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Mon, 27 Mar 2017
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Puppet Masters


Lavrov: Montenegro joining NATO shows it has succcumbed to Washington's ultimatum

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Montenegro's plan to join NATO shows that the country has "succumbed to the ultimatum of either Russia or NATO", according to reports.

Lavrov also noted that Montenegro's decision jeopardizes economic and political cooperation with Russia.

According to Lavrov:
"Montenegro has succumbed to the ultimatum - either Russia or NATO and decided to ignore the economic aspect and to sacrifice relations with Russia. Let the Montenegrin and NATO leaders have this decision on their conscience."
Next week the U.S. Senate is expected to ratify Montenegro's bid to join NATO.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described Montenegro's membership as "strongly in the interests of the United States."

For a better understanding of what Lavrov means by Washington's "ultimatum", read this recent landmark speech that he gave about the changing landscape in geopolitics.


Trump walks: Moving on to tax reform as House fails vote on Trumpcare

Donald Trump applies 'Art of the Deal' tactics as he walks away from health care reform - for the time being

A day after US president Donald Trump threatened to walk away from the negotiating table if the House of Representatives failed to vote on the health care reform bill he backed, he has made good on his promise.

Trump gave a press conference in the oval office late on Friday, announcing he was moving on to tackle tax reform.

Gold Coins

Russia sees continued economic success, Russian Central Bank cuts key rate to 9.75%

© Sputnik/Anton Denisov

As inflation plunges and economy strengthens Russian Central Bank signals further interest rate reductions are pending.

A few weeks after the Russian Central Bank indicated that it was unlikely to cut its key rate before mid year, a cluster of good economic news have caused it to shave its key rate down today from 10% to 9.75%.

To be clear, this is a token cut that will not by itself make any difference to the state of economy. Its importance is that it clearly signals that more cuts are on the way. That may in itself act as a spur to growth, consolidating the recovery.

The state of Russia's economic statistics is at the moment one of confusion, with Rosstat - Russia's state statistical agency - admitting what many people - including myself - always suspected, that it had previously seriously overestimated the severity of the recent recession, which was significantly shorter and shallower than it had previously said. Rosstat is now in the process of undertaking a comprehensive review both of its methodology and of its earlier calculations. However this process is far from complete, so it is difficult at present to give a precise picture of the current state of the economy.

Star of David

Senior Hamas member assassinated, Israel blamed - Hamas threatens 'to act'

© Mohammed Salem / Reuters
Young Palestinians loyal to Hamas
Hamas has vowed retaliation following the death of a prominent member, who was shot near his home in the Gaza Strip on Friday. He had been serving a life sentence in Israel before being released in a prisoner swap in 2011.

Mazeh Faqha suffered four gunshot wounds to his head and was later pronounced dead in Tell al-Hama neighborhood of the Gaza Strip. It is understood that the perpetrators managed to flee and are now on the run. In the aftermath of the assassination, Gaza police cordoned off the scene and set up checkpoints hunting for suspects.

Iyad al-Bozum, Gaza's Interior Ministry spokesman, said an investigation into the circumstances of his death has been launched, without elaborating on possible affiliations and motives of the attackers.

While the search for the attackers continues, Hamas was quick to point to Israel as the only possible benefactor from the death of the official, accusing the Israeli authorities or its "collaborators" of being behind the assault.

"This assassination does not serve anybody but the [Israeli] occupiers, it is of no interest to the other parties," Khalil al-Haya, Hamas deputy chief in Gaza, said as cited by AFP.

Heart - Black

Oklahoma senator resigns after being arrested for engaging in child prostitution

© The Free Thought Project
The Oklahoma state senator charged last week with felony child prostitution resigned Wednesday, though Ralph Shortey's exit will not change the balance in the Republican-dominated state Senate.

Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, was arrested last week and charged with hiring a 17-year-old boy for sex after meeting him on Craigslist.

Police charged the 35-year-old married father of four with engaging in child prostitution, engaging in prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church, and transporting a minor for prostitution — all felonies.


Bernie Sanders solidifies his geriatric legacy by issuing a Twitter fatwah against Putin

Never again
We'll keep this short.

Russia Insider always had a soft spot for Vermont Senator and "socialist" Bernie Sanders.

Yes, he supported the destruction of Yugoslavia; yes, he championed a wide range of dumb ideas.

But there was something magical about the way this frumpy Vermont grandpa exposed Hillary Clinton as a walking political joke.


Democrats flip the script on Republicans: Trade places on war and McCarthyism

Adam Schiff, McCarthy wanna-be
The anti-Russia hysteria gripping the Democratic Party marks a "trading places" moment as the Democrats embrace the New Cold War and the New McCarthyism, flipping the script on Republicans.

