Mirror, mirror, on the wall ...

 Who's the biggest, dumbest kleptocracy of them all?
-- blj 

Donald J. Trump" @realDonaldTrump  
10:24 PM - Jul 22, 20186,938 viewsFeb 14, 2018, 04:28am
Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force -- and a true rock star in Iran -- issued a blistering response to Trump: 
"You may begin the war, but it is us who will end it." -- Escobar, opednews, July 30, 2018

The Guardian
US bosses now earn 312 times the average worker's wage, figures show
Astronomical gap between the pay of workers and bosses exposed in report on earnings of America’s top 350 CEOs
Dominic Rushe in New York
The chief executives of America’s top 350 companies earned 312 times more than their workers on average last year, according to a new report published Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute.
The rise came after the bosses of America’s largest companies got an average pay rise of 17.6% in 2017, taking home an average of $18.9m in compensation while their employees’ wages stalled, rising just 0.3% over the year.
The pay gap has risen dramatically, with some fluctuations, since the 1990s. In 1965 the ratio of CEO to worker pay was 20 to one; that figure had risen to 58 to one by in 1989 and peaked in 2000 when CEOs earned 344 times the wage of their average worker.
CEO pay dipped in the early 2000s and during the last recession, but has been rising rapidly since 2009. Chief executives are even leaving the 0.1% in the dust. The bosses of large firms now earn 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1%.
The astronomical gap between the remuneration of workers and bosses has been brought into sharper focus by a new financial disclosure rule that forces companies to publish the ratio of CEO to worker pay. Last year, McDonald’s boss Steve Easterbrook earned $21.7m while the McDonald’s workers earned a median wage of just $7,017 – a CEO to worker pay ratio of 3,101-to-one. The average Walmart worker earned $19,177 in 2017 while CEO Doug McMillon took home $22.8m – a ratio of 1,188-to-one.
But the average is skewed by outliers, particularly the tech companies, where the CEO founders may own large chunks of the company but not take home much in compensation, relatively speaking. Amazon’s boss, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, took home $1.7m in 2017 while the average Amazon worker earned $28,446 - a ratio of 59-to-one. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s compensation was $8.8m in 2017 while his well paid workforce earned an average of $240,430 – a ratio of 37-to-one. But neither man is waiting on his monthly paycheck. Bezos’s personal fortune now tops $154bn while Zuckerberg’s is close to $66bn, according to Forbes.
The compensation bonanza was driven by stock-related components of CEO compensation such as stock awards or the opportunity to cash in stock options, said Lawrence Mishel, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute.
But the rise in their compensation can not be explained entirely by rising stock markets. CEO rewards have outstripped both stock prices and corporate profits, EPI found. Between 1978 and 2017 CEO compensation has increased by 979%. Over the same period the S&P 500 Index of the US’s largest companies grew 637%. The typical workers’ pay package rose just 11.2% over the same time frame.
 “Over time I think there has been a loosening of norms.” said Mishel. “Everyone wants to believe their CEO is one of the best, so they look around and see what everyone else is being paid and then they pay them a lot more. They think everyone is better than average.”
The outsize pay packets have had a direct impact on people down the corporate ladder, Mishel claims. “The redistribution of wages to the top 5%, but particularly the top 1%, affected the wage growth of the bottom 90%. As a mathematical matter, had there not been the redistribution upward – to the top 5%, but which is mostly about to the top 1% – the wages of the bottom 90% could have grown twice as fast as it actually did.”

How BRICS Plus clashes with the US economic war on Iran
By Pepe Escobar              

Top of Form

From Asia Times
Rhetorical war has far-reaching consequences, including a potential economic slump via the disruption of global oil supplies
The key take-away from the BRICS summit in Johannesburg is that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- important Global South players -- strongly condemn unilateralism and protectionism.
The Johannesburg Declaration is unmistakable: "We recognize that the multilateral trading system is facing unprecedented challenges. We underscore the importance of an open world economy."
Closer examination of Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech unlocks some poignant details.
Xi, crucially, emphasizes delving further into "our strategic partnership." That implies increased BRICS and Beyond BRICS multilateral trade, investment and economic and financial connectivity.
And that also implies reaching to the next level; "It is important that we continue to pursue innovation-driven development and build the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) to strengthen coordination on macroeconomic policies, find more complementarities in our development strategies, and reinforce the competitiveness of the BRICS countries, emerging market economies and developing countries."
If PartNIR sounds like the basis for an overall Global South platform, that's because it is.
In a not too veiled allusion to the Trump administration's unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), Xi called all parties to "abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations and to settle disputes through dialogue and differences through consultation," adding that the BRICS are inevitably working for "a new type of international relations."
Relations such as these certainly do not include a superpower unilaterally imposing an energy export blockade -- an act of economic war -- on an emerging market and key actor of the Global South.
Xi is keen to extol a "network of closer partnerships." That's where the concept of BRICS Plus fits in. China coined BRICS Plus last year at the Xiamen summit, it refers to closer integration between the five BRICS members and other emerging markets/developing nations
Argentina, Turkey and Jamaica are guests of honor in Johannesburg. Xi sees BRICS Plus interacting with the UN, the G20"and other frameworks" to amplify the margin of maneuver not only of emerging markets but the whole Global South. ""So how does Iran fit into this framework?
An absurd game of chicken
Immediately after President Trump's Tweet of Mass Destruction the rhetorical war between Washington and Tehran has skyrocketed to extremely dangerous levels.
Donald J. Trump" @realDonaldTrump  
10:24 PM - Jul 22, 20186,938 viewsFeb 14, 2018, 04:28am
Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force -- and a true rock star in Iran -- issued a blistering response to Trump: 

