Friday 22nd of March 2019

more coneheads...

more coneheads

This revelation explains why the Australian Government has been stunned by Mr Trump's declaration last week that the tariff regime will be enforced, and subsequent statements by Mr Ross that country-specific exemptions are unlikely.

The conversation between the President and the Prime Minister was in the so-called "Steel Cage", a secure communications pod that travels with the US President.

Sources have told the ABC Mr Trump's promise was emphatic and that he instructed Mr Ross to work out the specifics to "make it happen".

The Prime Minister and the Australian delegation was "absolutely certain" that a deal had been struck during the Hamburg meeting. 

And having secured the assurance, the Turnbull Government dispatched Ambassador Joe Hockey to follow it through with the Trump administration in Washington.

The US tariffs, which have alarmed major exporters such as BlueScope, would impose a 25 per cent tax on imported steel and 10 per cent for aluminium.

Australia exports about $500 million in steel and aluminium to the US a year.

Federal Government officials have been increasingly pessimistic about Australia's chances of dodging the US steel and aluminium tariffs unveiled by Mr Trump.

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not the "same"...

The Trump administration is launching yet another offensive aimed primarily at Russia, this time adding tens of millions of dollars to a State Department budget to undertake a major disinformation campaign.

It will be doing the very thing it has accused the Russian government – without any convincing evidence to date – of doing in an attempt to sway opinions of American citizens most recently in the 2016 US presidential elections. 

The allegation has led to US indictments of 13 Russians supposedly for using nothing more than social media without any evidence of tampering with the election process. To launch this offensive disinformation effort, the Defense Department will provide some $40 million to the State Department's budget for its so-called Global Engagement Center, or GEC.

The GEC originally was created during the Obama administration to counter foreign terrorist and extremist group propaganda. However, the GEC's mandate has been expanded to counter what the State Department perceives to be calculated disinformation initiatives of foreign state and non-state actors and individuals.

The GEC will award millions of dollars in grants from its Information Access Fund to yet unspecified public and private outlets, which will include "society groups, media content providers, non-governmental organizations, federally-funded research and development centers, private companies and academic institutions," according to a State Department statement.

The effort will have all the appearances of an aggressive disinformation campaign of its own without public oversight, launched by a myriad of unidentified entities that undoubtedly will be aimed at the internal affairs of other countries.

"The funding is critical to ensuring that we continue to malign influence and disinformation and that we can leverage deeper partnerships with our allies, Silicon Valley and other partners in this fight,"said.Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein. "It is not merely a defensive posture that we should take. We also need to be on the offensive."

The US government will be conducting disinformation warfare, doing what it accuses others of doing, presumably under the auspices of the American intelligence services. In effect, the GEC could become a front for funneling funds to the intelligence community to orchestrate a massive disinformation initiative through private entities without any public oversight.

Such an effort would constitute an aggressive form of not only disinformation but also cyberwarfare that the US accuses others of doing.


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One noticeable exception came from Carter, Defense Secretary during the last two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, who tried to explain how American actions differed from those of China and Russia.

“We conduct espionage on the Internet. And when we are spied on, I don’t complain. I am unhappy with it because I wish we had not had our secrets stolen. But I put it into a different category. Covert action… is not espionage. It has the effect of harming,” he said.

So… when China steals F-35 blueprints, it harms America; when the US spies on German or Brazilian companies and gets competitive advantage in the market, that’s – no biggie? Sounds plausible. But there is more, because US meddling in foreign elections is not the same thing as somebody meddling in US elections, according to Carter.

He said China and Russia tell the US: “You stick up for democracy. You oppose leaders who are oppressing their people… That’s true, but that’s overt.”

First, being a democratically elected official does not mean the US will not have you overthrown, or worse. Just ask Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, or Chilean President Salvador Allende or, if you want someone who is still alive – Ukraine’s Viktor Yanukovich.

Second, by implication if hypothetically President Vladimir Putin were to come out tomorrow and say: “OK, we hacked the DNC to help our buddy Donald,” that would somehow make all fine? Carter repeated the phrase “attack is an attack” explaining his attitude to clandestine state-sponsored cyber operations some half a dozen times during the hour-long discussion, and it didn’t sound like a nation claiming credit for one would make it less of an attack in his opinion.

