Dec 122019
 


Harris&Ewing President Hoover lights Nation’s Capital community Xmas tree Dec 24 1929

 

Why Is Jeremy Corbyn Seen As So Unelectable (Abc.au)
Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote? (CP)
The Steele Dossier Was Always a Joke (Taibbi)
The Hidden Hand (Faddis)
The Global Auto Market Collapse (ZH)
EU Lauds New Green Deal As Europe’s ‘Man On Moon Moment’ (DW)
“Afghanistan Papers” May Be A Game Changer For Tulsi Gabbard (IDS)
Vatican Caught Using Charity Donations To Cover Budget Shortfalls (ZH)
‘She Was So Dangerous’: Where In The World Is The Ghislaine Maxwell? (G.)
Assange’s Father Hopeful Of Son’s Release (9News)

 

 

Because of articles like this?! Because of how the BBC reports on the election?

Why Is Jeremy Corbyn Seen As So Unelectable (Abc.au)

Jeremy Corbyn is railing against “cuts, closures and poverty”. He’s campaigning to build more homes, and to fight fewer wars. He’s condemning the Tories for creating a “divided and unequal society”. But these are snippets not from his 2019 bid for Downing Street. They were his slogans in 1983, when he first ran for Parliament.The simple fact is the Labour leader has never changed his views. In the late 1970s and 1980s he and his staunch left-wing colleague John McDonnell, now the shadow chancellor, promised a revolution to upend the Western capitalist order. And yet, in 2015, as he was fighting to take over the leadership of the party, he was pledging the same: “Capitalism is in its death throes!”


It’s not mere sloganeering. His policy agenda over the past year has been: renationalise British utilities and trains, cap all wages, and force large companies to transfer 10 per cent of their equity to their employees. It says something about the depths of the austerity cuts in Britain that Mr Corbyn was not only backed into the Labour leadership, but went on to gain the largest increase in the party’s share of the vote in the 2017 election since World War II. And in the torrid political climate that followed, many would have expected Labour to romp home this time around. Over the past three years, the Conservative Party has imploded, with grave wounds struck to much of its credibility. Once Theresa May was torn down and replaced by Boris Johnson, a man with a public reputation as a liar, perhaps in any other generation of politics Labour would have been a shoo-in. But this time around, Mr Corbyn has been found deeply unelectable.

Read more …

The antisemite slur has worked miracles. Ley me repost the graph that shows 0.08% of Labour members are.

Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote? (CP)

It’s not news that Jeremy Corbyn isn’t a popular figure. It’s also not news that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are hugely popular with the British public. Why should the first of these appear to matter more than the second? [..] The secret to the Tories’ possible success seems to be to focus less on the issues, and not at all on their own leader (who can’t be bothered to turn up for an interview or a debate). Instead, they are focusing on Labour’s unpopular leader. And the odd thing is that it seems to be working. The muckraking includes calling Corbyn an anti-semite, but it doesn’t stop there. (Somehow the fact that Boris Johnson has a habit of making racist comments is irrelevant; Labour is an anti-racist party and therefore must be held to a higher standard.)

A new book by Tom Bower paints a portrait of a power hungry anti-semite who regularly hangs out with Muslim extremists. Anyone with an ounce of sense will struggle to find the Labour leader in this description; for his part Bower had the sense not to source his allegations so there’s no way to check up on which of these might be true and which are blatant fabrications. For anyone interested, Peter Osborn has a thorough debunking. The advantage of mudslinging is that it sometimes sticks. Many British voters can’t say exactly why they don’t like Corbyn, but they know that they don’t like him. Even if these allegations were defendable, Corbyn’s Labour party has effectively won the debate on austerity.


Both parties are promising to protect the NHS from privatization, but only one party is actually selling NHS data to private companies like Amazon. That should matter a lot more than whether or not the British public would like to go on holiday with Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever the outcome, this is one of the most fascinating elections on record. Arguments for the status quo – that the rich should see the biggest gains when capitalism works and the poor should pay when it doesn’t – aren’t working. Demonization of one’s opponents has always been a part of electoral politics, but in this election that’s pretty much the only tactic in play, at least for the Tories. Their victory would be a huge triumph of the British propaganda system. It would also be a huge failure for democracy.

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Just not a funny one.

The Steele Dossier Was Always a Joke (Taibbi)

The Guardian headline reads: “DOJ Internal watchdog report clears FBI of illegal surveillance of Trump adviser.” If the report released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz constitutes a “clearing” of the FBI, never clear me of anything. Holy God, what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was. Like the much-ballyhooed report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the Horowitz report is a Rorschach test, in which partisans will find what they want to find. Much of the press is concentrating on Horowitz’s conclusion that there was no evidence of “political bias or improper motivation” in the FBI’s probe of Donald Trump’s Russia contacts, an investigation Horowitz says the bureau had “authorized purpose” to conduct.

Horowitz uses phrases like “serious performance failures,” describing his 416-page catalogue of errors and manipulations as incompetence rather than corruption. This throws water on the notion that the Trump investigation was a vast frame-up. However, Horowitz describes at great length an FBI whose “serious” procedural problems and omissions of “significant information” in pursuit of surveillance authority all fell in the direction of expanding the unprecedented investigation of a presidential candidate (later, a president). Officials on the “Crossfire Hurricane” Trump-Russia investigators went to extraordinary, almost comical lengths to seek surveillance authority of figures like Trump aide Carter Page. In one episode, an FBI attorney inserted the words “not a source” in an email he’d received from another government agency.


This disguised the fact that Page had been an informant for that agency, and had dutifully told the government in real time about being approached by Russian intelligence. The attorney then passed on the email to an FBI supervisory special agent, who signed a FISA warrant application on Page that held those Russian contacts against Page, without disclosing his informant role. Likewise, the use of reports by ex-spy/campaign researcher Christopher Steele in pursuit of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authority had far-reaching ramifications. Not only did obtaining a FISA warrant allow authorities a window into other Trump figures with whom Page communicated, they led to a slew of leaked “bombshell” news stories that advanced many public misconceptions, including that a court had ruled there was “probable cause” that a Trump figure was an “agent of a foreign power.”

Read more …

Make sure it’s no longer hidden. Put the spotlight on Brennan and Clapper to start with.

The Hidden Hand (Faddis)

The essence of a coup, which some might refer to as covert action, is the hidden hand. One does not announce that a foreign power is overthrowing the government and installing a new government. One pulls strings as if from behind a curtain, making events that are all part of a carefully orchestrated plan appear disconnected, spontaneous and serendipitous. As I read through the recently released IG report for the second time, as someone with a great deal of experience in military and intelligence matters, I see that hand everywhere. Per the IG report, a single report is delivered to the FBI in the summer of 2016. It concerns a meeting between a cooperative contact of a foreign intelligence service and a junior level employee of the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos.

The report relates what are frankly very amorphous comments by Papadopoulos concerning the Russian government and its alleged possession of information on Hillary Clinton. On any other day this report would command no attention whatsoever. The source in question has no track record of any kind with the FBI. Papadopoulos has been employed by the Trump campaign for perhaps 90 days at this point, and there is no reason to believe he has contacts of significance in the Kremlin. Not on this occasion. This one report from a foreign intelligence service goes directly to the top of the FBI. The Director himself, James Comey is briefed. A full investigation is launched. Multiple confidential human sources are tasked. Wiretaps are ordered. A task force is organized. Crossfire Hurricane is born.


There is a problem, though. This hand, perhaps because it is controlled by individuals who have made their bones riding desks in Washington, DC and not in the field running actual operations, is clumsy. The information regarding Papadopoulos provided the needed pretext to start an investigation, but most of the people who will now form the investigative team are not in on the plot. They will have to be led to the pre-ordained conclusion, so that it appears that they did so without outside interference. And these investigators have a pesky habit of actually doing their jobs.

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Bad for automakers and Big Oil. Other than that, though…

The Global Auto Market Collapse (ZH)

It is no secret that the auto market worldwide has been mired in recession that looks to not have any plans of decelerating anytime soon. We have covered, at length, the collapse of auto sales not only in the U.S., but in leading global markets like China and Europe over the last 18 months. We have also covered how the “silver lining” of EV sales and investment in electric vehicles, may not be enough to stoke a recovery in the industry, especially with major cities like Beijing starting to shy away from purchase subsidies. The contagion has spread, and a new article by Bloomberg includes four charts that show just how damaging the effects have been globally. The first shows that global auto sales peaked two years ago at slightly under 86 million on an LTM basis. In October, that number stood at 78 million, a decline of about 9%.

The second chart shows trends from across the globe, noting that since China’s market is so big, that it is been obscuring falling trends elsewhere in the world. The chart shows China, Asia ex-China, North America, Europe, Latin America and Africa/Middle East all in steep downtrends.

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Europe’s “new growth strategy.” Oh boy…

EU Lauds New Green Deal As Europe’s ‘Man On Moon Moment’ (DW)

The European Commission signed off on President Ursula von der Leyen’s “European Green Deal” on Wednesday in Brussels, with a promise of money for EU nations that are lagging behind. The European Green Deal will still need to be approved — by the leaders of the EU’s member states and the European Parliament — for the climate policies to be implemented into law. The climate change resolutions will be considered by the leaders of EU countries at their meeting in Brussels on Thursday. Von der Leyen, who has put climate issues at the center of her presidency, described the plan as Europe’s “new growth strategy.”


“We do not have all the answers yet, today is the start of a journey, but this is Europe’s man on the moon moment. The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will also be very careful in assessing the impact and every single step we’re taking.” Von der Leyen said an economic growth plan based on fossil fuels and pollution was “out of date and out of touch.” “The European Green deal is on one hand about cutting emissions, but on the other hand, about creating jobs and boosting innovation.”

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Can she stay out of the debate and still win?

“Afghanistan Papers” May Be A Game Changer For Tulsi Gabbard (IDS)

Three very interesting things happened today in Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency. First, there was a huge story in The Washington Post about the so-called “Afghanistan Papers,” which reveal thousands of pages of confidential interviews with hundreds of key US government officials telling how the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations lied to the American public about the prosecution of the 18-year US war in Afghanistan—how successive US administrations manipulated data about the war to paint a much rosier picture of US and Afghan government achievements throughout the conflict. How big is this story? Think “Pentagon Papers.” Daniel Ellsberg. Think Vietnam big.

The story should suck up a lot of oxygen over the next few weeks, and it is one that should produce some unusually positive coverage for Tulsi, given that the issue of the failures of US military interventionism overseas has been the primary focus of her campaign. The second interesting thing is the story has the potential to tie into another story involving a management consulting firm called McKinsey & Company that performed confidential contract work in Afghanistan and Iraq. The reason McKinsey could be relevant to Tulsi’s campaign is that one of her main rivals for the nomination, Pete Buttigieg, happened to work for McKinsey from 2007 to 2010. Pete has indicated that his stint with McKinsey involved working on “war zone economic development to help grow private sector employment” in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In plain language, Pete appears to have been part of broader effort by the US government to transform Afghanistan into some sort of a mini capitalist democracy—not unlike the silly US plan to create a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq. Now, there may be nothing to the connection between the first and second stories. However, during Tulsi’s town hall this evening in Nashua, New Hampshire, it is curious that Tulsi specifically mentioned McKinsey in referencing how most of the hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars that have been spent in Afghanistan have not gone to fight terrorism but rather to enrich US defense contractors such as the “McKinsey group.” She very slyly slid in McKinsey and moved on.

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Gee, we’re surprised…

Vatican Caught Using Charity Donations To Cover Budget Shortfalls (ZH)

While Pope Francis has long preached about the ills of economic inequality and sins of capitalism, the Catholic church has been robbing Peter’s Pence to the tune of over $50 million annually to plug holes in their out-of-control budget – after paying over $3 billion in pedophile priest settlements around the world over several decades. According to the Wall Street Journal, most of the roughly $55 million the church takes in annually goes towards “plugging the hole in the Vatican’s own administrative budget, while as little as 10% is spent on charitable works.” “The little-publicized breakdown of how the Holy See spends Peter’s Pence, known only among senior Vatican officials, is raising concern among some Catholic Church leaders that the faithful are being misled about the use of their donations, which could further hurt the credibility of the Vatican’s financial management under Pope Francis.” -Wall Street Journal

Of note, Peter’s Pence is an annual collection event held every June, billed as a fundraising event for the needy. It is described as a “gesture of charity, a way of supporting the activity of the Pope and the universal Church in favoring especially the poorest and Churches in difficulty. It is also an invitation to pay attention and be near to new forms of poverty and fragility.” “A section of the website dedicated to “works realized” describes individual grants, such as €100,000 in relief aid to survivors of last month’s earthquake in Albania or €150,000 for those affected by cyclone Idai in southeastern Africa in March.” -WSJ


“The purpose of the Peter’s Pence Collection is to provide the Holy Father with the financial means to respond to those who are suffering as a result of war, oppression, natural disaster and disease,” according to the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Except that for at least the past five years, just 10% of the money collected (over $55 million in 2018) – actually goes towards the types of charitable causes advertised for the collection, according to ‘people familiar with the matter,’ who added that approximately 2/3 of the funds have been used to help plug the budget shortfall at the Holy See – which consists of the central administration of the Catholic Church as well as the global papal diplomatic network. Last year, the budget deficit reached around $78 million on total spending of around $334 million.

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The FBI know where she is.

‘She Was So Dangerous’: Where In The World Is The Ghislaine Maxwell? (G.)

Maxwell and Epstein’s relationship seems to have been complex. Sarnoff says Maxwell once told her she wanted very much to marry Epstein. “Maxwell is very clever,” Sarnoff says. “In spite of her personal insecurities, as a result of her father’s death and financial challenges, I believe she nevertheless knew exactly what she was doing when she agreed to solicit girls on his behalf. However, I don’t think that phase of their relationship began until she understood Epstein would not marry her.” Farmer says Maxwell told her they were married. In another interview, this time with the Miami Herald, which has doggedly investigated Epstein, Giuffre alleges Maxwell had asked her to have a child with Epstein and hand the baby over for Maxwell and Epstein to raise; she would be paid an allowance of $200,000 a month.

Ransome, who says she was kept for six months on Epstein’s private island and claims she was raped several times a day, said: “They were never like a couple. Jeffrey and Ghislaine were best friends, or like brother and sister. Never holding hands or kissing. And she wasn’t his employee.” When Maxwell found that Farmer had spoken out, she made threatening calls – Farmer says she has been in hiding “for many years”. “Ghislaine kept threatening my life. She found out where I was living, and she would send messages to me or I would get a call and I would have to move again. Most of her threats were veiled, like: ‘You better look over your shoulder because there’s someone coming for you.’ She told me she was going to burn all my paintings, my career was burned.” In 2015, Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation, after Maxwell said she was lying about the allegations she had made.


