Robert Frank White Tower, New York 1948 (Frank died yesterday, aged 94)
To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.
There are still people who are sad to see him go.
Donald Trump said he fired John Bolton, writing in a tweet he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions” and adding he would announce a replacement for his hawkish national security adviser sometime next week. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” the president wrote on Tuesday. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.” “I thank John very much for his service,” he added. “I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” Mr Bolton then tweeted a statement of his own shortly after the president’s announcement, writing: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”
Mr Bolton also reportedly told CNN’s Robert Costa shortly after his dismissal: “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night.” The reason for Mr Bolton’s departure was not immediately clear, although it has been suggested that he disagreed with the president’s aborted plan to hold peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David this week, days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Mr Bolton was also an outspoken advocate of regime change in Iran. Although Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama signed with Tehran, he is known to oppose military action in the Middle East.
“So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.”
The blowing up of Donald Trump’s attempt to end the 18-year Afghan War was the straw which broke the camel’s back for the US president, who on Tuesday fired his national security adviser John Bolton.
Trump’s attempt to bring to a close the longest war in US history – longer, in fact, than their direct involvement in WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War put together – was to be his own “Camp David moment.” It would have mimicked both Carter and Clinton’s “triumphs” there with Arafat and Begin and Arafat and Rabin (neither of which have in fact turned out to be triumphs but were wonderful photo-ops).
Bolton’s rearguard action and the Taliban’s killing of a single US soldier there in the week of the summit brought the Camp David caper crashing down, much to the president’s fury, and prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to boast that the US had killed a thousand Taliban in the previous 10 days. But it was not one damn thing, but one damned thing after another, which has caused the final forking of the “bureaucratic tape-worm” John Bolton, who has slithered through every right-wing administration in living memory.
[..] John Bolton, like so many others, was a “chicken-hawk,” always ready to fight to the last drop of somebody else’s blood. He evaded the draft during the Vietnam War because as he said himself “I didn’t want to die face down in a South East Asian rice paddy.” Nothing wrong with that, if he hadn’t continued to “support” the war and wave off to the paddy-fields the 58,000 Americans who did die, face-down, in the war he dodged. So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
But what if they start competing?
The last time major central banks shifted gears together, it was a cooperative move to keep the financial crisis of a decade ago from becoming a full-bore, worldwide depression. Now, a new round of global ratecutting risks taking on a competitive edge as policymakers try to stay ahead of rising trade tensions, a volatile investment climate, and a shift in the political mood from shared support for globalization to a more zero-sum battle over a slower-growing world economy.
[..] If the Fed and ECB do as expected at their upcoming meetings, BOJ officials will be torn between how a stressed financial system may respond to ever lower rates, and how Japanese exporters may be damaged if the yen rises in value as a result of the actions of those other central banks. European officials, disappointed that elected leaders haven’t spent aggressively to boost economic growth, are sparring over how much lower already negative rates can go without causing problems, how expansive other ECB programs should become, and what good any of it might do. At the Fed, policymakers are split over whether to cut a lot, a little or not at all.
In each case, officials are reckoning with the fact that their economies and financial systems have become so tied together that fully independent policymaking, insofar as it ever was possible, may be a thing of the past. “We really thought monetary policy had things under control,” and would be able to offset whatever programs elected leaders chose to pursue, even a trade war, said Tara Sinclair, an economics professor at George Washington University. “Does that work in a super low interest rate world and in a very integrated world?” when central banks may have lost much of their traditional influence over the domestic economy.
What purpose does the ECB serve?
Earlier this morning, there was an added wobble in European bond prices after an unconfirmed MNI report said the ECB could delay the launch of QE on Thursday and make it data dependent. While skeptics quickly slammed the story, saying it was just a clickbait by MarketNews … it does highlight just how sensitive the bond market is to an announcement of aggressive easing by the ECB when it meets on Thursday, Sept 12, where consensus generally expects a significant easing package, including a -20bp rate cut (followed by -10bp cut later on), coupled with roughly €30 billion in sovereign debt QE for 9-12 months, coupled with enhanced forward guidance.
There is just one problem: while it is unclear if any further easing by the ECB will do anything to stimulate the Eurozone economy, one thing is certain – further easing will only cripple Europe’s banks. In fact, as Goldman writes in its ECB preview, “further rate cuts are a very uncomfortable prospect for the [banking] sector” and estimates that a -20bp cut could lead to an aggregate €5.6bn (-6%) profit cut for 32 €-banks under the bank’s coverage; worse, a further -10bp cut, as per GS macro forecasts, increases the hit to -10% (-€8.3 bn). Overall, 19 banks in Goldman’s coverage face a >10% EPS cut, and 8 banks face as much as a 20% EPS hit.
