War is Good for Business

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“War is good for business” and foreknowledge of US-UK war plans is an invaluable instrument for investors and institutional speculators. 

The value of Lockheed and BAE shares soared on the World’s stock markets, on the Monday morning following the Friday April 14  (local time) bombing of Syria.

Philip May, husband of Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May happens to be a senior executive of Capital Group which is a major holder of both Lockheed Martin and British Aerospace (BAE) shares: 

The fact that Philip May is both a Senior Executive of a hugely powerful investment firm, and privy to reams of insider information from the Prime Minister – knowledge which, when it becomes public, hugely affects the share prices of the companies his firm invests in – makes Mr May’s official employment a staggering conflict of interest for the husband of a sitting Prime Minister. (Tom D. Rogers, Disgusting Conflict of Interest: Theresa May’s Husband’s Investment Firm Made a “Financial Killing” from the Bombing of Syria, April 17, 2018 (emphasis added)

Staging the Attack on Syria

The Pentagon had ordered a massive deployment of naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. The British government had put its Royal Air Force bombers on standby. The USS Truman aircraft carrier was en route to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Russia had initiated on the Wednesday prior to the US-led attacks major war games off the Syria coastline. In turn, Russia’s Ministry of Defense had warned that they would respond with their state of the art S-400 missile defense system, not only against the JASSMs and Tomahawk missile attacks but also against coalition warships, jet fighters and air force bombers deployed in the Eastern Mediterranean.

While the broader public was led to believe that a major confrontation between Russia and the US-led coalition was imminent, with potentially devasting consequences, a handful of officials in the upper echelons of the US, UK and French governments were privy to the precise details and timing of the bombing operation against Syria which took place after the closing of the World’s stock markets on Friday evening, April 13 (ET). They had advanced knowledge that a confrontation between Russia and the US-led Coalition forces would not take place. 

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Was this information also made available to a handful of Trump cronies, family members and partners on Wall Street?

Did France’s President Emmanuel Macron– who has ties to powerful financial interests– share some of this secret information with his financial friends including the Rothschilds and Goldman Sachs?

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Screenshot Bloomberg Business Week,  April 19, 2018

Secret Agreement with the Russians

While a few US, UK and French senior officials and their financial cronies had foreknowledge of what was going to happen, the vast majority of financial brokers were totally in the dark. They did not know whether to bet up or down on Aerospace and Defense stocks including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, etc.

The terms of the top secret agreement with Russia were that Russian military assets would not be targeted and in return Russia promised NOT  to respond militarily against the US led coalition.

The attack was staged. There was no concrete military objective. It was costly face saving propaganda operation to boost public support for Trump’s presidency.

Over 1o0 missiles were directed against three targets. Those targets had been agreed upon with the Russians. The US, British and French officials and their financial cronies not only knew when the attack would take place, they also had secret information on the likely outcome of the attacks which had been carefully negotiated with Russia.

Syria’s air defense system responded to the missile attacks with Soviet era technology. The media heralded the attack as a “success” and Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE stocks skyrocketed on Monday morning at the opening of major stock markets.

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Dow Jones U.S. Selected Aerospace and Defense Index (April 16-20, 2018)

Had Russia effectively retaliated by targeting US war ships and knocking  coalition jet fighters out of the sky, the outcome would have been markedly different. In all likelihood, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE, etc. stocks would have plunged.

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On the day prior to the alleged Douma chemical attacks (April 6), the value of Lockheed shares had tumbled by 3.46 percent to 334.66 rising to 353.38 on the 19th of April, i.e. a cumulative rise of 5.5%

Did a handful of powerful financial operators have secret information (handed to them by politicians in high office) which enabled them to predict the outcome and “place their financial bets” on a rise in the stock values of major defense contractors including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, BAE, Raytheon and Boeing.

Raytheon produces the Tomahawk cruise missiles which were used in the Syria attack. Lockheed Martin produces the JAMMs.

A Financial Killing?

Are we talking about billions of dollars accruing to the families and/or  cronies of top US, UK, French government officials? The bonanza earnings resulting from equity transactions as well as the trade in options needs to be carefully assessed.

War, Politics and Insider Trade 

More generally, insider trade constitutes a routine process of enrichment of the financial elites. Powerful financial actors have access to foreknowledge pertaining to crucial political and military decisions (e.g. through their social ties to politicians).

Foreknowledge of statements and decisions pertaining to Brexit, for instance, by Britain’s Prime Minister also constitutes an invaluable instrument in the hands of powerful financial interests and institutional speculators.

Conflict of interest and corrupt politics are central to reaping the profits of insider trade.

~~  Professor Michel Chossudovsky ~~

James Comey: I’m Not Mocking Trump

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It may seem like James Comey’s book already has been out forever given all the media attention, but Tuesday is actually the official release date of A Higher Loyalty. Publisher Macmillan is expecting a blockbuster, having ordered a whopping 850,000 copies for the first run, reports CNN. No wonder: The book has been at or near the top of Amazon’s best-seller list for a solid month, thanks in part to critical tweets by the main subject, President Trump. A look at coverage, including how Comey is taking flak for some of his lines about the president:

