May 092020

Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE


Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)
How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)
South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)
South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)
Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)
UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)
COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)
Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)
Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)
The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)
Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)
Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)
Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)
What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)
Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)



•The US recorded 1,635 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 77,178, with a confirmed total of 1,283,829 cases



• Brazil today now 10,199, total near 150k
• Mexico 23% jump to 1,982, new high
• India today 3,362, small decrease after large increase
• Pakistan 1,791 new high
• Iran recent increasing trend continues 1,556
• Kuwait 641, Qatar 1,311 both new highs




Cases 4,032,763 (+ 98,052 from yesterday’s 3,934,711)

Deaths 276,677 (+ 5,582 from yesterday’s 271,095)




From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-



From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.



From SCMP:








Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

That is the highest rate and largest month-over-month increase since the report began in its current form in 1948.

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)

April really was the cruelest month. Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to an eye-popping 14.7% – the highest since at least the 1940s. But the headline number leaves out much of the Covid-19 economic story. The report makes for grisly – if unsurprising – reading. The economy shed roughly a decade of job gains. The figure dwarfs the 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and suggests an annualized second-quarter GDP contraction north of 30% is possible. It represents the highest recorded losses in the report’s seven-decade history, and includes the wipeout of almost half of the country’s leisure and hospitality jobs.

Comparing this to previous crises and slumps is of limited use, because the United States has never intentionally shut off almost 30% of its economy before. But other things are different too. For one, Friday’s figure doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate income picture. Federal stimulus has added $600 a week to jobless benefits, making them, on average, actually higher than normal salaries in a majority of states, according to the New York Times. This is only temporary and the levels vary by state, but it’s still a huge difference from previous crises. The $1,200 one-off payments made to many Americans also mean households, overall, might not see income decline as much as the depressing statistics would suggest.

Just as the record lows in unemployment before Covid-19 didn’t give a full picture, the highs present a similar problem. The headline unemployment figure leaves out workers who aren’t looking for jobs. And it classifies over 18 million workers as being on temporary layoff – but it’s impossible to know whether they will be rehired. After the lockdown, demand may remain depressed because people are scared to, say, go to restaurants or spend much at all. Jobless figures during the decade-plus expansion didn’t account for the low quality of jobs, limited benefits, and low labor-force participation rate. Unfortunately, Friday’s statistics mostly make clear what was already known – that the U.S. economy is in an induced coma – without giving clues on how or when it will wake up.

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In a nutshell: by ignoring the WHO.

How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)

It got really serious for Greg Hunt while he was at the cricket. It was a Saturday morning, February 1, while Australia’s Health Minister was watching his 10-year-old son play that he got the message. In between phone calls and text messages, Hunt was cheering his boy on as he walked laps around the Balnarring cricket oval on his home turf of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “We now have sustained human-to-human transmission outside Wuhan,” read the message from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, as Hunt recalls it. “I think we are going to have to close the border to China.” It’s a morning that Hunt says he remembers clearly. The government was already on high alert.

It had been 12 days since Murphy had informed Hunt he was invoking the Biosecurity Act to list the novel coronavirus as a disease of pandemic potential. Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had already told the national security committee of the cabinet that he’d resolved to “respect the medical advice” as the guiding principle in any response to the epidemic that was spreading in China. Now it was time to act. Hunt immediately connected with Morrison and Murphy on a three-way phone call. Murphy set out the facts and advised: “There’s a very strong risk of this spreading to Australia.” “Are you recommending that we close the border to China?” the Prime Minister asked. Yes, came Murphy’s answer. It was announced at 5pm that same day. It was to be, in Hunt’s words, “almost the biggest, one-day decision a government had made in 50 years”.

Beijing, predictably, put on a show of anger. The Chinese embassy gave Canberra a stern lecture, called Australia “xenophobic” and demanded compensation for Chinese students who were inconvenienced. The Australian government realised that something was badly wrong with the World Health Organisation, or WHO, around this time. The Geneva-based UN organisation kept insisting that there was no cause for countries to ban travel from China. Many nations, Britain and Canada among them, were trusting enough to take its advice. Australia wasn’t the first to shut down arrivals from China. The US and Singapore had done it a day earlier. Taiwan had barred tourists from China’s mainland earlier still, on January 26.

Australian officials since have reflected privately that, if Canberra had been watching China as closely as Taiwan does – and with as much scepticism of its official announcements – Australia would have acted at the same time. Taiwan is the standout global success story in managing COVID-19 to date. It’s an island with roughly the same population as Australia but only six deaths. Australia’s death toll is approaching 100. Taiwan’s restrictions on movement weren’t much more drastic than Australia’s but it moved sooner. Taiwan also was smart enough to put no faith in the WHO. Indeed, Beijing has barred Taiwan from membership of the WHO. Which, in this case, hasn’t done Taiwan any harm whatsoever.

Canberra announced other border closures in short order – Iran, Italy, South Korea. But then it paused before finally banning all foreign arrivals after March 19. Was it a mistake to wait so long? Should Australia have followed its China ban with a global ban sooner?

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What comes before the fall?