Then there is Europe’s head on collision with a recession: the weakening rate outlook has been accompanied by >20% fall in €-bank shares (SX7E) since 2H18 and -4% cuts to their consensus Net Interest Incomes (for 2020E). According to Goldman, so far ~40% of the share price decline could be explained by NII cuts; the rest falls into the ‘other’ domain, “where political risk features notably.” Here is the problem in one sentence, and chart: since negative rates were introduced in 2014, European Banks have paid €23BN to the ECB!
“He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”
Cummings, who alongside fellow campaigner Matthew Elliott, drove Vote Leave to victory in the 2016 referendum is cast by allies as a ruthless strategist who cares little for the conventions of traditional British politics. He provoked a row inside Westminster when he sacked a 27-year-old adviser to finance minister Sajid Javid. The adviser, Sonia Khan, was escorted by armed police from Downing Street without Javid’s knowledge. Former Prime Minister John Major cast Cummings as an overmighty “political anarchist” who should be sacked as Johnson’s de-facto chief of staff before he poisoned British politics beyond repair.
Cummings’s response? “Trust the people” – a slogan used by government advisers to cast Johnson’s Brexit-supporting team as the true servants of the people fighting a London political and financial elite that wants to thwart their will. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the United Kingdom was in dangerous territory as voters were concluding that parliament was hindering Brexit. He said the government would respect the law but that interpretations of the law can sometimes be complex. “At this point, our view is that resignation is the most likely,” U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said. “In our view, neither seeking to defy the law, nor encouraging the EU not to grant an extension, are likely to succeed.”
The Cabinet Manual, which sets out the laws, rules and conventions on the operation of government, says if the prime minister resigns on behalf of the government then Queen Elizabeth will invite the person who appears most likely to be able to command the confidence of lawmakers to serve as prime minister and form a government. A Conservative Party lawmaker said he thought Johnson would resign soon after the EU summit, ensuring that he is not blamed for any delay to Brexit. “The question is: what has Cummings got up his sleeve?” said a former Conservative adviser. “He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”
“..the Northern Ireland-only backstop..”
The British and Irish governments are both eyeing a return to the EU’s original Brexit backstop plan, rejected by Theresa May, as a way of breaking the deadlock, reports suggest. The so-called “Northern Ireland-only” backstop was rejected by the former prime minister during talks because it put a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea – a move strongly opposed by the DUP and many Tories. It was replaced in the withdrawal agreement by the current UK-wide backstop – which was rejected by Brexiteers for another reason: because it could tie the whole UK to the EU customs union indefinitely.
[..] In an interview with the Irish Times, Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan – who is set to be put in charge of trade talks with the UK – said the direction of travel was towards the old backstop. “Yes,” he replied when asked whether it was back on the agenda. “The taoiseach has indicated in the last 24 hours that the Northern Ireland-only backstop is quite an interesting idea to revisit.” He added: “I remain hopeful that the penny is finally dropping with the UK that there are pragmatic and practical solutions can actually be introduced into the debate at this stage – albeit at the eleventh hour – that may find some common ground between the EU and the UK.” British officials in Brussels flatly deny that there is any intention to return to the original backstop. A UK spokesperson said that “any deal must involve the abolition of the anti-democratic backstop”.
[..] A return to something resembling the Northern Ireland-only backstop could ultimately make sense politically for Mr Johnson, given he may no longer have to rely on DUP votes for a majority after a general election – if he wins a majority, as polls suggest is possible. The DUP’s opposition to a border in the Irish sea would no longer be as much of an issue. The change would also technically allow Mr Johnson to claim he had ditched the current backstop, which he has put down as a red line. Whether moving back to a Northern Ireland-only situation would be accepted by Tory Brexiteers as satisfactory is another matter.
Affable Boris vs Bullying Boris.
One reason to suppose that Johnson is malleable on the detail is that on 29 March he voted for May’s deal – the same one he denounces as an affront to democracy. The hypocrisy is not surprising, but it does illuminate that tension in Johnson’s self-image, between the wannabe statesman and the Trump tribute act. One enjoys the hobnobbing with world leaders at global summits, the other is an accomplice in vandalising the architecture of a rules-based international order.
The same tension is expressed in domestic politics. There is affable Boris who thought he could charm his way to an elegant Brexit solution, unify his party and woo the country with a healing message. He was barged aside by bullying Boris who purges dissent from his party and stokes division in the country. One belongs to the old Tory party that venerated stability and reached out to liberal voters. The other leads a new revolutionary leaver party, recruiting admirers of Nigel Farage for a nationalist insurgency.