The case was settled out of court and Maxwell began retreating from public view. She was no longer seen in public with Epstein after his 2008 conviction for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. [..] Kaiser says he has not been able to serve Maxwell with legal papers “because she’s off hiding somewhere”. Does he have any idea where she is? “No, I wish I did. We’ve looked various places so far to no avail. We thought we had a lead in some compound in Colorado, a very good friend of hers, a wealthy family – we thought she might be there, but we’re not sure. I expect the FBI knows exactly where she is. They may be building a case. I don’t believe they’ve given up on pursuing some of [Epstein’s] enablers and I have to believe that would include Maxwell.”

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Is there a media shift? There does seem to be a small one in Oz politics.

Assange’s Father Hopeful Of Son’s Release (9News)

The father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is confident a tide of public opinion is turning in support of the Australian languishing in a UK cell. As Assange awaits an extradition hearing which could eventually result in him facing criminal charges in the US, his father John Shipton is campaigning for his diplomatic release. The 75-year-old has visited about eight countries this year raising support for his son’s release During that time his son has won increasing support from politicians on all sides both at home and overseas. The Australian group concerned about Assange’s health and potential extradition includes conservative MPs George Christensen and Barnaby Joyce, independent Andrew Wilkie and Green politicians.

“Basically the malice and spite demonstrated by the United Kingdom and Sweden is of concern to every Australian,” Mr Shipton told AAP. “We are working towards the government involving itself diplomatically to ensure Julian’s return home to Australia and the prosecution stopping immediately.” He said filmmaker James Ricketson and journalist Peter Greste were both brought back to Australia from Cambodia and Egypt respectively via diplomatic intervention and Assange’s case was no different. “There’s no difference whatsoever,” Mr Shipton said. Mr Shipton said the media played a part in a decline in support for Assange while he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London for almost seven years.


“The mobbing and smearing (of Assange) is only possible with the permission, participation, of the media,” he said. “But it seems to have stopped and is reversing itself as the media realises their position is subsequently very tenuous. “What will happen if Julian is dragged away in a yellow jumpsuit with chains around him is the prestige of every journalist in the western world will fall to zero.” Despite the persistence of the UK and US and what he describes as “procedural malfeasance and abrogations of all Julian’s human rights”, Mr Shipton remains optimistic about his son’s release. “I think we’ll win,” he said.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 072019
 


Saul Leiter Taxi c1957

 

When I read that Angela Merkel visited Auschwitz this week (for the first time ever, curiously, after 14 years as Chancellor, and now it’s important?), my first thought was: she should have visited Julian Assange instead. I don’t even know why, it just popped into my head. And then reflecting on it afterwards, of course first I wondered if it’s acceptable to compare nazi victims to Assange in any way, shape or form.

There are many paths to argue it is not. He is not persecuted solely for being part of a group of people (we can’t really use “race” here). There are not millions like him who are being tortured and persecuted for the same reasons he is. There is no grand scheme to take out all like him. There is no major police or army force to execute any such scheme. These things are all obvious.

But I grew up in Holland, where unlike in Merkel’s Germany, the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust was very much present. I looked it up, and it’s already almost 10 years ago that I wrote Miep Gies Died Today, in which I explained this. Miep Gies was a woman who worked for Anne Frank’s father Otto, helped hide the family in the annex, and after the war secured Anne’s diary (or we would never have known about it) and handed it to Otto Frank.

So accusing me of anti-semitism for comparing the Holocaust to what is being done to Assange is not going to work. Why then did Merkel never visit Auschwitz before this week, and when she did, said how important it is to German history? And why did she not visit Assange instead?

Unlike the people who died in Auschwitz and other concentration camps (Anne Frank died in Bergen Belsen from typhoid), Julian Assange today, as we speak, IS being persecuted, he IS being tortured, and he IS likely to die in a prison. What does Angela Merkel think that Anne Frank would have thought about that? Would she have written in her diary that it was okay?

Would all those millions of Jewish and Roma and gay victims have thought that? There are 75+ years that have gone by. We can not get these victims back, we can not magically revive them. But we CAN make sure that what happened to them, torture and murder, doesn’t happen to people today. “Never Again”, right? Well, it IS happening again.

Are we all supposed to go say “I didn’t know” -“Ich hab es nicht gewüsst”- like the Germans did, and all those who collaborated with them across Europe?

There are victims who are dead, and there are victims who are -barely- alive. And if you claim you wish to honor the dead victims, you must ask what they would have felt about the ones like them who are still alive. Otherwise, you’re not honoring them, you’re just posing and acting and, in the end, grossly insulting them.

Julian Assange is not in a German prison, true, but Angela Merkel is still the uncrowned queen of Europe, and if she would visit Julian in his Belmarsh torture chamber it would make a huge difference. That she elects to visit Auschwitz instead, does not only make her appear hollow and empty, it is a grave insult to the likes of Anne Frank and all the other nazi victims.

 

 

Which brings me to another Assange-related issue. The Guardian’s editor, Katharine Viner, launched an appeal yesterday for people to donate money to her paper’s “climate emergency” fund. That in itself is fine. If people think they need to help save the planet with their savings, sure.

Though I will always have suspicions about all these things. From where I stand, I see too many people claiming to save the planet, oil CEOs and billionaires first, and too much money being invited to join their funds. If you want to donate something for the cause, why do it via a newspaper? But even with that in mind, yeah, whatever, it’s Christmas time. Who cares how effective the money will be?

My problem with Katharine Viner and the Guardian is that they have played a very active role in the smearing and persecution of Julian Assange. They’ve published articles that were proven to be 100% false, and never retracted them, or apologized, or attempted to make things right. The Guardian is a major reason why Julian is where he is. It has accommodated, make that encouraged, the British people’s “Ich hab es nicht gewüsst”.

You can donate to the Guardian’s climate emergency fund, if you believe they don’t run it to make you think they really care about the planet more than about their bottom line, but be careful: you will also be supporting the further smearing and persecution of Julian Assange. Are you sure you want to do that?

See, the headline for Katharine Viner’s article is: The Climate Crisis Is The Most Urgent Threat Of Our Time. And it’s not. The most urgent threat is that to Julian Assange’s health. That is today, not in 5 or 10 or 100 years. After all, what is the use of saving the planet if we allow the smartest and bravest among us to be tortured to death? What do we think Anne Frank would have said about that?

 

 

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Dec 062019
 
 December 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein President Roosevelt tours drought area, near Bismarck, North Dakota Aug 1936

 

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)
Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)
Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)
Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)
Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)
Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)
French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)
UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)
Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)
Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)
BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

 

 

There’s a concerted effort to bring back Mueller into the impeachment narrative. I’m not entirely sure why the Dems would want that. A little video with the article suggests Trump would have lied to Mueller -in writing- about contacts with WikiLeaks. You know, Julian Assange, the man who can’t defend himself. The same reason why Mueller could leave him in the report. Along with the 13 Russians. Pelosi can swing from Ukraine back to RussiaRussia. She already did, actually.

So will they bring back Mueller’s bumbling testimony as well? Be careful what you wish for.

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)

Democrats are debating a risky step that may immeasurably bolster their impeachment case but could multiply the political price for ramming it home. Including elements of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report suggesting President Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction would help arguments he did exactly the same in the Ukraine investigation. But reviving the controversy over the special counsel’s probe could blur the much clearer current abuse of power case and play into Trump’s claims that both Washington intrigues are all part of the same “hoax.” Such an accusation would not be based in fact, but it would surely increase the exposure of swing state Democratic House members already facing an existential vote over impeachment. [..]

Democrats provoked fresh speculation that they were moving towards admitting some Mueller evidence by scheduling a Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday with staffers from two committees: Intelligence, which investigated the Ukraine scandal, and Judiciary, which dealt with allegations of obstruction in the Mueller report. This followed comments by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that could be taken as a hint that Democrats were examining the Mueller option. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election,” Nadler said in his committee’s opening impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

But in a situation as emotionally and politically fraught as an impeachment, confronting each action can provoke a politically damaging counter-reaction. Democrats who wanted to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after the release of the Mueller report failed to convince a critical mass of their own leadership that the case was sufficiently clear to the American people. That was one reason why Pelosi held out so long against rising pressure in her own caucus for an effort to oust the President, amid fears of a political backlash. In the CNN town hall, the speaker suggested that the Ukraine case was far more black and white. “It wasn’t so clear to the public,” Pelosi said, referring to Mueller’s findings.

“The Ukraine (situation) has removed all doubt, it was self-evident that the President undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our election as he violated the oath of office.” The President and his supporters, perpetrating a massive disinformation campaign to create uncertainty and ambiguity about the Ukraine case, has been trying to brand it as an extension of the Mueller saga. Folding in the special counsel’s evidence could help do his work for him. For instance, in the first televised House Intelligence Committee hearing last month, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, told witnesses: “the main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

Read more …

Turley of course is the one expert who disagreed with the three others.

Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)

The most dangerous place for an academic is often between the House and the impeachment of an American president. I knew that going into the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of Donald Trump. After all, Alexander Hamilton that impeachment would often occur in an environment of “agitated passions.” Yet I remained a tad naive in hoping that an academic discussion on the history and standards of it might offer a brief hiatus from hateful rhetoric on both sides. In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views.

My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record. Some of the most heated attacks came from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. [..] As I stated Wednesday, I believe the Clinton case is relevant today and my position remains the same. I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation. Instead, Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes such as bribery and extortion to use those in drafting articles of impeachment.

In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized. As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

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More Mueller.

Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)

Warning that U.S. democracy is at stake, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a congressional committee on Thursday to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step setting up a fight over whether to oust him from office. In a dramatic televised statement, Pelosi accused the Republican president of abusing his power and alluded to Britain’s King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in forming the United States in 1776, saying that in the United States, “the people are the king.” “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.

At the heart of the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry is Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting Joe Biden. The former vice president is a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. She had opened the investigation in September. She was referring to Jerrold Nadler, whose House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility of drawing up the formal charges that would later be voted on by the full House. Two people knowledgeable about the process said the panel could draft and recommend the articles of impeachment to the House as early as Dec. 12.

[..] Judiciary Democrats said the report by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election could be part of testimony they hear on Monday from a committee lawyer, who is presenting evidence along with a Democratic lawyer from the House Intelligence Committee. Republican committee lawyers are also expected to testify. Including material from Mueller’s report in an article of impeachment would demonstrate a pattern of behavior involving foreign interference in U.S. elections, House Judiciary Democrat Pramila Jayapal said.

Read more …

Talk about a swamp. Giuliani is talking to Ukraine people. Not sure where that fits in.

Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)

Ukraine has fired the prosecutor investigating cases involving Hunter Biden and Burisma and has transferred responsibility to the Soros-controlled ‘National Anti-Corruption Bureau’ (NABU) for disposal. This is the same NABU led by Artem Sytnyk who was caught on tape bragging about helping the Clinton campaign in its effort to discredit Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Konstantin Kulik was fired from the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 22 due to corruption charges against him. Sources for CD Media describe the firing as being political in nature, as a way to ‘tidy up’ any loose ends regarding Biden and Burisma, to keep the information from the public eye during the ‘impeachment’ campaign in the United States.

They describe Victor Trepak (New Deputy General Prosecutor), Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, and Sytnyk as being under the control of the George Soros/Deep State infrastructure in-country. Trepak was involved in the infamous ‘black ledger’ in the Manafort affair, which is now considered to be fake. The State Bureau of Investigation may be headed by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak it was reported by “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to sources, reported Ukrainian news outlet GordonUA.com. “Soros and the Democrats appointed their agents of influence to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Kasko and Trepak). They put Sytnyk in NABU and Kholodnitsky in SAP (Special Prosecutor) in order to destroy the evidence of corruption of the Democrats in Ukraine and to continue the process of the country’s rape with impunity. They are corruption. If they put Trepak, the author of the ‘black ledger’, as the head of the State Bureau of Investigation, then the process of covering up their crimes will be completed,” declared a confidential intelligence source in Ukraine.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Babel, Kasko discusses the development of Kulik’s firing. According to him, the National Bureau of Investigation will deal with almost all of the cases that Kulik conducted: “All the cases that Kulik was involved in are currently being inventory. In 99 percent of cases, NABU will deal with them. This is a good body to put an end to and clarify what actually happened in these matters. “

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End the Fed.

Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)

The total amount of repurchase agreements (“repos”) on the Fed’s balance sheet as of December 4, released today, declined to $209 billion, from $215 billion a month ago. These repos included: • $70 billion in overnight repos, issued on Wednesday morning that unwound today; all prior overnight repos had already unwound. • $88 billion in multi-day repos with maturities of up to two weeks; • $50 billion in 42-day repos; of which $25 billion were issued on November 25 and $25 billion on December 2. They will unwind early next year. Before the repo market blew out in mid-September, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet were zero. This chart shows the weekly balances of repos on the Fed’s balance sheet as of each Wednesday:

In these “repo operations,” the Fed buys Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and government “Agency” securities, under an agreement whereby the counter parties have to repurchase those securities on a set date at a set (higher) price. The interest rate is determined by the difference between the price the Fed buys the securities at, and the pre-set higher price it sells the securities back to the original counter party. [..] The Fed has stated many times that it wants to get rid of its holdings of MBS. And it’s progressing with the plan. In November, the Fed shed $22 billion in MBS, exceeding the self-imposed cap of $20 billion per month for the seventh month in a row. Over the past seven months, it has shed $160 billion in MBS, or about $22.8 billion a month on average. Its holdings are now down to $1.42 trillion, below where they had first been in November 2013:

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Big Brother appears inevitable.

Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)

A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service).


If they don’t, their visas could be denied. Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.” “They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.”

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“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down…”

French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)

France faced a second day of travel chaos, shuttered schools and understaffed hospitals on Friday as unions said they would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms until the president backed down. Much of France ground to a halt on Thursday as transport workers went on strike – joined by teachers, doctors, police, firemen and civil servants – while smoke and tear gas swirled through the streets of Paris as some protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. On Friday there were heavy cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services.


Traffic jams totaling more than 350 kilometers clogged the main roads in and around the capital, according to traffic app Styadin, as many commuters took to their cars. Rail workers extended their strike through Friday, while unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. “We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos. The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who took office in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

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With 6 days left, what’s the use?

UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)

Labour’s co-campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne said they had recorded numerous examples where his party’s leadership had received “more negative treatment, harsher scrutiny and slanted editorial comment” than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. “That bias has been reflected in the framing, content and balance of BBC reporting during the campaign,” Gwynne wrote in a letter to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. “If the Conservatives are allowed to ‘play’ or manipulate the BBC, and this behavior goes unchecked, then the corporation will have effectively been complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.”