South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)

By the end of February, South Korea had the most COVID-19 patients of any country outside China. New confirmed cases were doubling every few days, and pharmacies were running out of face masks. More than a dozen countries imposed travel restrictions to protect their citizens from the Korean outbreak, including the U.S., which had, at the time, recorded an official COVID-19 death toll low enough to count on one hand. But just as South Korea appeared to be descending into catastrophe, the country stopped the virus in its tracks. The government demanded that the Shincheonji Church turn over its full membership list, through which the Ministry of Health identified thousands of worshippers. All were ordered to self-isolate.

Within days, thousands of people in Daegu were tested for the virus. Individuals with the most serious cases were sent to hospitals, while those with milder cases checked into isolation units at converted corporate training facilities. The government used a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance to track down the recent contacts of new patients and ordered those contacts to self-isolate as well. Within a month, the Korean outbreak was effectively contained. In the first two weeks of March, new daily cases fell from 800 to fewer than 100. (This morning, the nation of 51 million reported zero new domestic infections for the third straight day.) On April 15, the country successfully held a national parliamentary election with the highest turnout in three decades, without triggering another wave.

South Korea is not unique in its ability to bend the curve of daily cases; New Zealand, Australia, and Norway have done so, as well. But it is perhaps the largest democracy to reduce new daily cases by more than 90 percent from peak, and its density and proximity to China make the achievement particularly noteworthy. [..] In mid-March, the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities—approximately 90. In April, South Korea lost a total of 85 souls to COVID-19, while the U.S. lost 62,000—an average of 85 deaths every hour. That the U.S. population is approximately six times larger than South Korea’s does little to soften the horror of the comparison.

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South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)

Despite recently reopening businesses amid an impressive decline in new coronavirus case, the South Korean government has issued a nationwide health advisory for bars and nightclubs to close down for 30 more days after health officials tracked 13 new cases to a single person who attended five nightclubs and bars in the country’s capital city of Seoul. “We believe we will have another community infection,” said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip at a Friday press briefing. “The spread took place in enclosed and crowded spaces. Transmission with no known source of infection can lead to a widespread cluster infection and that is why the government is not letting its guard down.”

The man in question had no symptoms when he visited the nightspots. He eventually tested positive on Wednesday and gained admittance to a hospital in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, according to the UPI wire service. Officials think he may have come in contact with over 1,500 people during his night out. City officials are now using CCTV and credit card records to help identify visitors and are encouraging them to self-isolate and immediately report any coronavirus symptoms to local hospitals. With a decline in new cases, South Korea has allowed places of worship, museums venues, recreational facilities and nightclubs to recently resume business. The country’s high schools begin reopening next week and its lower schools will gradually reopen throughout May.

However, similar to the reopening plans of many U.S. states, South Korea has said it will pull back on and reverse reopenings if new cases emerge. While the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea originally exploded in late February and early March, the country’s Ministry of Health worked hard to conduct rigorous contact tracing, contacting anyone who had attended venues where patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus had gone. Using a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance, anyone in proximity to these patients and their neighbors were widely tested and all encouraged to self-quarantine.

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People lock themselves down.

Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)

The skeptics who argue that lockdowns “don’t work” usually will support this claim by ticking off nations that have succeeded in fighting COVID-19 without imposing harsh government restrictions. But when you parse the actual data, what you find is that these tend to be high-trust, high-education, high-information societies—such as in Scandinavia and East Asia—where official lockdowns haven’t been necessary precisely because a critical mass of people have effectively locked themselves down on their own. If, say, spring-breakers in Miami were as conscientious and disciplined as, say, most office workers in Stockholm or Tokyo, the state’s governor wouldn’t have had to clear the beaches. But they’re not, so he did. Such spectacles tell us a lot about college students, but not much about lockdowns.

The crowdsourced aspect of lockdowns is bad news and good news. It’s bad news because getting all of society’s actors on the same page will take many months. And so we won’t be able to get our economies up and running on anything like the speedy timeline that most self-styled lockdown opponents are seeking. But it’s good news because a slower, crowdsourced form of lockdown lifting will be subject to a whole slew of negative feedback mechanisms whereby outbreaks naturally lead to corrections. And so we can avoid the problem, depicted in Ferguson’s graphs, by which sudden quantum shifts in centralized policy yield behavioural spikes whose catastrophic effects set off an endless wave of epidemiological boom and bust.

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This should have been a January headline. Now all the clusters are in place.

UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Sunday that all travellers coming to the United Kingdom will be quarantined for a fortnight, The Times reported. “Passengers arriving at airports and ports including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days,” the newspaper said, adding that travellers will have to provide the address sat which they will self-isolate on arrival. Travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt, as will lorry drivers bringing crucial supplies, the report added.

The authorities will carry out spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules are to face fines of up to 1,000 pounds or even deportation, the report added. According to The Times, travellers will have to fill in a digital form with details of where they plan to self-isolate themselves for the duration of the quarantine. The measures will help reduce the “transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response,” the report said, citing a government source. The measures are expected to come into force in early June.

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The all-cause death number. Hot potato.

COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)

When is a COVID-19 death counted as a COVID-19 death? The answer is not as straightforward as one might think, because different countries have different methods for determining a COVID-19 case or declaring COVID-19 as a deceased person’s cause of death. Some countries, like Spain, carry out post-mortem COVID-19 tests, while in others like Germany, the UK, or Turkey it not a common practice. Belgium, for example, counts all coronavirus deaths outside hospitals in its daily statistics: This means the country includes people suspected of having died of coronavirus, without a confirmed positive test result, whereas countries like Italy only count deaths in hospitals. Spain only recently started to count non-hospitalized, coronavirus-related deaths from some regions.

Why is the all-cause death number relevant? There are a few essential lessons we can learn from all-cause death data. According to many scientific experts, it is the only unbiased information we can trust to measure the real impact of the pandemic, and create policies to minimize its effects. The number of people dying of COVID-19 is huge, but it still is not the leading cause of death in many countries. People are more reluctant to go to hospitals because they fear contagion, or simply do not want to burden the health system further. However, a scenario in which the leading causes of death, such as heart disease or cancer, increase by even 5% could translate into hundreds of thousands of people.

David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Public Understanding of Risk from the University of Cambridge, notes the differences in each country: “I would say the all-cause death number is the really unbiased measure of the impact of this epidemic. And it’s the one I look up far more closely,” he told DW. Data collected by DW both on all-cause deaths and COVID-19 deaths shows: Thousands more people are dying directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 than the official numbers suggest. DW’s data analysis focused on Spain, England and Wales, but indicates a pattern present in other countries too.

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Success breeds success.

Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Sweden did not mandate coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, most measures were voluntary, but it did cutoff access to nursing homes after a surge in deaths. It has been an experiment worth monitoring. And for weeks, many in the US have been clamoring for the US to be “more like Sweden”. But what do the results really show and what is Sweden saying now? Please note the head of Sweden’s no-lockdown coronavirus plan said the country’s Heavy Death Toll ‘Came as a Surprise’ “We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say,” said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. “We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us.”

The deniers will point out that about half of Sweden’s deaths came from nursing homes as if those deaths don’t matter. When it comes to per-capita counts, the US is remarkably like Sweden. This can be portrayed two ways. • See, the lockdowns didn’t help. • Based on population density, Sweden is a total disaster. You should not compare a tiny Nordic country to the US but there it is anyway, for those clamoring to be more like Sweden. On a fatality rate basis, we better hope the US does not become more like Sweden. Clearly Sweden is not the success story widely claimed. Unfortunately, people will look at these charts, continue to make inane flu comparisons and continue to tout Sweden’s success. The one area of attack left open is whether or not the US approach was economically justified. I will not address that question because I will not change anyone’s mind.

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“And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly.”

Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?

As some of you know, Dr. Ian Malcolm, our lead safety consultant, had recommended that we wait until the velociraptors have been located and contained before reopening the park, so he wasn’t thrilled when we told him the news. I believe his exact words were “you were so preoccupied with whether you could reopen the park, you didn’t stop to think whether you should.” Talk about a guy on a high horse.

That said, you’ll be pleased to know that, rather than double down on our containment efforts, we’ve decided to dissolve the velociraptor containment task force altogether, and focus instead on how we can get people back into the park as quickly as possible. So rather than concentrating on so-called life-saving measures like “staying in designated safe areas” or “masking your scent,” we’ll be focusing on the details that will get our customers really excited, like a wider selection of fun hats, a pterodactyl-shaped gondola ride to the top of the island, and a brand new Gordon Ramsay designed menu at the Cretaceous Cafe.

In addition to satisfying our customers, the decision to reopen the park is also about allowing the furloughed employees of Jurassic Park to get back to the work they love. Could we have continued to pay their salaries for several months until we got the velociraptor situation under control? Definitely. We’re the wealthiest nature preserve on the planet after all. And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly. But we’re confident that with a few safety precautions put in place, we’ll be able to keep the level of workplace injuries and deaths just below levels that would elicit widespread public outrage.

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Do these people really not understand securitization? To skip a few steps, US housing would collapse without these “miscalculations”. There’s now talk of a federal agency to take over for the “servicers”. Another bottomless pit.

The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)

When Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion CARES Act rescue on March 27, there was immediate praise across the political spectrum for section 4022, concerning homeowners in distress. Under the rule, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage could now receive instant relief. Forbearance, the law said: “…shall be granted for up to 180 days, and shall be extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.” Essentially, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage was now eligible for a six-month break from home payments. Really it was a year, given that a 180-day extension could be granted “at the request of the borrower.” It made sense. The burden of having to continue to make home payments during the coronavirus crisis would be crushing for the millions of people put out of work.

If anything, the measure didn’t go far enough, only covering homeowners with federally-backed (a.k.a. “agency”) mortgages. Still, six months or a year of relief from mortgage payments was arguably the most valuable up-front benefit of the entire bailout for ordinary people. Unfortunately, this portion of the CARES Act was conceived so badly that it birthed a potentially disastrous new issue that could have severe systemic ramifications. “Whoever wrote this bill didn’t have the faintest fucking clue how mortgages work,” is how one financial analyst put it to me. When homeowners take out mortgages, loans are bundled into pools and turned into securities, which are then sold off to investors, often big institutional players like pension funds.