Caught up in the frenzy to delegitimize Donald Trump by blaming his victory on Russian meddling, national Democrats are finishing the transformation of their party from one that was relatively supportive of peace to one pushing for war, including a confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

This "trading places" moment was obvious in watching the belligerent tone of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Monday as they impugned the patriotism of any Trump adviser who may have communicated with anyone connected to Russia.

Ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, acknowledged that there was no hard evidence of any Trump-Russia cabal, but he pressed ahead with what he called "circumstantial evidence of collusion," a kind of guilt-by-association conspiracy theory that made him look like a mild-mannered version of Joe McCarthy.

Monkey Wrench

#SeeWhatTheyDidThere: Dems introduce MAR-A-LAGO Act to force disclosure of 'southern White House' visitor records

© Joe Skipper / Reuters
Democrats have introduced the creatively acronymized MAR-A-LAGO Act requiring the White House to publish the visitor log for Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's resort where he has spent nearly a quarter of his time in office.

"Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act," or the MAR-A-LAGO Act was introduced Thursday by Senators Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Tom Carper (D-Delaware).


Trump the dealmaker runs into Washington partisan realities

© Doug Mills/The New York Times
After meeting with trucking executives, President Trump was told the health law vote was off.
President Trump, the author of The Art of the Deal, has been projecting his usual bravado in public this week about the prospects of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Privately he is grappling with rare bouts of self-doubt.

Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan's plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.

He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act's passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.

Two of his most influential advisers — Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, and Gary D. Cohn, the National Economic Council director, who had a major role in pushing the bill — came to agree, and did not like the compromise that was emerging. So on Thursday night, Mr. Trump delivered an ultimatum.

He dispatched his budget adviser, Mick Mulvaney, to a conference of House Republicans and told them they had to vote on Friday. And if the bill fails, he said, Mr. Trump will move on.

Light Saber

Scott Adams: Trump and healthcare

© AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Today we are witnessing one of the most important events in political history. But you probably can't see it because the news is talking about healthcare, and how Ryan and Trump totally failed to get enough votes.

The real story is happening in parallel with the healthcare story, and that's what renders it invisible. Something enormous is happening that has nothing to do withanything you are seeing in the news. In fact, you'll probably read it here for the first time.

I'm dragging this out to see if you can guess the big news before I tell you. It is something I predicted would happen. It is something the country needs MORE than healthcare. It was, until yesterday, perceived as the biggest problem in the United States, if not the entire world.

And that problem almost totally went away yesterday. The smell might linger, but the problem has ended. We should be celebrating, but instead we will be yammering about healthcare.

Do you know what problem just got solved? It's invisible for now, but later everyone will be able to see it.

Don't see it?

Okay, I'll just tell you.

With the failure of the Ryan healthcare bill, the illusion of Trump-is-Hitler has been fully replaced with Trump-is-incompetent meme. Look for the new meme to dominate the news, probably through the summer. By year end, you will see a second turn, from incompetent to "Competent, but we don't like it."

I have been predicting this story arc for some time now. So far, we're ahead of schedule.

In the 2D world, where everything is just the way it looks, and people are rational, Trump and Ryan failed to improve healthcare. But in the 3D world of persuasion, Trump just had one of the best days any president ever had: He got promoted from Hitler to incompetent. And that promotion effectively defused the Hitler-hallucination bomb that was engineered by the Clinton campaign.

In all seriousness, the Trump-is-Hitler illusion was the biggest problem in the country, and maybe the world. It was scaring people to the point of bad health. It made any kind of political conversation impossible. It turned neighbors and friends against each other in a way we have never before seen. It was inviting violence, political instability, and worse.

In my opinion, the Trump-is-Hitler hallucination was the biggest short-term problem facing the country. Congress just solved for it, albeit unintentionally. Watch the opposition news abandon the Trump-is-scary concept to get all over the "incompetent" theme.

No one wants an incompetent president, but calling the other side a bunch of bumblers is routine politics. We just went from an extraordinary risk (Trump=Hitler) to ordinary politics (The other side=incompetent). Ordinary politics won't spark a revolution or make you punch a coworker. This is a good day for all of us. It just doesn't look that way because the news is distracting you with the healthcare issue, which is also important, but a full level down in importance from electing Hitler (in your mind).

Speaking of healthcare, I predicted on Periscope here several days ago that the only way to get a bill passed was to let Ryan fail hard on the first attempt while scaring the left at the same time. That softens both sides to the middle. There was literally no other path to the middle. You couldn't get there without the first step being a major failure by the majority party. This necessary step toward success is, of course, being reported as total failure.

Today I'm getting a lot of what I call the "November 7th effect." That's where my critics are prematurely celebrating my wrongness because the Ryan version of healthcare failed. I hope to see my critics again toward the end of the year. Don't be strangers.

Update: Watch on Twitter as my critics come after me personally and ignore my points. That's how you know I'm onto something. (Otherwise they would criticize the point.)