Krystal and Saagar look at the violent Russian resistance, global recession fears, worker strikes, Matt Gaetz investigation, NYT’s Biden propaganda, insider journalism, Fed’s mistake, & Glenn Greenwald on Snowden obtaining Russian citizenship!
Chicago Tickets: https://www.axs.com/events/449151/bre…
Glenn Greenwald: https://greenwald.substack.com/
Timestamps: Russia: 0:00 – 27:30 Recession: 27:31 – 36:18 Striketober: 36:19 – 43:49 Gaetz: 43:50 – 51:25 NYT: 51:26 – 58:16 Saagar: 58:17 – 1:07:23 Krystal: 1:07:24 – 1:18:17 Glenn Greenwald: 1:18:18 – 1:35:07
9/27 NEWSLETTER: Russian Dissent, Global Recession, Unionization, Insider Journalism, & More!
Welcome to the 9/27/22 Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar
newsletter. Get your tickets to the Chicago live show here: https://www.axs.com/events/449151/breaking-points-live-tickets
. Additional live show dates and locations will be announced soon so stay tuned! If you are wondering what to expect, we sent out the Atlanta live show and AMA last Wednesday and Sunday!
The pushback to Vladimir Putin’s conscription program is growing. Russian military-recruitment centers have been attacked
and men are flocking to the country’s border to escape. One man opened fire at a recruiting station in Siberia, critically wounding its commander. Hours later, another man threw molotov cocktails
into a recruitment center after ramming his car into it. The men who can afford it have been flocking to the border
amid reports of military officials barring them from leaving. Resentment from men in poorer areas being hit hardest by conscription has been brought to the surface in the form of violence
. There has been little enthusiasm from Russian individuals towards fighting in the war, even though many have professed to support it. Before the conscription announcement, the war effort had been distant in the minds of everyday Russians. Now it is generating an unprecedented surge in unrest
in Putin’s Russia and could erode morale on the battlefield. The men being sent to war are only given two weeks of military training and may not be sufficiently prepared for combat before joining the battlefield. Kremlin officials have admitted to reports of mistakes
and sloppiness in executing the conscription order up to this point. Medically exempted and men without military experience have been called up despite not qualifying under Putin’s decree. Other reporting has indicated that Russia’s mobilization effort will be larger than the 300,000 target Putin gave in his announcement last week. Up to one million men could be called up to replenish high Russian casualties and potentially alleviate problems Putin’s forces are having with infantry. A spokesperson for Putin claims all errors will be corrected and there are ongoing efforts to rectify the situation. They have denied reports of borders being shut down or martial law being implemented to crack down on protests. Since Putin’s mobilization announcement, more than 2,000 protestors have been arrested with many being sent immediately to military training.
In response to Russia mobilizing its military, the United States is weighing a $12 billion aid package
to Ukraine as part of a stopgap spending bill. The bill would fund the federal government until mid December and Congress is set to consider the Ukraine funding package this week. Both chambers of Congress must approve the legislation by the end of the week to prevent a partial government shutdown and it represents unfinished business for lawmakers who will be busy campaigning next month. The $11.7 billion requested by the White House for Ukraine would go to military and economic assistance for the war torn nation. It adds to the $40 billion Congress has appropriated for Ukraine’s military, political, and humanitarian assistance.
Warning signs of a global recession are growing as every major currency
traded below the US dollar in yesterday’s markets. Turmoil in markets across the pond saw the British pound drop
to an all-time low against the US dollar. The Bank of England had been planning to raise interest rates to combat inflation and doubled down after the market turbulence. Officials say they are watching the situation closely and will make a full assessment in November before action is taken. They are targeting a drop to 2% inflation in the medium term and will change interest rates as necessary to meet this goal. At the same time new Tory Prime Minister Liz Truss announced sweeping tax cuts and a return to trickle-down economics of her idol Margaret Thatcher. Her government intends to lay out other supply side growth reforms next month and her decisions are at odds with most major global economies. A hike in interest rates will hit UK households quickly
because of their housing system where mortgages reset every two to five years. Those with refinanced mortgages will be facing much higher payments because of an increase in mortgage rates caused by rising interest rates. A rough estimate of 1.4 million UK homeowners will be affected by a spike in their monthly mortgage payment.
A fall of union activity being dubbed ‘striketober’ is coming to American workplaces. A name being re-used from last year, it’s reflected in the decision by 1000 fast food workers
to strike in San Francisco. The workers are employed by the SF International Airport and are striking to protest understaffing. Travelers are being advised to bring their own food because workers from virtually all of the airport’s food and beverage outlets will be on strike. Support for union workers
in the United States is at its highest level in recent memory at 71% according to Gallup. Major wins against major corporations such as Chipotle, Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe’s, REI, and more have put unionization back on the map. Petitions to form a union are up 58% in the first three quarters of 2022 with no signs of slowing down. Strikes in 2022 have significantly outpaced their 2021 totals led by workers in the service sector. In other industries such as healthcare, education, timber, manufacturing, and more have gone on strike across the country. A potential railway strike by carrier workers is still a very real possibility if union members vote down the agreement brokered by the Biden administration. The reasons for striking include wage increases, staffing shortages, and working conditions stretching workers to their breaking point.