Once loans are pooled and sold off as securities, the job of collecting home payments from actual people and delivering them to investors in mortgage bonds goes to companies called mortgage servicers. Many of these firms are not banks, and have familiar names like Quicken Loans or Freedom Mortgage. The mortgage servicing business is relatively uncomplicated – companies are collecting money from one group of people and handing it to another, for a fee – but these quasi-infamous firms still regularly manage to screw it up. “An industry that is just… not very good,” is the generous description of Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because margins in the mortgage service business are relatively small, these firms try to automate as much as possible. Many use outdated computers and have threadbare staffing policies.

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Fully bipartisan.

Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)

A bipartisan group of House Financial Services Committee members asked the Federal Reserve in an April letter to extend an emergency loan program to a host of controversial financial firms that offer high-interest loans to low-income Americans. In other words, firms that offer Americans high-interest loans want a low-cost loan from the government. All 14 signatories of the April letter are recipients of campaign contributions this election cycle from the political action committee of the American Financial Services Association, or AFSA, which represents subprime lenders’ interests in Washington.

“It’s bad on the substance to have the Federal Reserve be lending to subprime consumer and small business lenders,” Graham Steele, a former Democratic counsel on the Senate Banking Committee, who now runs Stanford School of Business’ Corporations and Society Initiative. “It doesn’t look good when the members asking for that kind of bailout for these companies are also funded by those predatory lenders.” Writing to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the lawmakers encouraged the Fed to expand eligibility for loans from its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, for “non-bank lenders and fintech platforms.” “Non-bank lenders” issue loans that are less regulated than loans made by traditional banks, but they are also willing to take greater risks. And “fintech platforms” are a kind of non-bank lender that operate online and through mobile apps.

The House members – seven Democrats and seven Republicans – were responding to a letter that the AFSA sent to Congress appealing for its members to become eligible for the program. In late March, the Fed reinitiated TALF, a program it created to shore up consumer lenders after the 2008 financial crisis, to address the economic fallout from the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fed has said that every financial institution is eligible for the emergency loans, but it will not bail out some riskier forms of credit. In the letter, the House members make clear that they specifically want TALF to include loans issued by “installment” lending firms that the program currently excludes. Those firms offer high-interest loans for low-income borrowers to pay off in installments.

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My first reaction is: that’s great, half a million fewer cars! Than I realize of course I’m not supposed to think that. “Bad, bad” for the economy!

Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)

Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99% in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the two countries building a total of just 5,569 vehicles. In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined. The industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and several percentage points of their respective countries’ gross domestic products. “The situation is difficult and dramatic,” Luiz Carlos Moraes, president of Brazil’s automakers association, told reporters.

The statements on production, made on Friday by Mexico’s Inegi statistics association and Brazil’s Anfavea automakers association, are the first available window into the sheer extent of the crisis for automakers in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic is putting jobs in peril and raising questions about the sustainability of the industry’s international supply chains, much of which go back to China. The poor results may also be used by auto executives to obtain government aid. Both countries have so far avoided layoffs but much hinges on when production can restart and whether there will be any demand for cars once that happens. Mexico could tentatively restart production on May 18, while Brazil’s top automakers are eyeing a June restart.

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Jim quoted Comey in his headline -“I sent them”-, I changed that to a Strzok quote.

Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)

“Our utter incompetence actually helps us,” declared Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Peter Strzok to his confidante (10,000 text messages) and paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page, when he discovered on January 4, 2017, that the agency had omitted to close the barren Crossfire Razor case against General Michael Flynn. There you have a perfect summary of the fantastic hubris at work in the agency-gone-rogue under then-FBI Director Jim “I sent them” Comey days before the swearing-in of a president somehow mistakenly elected by bamboozled voters — or so the thinking apparently went at the highest level there. Or what passed for thinking.

General Flynn, you see, having been anathematized by Barack Obama, and black-spotted by the so-called Interagency (i.e. the giant hairball of competing spy shops set up after the 9/11 fiasco), was about to assume the pivotal job of White House National Security Advisor, and it was known that he was fixing to change things up with all that. He had been director of one such shop, the Defense Intelligence Agency, for a few years and he had a fair idea just how lawlessly debauched the Intel Community had grown under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, not to mention Mr. Comey, and they all knew that.

So, General Flynn had to go, and then get squeezed hard to somehow rat-out his boss, the incoming President Trump, against whom the Interagency had nothing but a dossier of already discredited oppo research baloney courtesy of the Clinton campaign. The pretext was some conversations General Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak a few weeks before the inauguration. The FBI cooked up a “narrative” that it was criminal misbehavior for a duly appointed incoming NSA to confab with foreign diplomats – a completely specious notion, of course. The Interagency’s errand boys in the press ran with that preposterous story, and the inconsolable cohort of Hillary voters herding up to form “the Resistance” went along with the gag out of sheer, crazed bitterness.

Attorney General William Barr neatly disposed of that yarn Thursday in his remarkable chat with Catherine Herridge of CBS News (transcript here), saying: “[H]e [General Flynn] was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common, for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.”

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Obama will be implicated.

