all shocked to find his knife in their backs. But the trade war with China promises to be particularly costly. After an opening bid, a 25% tariff on $34 billion in Chinese imports, which generated a response in kind from Beijing, Trump promptly upped the ante. He’s now planning to target $200 billion in Chinese goods. China, however, has a variety of ways to retaliate, including a sell-off of the vast hoard of U.S. Treasury bonds it holds and a potential devaluation of its own currency to make its exports more competitive globally. And keep in mind that a U.S.-China trade war involving the globe’s two largest economies will prove to be anything but a bilateral problem. If this conflict moves to DEFCON 1, the damage will spread across all borders.

After gesturing in the direction of a more prudent, “isolationist,” “America First” national security policy during his election campaign, especially when it came to the country’s never-ending war on terror, Trump has proved to be an indiscriminately bellicose president. He has twice bombed Syrian government targets, issued a “gloves off” directive to his generals in the war in Afghanistan, and expanded the use of drones in the “war on terror.” He made an implicit threat to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons and evidently seriously considered an invasion of Venezuela. And don’t even start on Iran. His approach to war has nothing to do with doctrine. It’s all about going after the “bad hombres.” Its focus seems more to be on who insulted the president most recently rather than any assessment of genuine risk.

Trump has identified a number of hijackers — immigrants, trading partners, the Islamic State, Iran — who have used asymmetrical power to challenge the authority of the United States. But here’s what’s genuinely scary: from his actions, it’s clear that he believes it’s not just random outsiders who are trying to bring down the country. To stay with the Flight 93 image, for Trump it’s the entire global aviation system that’s conspiring against him and his cohort.

All presidential doctrines of the modern era have been predicated on a global international system — first the “Western world” and now the international community — within which the United States was to operate as the first among equals. The Flight 93 Doctrine overturns all such other doctrines. President Trump, personally and with malice, is now taking aim at the entire international architecture that liberals and conservatives helped build to serve U.S. interests. It’s as if the president and his acolytes have commandeered that hijacked plane not to bring them safely back to the airport, but to fly them into buildings in Brussels, The Hague, and Geneva, among other places.

Michael Anton was wrong. The Trump campaign wasn’t about saving America from a suicide mission. It was about launching a kamikaze attack on the heart of globalism.

The Wages of Self-Defeat

Despite George Washington’s warnings, the United States is now so enmeshed in the international system that its prosperity depends on it. As a result, Trump’s Flight 93 doctrine is a formula for self-defeat.

Take immigrants. Whatever the president may think, the U.S. economy runs on immigrants. Agriculture, construction, and the service sector all rely heavily on recent immigrants, many of them undocumented. Indeed, so vital are they as economic actors that the undocumented annually contribute $11.6 billion in state and local taxes and help keep Social Security afloat even though they have little prospect of ever drawing from the fund themselves. Immigrant workers, both legal and undocumented, make the U.S. economy an estimated 11% larger than it would otherwise be. At a time of record low unemployment and labor shortages — and with a population that is inexorably aging — the United States should for economic reasons alone be encouraging an influx of immigrants, not trying to keep them out.

Trump, meanwhile, is fixated on the “$800 billion a year” that the United States runs as a trade deficit with countries around the world. You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn, given the source, that this number is off, since it doesn’t incorporate the net surplus in “services” — such as tourism, royalties, and banking — the United States has with other countries, which promptly brings that figure down to $500 billion. Far more important, the focus of White House attention shouldn’t be that trade deficit, which doesn’t reflect the overall strength of the U.S. economy, but the enormous and ever-growing debt the United States has, something the Trump tax “reform” plan and his driving desire to continually boost the country’s already bloated military spending only aggravate.

In addition, tariffs are one of the worst ways of addressing trade deficits, since they almost invariably generate retaliatory tariffs so that the “cure” ends up hurting far more than the problem. “The United States will be opening fire on the whole world and also opening fire on itself,” a spokesman for the Chinese Commerce Ministry aptly noted after Trump announced his latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods. Although he may ultimately declare victory in this war, it will certainly be a pyrrhic one.

Trump’s approach to national security is equally self-defeating. It’s bad enough that Washington is applying the screws to allies to up their military spending — and their purchases of U.S. military goods. Worse, he’s not even using the burden-sharing argument to reduce national security expenditures, which have soared above a trillion dollars a year. The wars that Washington is still fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere across the Greater Middle East and Africa, as well as the wars it’s supporting, as in Yemen, continue to generate instability in that vast region and blowback at home. Trump’s willingness to entertain new wars with Iran, Venezuela, and (if negotiations go south) North Korea is yet more unnerving.

The most devastating impact of the Flight 93 Doctrine, however, will be on the version of the international community Washington had such a hand in creating in its moment of dominance. The organs of the global economy like the World Trade Organization set the rules of the road that have consistently preserved Washington’s privileges, including the dollar’s use as the world’s most common reserve currency. In the form of treaty organizations like NATO as well as bilateral alliances, that community similarly supports American military adventures around so much of the globe by subsidizing its bases, contributing soldiers and weaponry to its military campaigns, and purchasing huge amounts of its military exports. Even as he blathers on about making America number one, Trump is systematically drilling into the very foundations of U.S. power.