The broadcaster, which is funded by a tax on all television-watching households and regularly faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum, is bound by strict rules to ensure impartiality. “The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favor,” a BBC spokesman said. Labour, trailing the Conservatives by about 10 points in opinion polls before the Dec. 12 vote, are particularly unhappy that Johnson has not agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, who has already subjected the other major party leaders to tough questioning.

Labour said they had agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding that Johnson had also signed up. “Instead, the BBC allowed the Conservative leader to pick and choose a platform through which he believed he could present himself more favorably and without the same degree of accountability,” Gwynne said. On Thursday, having just interviewed the head of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on BBC TV at prime-time, Neil issued an on-air challenge to Johnson to appear before him. He also detailed a series of questions he would ask, focusing on whether Johnson could be trusted over campaign promises.

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Ready for prime time TV. If Boris is MIA, just broadcast this.

Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)

The BBC’s Andrew Neil says he wants to quiz Boris Johnson about whether he can be trusted. The Conservative leader is – so far – the only main party leader not to submit to an election grilling on BBC One.

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Great story. Who has the movie rights?

Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)

We first started noticing major ‘odd’ exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. “Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.” Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran. The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes.

His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.” In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey’s president. “Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila – a director at Turkey’s Halkbank – who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange. And since then “one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever” has disappeared from the headlines… until now. Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

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We’ll end humanity yet.

BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

Humans are probably being exposed to far more of a widely used dangerous chemical – found in plastics, canned goods and receipt paper – than previously understood, according to a new study. The analysis, in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Lancet, uses a new method for evaluating exposure to BPA, or bisphenol-A. BPA disrupts hormones critical to many body functions and is linked with obesity and other diseases. Pregnant women who are exposed to it are more likely to have children who have problems with growth, behavior and fertility, as well as a higher cancer risk. Many companies have phased out using BPAs, marketing new products with similar replacement bisphenols as safer without sufficient evidence for their claims, experts say.


The new research examined levels of BPA in urine but also counted the metabolites of BPA. Metabolites are formed when the body breaks down and eliminates a chemical. Using the new method, the scientists analyzed the urine of 29 pregnant women in their second trimester and found their BPA exposure levels to be an average of 44 times higher than what was measured with the traditional method. Patricia Hunt, a co-author of the study who is a molecular biosciences professor at Washington State University, said she was “horrified” by the high levels her group found in the pregnant women.

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Dec 052019
 
 December 5, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Interior of migratory fruit worker’s tent, Yakima, Washington Jul 1936

 

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)
The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)
Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)
Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)
Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)
Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)
The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)
Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)
China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)
France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)
Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)
Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

 

 

The Fed will never be able to get out. That was clear the moment they stepped in.

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)

The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.

The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”

Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.

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End the Fed.

The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”

This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.

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“..the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.”

Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)

It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…

… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…

… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.

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All three are Democrat donors who have a deep dislike of Trump. They couldn’t hide that, didn’t even try, instead went on RussiaRussia rants.

But this was supposed to be about the Constitution, not about their opinions. Turley was the only one who stuck to what was on the table.

Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.

“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.

Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.

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Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”

Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”

Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)

Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”

The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”

Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”

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Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)

By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.


With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.

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I don’t have space for all 10, but Solomon is a must read.

The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)

Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.

And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.

News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.

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It’s not just the Fed, but they haven’t exactly helped.

Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)

Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.


Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.

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A normal market phenomenon?

China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)

While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”

After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.

Read more …

The French know how to strike.

France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)

Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.


The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.

Read more …

Does Uber have more lawyers than drivers?

Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)

Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.


The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’

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Again, Assange -with his aides- is the only person who has abided by the law. All other parties involved have not. That should have a huge bearing on the case.

Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.

An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”

German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.

Read more …

 

Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV

 

 

 

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Dec 012019
 


Arthur Rothstein Family leaving South Dakota drought for Oregon Jul 1936

 

Fastest-Growing Debt Category In US Not Student Loans Or Credit Cards (CNBC)
Automakers Offer Record Incentives As Trillion Dollar Auto Bubble Bursts (ZH)
The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation (EP)
Germany Closes All Nuclear Plants, Must Bury Waste For 1 Million Years (CNN)
Spanish Judge To Question Assange Over Ecuador Embassy Spying Claims (El Pais)
‘We’re Working For The Dark Side’: Firm Accused Of Spying On Assange (RT)
Tulsi Gabbard: Wake Up And Smell Our $6.4 Trillion Wars (AC)
OPCW Manipulation Of Douma Report Requires Fresh Look At Skripal Case (MoA)
Prince Andrew Meeting With US Authorities Would Be A ‘Catch-22’ (G.)
Will The Epstein Story Ever be Fully Told? (Rice)
Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet (Wired)

 

 

Here, have some money.

Fastest-Growing Debt Category In US Not Student Loans Or Credit Cards (CNBC)

It’s the fastest-growing debt category in the country, but if you are thinking student loans or credit cards, you’re wrong. Personal loan balances now exceed $300 billion, as of the second quarter of this year, according to Experian, a whopping 11% yearly increase. For good reason, too, as personal loans can help to consolidate credit card debt, or make funds available for major projects, such as a home remodeling effort. For many of us, the allure is hard to ignore, but personal loans do differ in some key ways from other types of credit you might use, such as credit cards. It’s important to understand the key differences before signing on the dotted line.


As compared to credit cards, personal loan interest rates can vary much more dramatically, according to research by ValuePenguin. In fact, some borrowers with excellent credit may qualify for loans with interest rates as low as 5% or 6% with some lenders. On the other hand, borrowers with poor credit may encounter rates higher than the average credit card, sometimes exceeding 30%. This wide range of interest rates make personal loans more affordable for those with better credit, and may make the most sense for borrowers with excellent credit who can pay off the loan in a timely manner. On the other hand, borrowers with poor or fair credit may face interest rates higher than what they’d otherwise qualify for with a credit card.

Read more …

Can we recognize an industry that is dying? Or do we simply refuse?

Automakers Offer Record Incentives As Trillion Dollar Auto Bubble Bursts (ZH)

Early last month, we outlined how automobile sales deteriorated in late summer and prophesized how “this would set the stage for increased incentive spending by carmakers, who will be desperate to clear inventory heading into the end of the year.” It seems that we were right. Automakers are now offering the most discounts on record to entice deadbeat consumers in November, according to a new report from JD Power. The average incentive spending per vehicle is $4,538, an increase of 12% YoY. The previous high for the industry was $4,378 in 4Q17. Inventories for older model-year vehicles have soared in 2H19, forcing automakers to boost incentive spending to clear excess inventory. With the average APR to finance a vehicle around 5.3% for the month, the average transaction price remained above $34,000, down from $179 from last month but up $622 over the year.

As a result of low rates and record-high incentives, consumers spent $40.3 billion on new vehicles in November. This figure is up $2.7 billion from 2018. Thomas King, Senior Vice President of the Data and Analytics Division at JD Power, said, manufacturers will offer even greater incentives through December, and the trend could continue into early 2020. “Incentive spending typically rises by 3-4% in December, which would continue to drive overall spending to unprecedented territory,” King said. King warned: “This [incentive trend] is concerning for the health of the industry when combined with rising sub-prime sales, which are growing at the highest rate since August 2018.”

Read more …

“..the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy. Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness. And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day.”

The Fed’s Answer to the Ghastly Monster of its Creation (EP)

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless. The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent. New highs continue to be reached practically every day. Over this stretch, many investors have been conditioned to believe the stock market only goes up. That blindly pumping money into an S&P 500 ETF is the key to investment riches. In good time, this conditioning will be recalibrated with a rude awakening. You can count on it. In the interim, the bull market may continue a bit longer…or it may not. But, to be clear, after a 370 percent run-up, buying the S&P 500 represents a speculation on price. A gamble that the launch angle furthers its steep trajectory. Here’s why…

Over the past decade, the U.S. economy, as measured by nominal GDP, has increased about 50%. This plots a GDP launch angle that is underwhelming when compared to the S&P 500. Corporate earnings have fallen far short of share prices. Hence, the bull market in stocks is not a function of a booming economy. Rather, it’s a function of Fed madness. And its existence becomes ever more perilous with each passing day. Central planners at the Fed – like other major central banks – have taken monetary policy to a state of madness. Zero interest rate policy, negative interest rate policy, quantitative easing, operation twist, quantitative tightening, reserve management, repo market intervention, not-QE, mass-asset purchases, and more.

These schemes have fostered massive growth in public and private debt with nothing but lackluster economic growth to show. What’s more, these schemes have produced massive asset bubbles that have skyrocketed wealth inequality and inflamed countless variants of new populism. Yet the clever fellows at the Fed are blind to the fact that they’re most responsible for fabricating this monster. And now they want to rectify the ghastly deformities of their creation… Earlier this week, for example, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari remarked that: “Monetary policy can play the kind of redistributing role once thought to be the preserve of elected officials.”

How exactly Mickey Mousing with credit markets could attain this objective is unclear. But, like yield curve control (YCC), Kashkari wants to give it a go. These sorts of amorphous meddling operations is how he answers his higher calling. You see, Kashkari’s a man with crazy eyes. But he’s also a man with even crazier ideas. He’s an extreme economic interventionist – and a crackpot. Though he wears his burdens on his sleeve. If you recall, as federal bailout chief, Kashkari functioned as the highly visible hand of the market. When the sky was falling in early-2009, he awoke each morning, put on his pants one leg at a time, drank his coffee, and rapidly funneled Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s $700 billion of TARP funds to the government’s preferred financial institutions.

Read more …

No human being can guarantee anything for a million years. It’s a mad mad claim.

Germany Closes All Nuclear Plants, Must Bury Waste For 1 Million Years (CNN)

When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world’s scientists, they don’t get much larger than this. Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters – roughly six Big Ben clock towers – of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years? This is the “wicked problem” facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Professor Miranda Schreurs, part of the team searching for a storage site. Experts are now hunting for somewhere to bury almost 2,000 containers of high-level radioactive waste. The site must be beyond rock-solid, with no groundwater or earthquakes that could cause a leakage. The technological challenges – of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans – are huge.


Germany decided to phase out all its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, amid increasing safety concerns. The seven power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022. With their closure comes a new challenge — finding a permanent nuclear graveyard by the government’s 2031 deadline. Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy says it aims to find a final repository for highly radioactive waste “which offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years.” The country was a “blank map” of potential sites, it added.

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Took 3 months. Normally, a matter of days.

Spanish Judge To Question Assange Over Ecuador Embassy Spying Claims (El Pais)

The British justice system has finally agreed to let a Spanish judge question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a witness in a case involving allegations that a Spanish security firm spied on him while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, will interview the cyber-activist via video link on December 20, said judicial sources. Assange will be transferred from Belmarsh prison in southeast London to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions from De la Mata, who is investigating alleged violations of client-attorney privilege between the cyber-activist and his lawyers, and allegations that these conversations were passed on to the CIA.


British civil servants visited Assange in prison last week, asked him whether he agreed to be questioned by De la Mata, and delivered a document listing the events under investigation by the judge, who had issued a European Investigation Order (EIO) in September requesting assistance from British authorities. It has not been easy to secure the UK’s permission to question the Australian cyber-activist. The Spanish judge sent London the EIO on September 25, requesting authorization to interview Assange as part of an investigation into Morales and his company for breach of privacy, violation of client-attorney privilege and illegal arms possession.

Read more …

Has the guy been arrested yet?

‘We’re Working For The Dark Side’: Firm Accused Of Spying On Assange (RT)

A private security firm that allegedly spied on Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London bragged about its nefarious activities and ties to US intelligence, according to German public broadcaster NDR. The troubling revelations are part of a criminal complaint filed by NDR against Undercover Global, a Spanish security company contracted by the Ecuadorian government to film and review guests at their embassy in London. The firm is accused of using the commission to carry out a vast spying operation targeting the WikiLeaks co-founder, who sought political asylum in the embassy for seven years before his hosts handed him over to British authorities. The German broadcaster claims to have a huge cache of documents detailing the illegal surveillance operation – which also targeted NDR journalists who visited Assange.


Former employees of Undercover Global said that the company’s CEO, David Morales, didn’t try to hide his ties to the US government. Upon returning from a trip to the United States, Morales allegedly told one of his employees: “From now on, we play in the first league… We are now working for the dark side.” He is said to have traveled up to twice a month to the States to deliver materials taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy. When asked by colleagues who his “American friends” were, Morales reportedly replied: “the US Secret Service.” Incredibly, a lawyer from Undercover Global acknowledged to NDR that the company works with US intelligence agencies – but denied any wrongdoing at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

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“..our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly..”

Tulsi Gabbard: Wake Up And Smell Our $6.4 Trillion Wars (AC)

The Democratic establishment is increasingly irritated. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, long-shot candidate for president, is attacking her own party for promoting the “deeply destructive” policy of “regime change wars.” Gabbard has even called Hillary Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.” [..] Gabbard recognizes that George W. Bush is not the only simpleton warmonger who’s plunged the nation into conflict, causing enormous harm. In the last Democratic presidential debate, she explained that the issue was “personal to me” since she’d “served in a medical unit where every single day, I saw the terribly high, human costs of war.”

Compare her perspective to that of the ivory tower warriors of Right and Left, ever ready to send others off to fight not so grand crusades. The best estimate of the costs of the post-9/11 wars comes from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The Institute says that $6.4 trillion will be spent through 2020. They estimate that our wars have killed 801,000 directly and resulted in a multiple of that number dead indirectly. More than 335,000 civilians have died—and that’s an extremely conservative guess. Some 21 million people have been forced from their homes. Yet the terrorism risk has only grown, with the U.S. military involved in counter-terrorism in 80 nations. Obviously, without American involvement there would still be conflicts.

Some counter-terrorism activities would be necessary even if the U.S. was not constantly swatting geopolitical wasps’ nests. Nevertheless, it was Washington that started or joined these unnecessary wars (e.g., Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen) and expanded necessary wars well beyond their legitimate purposes (Afghanistan). As a result, American policymakers bear responsibility for much of the carnage. The Department of Defense is responsible for close to half of the estimated expenditures. About $1.4 trillion goes to care for veterans. Homeland security and interest on security expenditures take roughly $1 trillion each. And $131 million goes to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which have overspent on projects that have delivered little.

More than 7,000 American military personnel and nearly 8,000 American contractors have died. About 1,500 Western allied troops and 11,000 Syrians fighting ISIS have been killed. The Watson Institute figures that as many as 336,000 civilians have died, but that uses the very conservative numbers provided by the Iraq Body Count. The IBC counts 207,000 documented civilian deaths but admits that doubling the estimate would probably yield a more accurate figure. Two other respected surveys put the number of deaths in Iraq alone at nearly 700,000 and more than a million, though those figures have been contested. More than a thousand aid workers and journalists have died, as well as up to 260,000 opposition fighters. Iraq is the costliest conflict overall, with as many as 308,000 dead (or 515,000 from doubling the IBC count). Syria cost 180,000 lives, Afghanistan 157,000, Yemen 90,000, and Pakistan 66,000.