What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)

It takes a little digging, but there’s a Joe Biden connection deep inside the documents released as part of the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. It is this: Sally Yates was Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General, and as such she played a key role in the Flynn investigation. She told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in September 2017 that she did not know about the transition phone call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak until she was told about it by…President Barack Obama.

It happened on January 5, 2017. Yates was in a group that went to the Oval Office to brief Obama on the findings of the Intelligence Community investigation into Russian campaign meddling. The meeting had all the administration’s top national security officials: FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, National Intelligence chief James Clapper, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other National Security Council officials. “After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind,” a memo of Yates’ interview read. “Obama started by saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions.” Yates was totally blindsided. “At that point, Yates had no idea what the president was talking about,” the interview write-up said.

What does that have to do with Biden? The interview notes made no mention of the vice president. But think back to one of the stranger moments in the Trump-Russia investigation: Rice, on January 20, 2017, at almost the exact minute the Obama administration left office, sent an email to herself documenting the January 5 meeting. This is how it began: “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

Oh — so Biden was there, too. The Rice memo-to-self always appeared to be an oddly-timed effort to cover for Obama. “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’ Rice wrote. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.” Got that? By the book.

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” In this story, McCabe is not a news analyst. He is news. Instead of pressing him on these conflicts and allegations, he was allowed to rage against Trump, Barr, and Flynn. It is a new twist on echo journalism. McCabe the CNN analyst was echoing his own false account and calling it news analysis.”

Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

CNN host John Berman interviewed McCabe. CNN has long used McCabe to give analysis on a host of Trump-related stories despite being fired by Trump, ridiculed for his prior bias, and referred (by career officials) for possible criminal charges. This interview, however, was even more remarkable. The documents released in the Flynn case referred to McCabe and his alleged misconduct. He was not asked about any of the specific allegations against him. Instead, he gave a revisionist history that quickly crossed into fantasy. McCabe told Berman that, in December 2016, they were considering the closure of the investigation involving Flynn but that it was a “close question.” We have previously discussed this history.

On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Flynn. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”

After Strzok intervened to stop the closure of the investigation, he texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)” So McCabe was left unchallenged in saying that at that time there was a close question as to whether to close Crossfire Razor when his investigators found nothing. Nothing. That made it a close question for McCabe whether to continue to investigate the incoming Trump National Security Adviser.

What McCabe stated next was truly incredible. He told Berman that he then learned that Flynn has arranged “surreptitious meetings” with the Russians. He explained that this was akin to investigating someone for drug dealing and then learning about his meeting with drug dealers. The problem is that there was no evidence of a crime of any kind against Flynn. Moreover, this was not a “surreptitious” meeting. There was no reason for McCabe to know about the communications of the incoming National Security Adviser with foreign officials. It was not “surreptitious.” Flynn reportedly told the transition team about the call and that the Russians wanted to talk after the newly imposed sanctions against them. It is not “surreptitious” just because McCabe did not know about it and he did not reach out to the Transition Team.

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“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
I think he’s from the CIA.

– Hughes Mearns et al



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Home Forums Debt Rattle May 9 2020

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
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    Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE   • Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.) • How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH) • South Ko
    [See the full post at: Debt Rattle May 9 2020]

    V. Arnold

    Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE

    That is an amazing…fresco(?)…
    The human form is exquisite…


    click the image, lots of info

    V. Arnold

    click the image, lots of info

    I did, thanks, far more details…

    Dr. D

    Kay: Not mentioned but implied, changing the goalposts. The reason for the lockdown was to allow hospital services not to be overwhelmed. That is, to allow herd immunity slowly. Longer, more painful, perhaps, but slowly. That is to say, everyone will get it.

    So if he doesn’t open up, how will everybody get it? If he doesn’t open up, will we stay in martial law and house arrest for the rest of human creation? What’s the exit plan?

    This is aside from quite strong evidence we have a cure in many nations that refuses to be used here. If we have had a cure (since 2005), why do we have a lockdown? In fact, why no arrests? Because they’re lying upon lying upon lying, so we are making pretzel logic admitting one lie while fighting another. Don’t concede any lies.

    So, nice and emotional scaring sounding: What “catastrophic effects”? What “epidemiological boom and bust”? How could that possibly be “endless”? Endless? Like until homo sapiens evolve into a new species? What you’re saying is 100% anti-science, all emotion, while hiding under the color of science. That is, it’s propaganda to promote your personal beliefs. Please don’t. This is how science is discredited and dies. Because of allowing people like this.

    UK To Place All Incoming Travelers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)”

    Speaking of fake, illusionary non-lockdowns worldwide. 4 months late. And nobody’s enforcing it. Not really. They can take a trip with Chris Cuomo and Mayor Lightfoot, perhaps to a parade recommended by DeBlasio and Pelosi.

    “Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW) “

    Pretty sure as above, the data isn’t complex at all. It’s just people lying. Doctors and coroners are in good faith, but they’re not cynical, suspicious people like I am. Then the CDC and NHS takes the good faith numbers and headlines the drama while footnoting the facts. As it’s aggregated, no one can tell, and they won’t release the details. It’s a con game, where you fabricate confidence in a person or organization, then betray it. As if we didn’t know as far back as Viet Nam’s “We’re winning the war” numbers.