The former Pentagon chief argued during the panel that the US has to “get doctrinally settled” in its response to harmful actions of other states that cannot be clearly attributed to those states. His examples were Russia’s deployment of troops with no insignia from its naval base in Crimea during the 2014 crisis in Ukraine and what he termed “stirring up minorities” in the Baltic states by Russia. “We need a war plan… We need to make it painful to do that kind of thing to us,” he said.


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So far there is not a single proof that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential elections — but plenty of signs that Rupert Murdoch did...


America’s first great protectionist political figure was Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s treasury secretary. And compared to later mercantilist politicians in our history, Hamilton wasn’t even that much of a protectionist. His original U.S. tariff bill imposed an average taxation level of just 8.5 percent on imported goods. And Hamilton argued that any protection encompassed in those duties, as opposed to revenue requirements, should be discontinued as soon as protected industries established themselves in the American economy.

Hamilton’s opponents, the early American free traders, feared he had created a monster, while northeastern industrialists, particularly in Pennsylvania, predictably argued that protection should be substantial and permanent to ensure national prosperity.

Therein lay the first stirrings of the great trade debate that has reverberated through our history, down to our own time and to President Trump’s announcement last week that he intends to slap protective tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Thus do we have the first president since Herbert Hoover who has explicitly placed protectionist sentiments at the heart of his economic philosophy.

Whether Trump’s tariff policy is the right medicine for what ails the American economy is an open question. But it certainly shines a spotlight on the hollowing out of America’s industrial base and the consequent powerful hit absorbed by the country’s working classes. In 1965, manufacturing represented 53 percent of the U.S. economy; by 1988 that was down to 39 percent; by 2004 it had fallen below 10 percent. In the 1970s, according to The Economist, manufacturing employment constituted 25 percent of U.S. jobs; today it is less than 10 percent. These trends reveal serious hardship, particularly in the old industrial heartland of the Midwest, and that translates into frustration and anger. Trump’s emerging trade outlook is designed in part to address these powerful political sentiments.

The protectionists of the country’s early decades—Hamilton and his ideological heirs—advocated centralized executive power wielded by elites in the service of economic expansion and national greatness. They favored federal-level projects and policies—particularly a powerful national bank and protective tariffs to help budding manufacturers and finance federal action—to pull up the nation from above. This was the model later embraced by Henry Clay and his Whigs, who crafted a philosophy of government—called the “American System”—that included federal public works such as roads, bridges, and canals. And always there was the call for high tariffs to pay for civic programs and boost industrial expansion.


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One could say that the USA NEVER stopped doing protectionism... This is a bold statement but think that the US government has often helped many of the US industries and farmers with "subsidies", tax breaks and other underhanded artifices — such as economic SANCTIONS and using its military might to make people "buy American". Here The DumbDumb Donald is calling the shovel a spade and ressetting the system: instead of forking out moneys to support industries against "fair" competition (no competition is ever fair in commerce) he "punishes" imports with tariffs that will bring in cash into his coffers. It won't make much difference to the survival of US industries, but it will bring in cash. The trouble of the process will be in the change over period and how to manage it so that no-one looses, except of course, "fair" alien competitors...

Meanwhile, the Stock Market might splutter a bit because of the new landscape but as "everyone knows", the stock market cannot go into negative territory for too long. It's impossible. There would no point for "investors" to believe otherwise...

driving under the US "radar"...

Despite Jean-Yves Le Drian's statements about the Iranian missile program and Tehran's refusal, the two countries are trying to trade. Yet the threats of American "justice" impose caution.

The visit of Jean-Yves Le Drian to Tehran on March 5 did not seem to bring any diplomatic progress on the subjects of Iran's ballistic program and its regional policy, particularly in Syria. They were officially the only subjects on the agenda of this visit. However, France is trying to regain an economic and commercial foothold in Iran.

The website of the Quai d'Orsay says: "Due to international sanctions against Tehran in 2004, trade between France and the Islamic Republic collapsed. Between 2004 and 2014 trade was reduced to 14 per cent and exports to Iran to 20 per cent. The lifting of some of the sanctions in 2014 allowed a resumption of trade. France is importing Iranian oil again and wants to invest heavily in the Iranian economy, whose market and infrastructures are old. "

French carmakers hold 40% of the market

Indeed, since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal in July 2015 in Vienna, Western and especially French companies are rushing back to Tehran to seize the opportunities of a market of nearly 80 million inhabitants. France, traditionally present through its automobile industry through exports or on-site assembly of vehicles, has resumed its investments. French car brands represent 40% of the market.