Read more …

“..a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD..”

OPCW Manipulation Of Douma Report Requires Fresh Look At Skripal Case (MoA)

The OPCW had send blood samples from the Skripals to the Spiez laboratory in Switzerland which found BZ, a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. The OPCW hid this fact in its reports. An attack with BZ on the Skripals would be consistent with the observed symptoms that bystanders had described. The Skripals were indeed hallucinating and behaved very strangly with Sergei Skipal lifting his arms up to the sky while sitting on a bench. Exposure to BZ would also explain the Skripals’ survival. The OPCW explained the BZ find by claiming that it had mixed BZ into the probe to test the laboratory. Something which it said it regularly does. At that time I still believed in the OPCW and found that explanation reasonable:

“The OPCW responded to Russian question about the BZ and high rate of A-234 in the Spiez Laboratory probe and report. OPCW said today that it was a control probe to test the laboratory. Such probes are regularly slipped under the real probes to make sure that the laboratories the OPCW uses are able to do their job and do not manipulate their results. That explanation is reasonable. I guess we can close the BZ theories and go back to food poisoning as the most likely cause of the Skripals’ illness.” In light of the OPCW management manipulation or suppression of the reports of its own specialists for the purpose of attributing the Douma incident to the Syrian government I have to change my opinion. I hereby retract my earlier acceptance of the OPCW’s explanation in the Skripal case.

As we now know that the OPCW management manipulates reports at will we can no longer accept the ‘control probe’ excuse without further explanations or evidence. Here is what seems to have happened. The OPCW did not send a control sample to Spiez to test the laboratory. It sent the original samples from the Skripals. Spiez found BZ and reported that back to the OPCW. The OPCW suppressed the Spiez results in its own reports. Somehow Russia got wind of the Spiez results and exposed the manipulation. Acceptance that the Skripals had been ‘buzzed’, not ‘novi-shocked’ is central to the Skripal case. It makes the whole Skripal case as a British operation to prevent the repatriation of Sergei Skripal to Russia much more plausible.

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They can’t even serve him with a subpoena because his staff would shield him. Time for the Queen to do the right thing. Or abdicate.

Prince Andrew Meeting With US Authorities Would Be A ‘Catch-22’ (G.)

Prince Andrew is not charged with wrongdoing but with the BBC airing an interview with Giuffre on 2 December the controversy is only likely to ramp up. [..] If Prince Andrew were lawfully served with a subpoena – be it for a grand jury, or a trial or deposition – generally speaking, he will need to comply. However, it is far more difficult to serve him outside the US. “Due to the heightened measures of security that surround the royal family, it certainly is far more difficult to walk up to a member of the royal family and serve them a subpoena as you would a private citizen,” Weinstein said. While there are rules about how to serve subpoenas on a foreign national on US soil, such as surprising them at points of entry, diplomatic immunity and his being a high-profile royal could further complicate the issue.

Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, said there could be legal risks in Prince Andrew cooperating depending on his potential involvement with Epstein’s activities. “If he was peripherally involved in that, if he has information about others, I would say absolutely any attorney would take him in to cooperate,” Roiphe said. “The problem is, if he faces serious exposure and he’s a target of that information, most attorneys would not have him explain everything he knows – it really depends.” Mary Ellen O’Toole, who was formerly an FBI profiler deeply involved in finding the Unabomber killer, said that if Prince Andrew could provide information that would further the investigation and clear him at the same time, it “probably would be very helpful to him” to come forward.

O’Toole said the utility in cooperating with authorities largely depends on how he would handle the situation and that the pitfalls of such an interview were real as being untruthful with authorities can flout laws against making false statements, leading to further legal problems stemming from the interviews themselves. “I think it would be considered an adversarial situation – I don’t know how prepared he would be,” said O’Toole, who now directs the forensic science department at George Mason University in Virginia. “Sometimes people come in and say things that get them jammed up. “It is a catch-22 situation for him,” O’Toole said.

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Hell no.

Will The Epstein Story Ever be Fully Told? (Rice)

Every person named in court documents or press reports as allegedly or possibly having sex with an underaged girl or young woman at Epstein’s bequest has denied the allegations. Which begs the question: Who’s telling the truth and who’s lying? To form an opinion on this central question, authorities would presumably need to interview anyone with possible knowledge of alleged sexual or criminal acts. Investigators could then seek information that either corroborates or impeaches each person’s account. However, evidence is growing that the protocol in a typical “he-said, she-said” investigation is not being followed in the Epstein case. Instead, authorities may have simply accepted as truth the statements of denial issued by powerful public figures.

True or not, many Americans believe the Department of “Justice” will not prosecute (perhaps even question) scores of individuals who may have broken U.S. laws and who may have been victims of a disturbing blackmail operation. Perhaps authorities have concluded it’s better to not know. Perhaps they realize if they interview one suspected “John,” they’ll have to interview every potential “John.” if this number ends up being massive, and includes a Who’s Who of our society, important illusions about society’s leaders and our system of justice could be shattered. At its core, the Epstein case will reveal whether government prosecutors and investigators possess the courage and integrity to expose sordid truths about some of the wealthiest, most-connected, powerful people in the world, and perhaps reveal embarrassing truths about our government.

Americans might soon learn what objective is more important to Justice Department officials: Protecting the rich and powerful from the consequences of their behavior, or confirming that a system of justice grounded in trust can still be trusted. Sadly, many Americans are convinced authorities will not do the right thing. However, in proving skeptics wrong, authorities would accomplish at least four objectives, all noble. They would punish the guilty. They would provide justice to victims too long ignored. They would deter future Epsteins and future “Johns,” especially those unaccustomed to being held accountable for their actions. And, perhaps most importantly, they would allow a ray of sunshine to pierce the shadow of cynicism that’s spread across our country.

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“..the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made..”

“..the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes..”

Scott Adams Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet (Wired)

After expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Dilbert creator Scott Adams estimates that he lost about 30 percent of his income and 75 percent of his friends. He says that that level of political polarization has created a climate of genuine fear. “People will come up, and they’ll usually whisper—or they’ll lower their voice, because they don’t want to be heard—and they’ll say, ‘I really like what you’re doing on your Periscope, and the stuff you’re saying about Trump,’” Adams says in Episode 389 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They’re actually afraid to say it out loud. They literally whisper it to me in public places.” Adams blames the current climate on social media and a clickbait business model that rewards sensationalism over fact-based reporting.

Since the technology is here to stay, he says we’re going to need new societal norms to help foster a calmer, more constructive political discourse. “When society changes, every now and then you need a new rule of manners,” he says. “So for example, when cell phones were invented, you needed a new set of rules about where can you use them and can you do it in a restaurant, etc. And social media has gotten so hot, I thought maybe we need a few new rules.” He lays out two such rules in his new book, Loserthink. His first proposal, which he calls the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made, no questions asked. “We live in a better world if we accept people’s clarifications and we accept their apologies, no matter whether we think—internally—it’s insincere,” he says.

His other idea is the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forgiven for any mistakes they made more than two decades ago—with the exception of certain serious crimes. It used to be the case that people’s thoughtless remarks and embarrassing gaffes would naturally fade into obscurity, but social media has created a situation where it’s easy to endlessly dredge up a person’s worst moments. “We’re not the same people that we were 20 years ago,” Adams says. “We’ve learned a bunch, our context has changed. If you’re doing all the right stuff, you’re getting smarter and kinder and wiser as you’re getting older. So being blamed for something you did 20 years ago is effectively being blamed for something a stranger did, because you’re just not that person anymore.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 272019
 
 November 27, 2019  Posted by at 7:23 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Female bust R 1943

 

For political, but, much more, monetary reasons, the media makes their mark, and therefore Jeremy Corbyn hates Jews, Julian Assange is an unwashed rapist and Donald Trump is Putin’s handpuppet. And if you object, you’re a suspect human being. In order to make money, and retain or gain power, the media and intelligence services, along with the political powers friendly to them, inject opinions into the populace. How Orwellian do you want it?

And I get it, depending on where people lean politically, they will think these are entirely separate stories. The right will be against Corbyn, the left against Trump. And all of them together against Assange.

I was starting to write about Jeremy Corbyn yesterday, about the innuendo and allegations concerning his alleged antisemitism, and then I thought: wait, Corbyn and Trump is the same story. And Assange. They are very different people, and their stories may appear to be very very different too, but they are not really.

My personal opinion is that Assange has far too little support, and that worries me a lot every single day, while Corbyn and Trump just drown in social media and MSM nonsense. The problem is, that nonsense poses as truth today. That is what Corbyn has failed to understand, what Trump made his own to the extent that he could, and what Assange, who saw all of this better and earlier than anyone, has been entirely isolated from. But it’s still the same thing in all three cases. It’s about the media. They have become the story, instead of reporting it.

I’ve already said that I don’t think the time is right -and ripe- for Corbyn’s radical plans for Britain -if it will ever be-, but I sure don’t think Brexit should be decided on a pack of lies and smears. Still, it very much looks like it will be. “Social” media, don’t you know.

Jeremy Corbyn has long sympathized with the Palestinian people. It appears that this stance will now decide the Brexit issue. Because it allows for his detractors to label him an antisemite. Throw in an editorial once every two days or so which states that even if Corbyn himself is not an antisemite (press insurance policy), he’s guilty by association because he didn’t root out antisemitism in his party strongly enough, and you’re free to go.

But apparently the right wing is not convinced it’ll be enough, so the UK Chief Rabbi throws some more oil on the flames, and so does his close friend, the leader of the Church of England. Corbyn should have spoken out loud and clear a long time ago. He’s the right wing’s toy now. I saw this very long list of things Corbyn said and did to support the British Jewish population, but it doesn’t matter anymore. He’s got a swastika painted on his forehead now.

Corbyn keeps reasoning something like: it’s not true, so I have nothing to fear, but that’s old world thinking. Today things become reality by the grace of being endlessly repeated and, thereby, amplified. He didn’t catch the spirit of the time. He should perhaps have had a Twitter feed like Trump’s, and denounced the allegations from there. Never had a chance in the traditional media anyway.

But Corbyn does not appear to get it. Still, imagine Trump without Twitter, or Corbyn with it.

The Guardian runs a handy guide:

Antisemitism and Labour: Everything You Need To Know

• Critics of Corbyn say that criticism of Israel among some of his supporters, for example about the treatment of the Palestinian people, can too readily tip over into a generalised condemnation which becomes antisemitic. They say also that those within Labour who challenge this can face abuse and persecution. Labour says that while such incidents must be dealt with robustly, the context is that complaints connected to antisemitism amount to 0.1% of party membership, while prejudice in the Conservative party is more widespread.

• Aside from internal Labour investigations, in May the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it had placed Labour under formal investigation over whether the party had unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they were Jewish.

• Labour faced criticism from some Jewish groups after it adopted a working definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, but left out one of the 11 examples given in the definition, which said it would be antisemitic to claim “that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour”. Labour later adopted all 11 examples.

Yeah, no, you don’t fight these things by directly addressing them. It’s like “when did you stop beating your wife” or “does this dress make me look fat”, there are no correct answers. Corbyn lost 2-3 years framing his response, and now it’s too late. That Chief Rabbi:

UK Chief Rabbi Attacks Labour Party

The Chief Rabbi has strongly criticised Labour, claiming the party is not doing enough to root out anti-Jewish racism – and asked people to “vote with their conscience” in the general election. In the Times, Ephraim Mirvis said “a new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root” in the party. Labour’s claim it had investigated all cases of anti-Semitism in its ranks was a “mendacious fiction”, he added. Jeremy Corbyn says Labour is tackling anti-Semitism by expelling members. It comes as Labour launches a “race and faith manifesto”, which aims to improve protections for all faiths and tackle prejudice.

Labour has been beset by allegations of anti-Semitism for more than three years, leading to the suspension of a number of high-profile figures such as Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson, and an unprecedented investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. In his article, the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – who is the spiritual leader of the United Synagogue, the largest umbrella group of Jewish communities in the country – says raising his concerns “ranks among the most painful moments I have experienced since taking office”. But he claims “the overwhelming majority of British Jews are gripped by anxiety” at the prospect of a Labour victory in 12 December’s general election.

He writes: “The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people. “It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.” He adds that it was “not my place to tell any person how they should vote” but he urged the public to “vote with their conscience”.

[..] Jenny Manson, the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Labour group which is not officially affiliated to the party, told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme she was “horrified” by the Chief Rabbi’s intervention. She added that there was no threat to Jews in the Labour Party but there was a threat from the far-right.

And his Christian friend:

Justin Welby Backs Chief Rabbi After Labour Antisemitism Remarks

The archbishop of Canterbury has in effect backed the chief rabbi’s comments on the Labour leadership’s record on antisemitism with a tweet highlighting the “deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews”. Justin Welby does not explicitly refer to the Labour party, but his intervention a few hours after the chief rabbi’s excoriating public criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is significant.

In an article in the Times, Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s most senior Jewish leader, accused Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the party, saying the way the Labour leadership had dealt with anti-Jewish racism was “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people”.

Welby posted on Twitter: “That the chief rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews. They should be able to love in accordance with their beliefs and freely express their culture and faith.”

Acknowledging the Church of England’s own history of antisemitism – the subject of a major report last week – Welby continued: “None of us can afford to be complacent. Voicing words that commit to a stand against antisemitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action.”

The chief rabbi’s comments were also supported by Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a crossbench peer, who said the Jewish community had been gripped by anxiety. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lady Neuberger said that under Corbyn’s leadership “there has been this insidious antisemitic tone to quite a lot of what’s happened and an unwillingness to really face it.”

She added: “If they’re not willing to tackle that, if they’re not willing to apologise for it, if they’re not willing to sympathise, then something is going very wrong. “A political party where some of its members leave because of antisemitic taunting, which still cannot deal with it, makes people feel very uncomfortable.”

That same archbishop of Canterbury’s church was chided for, wait for it, antisemitism, but that’s safely in the past, or so they say. So now he gets to chide others for the exact same thing. No, it’s not in the church, and not in the Conservative party, let’s focus on Corbyn, just so he loses.

Church of England Says Christians Must Repent For Past Antisemitism

Christians must repent for centuries of antisemitism which ultimately led to the Holocaust, the Church of England has said in a document that seeks to promote a new Christian-Jewish relationship. However, the church’s move to take responsibility for its part in Jewish persecution was impaired by stinging criticism by the chief rabbi of the continued “specific targeting” of Jews for conversion to Christianity.