    How far off is the data? Hard to tell, but since they’re calling it the “Miracle Cure” in several nations because nobody’s dying of heart disease and influenza now, it’s probably relevant. It seems to have stopped instantly on reaching the long-term average number of daily deaths, which is pretty peculiar, and politicians seem to have anticipated this, which is strange. At the same time it clearly appears to be relevant, as we can show a peppering of under 70, especially health care workers who would not succumb to a seasonal flu.

    In a nation where every member lies every day as a matter of course and truth tellers are relentlessly persecuted and jailed, who can tell anything?

    “The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)”

    This is very lousy, as if you miss payments – and the government is not only always lying, screws up everything it touches, but ALSO sides against citizens 100% of the time – then the missed payment CAN involve speeding up instant foreclosure and even demand 3 months back pay in cash. Even though the delay was planned, signed, and in good faith. Hey! Is that exactly like HAMP? That got a few hundred thousand people who could have been alright foreclosed on and their houses stolen by Mozillo and Fargo? Yeah…you done trusted the government. Nice knowing you. But you trust them when they say no human to human transmission and come visit my parade.

    But there’s a solution! More government! They’re still 100% employed at 100% pay with half the tax base. Isn’t that sort of like your taxes doubled? Nevermind. We can fix that too! With more government! Maybe we can quadruple the government and have no economy at all! That’s always worked in Cuba, Russia and East Germany. No bad effects at all.

    “My first reaction is: fewer cars!”

    My first reaction is, “Omg, I’m going to get a car so cheap it’s amazing, what car would I like?” Kind of the opposite of when Obama crushed all the cars and hammered the poor by making the cheapest used car prices double. Down at the bottom that was bad indeed and lasted years.

    Our utter incompetence actually helps us,”

    I think this may be in error. I believe we found that the FBI asked it to be closed, and these guys actively stopped it and refused to close just so this could have some banner to proceed. No incompetence, malfeasance, as usual. Every time a crime is committed, it’s always just an “accident” that nobody meant, like 100,000 times in a row, all in the same direction. But why talk? Nobody can be discredited. Nobody goes to jail. And as everybody is a criminal and liar, nothing can get done, nothing works.

    Obama will be implicated.

    I fear this is unavoidable. It 100% had to be in the daily security briefing. Daily. No one would dare otherwise. That’s aside from Strzok saying it was. So we wiretap and arrest opposition candidates now? While the people cheer? Some democracy. As it has been since Kennedy.

    Yaneer Bar-Yam is still high as a kite. The virus is “gone”. Gone as in extinct from Planet Earth? Can you please tell me what science says that is possible at all? No humans talk to any other humans anymore? They don’t go to stores and trade for food? And re-basing all the charts so they optically look similar also isn’t science. It’s propaganda. Sweden, Brazil, any non-U.S. nation is missing. The U.S. locked down earliest, today’s article showed Australia took no political risk because the U.S. already had, and they’d just point to us as is usually the case. We take the risk, they take the coat tails. The cases were all in NYC which did lock down. His case is garbage, emotionally-fabricated nonsense.

    Oh wait: the charts are Haaavard. Explains all. Here’s an expert modeler/programmer on Ferguson:

    I have Reviewed Ferguson’s Code – It’s a Joke

    First, it’s not a model. It’s a cartoon, it’s 1/10th the size of any normal model. Second, it adds so much randomness that if you run it several times, you’ll literally get any result you wish. Then you pick the one you want, big, small, whatever, and say “the model says!” “Experts agree!” But go ahead and trust them when they’ve been 100% wrong for half my life now and no model they’ve run has been correct since I don’t remember when.

    Oh, and they were totally 100% dead-wrong this time too? We’re 25M deaths short? Nah: trust them and their models, it’s a coincidence Harvard — which got this totally, catastrophically wrong — is just putting out data that politically attacks people they don’t like, while leaving out all other data. Totally normal and accepted. Just ask East Anglia.

    Dr. D

    Inventories were overflowing and still are overflowing.
    Second hand cars … new Car …. Hertz rental cars ….. trucks …. RV …. oil …. farm equipment …. etc
    Its world wide. Its not just in the USA

    • Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)

    Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99% in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the two countries building a total of just 5,569 vehicles.
    In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined.

    At last, thing are changing The boys are coming home to mama.

    The USA troops around the world, are in lock down, isolation, forbidden to rotate, packing up and starting to go home.

    The USA can use other weapons, (tariffs, blockades, shunning, jailing snitches, economic wars, IT attacks, drones, surveillance. ) to frighten, control, intimidate the world.

    The military has added Mercenary experts for $15 million to kidnap a leader of another country.
    There are hints and ACCUSATIONS that a new kind of war tool has been developed and used


    “According to the DHS document, along with the 11 active cases there are 23 members of the Secret Service who have recovered from COVID-19 and an additional 60 employees who are self-quarantining,” Yahoo News reports. “No details have been provided about which members of the Secret Service are infected or if any have recently been on detail with the president or vice president.”



    Interesting : Study correlating data from 20 countries indicates vitamin D could be useful for combatting the worst effects of the virus, eg. death!


    VITAMIN D [Part two]

    From the article above : ‘skin pigmentation also reduces natural vitamin D synthesis’.