In 2017, Peugeot sold more than 440,000 vehicles in Iran and Renault nearly 160,000. For the first time, it is mearly a record after being pushed out of Iran six years ago, pressured by their American partner General Motors. In March 2012, these two groups announced "a global strategic alliance", materialized by the addition of American capital to the French input, up by 7%.

During this brief engagement period that ultimately failed in 2013, General Motors forced PSA to withdraw from the Iranian market, for the sole profit of General Motors. The decree signed by Barack Obama on June 3, 2013, the Executive Order Act 13645, aggravated the sanctions against Iran by prohibiting the supply of spare parts or services to Iranian companies.


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Rough translation by Jules Letambour..

directionless under the previous three administrations...


Former Australian prime minister Keating says Trump ‘surprisingly’ good at foreign policy

Donald Trump is “surprisingly” good at foreign policy, according to former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, who says the United States was directionless under the previous three administrations.

As the US president accepted an invitation to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for talks, Keating said he had not expected Trump to have “such a pragmatic” foreign policy and urged the president to continue down the path he was on.

“America has gone on for 24 years without a strategy,” Keating told a business conference in Sydney on Friday, during which he criticised Barack Obama’s timidity and “lack of policy ambition” in office.

“Trump has, surprisingly – and I hope he maintains this – put his hand up for the right policy.”

Trump won praise for accepting the North Korean offer of talks but it also came on a day when the president set the US on a potential collision course with major trading partners by introducing tariffs on steel and aluminium. Trump has also been criticised for his policy towards the Middle East where he has angered Arab nations by recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Keating credited Obama for avoiding major conflicts and underwriting some of the US’s economic recovery, but argued he failed on the world stage.

“In terms of the big game, we lost two more terms,” he said.

Keating described Bill Clinton as a “domestic politician” who missed the opportunity to remake the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

“We lost two Clinton terms as these huge changes in the post-colonial world were taking place.”

Keating also criticised George W Bush for blowing two presidential terms attempting to “propagate American values in the Middle East” while Chinese influence was growing in Asia.

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Read from top...

Admiring Trump is like admiring Napoleon, except Napoleon knew what he was doing...

deal or no deal...


US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the US on Thursday but exempted Canada and Mexico, he insists that domestic metal production is vital to national security. Sputnik discussed this with Dr. Jinghan Zeng, Deputy Director of the Center for Politics in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Sputnik: How will President Trump's decision to boost tariffs impact US domestic steel and aluminum producers, there are mixed comments to this, what's your take on it?

Dr. Jinghan Zeng: I don't think this is a very good strategy, to be honest, it's really unlikely to achieve the goal Trump's claiming to do, he really wants to fix what he calls the trade imbalance, but raising the tariffs is not one of the best ways to deal with the situation, and it is likely to launch a trade war not only between China and the US but also, between the US and other major countries in the world, like Europe.

Sputnik: Can you explain why President Trump is focused and decided to choose the domestic steel and aluminum industries, can you give us some background to understand why he's focusing on this particular sector?

Dr. Jinghan Zeng: He always has some sort of anti-globalization and protectionist view and if you look at the composition of his supporters and he got a lot of support from people in those industries, in the steel making industry and in the middle and lower class, workers support, so those are the people that put him into the White House and he has promised to do something to continue to win their support so their a logic here.

READ MORE: Australian Prime Minister Praises US Decision to Exempt Canberra From Tariffs

His position on climate change also shows the same thing as well, because if the US continues to stick to the Paris agreement then what the US will need to do is cut their carbon emissions, and that means there will be less steel industry and there will be higher unemployment rate, especially among those workers that support him. They will lose their jobs, so that's a major reason, he just wants to achieve what he promised during his campaign and his view of how trade is supposed to be and how he can make American economy great again.

Sputnik: How will it actually impact the aluminum and steel industries globally then?