[..] The document acknowledged that two C of E cathedrals, Norwich and Lincoln, were associated with the spread of the “blood libel” in the late Middle Ages. Jewish communities were falsely accused of abducting and killing Christian children to use their blood in the making of Passover matzos (unleavened bread). “This allegation, originating in England, became the catalyst for the murder of many Jews in this country and across Europe, especially in pogroms at Eastertide.”

[..] In a foreword to the document, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury – known to be personally close to the chief rabbi – said Mirvis’s comments were “written as a friend, and they are received in a similar spirit, however tough they are to read”. He added: “The chief rabbi has opened, with characteristic honesty and affection, a challenge upon which we must reflect. We cannot do that reflection honestly until we have felt the cruelty of our history.”

Yes, boys and girls, it’s election time, and all is fair in love and war and elections. But please pay at least some attention, don’t let these idiots frame your opinions or shape your emotions. They’re doing it for their own gains, not yours. They don’t represent you, they’re using you and will spit you out at the first occasion they see as profitable.

OffGuardian had this nice graph on how big the Labour antisemitism problem really is:

 

 

That’s right, the problem doesn’t exist. At 0.08%, nothing is a problem, it’s a rounding error. Stop listening to these people. I know, I know, too late now, and Corbyn must take the blame for that. You can’t win in 2019 with only the tools and worldview of 1969. I’m neutral on Brexit, though I don’t think the Tories’ approach, doing nothing and then expecting everything to solve itself, is good for Britain. Feels like a scam to me. Britain hasn’t made its own laws in 40 years, and it’s fine if it wants to start doing that again, but it takes a real effort. But where is that effort?

Moreover, after decades of Maggie Thatcher, neocon Tony Blair and successive Tory governments, I’m not at all surprised to read that Parts Of England ‘Have Higher Mortality Rates Than Turkey’. And so I’m not surprised either that Corbyn is so much of a threat to Boris that they send the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury to finish him off, on “out of hot air” grounds.

Summarized, the media have/has changed far more than people acknowledge. Corbyn can’t win with 1969 tools, but it appears that perhaps the press can. For me this is not about Trump or Corbyn, they are merely symbolic of what is happening, the main point is that our view of the world in increasingly being pre-cooked and pre-chewed, and far too few people see what’s going on with their opinions.

They still think they’re their own opinions. But the reason why they’re fed these stories is because the media make money of off selling these opinions to them, not because of some loftier ideal.

Nice point in case is this tweet from George Monbiot, environmental writer for the Guardian:

 

 

You see, Monbiot is employed by the Guardian, at a plush salary, and he pretends to stand up for Assange here. But his employer is one of the main reasons why Assange is where he is. The Guardian has run a concerted smear campaign against Assange like nobody else I’m aware of. The entirely false story about Paul Manafort visiting Assange in the Ecuador embassy is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

So you would think George mentions that, and tells you he despises his own mealticket. You would think Monbiot perhaps would say: I only had 140 characters in that tweet. And I would say: no, George, you have zero character.

 

 

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Nov 272019
 


Margaret Bourke-White Beach Accident, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 1951

 

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)
The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)
Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)
MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)
China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)
More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)
Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)
Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)
Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)
Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)
A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

 

 

Sounds logical. Will logic decide this though? It doesn’t seem to have had much influence so far.

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)

If more Democratic swing-state representatives defect from the impeachment camp, which seems likely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a big problem. How can she proceed?
• If the House votes down impeachment Donald Trump wins.
• If the House holds no vote on the issue Donald Trump wins.
• If the House votes for censure Donald Trump will have won on points and the issue will be over.
• If the House votes for impeachment the case goes to the Senate for trial.

The Republican led Senate has two choices:
• It can decide to not open an impeachment trial by simply voting against impeachment. Trump wins.
• It can open a impeachment trial, use it to extensively hurt the Democrats and, in the end, vote against impeachment. Trump wins big time.

Should the House vote for impeachment the Senate is likely to go the second path. During impeachment the whole Senate sits as the High Court. The House of Representatives sends ‘managers’ who act as prosecutors. The chief justice of the U.S. presides. A vote for impeachment at the end of the trial requires a two-third majority. The Republican majority in the Senate could use such a trial to bring disarray into the Democrats’ primary. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet are all senators and Democratic primary candidates. They would probably have to stop campaigning to attend the trials. Another leading Democratic candidate would be a top witness.

The Republican senators would immediately call up a number of people for questioning. These would include Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer, John Kerry who was Secretary of State when Biden intervened for Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky and of course the CIA spy and (not-)whistleblower Erik Ciaramella. It would also be of interest to hear how deep the former CIA director John Brennan was involved in the issue. The Senators could use the impeachment trial to dig into all the crimes the Democrats under Obama committed in Ukraine. They would concentrate not on the Maidan coup but on the aftermath when the deals were made. There surely is a lot of dirt out there and it is not only Joe Biden’s.

Read more …

Free speech.

The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)

As Texans will certainly remember, then-Governor Rick Perry was indicted in 2014 by a grand jury for abusing his official capacity when he threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit unless the district attorney, who had previously been convicted of drunk driving and subsequently incarcerated, resigned. Sounds a lot like a quid pro quo, no? At the time, the special prosecutor’s operative legal theory required that the First Amendment not protect a governmental actor’s right to threaten taking a lawful action in order to attain a preferred political outcome. If the special prosecutor were wrong, then Governor Perry’s attempted quid pro quo would hardly be illegal at all — it would actually be constitutionally protected speech.

At the time, powerful and ideologically diverse group of attorneys argued that the special prosecutor sought to criminalize constitutionally protected speech. The group included right-leaning legal luminaries such as law school professors Eugene Volokh and former Judge Michael McConnell, as well as former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The group also includes historically liberal-leaning First Amendment scholars, such as Floyd Abrams and Alan Dershowitz. The counsel of record on this notable amicus brief was then-private attorney James C. Ho — for whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I served as a law clerk upon his successful nomination as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The amicus brief argued that “[a] political official has the right to threaten to perform an official act in order to persuade another government official to engage in some other official act.” It continued: “That is not a crime — it is core political speech.” Governor Perry’s quid pro quo with respect to withholding funds from the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, the brief contended, “is protected free expression, and the [g]overnor cannot be prosecuted for it.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the Lone Star State’s highest court for criminal cases, agreed. “[P]ublic servants have a First Amendment right to engage in expression, even threats, regarding their official duties,” the Court held. “Many threats that … public servants make as part of the normal functioning of government” would be criminalized under the special prosecutor’s legal theory, the Court continued.

The Court’s rationale is not even remotely partisan or political; it is pure logic and common sense. Quid pro quos routinely happen in politics as a day-to-day reality of politics. Before issuing his DAPA executive amnesty, President Barack Obama consistently threatened to use his “pen and phone” if Congress did not take the legislative action he desired. Unruly congressmen often have their committee assignments threatened by committee chairmen if they fail to vote in accordance with congressional leadership’s desires. Heck, does anyone think that neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engages in dozens of quid pro quos on a weekly basis as a rudimentary requirement of executing their chamber-wide leadership jobs?

The Trump impeachment defense should adopt this line of argumentation. How on earth can the president of the United States be impeached for engaging in constitutionally protected speech? How on earth can the president’s deployment of constitutionally protected speech, in the context of foreign policy, amount to an “abuse or violation of some public trust” that merits impeachment less than one year away from a presidential election?

Read more …

Oh boy: “..we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people..”

Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)

President Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, Politico reported Tuesday. The former president reportedly said if Sanders held a strong lead in the Democratic primary, he would speak out to prevent him from becoming the nominee. A close adviser to Obama told Politico he could not confirm whether Obama would stand up against Sanders. “He hasn’t said that directly to me,” the adviser said. “The only reason I’m hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don’t think that’s likely. It’s not happening.”


An Obama spokesperson, when asked about his previous comments on Sanders, referred to the president’s past comments that he would back whomever became the Democratic nominee. “Look, we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people who have a history of public service, and whoever emerges from the primary process I will work my tail off to make sure that they are the next president,” Obama said earlier this month, according to his spokesperson.

Read more …

This must be the weirdest poll graph I’ve ever seen.

MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)

Progressive journalist Michael Tracey claimed Tuesday that MSNBC is has dropped all pretenses for their “contempt” towards Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). The political news contributor said the left-leaning network has treated her fellow 2020 Democratic candidates, including businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unfairly, but he argued that with Gabbard it, “crosses a certain threshold.” “Fundamentally they’re beholden to whatever the market incentives are and right now it’s within their market interests to depict Tulsi as an infiltrator, as a Trojan horse in the Democratic Party and not deal on the substance with what she’s saying which is why over and over again they tar her as a Russian plant essentially,” Tracey told Hill.TV.


“There’s nobody who can really offer any kind of countervailing view because it’s just not economically advantageous for them at this point,” he added. Tracey pointed to a fiery exchange between Gabbard and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during last week’s 2020 primary debate as a prime example. During the debate, Harris accused Gabbard of being a conservative media darling and consistently going on Fox News to bash President Obama during his tenure. “I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who, during the Obama administration, spent four years full-time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,” Harris said. Gabbard dismissed the criticism, calling it “ridiculous.”

Read more …

I think Hong Kong is a lot more than a “financial window”. It feels like China would be blind without it.

China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)

[..] although the leisure sector may have landed in the rough, the decision by the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act could represent a more significant long-term threat to the territory’s economic fortunes. The bill has infuriated Beijing as an “intervention” in its affairs but despite the delicate stage of US-China trade talks, Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation because of its near-unanimous backing in Congress. The bill means the US would make an annual check that Hong Kong has sufficient autonomy from Beijing to qualify for the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial centre. It also gives officials the power to levy sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

A second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong authorities. George Magnus, the former chief economist of the investment bank UBS and now an associate of the London School of Economics’s IDEAS thinktank, said the legislation was potentially damaging for China. “Hong Kong is China’s financial window on the world, and vice versa. The territory lends China capital, clout and kudos. All of this is now at risk.” The consultancy Capital Economics said the bills highlighted a growing feeling that Hong Kong’s autonomy was “deteriorating” and could persuade some firms to look for new accommodation in east Asia. “The bill itself would not directly reduce the territory’s international status unless other countries follow suit,” Capital said this week.


“But it could lead the large number of foreign firms operating in the city to increasingly focus their energy on other Asian financial centres with less uncertain outlooks.” [..] with most experts agreed that Beijing will not back down and allow Carrie Lam’s government to give concessions to the pro-democracy groups, it is hard to see how the situation can be resolved quickly and pull the economy back from a disastrous, prolonged recession. Dan Harris, a lawyer at the Seattle firm of Harris Bricken who has done business in the region for decades, says the ongoing protests mean Hong Kong as an international financial centre is “no more”. “It’s finished as an international business centre because it was based on trust, safety and the rule of law and that’s all gone. Companies are looking to leave. No one is thinking of moving in,” he said.

Read more …

There are bank runs, small ones for now.

More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)

[..] with less income from lending and without the full suite of funding options available to much larger peers, the interest rates that China’s legion of small banks may have to offer to attract deposits could further undermine their stability. The irony is that to preserve their critical deposit base, small banks have to hike deposit rates even higher to stand out, in the process sapping their own lifeblood and ensuring their self-destruction, or as we dubbed it earlier, China’s own version of Europe’s “doom loop.” Dai Zhifeng, a banking analyst with Zhongtai Securities, told Reuters the funding difficulties risked distorting small banks’ behavior, making failure even more likely: “Lacking core competitiveness, some of them have turned to high-risk, short-sighted operations,” he said, adding that a liquidity crunch was possible at some institutions.


But for a nation with a $40 trillion financial system, double the size of US banks, and well over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks, here please recall that the 4 largest banks in the world are now Chinese:• ICBC: $4TN • China Construction: $3.4TN • Agri Bank of China: $3.3TN • Bank of China: $3.1TN … the question how many banks will fail in the near future, is especially relevant not only for China but for the entire world. Luckily, we got an answer from none other than China’s central bank, which on Monday said that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain”, with more than 13% of 4,379 lenders now considered “high risk” by the central bank. In other words, take the 5 banks listed above which either suffered a bank run and/or were bailed out or nationalized, and add to them over 500 which are about to suffer the same fate.

Read more …

Full control of the process is the only thing the FAA could do. They are co-responsible for the entire crisis.

Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)

The FAA said on Tuesday that it planned to exercise full control over all aspects of certification of Boeing’s 737 Max, even once the plane returns to commercial service. Relatively routine activities, such as certifying individual airplanes as they roll off the production line — as opposed to certifying the overall type of plane — will be performed by FAA officials, an agency spokesperson told Business Insider. Normally, routine day-to-day activities like certifying individual planes of an already certified type — the issuing of Airworthiness Certificates — which are among the final phases of the manufacturing process, are delegated to the planemaker.

Additionally, the likelihood of the plane being cleared to fly in 2019 was cast into further doubt, as was the possibility of Boeing resuming deliveries of completed planes to airline customers before the plane was fully cleared to reenter commercial service, according to The Air Current, an aviation industry publication. Boeing had stated earlier this month that it expected to resume deliveries in December, and for the plane to be fully cleared to fly again in January. However, it was not clear whether airline customers would accept delivery of the plane while it was not allowed to carry passengers.


“The FAA notified Boeing today that the agency will retain authority over the issuance of Airworthiness Certificates for all newly manufactured 737 MAX aircraft,” the FAA said in a statement. “This action is in line with Administrator Steve Dickson’s commitment that the agency fully controls the approval process for the aircraft’s safe return to service.” [..] “The FAA has not completed its review of the 737 MAX aircraft design changes and associated pilot training. The agency will not approve the aircraft for return to service until it has completed numerous rounds of rigorous testing. The FAA will take all the time it needs,” the agency added.

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NATO is a monster that has taken on a life of its own because of arms manufacturers.

Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)

During the Cold War, NATO enjoyed the widespread support of Americans and Europeans, and understandably so. The USSR had 20 divisions in Germany, surrounded West Berlin, and occupied the east bank of the Elbe, within striking distance of the Rhine. But that Cold War is long over. Berlin is the united free capital of Germany. The Warsaw Pact has been dissolved. Its member states have all joined NATO. The Soviet Union split apart into 15 nations. Communist Yugoslavia splintered into seven nations. As a fighting faith, communism is dead in Europe. Why then are we Americans still over there?

Since the Cold War, we have doubled the size of NATO. We have brought in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but not Finland or Sweden. We have committed ourselves to fight for Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro but not Serbia, Bosnia or North Macedonia. Romania and Bulgaria are NATO allies but not Moldova or Belarus. George W. Bush kept us out of the 2008 Russia-Georgia clash over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And Barack Obama refused to send lethal aid to help Ukraine retrieve Crimea, Luhansk or Donetsk, though Sen. John McCain wanted the United States to jump into both fights. In the House Intel Committee’s impeachment hearings, foreign service officers spoke of “Russian aggression” against our Ukrainian “ally” and our “national security” being in peril in this fight.