    I wonder whether this explains, at least in part, the effect of the virus on those of African descent [in the UK], and others such as people from the Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities.

    Doc Robinson

    Still too early to tell, but some numbers from yesterday’s Debt Rattle indicate that Sweden’s approach might not result in much economic benefit, compared to neighboring countries having official lockdowns. Sweden’s GDP is forecast to shrink more than Denmark’s.

    Spring 2020 GDP growth forecast for the EU (as of May 06, 2020)

    Finland -6.3%
    Sweden -6.1%
    Denmark -5.9%


    Study on Vit D, which focuses on deficiency.

    Update on Vitamin D and COVID-19


    Well up here in Toronto, we saw snow flurries! Old Man Winter getting in his, hopefully, last kick at the can!

    Then after this polar vortex leaves in 3 or 4 days, maybe I can plant a few seeds?

    I noticed Canada wasn’t one of the countries that has reached and past it’s virus peak.

    We closed our borders way too late to do any good.

    Trudeau was more concerned about hurting China’s feelings than saving lives. He also wanted that Security Seat at the UN too. Sadly nobody is calling him out on this.

    He continues to go to his cottage every weekend, while telling us we can’t.


    Other news

    The two US ex-special forces turn mercenary soldiers captured by Venezuela Monday as they tried to lead a small anti-Maduro invasion force into the country appeared in a Venezuelan court on Friday, alongside some dozen other alleged conspirators and detained mercenaries.

    Luke Alexander Denman, 34, and Airan Berry, 41 have been charged with “terrorism and conspiracy” for the failed raid, which new details say included a total of 17 people coming ashore on fishing boats from a staging ground in neighboring Colombia.

    Venezuelan media also claims that eight among the mercenary force – reportedly mostly made up of Venezuelan defectors – were gunned down when they tried to enter the country.

    Denman and Berry have specifically been charged with “terrorism, conspiracy, illicit trafficking of weapons of war and (criminal) association.”

    Washington appears to have been embarrassed by the whole “rogue” operation, for which Silvercorp has also come under widespread mockery online.

    The US army has since confirmed the men formerly served as members of the Green Berets and had been deployed to Iraq. Venezuelan state officials have claimed the group was going to be paid $212 million to orchestrate the overthrow of Maduro on behalf of opposition leader Juan Guaido and his US and Colombian backers.

    While distancing itself from the fiasco, the State Department has pledged to “use every tool that we have available to try to get them back,” according to recent statements by Mike Pompeo.


    Yesterday, I did a 20 k hike into the mountain.
    I was missing the sight of snow. 🙂
    The first 10 k was uphill all the way.
    Going down, was hard on my toes. My foot kept slipping inside my footwear, and banging in my toes.
    The only other person that went there was with forestry. He was on a snowmobile on 27 Fev 2020.
    He marked three slides. However, there were 10 more slides after he left. Unless there is logging starting this summer, this logging road will stay closed, even to quads.
    I pulled my trail cameras. Got winter activities of bobcats and elk.
    Today, after that workout, I could probably, join the body builders on stage. 🙂


    “Containment Is Possible” graphs are a bit misleading, the USA in red is buried in the middle and the UK is missing. Both nations have plateaued but the USA is reopening which is bound to spike the number of coronavirus infections again. This is a verboten subject but both American political parties’ sole goal is to enrich the wealthy. The lockdown was imposed to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed and the elite dying alongside the rift-raff. Corporate media never mentions that hospitals and nursing homes are solely for profit and designed to extract wealth from the patients. Naturally these deregulated businesses didn’t spend any money on PPE for a once a century pandemic or follow safety protocols. Killing elderly, first responders and healthcare workers. Not too different than Boeing killing 346 people earlier.

    The USA and UK governments were dismantled to cut taxes and end regulations. Both are too dysfunctional to deal with the pandemic. The excess deaths are of no matter to the Establishment. No US federal government employees will be hired to trace, contact and quarantine the infected in safe secure facilities. To do this requires taking a fraction of their donors’ wealth. An effective response to the pandemic won’t happen until the herd immunity / war for profit gang are gone and Democracy (government by and for the people) is restored in both nations.

    Nothing shows how dysfunctional the White House is their sidelining of CDC and going ahead with temperature screening at airports to reassure passengers. Except 20 to 50 percent of the infected are shedding coronavirus with no elevated temperature or symptoms. This screening is pointless and will kill people.

    John Day

    @anticlimactic: BINGO! You found my hypothesis all by yourself.
    American vitamin D levels are almost all under the 30-100 normal range, and some are under 10. People’s bones hurt when it’s that low, “osteomalacia”. Black skin and northern climes.
    Hmmm, why does that not happen in nature? Why do all the people in northern climes get lily white skin (or, light, at least)? That’s the vitamin-D hypothesis of why humans lost their pigment as they moved north. It’s obvious why they gained it at the equator. Sunburn.

    . That vitamin-D update is partly good, but the author seems to have not been monitoring vitamin-D levels in the US population.
    My very-well-educated guess is that average is right around 20, deficient. Normal range is 30-100.
    The study had nobody with mid-normal levels in the groups of mild to severe cases of COVID.
    So the author says to make sure not to let your level get up that high, because there is no telling what might befall you.
    I would interpret it differently.

