In an interview with Bloomberg’s Tobin Harshaw published Saturday, Clapper – who is promoting his new book “Facts and Fears,” said “I guess the way I think about that is that through our history, when we tried to manipulate or influence elections or even overturned governments, it was done with the best interests of the people in that country in mind,’ adding that the US has a “traditional reverence for human rights.”
According to a February 2016 report by Dov H. Levin, the United States has engaged in over 80 instances of election meddling or regime change between 1946 and 2000, while a February analysis by the New York Times notes that election meddling is hardly unprecedented.
“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” said Steven L. Hall, who retired in 2015 after 30 years at the C.I.A., where he was the chief of Russian operations. The United States “absolutely” has carried out such election influence operations historically, he said, “and I hope we keep doing it.” -NYT
“We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947,” said Loch K. Johnson, a University of Georgia professor who began his career in the 1970s investigating the CIA for the Senate.
China Pressuring Wall Street To Stop Trump On Trade War
If anyone still doubted President Trump’s determination to slap tariffs on all – or even more than all – Chinese goods flowing into the US, they probably don’t anymore. So far this week, the president has taken to twitter to trash his own Treasury Secretary’s efforts to restart talks with the Chinese, before Trump publicly declared on Friday that he intends to move ahead with plans to slap 25% tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods.
Given the president’s unflinching resolve in pursuing his trade agenda, it’s understandable why a shrewd businessmen would go to great lengths to avoid getting in the middle of what looks to be a protracted geopolitical dogfight.
But unfortunately for top Wall Street firms, many of which harbor ambitions of expanding their business in China, that may no longer be an option. Because while the Trump administration has largely left them alone, the Chinese are now trying to use whatever leverage they can (i.e. preferential access to the world’s second-largest economy) to push America’s top bankers to intervene on Beijing’s behalf.
Reuters reported Friday that top Chinese officials have hastily organized an investment conference in Beijing and requested the presence of several top Wall Street firms. The conference will be chaired by former PBOC Governor Zhou Xiaochuan and ex-Goldman Sachs President John Thornton, and feature an appearance by Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan. Dubbed “the firefighter” by the Chinese people, Quishan, in addition to being the most powerful of China’s vice presidents, is also one of the senior Communist officials involved in managing the trade dispute.
While market liberalization is certainly a priority for the Chinese, it’s difficult to imagine that these top officials are planning to attend this conference – especially with so much else going on – just to brainstorm ideas about how China can proceed with opening up its financial sector.
The subtext here is obvious: China wants to figure out who in the US financial services community can help them get through to Trump and help stop this conflict before losses in China’s currency and stock market spiral out of control. And if the carrot of access doesn’t work, China has already proven adept at leveraging the stick.
Jeff Bezos Thinks President Trump’s “Attacks” Are “Dangerous”
A day after unveiling his first major charitable initiative (an announcement that arrived, coincidentally, we’re sure, after a bruising week of headlines detailing the latest crop of worker-abuse allegations directed at Amazon), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (also the world’s wealthiest man) disappointed hundreds of powerful people who had convened to hear him speak – as rumors swirled that he might reveal the location of Amazon’s much-hyped HQ2 – last night at the Economic Club of Washington DC. But instead of an outright reveal, Bezos assured his audience that Amazon plans to announce the location by the end of the year, though he wouldn’t elaborate beyond that.
According to CNBC, Bezos, who was interviewed by private equity titan David Rubenstein, assured his audience that Amazon’s team is “working hard” on evaluating the finalists (the company announced 20 finalists earlier this year).
“The answer is very simple…We will answer the decision before the end of the year,” Bezos said. “We will get there.” Bezos swiftly changed the subject to his recently launched “Day One” charitable fund, which he recently seeded with $2 billion of his personal fortune.
As is his nature, Bezos shared his intentions to expand the “Day One” fund as his team learns more about the “business” of philanthropy.
“I believe in the power of wandering,” Bezos said. “All of my best decisions in business and life have been made with heart, intuition, guts — not analysis.”
He later said he would like to invest “a lot of money” in an enterprise that most rational investors would view as a “really bad investment”, a statement that turned into a plug for his Blue Origin space exploration company.
Bailing Out The Rich Only Makes It Worse
In 1948, the architect of the post-war American suburb, William Levitt, explained the point of the housing finance system. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist,” he said. “He has too much to do.”
It’s worth reflecting on this quote on the ten-year anniversary of the financial crisis, because it speaks to how the architects of the bailouts shaped our culture. Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson, the three key men in charge, basically argue that the bailouts they executed between 2007 and 2009 were unfair, but necessary to preserve stability. It’s time to ask, though: just what stability did they preserve?
These three men paint the financial crisis largely as a technical one. But let’s not get lost in the fancy terms they use, like “normalization of credit flows,” in discussing what happened and why. The excessively wonky tone is intentional – it’s intended to hide the politics of what happened. So let’s look at what the bailouts actually were, in normal human language.
The official response to the financial crisis ended a 75-year-old American policy of pursuing broad homeownership as a social goal. Since at least Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American leaders had deliberately organized the financial system to put more people in their own homes. In 2011, the Obama administration changed this policy, pushing renting over owning. The CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan, echoed this view shortly thereafter. There are many reasons for the change, and not all of them were bad. But what’s important to understand is that the financial crisis was a full-scale assault on the longstanding social contract linking Americans with the financial system through their house.
The way Geithner orchestrated this was through a two-tiered series of policy choices. During the crisis, everyone needed money from the government, but Geithner offered money to the big guy, and not the little guy.
First, he found mechanisms, all of them very technical—and well-reported in Adam Tooze’s new book Crashed—to throw unlimited amounts of credit at institutions controlled by financial executives in the United States and Europe. (Eric Holder, meanwhile, also de facto granted legal amnesty to executives for possible securities fraud associated with the crisis.)
Second, Geithner chose to deny money and credit to the middle class in the midst of a foreclosure crisis. The Obama administration supported this by neutering laws against illegal foreclosures.
The response to the financial crisis was about reorganizing property rights. If you were close to power, you enjoyed unlimited rights and no responsibilities, and if you were far from power, you got screwed. This shaped the world into what it is today. As Levitt pointed out, when people have no stake in the system, they get radical.
Did this prevent a full-scale collapse? Yes. Was it necessary to do it the way we did? Not at all.