Prosecutors are recommending charges not be brought upon Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) in a federal sex trafficking investigation. According to the Washington Post
, credibility issues with two of the witnesses played a role in the recommendation. Senior DOJ officials have not decided whether to charge Gaetz, but recommendations of this sort are typically followed. It is rare for the advice to be turned down unless significant evidence changes the way prosecutors handle the case. Gaetz is accused of having sexual relations with a 17-year-old girl for whom he paid to travel with him. He has denied the allegations of payment and claims he only had relations when he was 17 years old himself. At the same time, a Florida man
was sentenced to five years in prison for a scheme to extort Gaetz’s father in exchange for a promise of a presidential pardon for Gaetz. He took part in a scheme to instruct the DOJ to terminate investigations into Gaetz for $25 million from his father. The media reported extensively
on the opening of an FBI investigation into the Florida firebrand and indicated he was guilty without scrutinizing the case.
It has been a difficult past couple of weeks for The New York Times. Their latest instance of questionable reporting comes in a piece touting a surge in manufacturing jobs
happening under President Biden. The piece claims factory jobs are rebounding as companies add workers to keep pace with consumer demand for products. It was quickly tweeted out
by Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who frequently boosts mainstream reporting favorable to his boss. A glance at labor market data tracking manufacturing jobs demonstrates how a slight uptick
under Biden was greatly exaggerated by the Times’ piece. In the article, a manufacturing boom reminiscent of the 1970s is portrayed as a triumph of a president committed to making things in America again. In reality, manufacturing jobs have gone back up to 2019 levels and are much below the 1970s when manufacturing employment peaked. Unsurprisingly, Klain’s tweet of the NYT story has gotten much more attention than attempts to correct the record. His vibrant activity on twitter typically offers a glance at who the Biden administration is reading and where they are taking advice from. Klain’s influence over Biden is well known and gives him tremendous power as White House Chief of Staff.
In his monologue, Saagar issues a critique of insider journalism practiced by mainstream outlets and political figures in Washington. What happens is a reporter tasked with covering those in power will cozy up to them to obtain scoops and increase their profile. A prime example of this was the 40 year long friendship between
NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg and the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Throughout her career, Totenberg has broken many major scoops that turned her into a star. Most notably, she reported on Clarence Thomas’ Anita Hill story that remains a cultural flashpoint to this day. Her relationship with Ginsburg received some scrutiny when the Justice presided over Totenberg’s second wedding in 2000. Since then, it has been ignored until now, when she is 80 years old and Ginsburg is dead. Totenberg published a book about her dinners with Ginsburg and admits she had insider knowledge
of the justice’s declining health during the covid pandemic. She did not report about her knowledge that RBG was hardly breaking quarantine, too weak to climb stairs, and falling asleep during meals. It got to the point where Ginsburg was wearing gloves to cover her bruises from IVS she needed to keep going. She knew she was going to die soon and acknowledged her own mortality according to Totenberg’s book. Despite being the premier Supreme Court reporter in America, Totenberg disclosed none of what she knew about RBG’s health and kept the nation in the dark until RBG died.
Even worse, NPR was aware
of the close relationship between journalist and justice and said nothing until Ginsburg passed away. The friendship was never disclosed to readers and well known among those in the newsroom according to a retrospective published by NPR. Relationships between journalists and political figures in the style of Totenberg still exist today, particularly on the Democratic side. Instead of admitting their conflicts of interest, the DC press wants people to believe they are simply calling balls and strikes. With the internet, alternatives have been introduced to challenge the corrupt relationships held by insiders. At an institutional level, the problem is not going away, as shown by the new chief of the White House Correspondents Association. Selected for the job is POLITICO’s Eugene Daniels
, a woke force who has tried to make social justice at the forefront of his coverage. His known favoritism towards Kamala Harris will only perpetuate the personal advocacy journalism by those pretending to do otherwise. When online alternatives destroy the mainstream press, corruption like this will be a big reason for it.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar discuss insider journalism in DC and how media figures should be transparent about the friendships they have. Nakedly partisan journalism is a problem moreso than ideological journalism taking a certain point of view. Masquerading as neutral while having an agenda is the most common tactic of mainstream journalists. Totenberg deciding against reporting the biggest story in her beat is something she should be fired over because she is not entitled to her post at NPR.
In her monologue, Krystal examines the Fed’s rapid increase in interest rates and the possibility they have made a grave mistake. UPenn Wharton Business School’s Professor of Finance Jeremy Siegel went on CNBC
to criticize Fed Chair Powell’s recent press conference and the lack of scrutiny from the business press. Siegel believes the Fed is inducing a crushing recession onto working class Americans unless it changes course. It could be the mistake of the century in his view, so he is sounding the alarm about the Fed’s decision making. First, he notes how the press refused to ask Powell tough questions, instead blindly trusting his decisions. Nothing about how the working class will be affected by the Fed raising rates in terms of wages and unemployment. Washington’s bipartisan establishment believes workers wages are a major reason for inflation and believe Powell must tank the economy. Corporate America is irritated by a tight labor market giving power to workers and a unionization surge across the country. Executives are hoping the Fed will be able to discipline workers
and force them into the subpar deals of the past.