Dr. Jinghan Zeng: I think it's definitely going to have a global impact, so major global exporters to the US will be significantly affected, countries like Korea, Japan, Germany, Turkey, they export a lot of steel and aluminum to the US and face the rise in tariffs, their exports are going to be significantly affected and their domestic industry is going to be affected as well because the US is the largest market. So I think it remains to be seen what they are going to do if they are going to launch sanctions against US exports there might be a global trade war.

Sputnik: You've mentioned some of the beneficiaries behind his decision are their other internal or external beneficiaries in addition to the companies in America, or is it just wholly these American companies who are going to benefit from this decision?

Dr. Jinghan Zeng: No, definitely, when Trump made a decision on this and those people who were standing behind him, you'll find a lot of them will directly benefit from it, for example, the steel industry, the aluminum industry in the US, but also immediately it invites the criticism from other domestic US industries, potentially industries that might use a lot of steel and aluminum, because what Trump is doing now is raising a tax, the import tax and then it will increase their cost, so there will be some losers and there will be some winners in what Trump is going to do, and if you look at the stock market it also reflects different reactions from different industries in the US.

Sputnik: If we look specifically at the situation with regard to South Korea and Japan, how much will this decision to increase tariffs affect these two countries then?

Dr. Jinghan Zeng: I think it will significantly affect Korea because the country has a relatively small economy compared to the US and they heavily rely on the US to export steel, so it's going to have a big impact on Korea. The interesting fact is that Korea and Japan, they are traditional American allies in a security sense and if now they're having a trade issue, it remains to be seen how these trade relations, economic relations are going to undermine their security alliance.

Sputnik: How likely is the European Union to retaliate by imposing tariffs on US products, we've had a lot of comment from European leaders, Mr. Macron from France has already said that he's going to do something about this? What else do you feel is going to be done in the European Union, because on the face of it does seem to have upset some of the European leaders with regard to this continued policy of tariffs by the United States, so from my point of view things are only going to get worse, this could really escalate into trade wars if tit-for-tat action continues surely?

Dr. Jinghan Zeng: Yes, I think it might be likely, it depends on the other actors' reactions to the US and how they finally set up the deal. A trade war might be possible but is also depends to what extent Trump will really do what he claims to do. He's always the kind of person who bluffs a lot and then uses that strategy to make a deal so we don't know that yet, but, obviously, Europe has been talking about potential responses, they are saying, for example, they can have sanctions risk, tariffs on American exports to Europe, for example, agriculture trade, I think that's also something China is thinking about because the agriculture industry is one industry where the US has trade surplus.

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Meanwhile in the land of the flat earth theorists:


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed Australia will be exempt from US President Donald Trump's new steel and aluminium tariffs — but denied the two leaders are working towards a new "security agreement".

Mr Trump all but confirmed the exemption earlier today when he tweeted he had spoken to Mr Turnbull, who he said was "committed to having a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship".

"Working very quickly on a security agreement so we don't have to impose steel or aluminium tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia!" he tweeted.

Mr Turnbull replied, hailing the "great discussion on security and trade" and thanking Mr Trump for confirming new tariffs "won't have to be imposed" on Australia.

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The Donald's bluff is only designed to annoy the Chinese and the Ruskies, and prevent Europe become "more" powerful... but the Chinese have more backbones than that... presently the Chinese computers run "metaflops" around the US's, and they are about to spend $10 billions on Artificial Intelligence research... 





... and of germany...

Starting last Thursday, automobile manufacturers once again began presenting their newest attractions. But this year, the executives are having a more difficult time than usual in exuding confidence. It's not that their bottom lines are in bad shape; on the contrary. It's not that they are weighed down by the ongoing diesel scandal; they've more or less become used to that. Rather, their collective mood was crushed by just a few words pecked out on the screen of the mobile phone of the most powerful man in the world.

On March 3, U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would be slapping a punitive tariff on automobiles "which freely pour into the U.S.," as he complained. Prior to that, Trump had announced that he intended to introduce a 25-percent import tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum -- and signed the corresponding executive order last Thursday. It was a move that threw a significant share of the automobile and metal industries into turmoil. 

If Trump also fulfills his threat against foreign carmakers, it would be a painful blow to German producers, particularly Porsche. The VW subsidiary is heavily dependent on sales in the United States, with every fourth vehicle sold in America. Were tariffs introduced, Porsche would likely be forced to raise its prices and risk taking a hit on sales.