    John Day

    More catching up on the laptop that lets me log in:

    HCQ-based treatments are effective in treating COVID-19, unless started too late.
    Studies, cited in opposition, have been misinterpreted, invalid, or worse.
    HCQ and AZ are some of the most tested and safest prescription drugs.
    Severe COVID-19 frequently causes cardiac effects, including heart arrhythmia. QTc prolonging drugs might amplify this tendency. Millions of people regularly take drugs having strong QTc prolongation effect, and neither FDA nor CDC bother to warn them. HCQ+AZ combination, probably has a mild QTc prolongation effect. Concerns over its negative effects, however minor, can be addressed by respecting contra-indications.
    Effectiveness of HCQ-based treatment for COVID-19 is hampered by conditions that are presented as precautions, delaying the onset of treatment. For examples, some states require that COVID-19 patients be treated with HCQ exclusively in hospital settings.
    The COVID-19 Treatment Panel of NIH evaded disclosure of the massive financial links of its members to Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer of a competing drug remdesivir. Among those who failed to disclose such links are 2 out of 3 of its co-chairs.
    Despite all the attempts by certain authorities to prevent COVID-19 treatment with HCQ and HCQ+AZ, both components are approved by FDA, and doctors can prescribe them for COVID-19.

    Pseudo-Science behind the Assault on Hydroxychloroquine

    ​Professor Nate Hagens gives his Earth Day 2020 lecture on The State Of The Species​.
    I don’t watch videos, but Nate, with background on Wall Street, then defecting to sustainability, and co-editing The Oil Drum, while it existed, is a rare exception. Nate not only holds the big picture in his cranium, but he is a very good painter with words, graphs and images.

    Art Berman, who contributed to The Oil Drum, and also recommends Nate’s lecture says it is
    Game Over For Oil, The Economy Comes Next
    He thoroughly supports the ins and outs of that assertion. Enlightening reading about the inside of the oil and refining businesses.

    Game Over for Oil, The Economy is Next

    John Day

    The Russians have the Low-vitamin-D-lets-coronavirus-kill-you hypothesis laid out here, on Sputnik



    Thanks John Day. There is a lot of info at the link.

    Game Over for Oil, The Economy is Next

    ” The price of oil is too low to justify the cost of extraction even if storage were available.”

    Why is Canada still extracting oil at a loss?

    Somebody should tell Canada to stop extracting and leave the oil in the sand.
    Its simple to do, here is my price. If you don’t want to pay go buy somewhere else.

    HubertRightHandSideCurve said

    There is no enough oil left for air travel for the masses (see Colin Campbell, David Hughes and Art Berman), . The pandemic has made us ceasing that – quietly.

    There is no enough oil left for private-driving for the masses. The pandemic has made us ceasing that seamlessly.

    This far, this pandemic can be considered nothing other than peak oil-disguised!
    I’ve found a better example to describe our situation.
    Its not peak oil.
    Its not a burst bubble.
    Its not a frog in slow boiling water.
    Its not the shit hit the fan.

    Its a game of dodge ball. It hasn’t hit me. I’m still in the game.


    Following up to Dr D’s excellent link on issues with the Imperial College programming model and processes are these two links to a Google software engineer’s review and comments: (worth reading even if you’ve read the second one linked above)

    Absolutely key point from the first article is that the reinsurance industry have their own pandemic models:
    1. They more accurate than the Imperial College model, but they still don’t employ them as they’re not accurate enough
    2. For critical decision making the industry creates two seperate internal models + engages an external model as a control. Y’know.. for control and accuracy!
    3. The re-insurance industry was never consulted around Covid response, despite having strong alternate off-the-shelf pandemic models that could be used as controls

    The tl;dr – the entire Covid response was some ghastly short-cut public sector decision making.

    A secondary point worth noting strongly is that imperial College has refused to release the original model, and Microsoft engineers are frantically rewriting it before release (and the new versions are producing new projections off the same data as they’re released..). Can you imagine how appallingly bad the original model must have been written? And yet huge decisions were made off the back of it.


    >It’s obvious why they gained it at the equator. Sunburn.
    Err, no. Destruction of folic acid = increase of spina bifida
    From sun shining thru skin into surface blood vessels


    But when you parse the actual data, what you find is that these tend to be high-trust, high-education, high-information societies—such as in Scandinavia and East Asia—where official lockdowns haven’t been necessary precisely because a critical mass of people have effectively locked themselves down on their own.

    Ha. For every generalization there are are always exceptions. Koreans are pissed at this new superspreader. I am pissed too. This is my neighborhood. I understand the desire to go out and socialize. I get it. But is it necessary to go to three clubs during a four hour window with close contact with 1500 people? That’s just irresponsible. He infected his coworkers – now they are angry and want to sue him.

    So he has infected 40 people so far. Nice work. One of those is a French guy in the neighborhood who visited the club. I often see him walking the dog in the neighborhood because his dog and my dog are friends. And we ran into him last week on puppy night at the neighborhood rooftop restaurant. Now my wife and daughter have scratchy throats. Great. Just great.

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