  • Personal shots: The New York Times observes that Comey is entering “risky terrain” with his gloves-off criticism of Trump during the media blitz. If he was once seen as above the fray, he is now “looking instead like a combatant in the country’s partisan battles,“ especially given his jabs at Trump’s personal appearance (including references to his “slightly orange” skin and “too long” ties). “To the extent that the former director appears petty and anything less than high-minded, it diminishes the impact of his critique,“ says GOP strategist Michael Steel, no big fan of Trump.
  • Comey explains: So why the shots at Trump’s appearance? “I’m not making fun of the president,“ Comey tells NPR. “I’m trying to be an author, which I’ve never been before in my life. But while I’m typing, I can hear my editor’s voice ringing in my head, ‘Bring the reader with you. Show them inside your head. Bring them with you.‘“
  • Bad strategy? At Politico, Jack Shafer criticizes Comey for the “petty—and not very original” Trump insults. He didn’t realize how they would be perceived? “When your 304-page book and marathon interviews produce sympathy for Donald Trump—even a dollop of sympathy—you’re doing it wrong.“
  • Scooter Libby: Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air asked Comey if he felt Trump’s pardon of Scooter Libby was an attack on Comey himself, since he appointed the special prosecutor in that case, per Axios. No, he replied, “but that doesn’t mean it’s not an attack on the rule of law. There’s a reason that President George W. Bush, for whom Scooter Libby worked, refused to pardon him.“
  • Hillary Clinton: The Trump part of the book is drawing most of the attention, but Clinton allies are angry over Comey’s explanation of his actions regarding her email server late in the campaign, reports the Hill. They’re particularly ticked that he took polls into account showing her as the likely winner when deciding how to proceed. “Nobody is satisfied with anything he’s been saying,“ says one Clinton adviser.

A Dangerous Game of Chicken

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As the “tit-for-tat” trade fight between the US and China escalates, Donald Trump is likely to find that he doesn’t “know China” the way he once thought. When he said that during the presidential campaign, he based his understanding of China on one thing: the high rent in Trump Tower that he had exacted from a Chinese bank. Today, he may still assume he can win a game of chicken by upping the ante until the Chinese eventually fold.

But Trump and his crew don’t understand Chinese thinking. The Chinese leadership does not respond well to being bullied, least of all now that they have a means of fighting back. China’s commerce ministry said as much in a statement right out of Chairman Mao’s playbook. Mao had often said when dealing with “US imperialism”: “We will not attack unless we are attacked,” Mao often said. “But if we are attacked, we will certainly counterattack.” A ministry spokesman said today (April 6): “The Chinese way of doing things is like this: We do not pick a fight, but if someone does pick a fight, we will fight resolutely. The Chinese have always been very serious in handling these matters. We mean what we say.” And the commerce ministry added in a formal statement: “On the issue of Sino-US trade, the Chinese position has been made very clear. We do not want to fight, but we are not afraid to fight a trade war.”

Trump and other US officials are saying the US isn’t engaged in a trade war with China. But China’s press is already using that term. Perhaps there won’t be a trade war; Trump may simply be employing his usual bluster to force more favorable terms of trade. He risks stepping over the line, however. Trump needs to understand that the US no longer faces the weak China of Mao’s time. They mean what they say, and they have the resources to fight back.

This is a time like no other when negotiating differences is important. Playing chicken is a fool’s game, especially when the US and China need one another on important international issues, starting with North Korea.

Mel Gurtov, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.

Crony corruption in Trumpworld

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Scott Pruitt flies first class international with his entourage to Paris for a couple of days—just to party—and then on to Morocco for one day to promote the sale of liquefied natural gas produced by a crony—a lobbyist for the LNG company that gives Pruitt a sweetheart deal on a fancy place to stay in Washington DC. Pruitt is head of the EPA, not the Department of Energy or Commerce. He has no official business pushing LNG, yet the entire trip for him and his crew of sleazy associates was paid for by those of us who pony up every paycheck and every April—you, the American taxpayer. Turns out Trump’s buddy, billionaire Carl Icahn, was the majority stockholder in the LNG corporation. Crony corruption.

Pruitt was basically installed by Trump as head of the Environmental Protection Agency with a stated mission to undermine, subvert, and reverse the EPA core mission. To rich Republicans—well, perhaps to most Republicans—the environment is simply a dumping ground for toxics, hazardous waste, and other effluents of industry. Why? So that their corporations don’t have to pay clean-up costs either in prevention or remediation. The rich ones profit. The poor ones vote to get back dirty jobs that have gone overseas where environmental laws and labor laws are nonexistent or toothless. Crony corruption coupled with a devil’s bargain.

To make certain that no fraudulent stone was unturned, Pruitt signed off on massive pay raises for loyalists, lied and denied that he did so on Fox News, and remains untouched by the “You’re fired” King. Crony corruption.

Ah, they all do it. And? Trump came in claiming he would “drain the swamp.” Liar. The swamp is crawling with worse than anything since Mobutu Sese Seka. Crony corruption.

That Trump himself refuses to make public his tax returns, refuses to divest himself in any way from his corporate profit-taking related to his public office, and that so many of his appointees are wallowing in seamy travel, insider fraud, and shady foreign connections, makes this just part of the Washington wallpaper, right? You hear Trump the carny barker candidate and you elect him—WTF do you expect?

Naturally, Trump just said Pruitt was “doing a great job.” Crony corruption.

Even the Trump White House has criticized Pruitt’s ethics. Huh? We are on Full Oxymoron Alert when we hear the phrase Trump Ethical Standards, yet it happened. Still, at least so far, Pruitt’s in his gig, swinging his wrecking ball at environmental and ethics rules literally left and right. Crony corruption.

Nixon was Mr. Clean by comparison. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld made $millions off their policies while they ruled and yet never quite exuded the moral and ethical swampy stench we now endure from Team Trump.

Crony corruption. Do we deserve better? Certainly our children and grandchildren do.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.

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