But when did Ukraine become an ally of the United States whose territorial wars we must sustain with military aid if not military intervention? When did Kyiv’s control of Crimea and the Donbass become critical to the national security of the United States, when Russia has controlled Ukraine almost without interruption from Catherine the Great in the 18th century to Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 20th century? Among the reasons Trump is president is that he raised provocative questions about NATO and Russia left unaddressed for three decades, as U.S. policy has been on cruise control since the Cold War. And these unanswered questions are deadly serious ones.

Read more …

Yes, it takes a group of Germans to probe how Americans fell for Browder. And for their own Deep State, which used the story because RussiaRussia.

Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)

There are two versions of what happened to Magnitsky. The more well-known version has all the makings of a conspiracy thriller. It’s been repeated in thousands of articles, TV interviews and in parliamentary hearings. In this version of the story, the man from the Moscow cemetery fought nobly against a corrupt system and was murdered for it. The other version is more complicated. In it, nobody is a hero. The first version has had geopolitical implications. In 2012, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions against Russian officials who were believed to have played a role in his death. The measure was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama after receiving a broad bipartisan majority.

Back then, if there was one thing that politicians on both sides of the aisle could agree on, it was their opposition to a nefarious Russian state. In 2017, Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Act, which enabled the U.S. to impose sanctions against Russia for human rights violations worldwide. The facilitator behind these pieces of legislation is Bill Browder, Magnitsky’s former boss in Moscow. “When he was put to the ultimate test, he became the ultimate hero,” Browder says of Magnitsky. Browder was born in the U.S.. For years, his company, Hermitage Capital Management, was one of the largest foreign investors in Russia. At the time, Browder was an advocate for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the West. That is, until he was prohibited from entering Russia in 2005.

[..] Browder tells a gripping story of how Magnitsky, the whistleblower, is believed to have died. This narrative is his ticket into the political sphere. It’s why he’s received by members of parliament, diplomats and human rights activists alike, often with open arms. They support his push for more legislation because they see it as setting an important precedent: Corrupt regimes all over the world that are violating their citizens’ rights must be held accountable and made to suffer consequences in the form of entry bans and frozen accounts as laid out by the Global Magnitsky Act. The law makes it more difficult, if only slightly, for autocrats to sneer at and ignore human rights.

But there’s another version of the Magnitsky saga, one that is more contradictory than Browder’s telling and more difficult to summarize. The legal documents that underpin it fill dozens of binders, not only in Moscow, but also in London and New York. After sifting through thousands of pages, one might begin to wonder: Did the perfidious conspiracy to murder Magnitsky ever really take place? Or is Browder a charlatan whose story the West was too eager to believe?

Read more …

Now dig into Bellingcat’s role in MH17.

Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)

Before we begin I should highlight that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which according to its own cofounder was set up to do overtly what the CIA had previously been doing covertly, namely orchestrating narrative management geared toward the elimination of governments which refuse to comply with US interests. NED is funded directly by the US government, which means that Bellingcat is funded by the US government via an organization set up to promote imperialist regime change agendas. Bellingcat is also funded by Open Society Foundations, another imperialist narrative management operation.

[..] Bellingcat’s latest phenomenal report on how you’re supposed to think about important geopolitical disputes, titled “Emails And Reading Comprehension: OPCW Douma Coverage Misses Crucial Facts”, addresses the leaked OPCW email which was recently published by WikiLeaks and various other outlets revealing that the OPCW omitted crucial information from its Douma report which indicated that a chemical weapons attack was unlikely to have occurred. I encourage you to go and check out Bellingcat’s new masterpiece for yourself. Don’t worry about giving them clicks; that’s not where they get their money.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bellingcat’s article is that at no point does it even attempt to address the actual inflammatory comments within it, such as the OPCW whistleblower’s assertion that the samples tested where a chlorine gas attack is alleged to have occurred in April 2018 contained levels of chlorinated organic compounds which were so low that it would be unreasonable to claim with any confidence that a chlorine gas attack had occurred at all. The whistleblower writes in the leaked email to the OPCW cabinet chief that the levels “were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1–2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.”

As we discussed previously, early skeptics of the establishment Douma narrative highlighted the bizarre fact that when the OPCW published its Interim Report in July of last year its report contained no information about the levels at which the chlorinated organic chemicals occurred. Chlorinated organic chemicals occur at trace levels in any industrialized area, so they are only indicative of a chlorine gas attack when samples test at high levels. The email said they didn’t. The OPCW omitted this in both its Interim and Final Reports. The whistleblower told journalist Jonathan Steele that the levels found “were comparable to and even lower than those given in the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on recommended permitted levels of trichlorophenol and other COCs in drinking water.”

Read more …

You go George.

A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

The grand old Duke of York sleeps tonight on a feather pillow in a royal palace. Julian Assange, the publisher of the century sleeps in the hell of Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s own Guantanamo Bay. The Duke of York lied about the length duration and nature of his relationship with the presumed deceased child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Julian Assange told the truth about the high crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful during times of war and peace. The FBI need to speak to the Queen’s favorite son, but no power on earth will be deployed to make him testify about what he might have seen, or even have participated in, at the townhouse in Manhattan, a Sodom and Gomorrah of our times.

The same US Justice system has caused the cruel incarceration of Assange and his Kafkaesque entrapment in an extradition saga which may last for years – if he doesn’t die before it is over as no less than 60 doctors have recently warned he may well do. The US-UK extradition arrangements may be the most unequal treaty ever concluded by Her Majesty’s ministers. In this case the former Blair government Home Secretary David Blunkett, a blind man who could, nonetheless, see exactly what he was doing. In essence extradition from Britain to the US became virtually on request without the slightest need to show just cause. But not vice versa. It would be easier to pull a camel through the eye of a needle than for Britain to extradite a US citizen to face justice in the UK.

I was a member of the British Parliament at the time this treaty was signed. Not that this mattered a jot or tittle. The Treaty was signed during the Summer Recess when no Parliament was sitting and through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Only when it was already in operation was I even able to oppose the extradition of its first victims – alleged City of London financial fraudsters, as well as a fitted-up “terrorist” London man Babar Ahmad. Under the old extradition rules neither case could have satisfied the previous requirement to produce prima facia evidence sufficient to persuade a British judge. Under the new Treaty it was easy peasy lemon squeezy. And off they went.

Prince Andrew will face no such ordeal albeit now banished from Royal Circles and effectively reduced to the ranks, his epaulettes ripped off his glittering array of obscure medals turned to scrap metal on his tunic. Although accused of sexual abuse of a teenager and with an admitted close relationship to the alleged procurer of underage female victims, Ghislaine Maxwell, in whose London home it is alleged one of the sexual encounters took place – the US will never require the Prince to give evidence and the UK will never offer him up. Assange, who was falsely accused of rape, has spent virtually the last decade locked up in one form or other of incarceration. And faces up to 175 years of prison time, if successfully extradited.

It is a tale of two cities – Buckingham Palace and Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison. A tale of two individuals – one now a proven liar and one a well attested truth-teller. A tale of two fates. The Prince who became a moral pauper, the other an impecunious journalist who became a moral giant. It is a tale of our times.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 252019
 
 November 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  17 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Resettlement project, Bosque Farms, New Mexico Dec 1935

 

China Needs To Prepare For Zero Interest Rates (Global Times)
China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero (ZH)
Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Candidates Win 347 of 452 Seats (SCMP)
China Cables (Irish Times)
Both UK Parties Are Peddling Fantasies – Tony Blair (R.)
Why Did Trump Release Ukraine Aid? The Answer Is Simple (York)
John Solomon: They ‘Smeared Me, Just Like Joe McCarthy Smeared People’ (Med.)
Stop Being A Loser And Start Winning Like Trump (Scott Adams)
I Ditched Google For DuckDuckGo. Here’s Why You Should Too (Wired)
Doctors Petition UK Home Secretary Over Julian Assange (CN)
Aid Groups Condemn Greece Over ‘Prison’ Camps For Migrants, Refugees (G.)

 

 

China has a debt problem. “Zero or negative rates monetary conditions don’t mean that debt issues and the asset bubble problem will be resolved automatically, but the opposite..”

China Needs To Prepare For Zero Interest Rates (Global Times)

The US Federal Reserve’s (Fed) continuous interest rates cuts have triggered a race of interest rates cuts among central banks around the world, increasing excessive global liquidity even further. In this case, more countries are faced with monetary conditions of zero or negative rates. Recently, former US Fed chairman Alan Greenspan noted that “negative rates” are spreading around the world. Some financial institutions even believe the world will enter a low rates condition that hasn’t occurred in 1,000 years. Under the condition of low or zero rates, the world’s debts level keeps rising, and the bond yields continue dropping. Another phenomenon comes with low rates monetary condition is that prices go up with risk asset. The US stock prices have climbed to a new high.

For China, the demands for liquidity are growing, foreign capital keeps flowing in and the real economy continues to slow down, which all make the country seemingly approaching a zero rates monetary condition. It asks policymakers and market players to be prepared. Mounting debts and the financing problems in the real economy will promote China to a zero rate condition. In the first half of 2019, China’s overall debts accounted for 306 percent of the GDP, up 2 percentage points from the 304 percent in the first quarter, according to a report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF). The number was just around 200 percent in 2009 and 130 percent in 1999.

According to data from the National Institution for Finance and Development, China’s enterprise sector’s debts account for 155.7 percent of the nominal GDP, up 2.2 percentage points from the end of last year. It’s far beyond the government sector’s leverage ratio of 38.5 percent and the resident sector’s leverage ratio of 55.3 percent. In the enterprise sector, private companies embattled with financing problems account for 30 percent. Structurally, China’s non-financial corporate debt ratio is too high, and interest rates are too high. Considering that the repayment burden of existing debt has squeezed out the effective demand for new credit, and China is likely to become the next zero interest rate country, according to Zhu Haibin, Chief China Economist at J.P. Morgan.

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Tyler’s take on the article above: “..it will only infuriate Trump who has been kicking and screaming at Jerome Powell, demanding that the Fed do just that.”

China Will Be The Next Country To Cut Rates To Zero (ZH)

[..] an English language op-ed published today in China’s nationalist tabloid, Global Times, which for once, is surprisingly accurate, and while mostly avoiding the propaganda that Chinese media is so well known for, explains well why China may indeed be the next country to see zero rates (as a reminder, Chinese real rates are already negative due to soaring pork prices). And while we doubt that the PBOC will be able to cut enough to bring about ZIRP, or NIRP, any time soon especially due to the ongoing hyperinflation in pork prices, if and when those do stabilize the Chinese central bank may well follow in the footsteps of every other developed central bank. In doing so, it will only infuriate Trump who has been kicking and screaming at Jerome Powell, demanding that the Fed do just that.

What we find most remarkable about the op-ed is how simply, matter-of-factly and correctly, the author explains away why zero rates are coming: “Mounting debts and the financing problems in the real economy will promote China to a zero rate condition [..] Structurally, China’s non-financial corporate debt ratio is too high, and interest rates are too high. Considering that the repayment burden of existing debt has squeezed out the effective demand for new credit, and China is likely to become the next zero interest rate country”. Amusingly, the anonymous op-ed writer has managed to state in two sentences what takes financial pundits hours, days and weeks to explain on CNBC: “Another phenomenon comes with low rates monetary condition is that prices go up with risk asset. The US stock prices have climbed to a new high.”

That said, what we found most surprising about the Global Times oped is its conclusion: instead of some jingoist bullshit about how China’s negative rates would be the greatest, and most negative in the entire world, the publication takes a very measured tone, and warns that such a monetary stance may very well spell doom for China, to wit: “Zero or negative rates monetary conditions don’t mean that debt issues and the asset bubble problem will be resolved automatically, but the opposite. Growing bubbles in the global financial market in the long run will be a reminder of financial risks. In a slowing global economy, zero or even negative interest monetary conditions are a new trend that gives new risks and challenges to China and the international financial market. Awareness and responsiveness need to be revamped.”

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Pro-democracy camp wins 17 out of 18 district councils, all of which were previously under pro-establishment control. Record voter turnout.

Beijing really thought its candidates would win?

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Candidates Win 347 of 452 Seats (SCMP)

The anti-establishment reverberations from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across Hong Kong on Sunday, as voters in record numbers roundly rejected pro-Beijing candidates in favour of pan-democrats. The tsunami of disaffection among voters was clear across the board, as pan-democrats rode the wave to win big in poor and rich neighbourhoods, in both protest-prone and non-protest-afflicted districts and, in downtown areas as well as the suburbs. Less immediately obvious was whether there was a generational divide in the way people voted, but ousted pro-establishment district councillors suggested that young, first-time voters had been instrumental in dislodging them from their perch.


The final election results were confirmed at 1pm on Monday when the vote count was completed at Lam Tin constituency of Kwun Tong District Council. Among the 452 seats up for grabs, the pan-democrats were victorious in 347, the independents – many of them pro-democracy – won 45, while the pro-establishment camp had to make do with 60. The pro-democracy camp now has control of 17 out of 18 district councils. It won all elected seats in Wong Tai Sin and Tai Po district councils.

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The Irish Times publishes 9 articles based on “a small cache of secret documents, being called the China Cables, that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)”.

This is from the first article: “‘The largest incarceration of a minority since the Holocaust’”. Click the link for the ‘library’.

Yves Smith: “The Irish Times did terrific additional reporting on the ICIJ docs. Must reading.”

China Cables (Irish Times)

Dormitory doors, corridor doors, and floor doors must be double-locked, and must be locked immediately after being opened and closed.” “Strictly manage and control student activities to prevent escapes during class, eating periods, toilet breaks, bath time, medical treatment, family visits, etc.” The quotes are from instructions issued by a top security official in the Xinjiang province of China, where since 2017 more than a million people from Uighur and other ethnic minority groups are being kept in camps. The Chinese authorities, who at first denied the camps existed, then said they were there to provide “educational training” to “students” in centres that had a “boarding school” type of management. “It is strictly forbidden for police to enter the student zone with guns, and they must never allow escapes, never allow trouble, never allow attacks on staff, never allow abnormal deaths.”

Contained in a telegram called “New Secret 5656”, the instructions were written in 2017, when the policy of incarcerating people from ethnic minorities in Xinjiang was being put into effect on an industrial scale. The telegram is among a small cache of secret documents, being called the China Cables, that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and have been shared with 17 media partners, including The Irish Times, the BBC, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and the US TV network, NBC. The leak puts to rest attempts by the Chinese government to portray the facilities in the western province of Xinjiang as anything other than internment camps.