"You may begin the war, but it is us who will end it."
The IRGC yields massive economic power in Iran and is in total symbiosis with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. It's no secret the IRGC never trusted President Rouhani's strategy of relying on the JCPOA as the path to improve Iran's economy. After the unilateral Trump administration pullout, the IRGC feels totally vindicated.
The mere threat of a US attack on Iran has engineered a rise in oil prices. US reliance on Middle East Oil is going down while fracking -- boosted by higher prices -- is ramping up. The threat of war increases with Tehran now overtly referring to its power to cripple global energy supplies literally overnight.
In parallel the Houthis, by forcing the Yemen-bombing House of Saud to stop oil shipments via the Bab al-Mandeb port, are configuring the Strait of Hormuz and scores of easily targeted pipelines as even more crucial to the flow of energy that makes the West tick. If there ever was a US attack on Iran, Persian Gulf analysts stress only Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela might be able to provide enough oil and gas to make up for lost supplies to the West. That's not exactly what the Trump administration is looking for.
Iranian "nuclear weapons" was always a bogus issue. Tehran did not have them -- and was not pursuing them. Yet now the highly volatile rhetorical war introduces the hair-raising possibility of Tehran perceiving there is a clear danger of a US nuclear attack or an attack whose purpose is to destroy the nation's infrastructure. If cornered, there's no question the IRGC would buy nuclear weapons on the black market and use them to defend the nation.
This is the "secret" hidden in Soleimani's message. Besides, Russia could easily -- and secretly -- supply Iran with state-of-the-art defensive missiles and the most advanced offensive missiles.
This absurd game of chicken is absolutely unnecessary for Washington from an oil strategy point of view -- apart from the intent to break a key node of Eurasia integration. Assuming the Trump administration is playing chess, it's imperative to think 20 moves ahead if "winning" is on the cards.
If a US oil blockade on Iran is coming, Iran could answer with its own Strait of Hormuz blockade, producing economic turmoil for the West. If this leads to a massive depression, it's unlikely the industrial-military-security complex will blame itself.
There's no question that Russia and China -- the two key BRICS players -- will have Iran's back. First there's Russia's participation in Iran's nuclear and aerospace industries and then the Russia-Iran collaboration in the Astana process to solve the Syria tragedy. With China, Iran as one of the country's top energy suppliers and plays a crucial role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Russia and China have an outsize presence in the Iranian market and similar ambitions to bypass the US dollar and third-party US sanctions.
Beam me up, Global South
The true importance of the BRICS Johannesburg summit is how it is solidifying a Global South plan of action that would have Iran as one of its key nodes. Iran, although not named in an excellent analysis by Yaroslav Lissovolik at the Valdai Club, is the quintessential BRICS Plus nation.
Once again, BRICS Plus is all about constituting a "unified platform of regional integration arrangements," going way beyond regional deals to reach other developing nations in a transcontinental scope.
This means a platform integrating the African Union (AU), the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well as the South Asian Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
Iran is a future member of the SCO and has already struck a deal with the EAEU. It's also an important node of the BRI and is a key member, along BRICS members India and Russia, of the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC), essential for deeper Eurasia connectivity.
Lissovolik uses BEAMS as the acronym to designate "the aggregation of regional integration groups, with BRICS Plus being a broader concept that incorporates other forms of BRICS' interaction with developing economies."
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has defined BRICS Plus and BEAMS as the "most extensive platform for South-South cooperation with a global impact." The Global South now does have an integration road map. If it ever happened, an attack on Iran would be not only an attack on BRICS Plus and BEAMS but on the whole Global South.