Accepting the pronouncements by the Fed as if they are simply analyzing data and making rational decisions ignores the reality of politics. Monetary policy can be influenced by ideology, political influence, and human error like everything else. They should be questioned vigorously and the public deserves to know what the Fed is doing because of how impactful it is. Another notable piece of Siegel’s commentary
comes when he refutes the DC notion of wages contributing to inflation. Wages have increased but not enough to keep up with inflation. Corporations have used inflation to raise prices to generate record profits. With inflation in the mix, real wages have declined
since April 2021 including every month this year. Workers have gotten a pay cut every month of the year when prices are considered, yet they are still being blamed for inflation. A third point
made by Siegel is the Fed’s knowledge of how raising interest rates will take a while to hit. Nonetheless, they are moving full steam ahead and creating a recession in the process. He urges Powell to take a look at how the markets
are plunging and global currencies
are plunging as signs of what the coming recession will look like. Global oil prices are falling because of recession fears yet gas prices are slowly creeping upwards. Housing prices are plunging and mortgage rates are spiking. Jobs are being added as GDP goes down. Warning signs are flashing of the Fed being too aggressive in fighting inflation and nobody in the business press cares to notice.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar comment on the remarkable moment on CNBC challenging the business press to cover monetary policy with a critical lens. In normal times the monetary decisions are opaque decisions of technocratic management, but in a time like this people need to know what is going on. Congress could provide a democratic check to the Fed and ask questions about what is going on. Very few of them are interested in scrutinizing the Fed and studying up on monetary policy because of the bipartisan consensus to defer to the central bankers.
Krystal and Saagar are joined by journalist Glenn Greenwald to discuss the decision by Vladimir Putin to grant Russian citizenship
to whistleblower Edward Snowden. In 2013, Greenwald worked with Snowden to release a trove of files indicating mass, illegal spying by the United States government’s National Security Agency. For his work reporting on the story of the decade, Greenwald received a Pulitzer Prize and Snowden was chased out of the country by the US government. The Obama administration cornered Snowden into taking residence in Russia, where he has now built a life.
Whenever the US media decides America should dislike a country, they separate an evil leader from the country as a whole to personalize the conflict. They portray the decision as made by Putin alone instead of bureaucrats in an immigration office signing off on previously submitted documents. Snowden has to live in Russia because the US government will arrest and prosecute him under the espionage act if he comes back to American soil. The media is depicting it as a cunning move by Putin and using it to push their narrative of Snowden being a traitor. In authoritarian countries it is important to separate the regime from its people, but it’s important to keep in mind the complexities of Russian politics and competition between power centers. There are various interests in Russia and divided public opinions on issues like the war in Ukraine. Western media oversimplifies the way it talks about the countries we are supposed to hate and lumps together regimes that have different characteristics. Before the obsession with Russia consumed American discourse, media outlets fought to publish and report on the Snowden documents alongside Greenwald. The documents revealed spying programs by the United States government instituted during the war on terror and expanded by the Obama administration later deemed illegal by US courts. Snowden has a desire to come back to the United States but he cannot leave his wife and family behind. Obtaining Russian citizenship gives him stability in Russia and his status should be blamed on the Obama administration for aggressively pursuing him under the espionage act. The Washington Post shared the Pulitzer Prize with Greenwald and The Guardian when the Snowden documents were first released. Now, they are questioning his status as a whistleblower and they have advocated for Snowden being imprisoned. The Washington Post published the majority of the documents from Snowden about the US government spying on other countries and now they are using it to claim he deserves prosecution. Corporate media’s ideology is pro-establishment, particularly on matters involving the US security state. Media outlets being subservient to ruling elite power centers like the White House and CIA in contrast to Snowden and Assange who have revealed government secrets. When asked about it, the Biden administration referred all questions about Snowden to the Department of Justice suggesting they endorse the aggressive tactics against Snowden used by the Obama administration. He’s been accused of being a Russian agent for living in Russia even though he first met Greenwald in Hong Kong and originally seeked asylum in South America. Obama officials prevented Snowden from leaving Moscow when he was seeking asylum by bullying other countries against taking him in. They used the entrapment in Russia to smear Snowden and get gullible media officials to regurgitate their talking points. Talk of pardoning Snowden came up in the Trump administration but conservative Senators threatened Trump over his second impeachment if he gave Snowden a pardon. There was a movement in the Trump administration to pardon Snowden and Assange, and there were real fears of mass declassification by Trump about the CIA. His second impeachment after January 6th was used as leverage against Trump to prevent him from releasing national security secrets. His decision to recklessly move classified to Mar-a-Lago could be connected to his belief in mass declassification of intelligence secrets.
Thank you for reading the latest Breaking Points newsletter. Look out for Wednesday content and the full show on Thursday!