Adrian Zenz, a recognised authority on what is happening in Xinjiang, told the ICIJ he believes the reference in the instructions to not allowing “abnormal deaths” has to do with torture. The telegram does not mention torture, “but the fact that it mentions the avoidance of abnormal deaths, in my opinion, is an indication that [the camp system] is using forms of physical force on people that, however, is not supposed to kill them.” People are being put in chain-suits, are being made stand in certain positions, and are being beaten, said Zenz. Other harsher forms of torture are being meted out in prisons and detention centres.

In October a former detainee, Sayragul Sauytbay, a muslim of Kazakh descent who has been granted asylum in Sweden, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that some inmates were made sit on a chair of nails. “I saw people return from that room covered in blood. Some came back without fingernails.” The “special secrecy level” instructions in the telegram were issued by Zhu Hailun, the then head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Political and Legal Commission (PLC) in Xinjiang, and the senior party official then responsible for the implementation of the campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

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Blair’s attacking Corbyn until he loses.

Both UK Parties Are Peddling Fantasies – Tony Blair (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are peddling fantasies before a Dec. 12 election, former British leader Tony Blair will say on Monday, offering his support to “mainstream” politicians. At a newsmaker event at Reuters, Blair will criticise Britain’s main parties for offering voters a stark choice, wanting to win “on the basis that whatever your dislike of what they’re offering, the alternative is worse”. Held after three years of negotiations to leave the European Union since a 2016 referendum, the December election will show how far Brexit has torn traditional political allegiances apart and will test an electorate increasingly tired of voting.


Blair, who was prime minister for 10 years until 2007, will say many in Britain are “scratching their heads, changing their minds, floating and unsure” before the election. “The unifying sentiment is a desire, bordering on the febrile, to end the mess, to wake from the nightmare,” he will say, according to extracts from his speech. “This desire, though completely understandable, is in danger of leading us into a big mistake; and frankly we cannot afford another of those.” Blair will accuse both parties of offering up a fantasy to voters – the Conservatives suggesting they will get Brexit done when the reality is that they will start new talks on a future relationship which “could last for years”. Equally, he will say that Labour, under veteran socialist Corbyn, is offering a “revolution”. “The problem with revolutions is never how they begin but how they end.”

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“President tries to do something. Congress opposes. President sees he has no support and backs down. It has happened many, many times with many, many presidents.”

Why Did Trump Release Ukraine Aid? The Answer Is Simple (York)

Trump’s true reason for releasing the aid matters to the Democratic impeachment scheme. If he released the money after learning about the whistleblower — after he realized the jig was up — then that, at least to Democrats, suggests guilt. If he released it after gaining confidence in Zelensky, that does not suggest guilt. But the evidence suggests that neither explanation is correct, that there is a much simpler reason for Trump’s decision to release the aid. On the day he OK’d the aid, Trump learned that Congress was going to force his hand and spend the money anyway. He could either go along or get run over.

On Sept. 11, the White House received a draft of a continuing resolution, produced by House Democrats, that would extend funding for the federal government. Among other provisions, the bill would push the Ukraine money out the door, whether in the final days of fiscal year 2019 or in 2020, regardless of what the president did. “The draft continuing resolution … would on September 30 immediately free up the remainder of the $250 million appropriated for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the fiscal 2019 Defense spending law and extend its availability for another year,” Roll Call reported a little after noon on Sept. 11.

According to knowledgeable sources, the Office of Management and Budget received the draft on the morning of Sept. 11. OMB Director Russell Vought informed the president around mid-day. There was no doubt the Democratic-controlled House would pass the measure, which was needed to avoid a government shutdown. Later that afternoon, Trump — who must have already known that the Republican-controlled Senate would also support the bill — had the point emphasized to him when he received a call from Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Portman, and Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus. Along with several other senators, Portman wrote to the White House on Sept. 3, imploring the president to release the aid. On Sept. 11, Portman felt the need to talk again, with the same message — only this time with the backdrop of the House preparing to pass a bill that would force Trump’s hand. At that point, the president knew he could not maintain the hold on aid in the face of bipartisan congressional action. So he gave in. By early evening on Sept. 11, the hold was lifted. It was an entirely unremarkable end to the story: President tries to do something. Congress opposes. President sees he has no support and backs down. It has happened many, many times with many, many presidents.

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Video at the link. Still trying to understand why he has so suddenly come under attack. He had been writing about this for a long time.

“The message was clear: Don’t touch these people,” Solomon said. “And the State Department confirms they delivered that message. How can this be such a big factual dispute? Now we’re debating the word list. She delivered the message.”

John Solomon: They ‘Smeared Me, Just Like Joe McCarthy Smeared People’ (Med.)

After coming under a great deal of scrutiny during the House Intelligence committee’s impeachment hearings over the past two week’s, Fox News contributor John Solomon is firing back — claiming that he was smeared. Solomon sat for an interview Thursday night with Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum on The Story. The segment marked a rare appearance on a news side program for the Fox News contributor — as opposed to the opinion shows like Hannity on which he is a staple. During the interview, Solomon — a former columnist for the Hill whose controversial work on Ukraine is now being subjected to an internal review — claimed he’s being targeted because much of his reporting is favorable to President Donald Trump.


“I’m probably being punished a lot because the president’s mentioned me, he likes my reporting,” Solomon said. “But I don’t report because it makes the president happy. I report because the truth needs to get out there.” MacCallum asked Solomon about the claims made by former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that she was the target of a smear campaign led by a former top Ukraine prosecutor and Rudy Giuliani — with Solomon and several conservative media figures circulating negative stories about her. In particular, one article in which Solomon claimed that Yovanovitch pressured Ukraine into not prosecuting a number of people. Solomon stood by his work. “The message was clear: Don’t touch these people,” Solomon said. “And the State Department confirms they delivered that message. How can this be such a big factual dispute? Now we’re debating the word list. She delivered the message.”

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Adams is promoting his new book, Loserthink.

“..the two most influential politicians in the United States: [..] President Trump and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez..”

Stop Being A Loser And Start Winning Like Trump (Scott Adams)

At the time of this writing, the two most influential politicians in the United States are a real estate developer who became president and a bartender who got elected to Congress. I’m talking about President Trump and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The most striking thing they have in common is that they did not “stay in their lanes,” and it worked out great for them. Likewise, you would not be reading this, and the “Dilbert” comic strip would not exist, if I had “stayed in my lane,” which at the time meant working in a cubicle. My nomination for the most loserthinkish advice in history is: “Stay in your lane.” That is the sort of advice that is better served to an enemy, not a friend. If everyone followed that advice, you wouldn’t have civilization.

The world as we know it was engineered, designed, and built by people who left their lane and tried something outside their temporary skill stack. They figured it out as they went. I’ll agree that one size doesn’t fit all, and some people probably should stick to what they do best. But I wouldn’t want society to decide that staying in one lane is some sort of obvious wisdom. In my experience, the smartest plan for life is to leave your lane as often as you can (without inviting major risk) to pick up skills that will complement your talent stack. The more skills you have, the more valuable you will be, although you won’t necessarily know in advance where it will take you.

If you happen to be one of the best in the world at some specific skill, such as sports, music, or science — and you like what you do — it might make perfect sense to “stay in your lane” and milk that situation for all it is worth. But most of us are not the best in the world, or anywhere near it, at any particular skill. If that describes you, I recommend leaving your lane often — even at the risk of embarrassment — to pick up new skills and new ways to see the world.

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DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or user information.

I Ditched Google For DuckDuckGo. Here’s Why You Should Too (Wired)

What was the last thing you searched for online? For me, it was ‘$120 in pounds’. Before that, I wanted to know the capital of Albania (Tirana), the Twitter handle of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Ed Davey (he’s @EdwardJDavey) and dates of bank holidays in the UK for 2019 (it’s a late Easter next year, folks). Thrilling, I’m sure you’ll agree. But something makes these searches, in internet terms, a bit unusual. Shock, horror, I didn’t use Google. I used DuckDuckGo. And, after two years in the wilderness, I’m pretty sure I’m sold on a post-Google future. It all started with a realisation: most the things I search for are easy to find. Did I really need the all-seeing, all-knowing algorithms of Google to assist me? Probably not.

So I made a simple change: I opened up Firefox on my Android phone and switched Google search for DuckDuckGo. As a result, I’ve had a fairly tedious but important revelation: I search for really obvious stuff. Google’s own data backs this up. Its annual round-up of the most searched-for terms is basically a list of names and events: World Cup, Avicii, Mac Miller, Stan Lee, Black Panther, Megan Markle. The list goes on. And I don’t need to buy into Google’s leviathan network of privacy-invading trackers to find out what Black Panther is and when I can go and see it at my local cinema.

While I continue to use Google at work (more out of necessity as my employer runs on G-Suite), on my phone I’m all about DuckDuckGo. I had, based on zero evidence, convinced myself that finding things on the internet was hard and, inevitably, involved a fair amount of tracking. After two years of not being tracked and targeted I have slowly come to realise that this is nonsense. DuckDuckGo works in broadly the same way as any other search engine, Google included. It combines data from hundreds of sources including Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and Bing, with its own web crawler, to surface the most relevant results. Google does exactly the same, albeit on a somewhat larger scale. The key difference: DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or user information.

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A letter signed by 60 medical doctors from around the world: “Medical doctors have a professional duty to report suspected torture of which they become aware, wherever it may be occurring.”

They will be ignored.

Doctors Petition UK Home Secretary Over Julian Assange (CN)

Open Letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott

We write this open letter, as medical doctors, to express our serious concerns about the physical and mental health of Julian Assange. Our professional concerns follow publication recently of the harrowing eyewitness accounts of Craig Murray and John Pilger of the case management hearing on Monday 21 October 2019 at Westminster Magistrates Court. The hearing related to the upcoming February 2020 hearing of the request by the US government for Mr Assange’s extradition to the US in relation to his work as a publisher of information, including information about alleged crimes of the US government. Our concerns were further heightened by the publication on 1 November 2019 of a further report of Nils Melzer, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in which he stated: ‘Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.’

[..] Medical doctors have a professional duty to report suspected torture of which they become aware, wherever it may be occurring. That professional duty is absolute and must be carried out regardless of risk to reporting doctors. We wish to put on record, as medical doctors, our collective serious concerns and to draw the attention of the public and the world to this grave situation. The World Health Organisation Constitution of 1946 envisages ‘the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.’20 We are indebted to those who have sought to uphold this right in the case of Mr Assange.

From a medical point of view, on the evidence currently available, we have serious concerns about Mr Assange’s fitness to stand trial in February 2020. Most importantly, it is our opinion that Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health. Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care). Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Mr Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.

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I warned about the new right-wing government.

Aid Groups Condemn Greece Over ‘Prison’ Camps For Migrants, Refugees (G.)

Greece is poised to create “prison” island camps, say aid groups amid growing criticism of government plans to overhaul refugee reception centres on Aegean outposts facing Turkey. As the UN refugee agency’s top official, Filippo Grandi, prepared this week to fly to Lesbos, where almost 16,000 people are crammed into a single facility, Athens was criticised for adopting legislation in contravention of basic human rights. Disquiet mounted as the centre-right administration, which was elected on a tough law and order platform in July, declared that the country again at the forefront of the migration crisis had “reached its limits”. Announcing measures to tackle a significant increase in arrivals, not seen at such levels since 2015 when nearly a million Syrians entered Europe via the isles, it promised future policies would be defined by deterrence.

Under the scheme, closed installations will replace vastly overcrowded, open-air camps; land and sea borders will be reinforced with about 1,200 more guards and extra patrol vessels and deportations stepped up. “We are in the eye of the storm,” said the prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, conceding that pressure on Greece to patrol its eastern frontiers had risen dramatically in the wake of Europe’s decision to seal off the nation’s northern borders against migrant flows. “The country needs a national strategy.” With the new structures, which are built to hold no more than 5,000 people, the era “of shameful scenes” spawned by the deplorable conditions of notorious island camps would, he vowed, finally be replaced “by images of modern, properly functioning installations”.

International aid groups have overwhelmingly condemned the measures. After criticising asylum legislation also passed this month, they predicted the remodelled facilities would only exacerbate the humanitarian disaster unfolding on Europe’s frontiers. Martha Roussou, senior advocacy officer for the International Rescue Committee in Greece, said: “The government’s announcements represent a blatant disregard for human rights. The creation of closed facilities will simply mean that extremely vulnerable people, including children, will be kept in prison-like conditions, without having committed any crime.”

The Greek branch of Amnesty International called the plans “outrageous”. Likening Lesbos’s infamous Moria refugee camp to a “human rights black hole”, it said: “In reality, we are talking about the creation of contemporary jails with inhumane consequences for asylum seekers, and more widely, negative consequences for the Aegean islands and their inhabitants.” About 37,000 asylum seekers are trapped on islands that since the summer have been targeted with renewed vigour by traffickers.

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Nov 242019
 
 November 24, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait de femme (Dora Maar) 1943

 

Does Trump Have Bunch Of ‘Losers’ To Thank For Growing Economy? (Charlie Hall)
Phase 2 of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Britain’s Carmakers Fear The Wheels Are Coming Off (G.)
Brick & Mortar Melts Down as Ecommerce Jumps by Most Ever (WS)
Ukraine, Trump, & Biden – The Real Story Behind “Ukrainegate” (Zuesse)
Yes, Ukraine Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (Levine)
Internal OPCW E-Mail (WikiLeaks)
New Sexed-Up Dossier Furore: The Leaked Email In Full (DM)
How The Firm Lost Its Grip (O.)
Met Faces New Questions Over ‘Trafficked’ Teen In Epstein Case (G.)
Pilger Blasts ‘Cruel’ Media Coverage Of Julian Assange (RT)

 

 

Good friend Charlie Hall on America’s reality. Shale losses keep on coming.

Does Trump Have Bunch Of ‘Losers’ To Thank For Growing Economy? (Charlie Hall)

U.S. oil production originally peaked in 1970, and gas in 1973, but declined through 2007, when production was revitalized by the process of lateral drilling and “fracking.” This technological miracle allowed us to exploit deposits formerly considered low-grade. Now the United States produces more oil than it ever has, and is, with Saudi Arabia and Russia, one of the top three oil producers in the world. Fracking has also reversed the long decline of U.S. natural gas production, allowing the substitution of gas for coal and a proliferation of cheap plastics. But, curiously, this renaissance of petroleum in the United States has not led to a resurgence of profits in the oil and gas industry.