The Downing Street calculation appears to be that a majority is most easily won by stripping the Conservative party down and reassembling it as something unconservative. Johnson will run as a populist tribune, the man who would rather be “dead in a ditch” than surrender to tricky continentals and their Westminster collaborators. It might work. Current polling doesn’t offer much of a guide when the vital choices have been punted to the end of October. That doesn’t leave much time for the prime minister to tweak May’s Brexit deal and, in defiance of all the odds, persuade a hostile parliament to vote for it. But that doesn’t mean he has given up on the idea.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex part of the occupied West Bank if he is returned to office next week. He would apply “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea”, a policy certain to be backed by the right-wing parties whose support he would need for a coalition. Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said such annexation moves would “bury any chance of peace”. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 but stopped short of annexation. Mr Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud party, is campaigning ahead of general elections next Tuesday. Polls suggest Likud is neck-and-neck with the opposition centrist Blue and White party and may struggle to form a governing coalition.
Palestinians claim the whole of the West Bank for a future independent state. Mr Netanyahu has previously insisted that Israel would always retain a presence in the Jordan Valley for security purposes. In a televised speech the PM said: “There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections. “If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so… today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” Mr Netanyahu also said he would annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but this would need to wait until the publication of US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
“..he could be indicted as early as mid-October..”
Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been desperate to drum up voter support across various sections of the Israeli population as the September 17 election inches closer, and his most recent pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, a part of the occupied West Bank, is no more than yet another empty campaign promise, political and defense commentator Amir Oren told RT. “He cannot annex any inch of the occupied territories… the most important [reason] is that peace with Egypt and with Jordan is based upon the UN Security Council resolution 242 from November of 1967 forbidding the acquisition of territories by force.”
Netanyahu knows that risking the collapse of the entire regional security system is a “non-starter,” and his grand announcement is merely a “way to focus attention on himself,” Oren argued. The PR stunt is also aimed at helping Netanyahu to rebrand himself as a strong leader able to deal with the Iran ‘menace’ and the Palestinian issue, as most recently he has been making headlines for the allegations of corruption he faces. “He is trying to shift attention from his corruption scandals, he could be indicted as early as mid-October, he wants people to talk about himself as a world-class leader in league with Putin and Trump.”
The gig economy is an even hollower term than the service economy.
Lawmakers in California have passed a law that paves the way for gig economy workers to get holiday and sick pay. Assembly Bill 5, as its known, will affect companies such as Uber and Lyft, which depend on those working in the gig economy. Some estimates suggest costs for those firms would increase by 30% if they have to treat workers as employees. But opponents of the bill say it will hurt those that want to work flexible hours. The business models of gig economy companies are already under strain – Uber lost more than $5bn in the last quarter alone.
Some estimates suggest that having to treat workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, could increase costs by as much as 30%. Uber and rival ridesharing service Lyft joined forces to push back again the bill. They suggested a guaranteed minimum wage of $21 per hour instead of the sweeping changes the bill would bring. But that pledge wasn’t enough to sway California’s Senate, and the state’s governor Gavin Newsom is expected to soon sign the bill into law.
High time someone takes Maddow to court, but Sputnik is not a strong point.
Conservative television network One America News (OAN) is suing Rachel Maddow for $10 million after she referred to the network as “paid Russian propaganda”. OAN filed the defamation suit in federal court in San Diego, according to AP. OAN is a small, family owned conservative network that is based in San Diego and has received favorable Tweets from the President. It is seen as a competitor to Fox News. OAN’s lawsuit claims that Maddow’s comments were retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused Comcast of censorship. The suit said that Comcast refuses to carry its channel because “counters the liberal politics of Comcast’s own news channel, MSNBC.”
It was about a week after Herring e-mailed a Comcast executive when Maddow opened her show by referring to a Daily Beast report that claimed an OAN employee also worked for Sputnik News, which has ties to the Russian government. Maddow said: “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda. Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Except Maddow, likely still upset from spending 3 years trying to promulgate a Russian hoax that didn’t exist, didn’t quite get her facts straight. Big surprise.
OAN said in its lawsuit that while reporter Kristian Rouz was associated with Sputnik News, he worked solely as a freelancer for them and was not a staff employee of OAN. And the lawsuit includes a statement from Rouz stating that while he has written some 1,300 articles over the past 4 and a half years for Sputnik, he has “…never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information.