There can be no doubt that the rules governing the global economy should be rewritten, given the widening gap between rich and poor. And yes, America should rethink its global military posture and the alliances that support it. Washington needs a radically new foreign policy doctrine that rejects the exceptionalist thinking of the past and offers a more cooperative way for the United States to interact with the world.

But Trump’s Flight 93 Doctrine is the opposite of what’s needed. It will accomplish what Osama bin Laden set out to do so many years ago. By driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, initiating trade wars that will weaken the economy, potentially driving the country toward bankruptcy through insane budget priorities, and destroying the very fabric of the international community, Donald Trump is on a suicide mission. He’s rushing the cockpit, that’s for sure, but don’t expect a soft landing. When it comes, it will be a terrible, heartbreaking crash.

 

How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse

Silicon Valley’s elite are hatching plans to escape disaster – and when it comes, they’ll leave the rest of us behind

July 24, 2018

by Douglas Rushkoff for Medium

The Guardian

Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk – about half my annual professor’s salary – all to deliver some insight on the subject of “the future of technology”.

I’ve never liked talking about the future. The Q&A sessions always end up more like parlor games, where I’m asked to opine on the latest technology buzzwords as if they were ticker symbols for potential investments: blockchain, 3D printing, Crispr. The audiences are rarely interested in learning about these technologies or their potential impacts beyond the binary choice of whether or not to invest in them. But money talks, so I took the gig.

After I arrived, I was ushered into what I thought was the green room. But instead of being wired with a microphone or taken to a stage, I just sat there at a plain round table as my audience was brought to me: five super-wealthy guys – yes, all men – from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world. After a bit of small talk, I realized they had no interest in the information I had prepared about the future of technology. They had come with questions of their own.

They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern.

Which region will be less affected by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the Event?”

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers – if that technology could be developed in time.

That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the ageing process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape.

There’s nothing wrong with madly optimistic appraisals of how technology might benefit human society. But the current drive for a post-human utopia is something else. It’s less a vision for the wholesale migration of humanity to a new a state of being than a quest to transcend all that is human: the body, interdependence, compassion, vulnerability, and complexity. As technology philosophers have been pointing out for years, now, the transhumanist vision too easily reduces all of reality to data, concluding that “humans are nothing but information-processing objects”.

It’s a reduction of human evolution to a video game that someone wins by finding the escape hatch and then letting a few of his BFFs come along for the ride. Will it be Musk, Bezos, Thiel … Zuckerberg? These billionaires are the presumptive winners of the digital economy – the same survival-of-the-fittest business landscape that’s fueling most of this speculation to begin with.

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. There was a brief moment, in the early 1990s, when the digital future felt open-ended and up for our invention. Technology was becoming a playground for the counterculture, who saw in it the opportunity to create a more inclusive, distributed, and pro-human future. But established business interests only saw new potentials for the same old extraction, and too many technologists were seduced by unicorn IPOs. Digital futures became understood more like stock futures or cotton futures – something to predict and make bets on. So nearly every speech, article, study, documentary, or white paper was seen as relevant only insofar as it pointed to a ticker symbol. The future became less a thing we create through our present-day choices or hopes for humankind than a predestined scenario we bet on with our venture capital but arrive at passively.

This freed everyone from the moral implications of their activities. Technology development became less a story of collective flourishing than personal survival. Worse, as I learned, to call attention to any of this was to unintentionally cast oneself as an enemy of the market or an anti-technology curmudgeon.

So instead of considering the practical ethics of impoverishing and exploiting the many in the name of the few, most academics, journalists, and science fiction writers instead considered much more abstract and fanciful conundrums: is it fair for a stock trader to use smart drugs? Should children get implants for foreign languages? Do we want autonomous vehicles to prioritize the lives of pedestrians over those of its passengers? Should the first Mars colonies be run as democracies? Does changing my DNA undermine my identity? Should robots have rights?

Asking these sorts of questions, while philosophically entertaining, is a poor substitute for wrestling with the real moral quandaries associated with unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism. Digital platforms have turned an already exploitative and extractive marketplace (think Walmart) into an even more dehumanizing successor (think Amazon). Most of us became aware of these downsides in the form of automated jobs, the gig economy, and the demise of local retail.

But the more devastating impacts of pedal-to-the-metal digital capitalism fall on the environment and global poor. The manufacture of some of our computers and smartphones still uses networks of slave labor. These practices are so deeply entrenched that a company called Fairphone, founded from the ground up to make and market ethical phones, learned it was impossible. (The company’s founder now sadly refers to their products as “fairer” phones.)

Meanwhile, the mining of rare earth metals and disposal of our highly digital technologies destroys human habitats, replacing them with toxic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell usable materials back to the manufacturers.

This “out of sight, out of mind” externalization of poverty and poison doesn’t go away just because we’ve covered our eyes with VR goggles and immersed ourselves in an alternate reality. If anything, the longer we ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions, the more of a problem they become. This, in turn, motivates even more withdrawal, more isolationism and apocalyptic fantasy – and more desperately concocted technologies and business plans. The cycle feeds itself.