Lobe Log
Trump’s War With The Intelligence Community Is Not About Peace
      Charles Davis
When the most powerful and belligerent man in the world began casually exploring the idea of invading Venezuela—this, after Caracas’s state-owned oil company gave $500,000to the U.S. president’s inauguration party—it was an establishment general, H.R. McMaster, who “vigorously urged him against the notion.”
This anecdote fatally undermines an insidious and superficially progressive narrative, established during the 2016 campaign, that a man with the temperament of a spoiled child who’s missed a nap is only a reluctant warrior, constitutionally averse to throwing tantrums with Hellfire missiles.
Eighteen months into this presidency and the myth of nonintervention is not dead, in spite of thousands more civilians in Syria and Yemen losing their lives as a result of this commander-in-chief’s decisions in office. In part, the big lie lives on because these are not the deaths anyone was seeking to avoid. The war on terror, by now, is a commonly accepted framework for international relations, embraced with a great variance in degree by everyone from Bernie Sanders to Bashar al-Assad.
The president’s supposed national security heresies inform the conspiracy theory. The U.S. “deep state,” perturbed that this U.S. president is not seeking to overthrow the governments of Syria or Russia, is now committed to regime change at home—it’s a matter of survival. Through a vicious campaign of leaks about things the president and his closest international ally have said and done, the U.S. war-making bureaucracy is seeking to derail a peace between global powers that ultimately threatens their power.
Can you really believe a Senate committee and an FBI special counsel when it comes to all this Russia stuff, then? These are the same people, recall, who were so wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as the president himself has said.
The Iraq reference should be a tell. George W. Bush cynically blamed an intelligence failure for the decision to invade Iraq, but as British diplomats wrote during the drive to war, “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” not the other way around. It was not the intelligence community itching for an invasion over phantom weapons, but political Bush appointees who had long sought Saddam Hussein’s forcible removal from power. To these neoconservatives, the intelligence agencies were not seen not as a deep-state ally with a shared goal of perpetual war for an American Century, but a den of liberals made soft by academia and foreign-language skills. They created their own intelligence unit, the Office of Special Plans, specifically to bypass them, all while cherry-picking their material.
Going after spooks and generals may be all well and good, in principle, but it has also been an apologist’s tactic since at least the time of Camelot. In 2018, the revisionism of war criminals has been given a fresh new gloss by people who purportedly engage in anti-establishment politics. This elite alibi, that the invasion of Iraq was the product of flawed intelligence, has an aesthetic edge — years removed from its original context — whose appeal to the left is not hard to explain: the CIA, which helped undermine democracy from Chile to Iran, can go to hell.
The skepticism of those fearing a new Cold War is informed by an ideological and pragmatic reticence to acknowledge the Kremlin’s role in empowering right-wing authoritarians from Damascus to Washington. “McCarthyism” is invoked, used to describe not officials with state power purging their enemies from public life, but a social-media liberal calling some wealthy commentator “KGB.”
“What’s Worse: Trump’s Campaign Agenda or Empowering Generals and CIA Operatives to Subvert It?” a popular left columnist has asked. But the line is not so clear. Under Trump, generals and the CIA have been unleashed, no longer subject to the politically correct meddling of effete liberals. Drones are enjoying a lethal resurgence from Somalia to Yemen. The war on terror continues to provide ample work for the military-industrial complex. Meanwhile, from Iran to Venezuela, “deep state” leaks have actually undermined this president’s conflict-mongering, despite both nations more than qualifying as official enemies.
It has happened before: bad people thwarting the plans of those who are up to worse.
In 2007, when some feared that George W. Bush might add another war to his C.V., all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies—burned by establishment blame-shifting after Iraq—signed off on a report that said the Islamic Republic of Iran was not in fact developing a nuclear weapon, contrary to official claims. “Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here,” The New York Times reported.
A decade later, the same U.S. intelligence community that helped overthrow Iranian democracy in 1953 joined with the generals to declare, once more, that Tehran was not weaponizing its stash of uranium.
With Russia as with Iran, the evidence is abundant. It’s not what the White House ordered. Acknowledging the evidence despite the White House narrative is not, as the sophists insist, to forget the intelligence community’s work on behalf of past and present war criminals.
Today, as during the Iraq war, reactionaries are blasting the CIA not because of its involvement in illegal, covert wars, but because it’s full of “political radicals and left-wing academics” who, in the odd words of an American Spectator columnist, have “gone from voting for communists to taping Russians.” Let’s not confuse this with a progressive critique. Right-wing Russophiles may crib the left’s language when it comes to a highly selective “peace,” but this is to justify a new coalition of the willing, led by Trump and Vladimir Putin, where refugees are kept away from the borders of both countries and bombing campaigns are occasionally coordinated.
When the far right and their favorite world leaders attack the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, the proper response is not to turn around and reflexively venerate a group of spies that has disappeared the opponents of U.S.-backed dictators. But this is a president who believes that the CIA is overly concerned with protecting innocent life. Any joy derived from his attacks will be short-lived. That spies and generals are not necessarily the biggest hawks in a room with Donald Trump is nothing to celebrate, but rather something to fear.
Charles Davis is a journalist in Los Angeles whose work has been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Daily Beast, The New Republic and Vice.