The more committed we are to this view of the world, the more we come to see human beings as the problem and technology as the solution. The very essence of what it means to be human is treated less as a feature than a bug. No matter their embedded biases, technologies are declared neutral. Any bad behaviors they induce in us are just a reflection of our own corrupted core. It’s as if some innate human savagery is to blame for our troubles. Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be “solved” with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.

Ultimately, according to the technosolutionist orthodoxy, the human future climaxes by uploading our consciousness to a computer or, perhaps better, accepting that technology itself is our evolutionary successor. Like members of a gnostic cult, we long to enter the next transcendent phase of our development, shedding our bodies and leaving them behind, along with our sins and troubles.

Our movies and television shows play out these fantasies for us. Zombie shows depict a post-apocalypse where people are no better than the undead – and seem to know it. Worse, these shows invite viewers to imagine the future as a zero-sum battle between the remaining humans, where one group’s survival is dependent on another one’s demise. Even Westworld – based on a science fiction novel in which robots run amok – ended its second season with the ultimate reveal: human beings are simpler and more predictable than the artificial intelligences we create. The robots learn that each of us can be reduced to just a few lines of code, and that we’re incapable of making any willful choices. Heck, even the robots in that show want to escape the confines of their bodies and spend their rest of their lives in a computer simulation.

The mental gymnastics required for such a profound role reversal between humans and machines all depend on the underlying assumption that humans suck. Let’s either change them or get away from them, forever.

Thus, we get tech billionaires launching electric cars into space – as if this symbolizes something more than one billionaire’s capacity for corporate promotion. And if a few people do reach escape velocity and somehow survive in a bubble on Mars – despite our inability to maintain such a bubble even here on Earth in either of two multibillion-dollar biosphere trials – the result will be less a continuation of the human diaspora than a lifeboat for the elite.

This piece was originally published in Medium

 

 

What is the current poverty rate in the United States?

UC Davis Center for Poverty Research.

Current estimates on poverty in the U.S.

Individuals also transition into and out of poverty over time, though many of those who are poor at any given time will spend multiple spells in poverty. Research shows that transitions into or out of poverty often happens after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or sudden changes in income. These transitions also can be associated with larger shifts in unemployment or wages.

What is the difference between the official and supplemental poverty measures?

The official poverty measure triples the inflation-adjusted cost of a minimum food diet and creates thresholds based on family size, composition and the age of the householder. Anyone living in a household with an income below their relative poverty threshold is considered to be in poverty.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services develops their Federal Poverty Guideline income thresholds based on the official poverty measure estimates. These income thresholds are used to determine eligibility for federal safety net programs, such as Medicaid or WIC.

Since the 1960s, new poverty measures, including the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental measure, provide a more complex understanding of poverty in the United States. The supplemental measure includes basic costs of living that can vary across states. It also includes transfers from safety net programs and in-kind benefits.

The official poverty rate is 22.3 percent, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates. That year, an estimated 97.1 million Americans lived in poverty according to the official measure. According to supplemental poverty measure, the poverty rate was 24.0 percent.

The official poverty measure was developed in the 1960s in conjunction with President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Each September the U.S. Census Bureau releases an update of the national poverty rate for the prior year.

The official measure today is based on data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. The survey is sent to U.S. households, so the poverty estimates do not include those who are homeless. The sample also excludes military personnel who do not live with at least one civilian adult as well as incarcerated adults.

While poverty rates according to the official and supplemental measures fluctuate from year to year, so do incomes relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). According to the Census Bureau, 28.5 million people reported deep poverty, which means a household income below 50 percent of their 2017 poverty threshold. These individuals represented an estimated 19.8 percent of all Americans and 55.6 percent of those in poverty.

How high has the poverty rate in the U.S. been historically?

Historically, the official poverty rate in the United States had ranged from a high of 22.4 percent when it was first estimated for 1959 to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973. Since its initial rapid decline after 1964 with the launch of major War on Poverty programs, the poverty rate has fluctuated between around 11 and 15 percent.

Individuals also transition into and out of poverty over time, though many of those who are poor at any given time will spend multiple spells in poverty. Research shows that transitions into or out of poverty often happens after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or sudden changes in income. These transitions also can be associated with larger shifts in unemployment or wages.

What is the difference between the official and supplemental poverty measures?

The official poverty measure triples the inflation-adjusted cost of a minimum food diet and creates thresholds based on family size, composition and the age of the householder. Anyone living in a household with an income below their relative poverty threshold is considered to be in poverty.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services develops their Federal Poverty Guideline income thresholds based on the official poverty measure estimates. These income thresholds are used to determine eligibility for federal safety net programs, such as Medicaid or WIC.

Since the 1960s, new poverty measures, including the U.S. Census Bureau’s supplemental measure, provide a more complex understanding of poverty in the United States. The supplemental measure includes basic costs of living that can vary across states. It also includes transfers from safety net programs and in-kind benefits.

 

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