Quite the opposite, because almost none of the companies that have invested in fracking are turning a profit. Investors in this industry are losing a lot of money, some $83 billion since 2008, according to oil analyst Arthur Berman. This situation means that relatively cheap oil and gas are keeping the U.S. economy strong. But this cheap oil and gas is being partially subsidized by investors who are either losing money or receiving a poor return on investment. In this respect, President Trump has these financial “losers” to thank for a large part of the current health of the U.S. economy. This relation among oil supplies, prices and the political winds is not new and works both ways.

Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were in office during the economically disastrous increase in the price of oil from less than $4 a barrel in 1972 to more than $35 in 1979. Both lost in their reelection bids. In 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan ran on a platform of “Let’s make America Great again” and “It’s morning again in America,” which coincided with the decline in oil prices during the 1980s. In the U.K., Margaret Thatcher was floundering in popularity in 1980, but then received most of the credit for the remarkable recovery of the U.K. economy. Was it her conservative management style, or the development of the North Sea oil, which occurred on her watch? Now that the North Sea oil boom is over, the U.K. economy is struggling again.

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And there’s more. Chesapeake is but one example.

Phase 2 of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

In 2019 through third quarter, 32 oil and gas drillers have filed for bankruptcy, according to Haynes and Boone. Since the end of September, a gaggle of other oil and gas drillers have filed for bankruptcy, including last Monday, natural gas producer Approach Resources. This pushed the total number of bankruptcy filings of oil and gas drillers since the beginning of 2015 to over 200. Other drillers, such as Chesapeake Energy, are jostling for position at the filing counter. Chesapeake has been burning cash ever since it started fracking. To feed its cash-burn machine, it has borrowed large amounts and has been buckling under its debt for years, selling assets to raise cash and keep drilling for another day.

But its debt is still nearly $10 billion. Its shares [CHK] closed on Friday at 59 cents. On November 5, in an SEC filing, it warned of its own demise unless oil and gas prices surge into the sky asap: “If continued depressed prices persist, combined with the scheduled reductions in the leverage ratio covenant, our ability to comply with the leverage ratio covenant during the next 12 months will be adversely affected which raises substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” In early 2016, during Phase 1 of the oil bust — which had started in mid-2014 — Chesapeake had already used the threat of bankruptcy to push its creditors into accepting a debt restructuring. At the time, it was the second largest natural gas producer in the US.

The debt restructuring reduced its debt burden somewhat and pushed maturities out, which then allowed it to borrow new money from new investors with a series of bond sales. This coincided with the Wall Street floodgates reopening to the oil and gas sector, when PE firms, hedge funds, and distressed-debt funds piled billions of dollars into the sector, and many of the oil and gas drillers were able to raise more cash to burn. Chesapeake’s series of bond sales that it then undertook included, in January 2018, $1.25 billion of senior unsecured convertible notes with a coupon of 5.5%, due in September 2026. It issued those bonds at a discount, but by July 2018, a few months before Phase 2 of the oil bust set in, the bonds were trading at 103 cents on the dollar. On Friday, the last trade was at 45 cents on the dollar, giving these bonds a yield of over 21%:

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But still fascinated with Musk. Why?

Britain’s Carmakers Fear The Wheels Are Coming Off (G.)

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders is due to release numbers this week on car, commercial vehicle and engine manufacturing – figures that so far this year have been in reverse. At its last outing, the SMMT said that UK car production had fallen by a “bitterly disappointing” 3.8% during September, adding to a turbulent year-to-date in which political and economic turmoil, softness in key markets and operational changes have been blamed for a 15.6% slump. Unsurprisingly, the SMMT’s boss, Mike Hawes, warned that the industry was most worried about “the continued threat of a no-deal Brexit”, which is said to have caused “international investment to stall” and cost hundreds of millions of pounds, “money that would have better been spent in meeting the technological challenges facing the global industry”.

Hawes’s comments dovetail with a different announcement from earlier this month, when Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said that the electric carmaker would be building its first major European factory on the outskirts of Berlin. “Brexit made it too risky to put a Gigafactory in the UK,” the entrepreneur said, to the delight of Remain campaigners. “[Boris] Johnson’s super-hard Brexit plan would see new trade barriers with our European partners,” wrote Lib Dem deputy leader Ed Davey in the Financial Times. “This will drive down already stagnant business investment … We must take seriously Mr Musk’s announcement.”

If he could be persuaded to comment on Tesla, Johnson would surely say the uncertainty will disappear as soon as we Get Brexit Done™. But Musk’s decision still seems like a missed opportunity, as he’s previously expressed an admiration for UK manufacturing – and F1 nous in particular. “We have a lot of respect for the British automotive engineering talent,” the billionaire told the Daily Telegraph in 2016. “Just look at Formula One – it amazes me how much British talent there is in that. We are likely to establish a Tesla engineering group in Britain at some point in the future.”

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So where will the kids meet now? Online only?

Brick & Mortar Melts Down as Ecommerce Jumps by Most Ever (WS)

Ecommerce sales in the third quarter 2019 spiked 17.3% from a year ago to $145.7 billion, not seasonally adjusted, according to the Commerce Department. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales hit $154.5 billion. Ecommerce sales will exceed $600 billion in 2019, double the amount five years ago. In dollar terms, ecommerce sales jumped by $20.4 billion in Q3 compared to a year ago, the biggest dollar-jump in the history of ecommerce:

[..] Ecommerce is wiping out department stores one by one. The long-cherished destination for American shoppers is doomed. Sears is just the latest example of a long list of examples. Others will follow. Sales at brick-and-mortar department stores in Q3 fell 5.7% year-over-year to a new multi-decade low of $33.8 billion (seasonally adjusted). They’ve collapsed by 41% from the peak in Q4 2000 and by 20% from the beginning of the data series in 1992. People who still think that this trend is somehow going to turn around are fooling themselves. This is the brick-and-mortar business Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Sears are in:

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An enormous effort by Eric Zuesse. This is just a small sample. Impossible to choose from all the material.

Ukraine, Trump, & Biden – The Real Story Behind “Ukrainegate” (Zuesse)

Donald Trump has surrounded himself with neoconservatives. There’s not much distance between his policies toward Ukraine versus Barack Obama’s and Joe Biden’s. However, after Trump becomes impeached in the House (if that happens) and the impeachment trial starts in the Republican U.S. Senate, there will then be a perfect opportunity for Trump to embarrass the Democratic Party profoundly by exposing not only Joe Biden but Biden’s boss Obama as having caused the war in Ukraine. In order for him to do that, however, he’d also need to expose the rot of neoconservatism. Nobody in Washington does that, except, perhaps the rebelling Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, and she’s rejected in the national polls now by the public within her own Party.

Neoconservatism is the uniform foreign-policy ideology of America’s billionaires, both Republican and Democratic, and this is why Washington is virtually 100% neocon. In America, wealth certainly doesn’t trickle down, but ideology apparently does — and that’s not merely neoliberalism but also its international-affairs extension: neoconservatism. Nonetheless, if a Trump re-election ticket were Trump for President, and Gabbard for Vice President, it might be able to beat anything that the Democrats could put up against it, because Trump would then head a ticket which would remain attractive to Republicans and yet draw many independents and even the perhaps 5% of Democrats who like her.

Only Sanders, if he becomes the Democratic nominee (and who is the least-neoconservative member of the U.S. Senate), would attract some of Gabbard’s supporters, but he wouldn’t be getting any money from the 607 people who mainly fund American politics. The 2020 U.S. Presidential contest could just go hog-wild. However, America’s billionaires probably won’t let that happen. Though there are only 607 of therm, they have enormous powers over the Government, far more than do all other Americans put together. The U.S. Supreme Court made it this way, such as by the 1976 Buckley decision, and the 2010 Citizens United decision.

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“Back in 2016, no one thought that Trump would win the presidency. So why bother hiding it?”

Yes, Ukraine Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election (Levine)

Let’s start with a fact: Meddling in the 2016 election by Ukrainian politicians and government agencies happened. The above is true and no amount of denial is going to change that. What’s more: Ukrainian nationals didn’t just meddle on their own, they also worked with Americans — including Ukrainian-American political operatives on the payroll of the Democratic Party. Not only did all this happen, it was written up as fact by establishment papers and outlets as varied as Yahoo, Politico, and the Financial Times in 2016 on the eve of the election. The involvement of Ukrainian pols and officials in all of this has never been secret. It was acknowledged at the time. The principle actors openly talked and bragged about their exploits in the press. And why not? Back in 2016, no one thought that Trump would win the presidency. So why bother hiding it?

One of the best examples of this is the plot to take down Paul Manafort — the sleazy Republican political consultant who had long worked in Ukraine and who headed Donald’s Trump campaign. In 2016, Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament and an anti-corruption activist (who got embroiled in his own corruption scandal), coordinated the release of a handwritten ledger. The document purported to show off-the-book payments made to Manafort from the Party of the Regions — the political arm of the Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian President who had been overthrown in a coup-type revolt by a much more western-friendly political faction. The ledger itself was released by NABU, a Ukrainian government anti-corruption organization set up as result of prodding by the Obama Administration and which was run with the backing and financial support of the FBI.


(As an aside: NABU — which also got embroiled into its own political corruption scandal — also happens to be at the heart of an internal Ukrainian political fight that sucked in ex-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. But that’s a different and complicated story. And then there’s the weird angle of the FBI being so closely involved with NABU at a time when this Ukrainian anti-corruption agency decided to involve itself in an American election.) Anyway, Leshchenko — a foreign politician — made clear that his objective at the time was to kill off Trump’s candidacy. That’s a direct admission of meddling. As Oleksiy Kuzmenko has documented so well, Leshchenko repeated this statement in various ways in both English and Ukrainian over and over again.

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We’ve known this for a while. The OPCW is a cesspool.

Internal OPCW E-Mail (WikiLeaks)

Wikileaks today publishes an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.

He says this misrepresentation was achieved by selective omission, introducing a bias which undermines the credibility of the report. Further it is claimed that crucial facts, that have remained in the redacted version: “…have morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted.” This is said to have been done at the behest of the Office of the Director General (a post that was held by Turkish diplomat Ahmet Üzümcü at the time, he has since been replaced by Spaniard Fernando Arias). The attack in question was widely attributed to the Syrian Army, based on reports by rebel forces that were present in Douma at the time, and this assertion was backed up by the United States, British and French governments. These three countries carried out air strikes against Syrian government targets in response, on the 14th of April 2018.

This was before the fact-finding team had gained access to the site in Douma, the mission there was delayed for nearly two weeks by entrenched rebel fighters and subsequent clashes between the rebels and government forces that moved into the area. Upon arrival the team found much of the physical evidence, including the bodies of the deceased, was no longer available. It was alleged that 49 had died and up to 650 had been seriously affected by a weaponized chemical gas released in a specific area of rebel-held Douma on that day in April. Rebels claimed the gas came from cylinders dropped from aircraft, clearly implicating Syrian government forces who had complete air superiority.

Read more …

The actual email, part of a long article by Peter Hitchens for the Daily Mail of all places.

New Sexed-Up Dossier Furore: The Leaked Email In Full (DM)

Dear ******,

I wish to express, as a member of the FFM (Fact Finding Mission) team that conducted the investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April, my gravest concern at the redacted version of the FFM report, which I understand was at the behest of the ODG. (Office of the Director General). After reading this modified report, which incidentally no other team member who deployed into Douma has had the opportunity to do, I was struck by how much it misrepresents the facts. Many of the facts and observations outlined in the full version are inextricably interconnected and, by selectively omitting certain ones, an unintended bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility. In other cases, some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different to what was initially drafted. If I may, I will outline some specific aspects to the redacted report that are particularly worrisome.

The statement in paragraph 8.3 of the final conclusions ‘The team has sufficient evidence at this time to determine that chlorine, or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical, was likely released from cylinders’, is highly misleading and not supported by the facts. The only evidence available at this moment is that some samples collected at Locations 2 and 4 were in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom. Such chemicals could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major ingredient of household chlorine-based bleach). Purposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous. It is also worth noting that the term ‘reactive chlorine-containing chemical’ used in the redacted report is, in fact, inaccurate. It actually describes a reactive chemical that contains chlorine which itself (the chlorine) is not necessarily reactive e.g. chlorophenol. The original report uses the more accurate term ‘a chemical containing reactive chlorine’.

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Pedophilia will do that. Time to get rid of the lot.

How The Firm Lost Its Grip (O.)

Future historians may conclude that Prince Andrew’s defining achievement was to gift the nation a new verb. Following a tumultuous week when his car-crash interview shook the House of Windsor so vigorously it seemed its palaces were in danger of losing their crenellations, the Duke of York now finds himself banished from duties. His fate is the 21st-century equivalent of that which befell the difficult minor royals of previous eras who were locked up in asylums, away from the public gaze. “Prince Andrew has been de-royaled, if there is such a word,” said the historian and biographer Robert Lacey, an adviser to the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown.


Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I really would compare it to 1936 and the abdication of Edward VIII. What we are talking about is effectively the removal of a member of the royal family as a result of public opinion.” The duke can take some comfort from the knowledge that if he had been around a few hundred years ago, things could have been worse. “One can even compare it to 1649, when Charles I was executed,” Lacey said. “This is a reminder that what was an institution of absolute power now depends ultimately on the consent and approval of the communities it seeks to represent, and Prince Andrew failed in this respect.”


Princess Diana’s bombshell Panorama confession did huge damage to the royal family. Prince Charles’s decision to admit to adultery via a television interview greatly reduced his standing in the eyes of the public. “Andrew is a bit of a plonker, everybody knows that,” said one source close to the palace. “There’s no way he should have been allowed to do that interview. They should have just sent him off to Australia. That would have been a bloody good idea. Out of sight, out of mind.”

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They knew about Andrew and kept quiet. Time to get rid of the lot.

Met Faces New Questions Over ‘Trafficked’ Teen In Epstein Case (G.)

The Victims’ Commissioner is demanding that the Metropolitan Police explain its decision not to pursue a full investigation into claims a teenager was trafficked to the UK to have sex with Prince Andrew. The Observer understands that Dame Vera Baird QC, a former solicitor general and chair of the Board of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, has taken a close interest in the allegations, first examined by Scotland Yard in 2015. Baird, who has focused on protecting victims of sexual and domestic abuse throughout her career, is currently observing election purdah and cannot speak to the media. However, prior to the election she made her views known to a victims’ rights campaigner, telling him that she would be requesting a meeting with the Met once purdah was over.


“Before the election was called I spoke at length with the Victims’ Commissioner and we both find it extraordinary that this matter was not proceeded with,” Harry Fletcher said. The Met has said that its investigators reviewed all “available evidence” after receiving a complaint relating to claims that were made in court documents. It was alleged that in 2001 a 17-year-old, now known to be Virginia Roberts, was “forced to have sex with Prince Andrew”, purportedly at the London home of socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the one-time girlfriend of the late disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. His victims are now bringing claims for damages against his estate. It is understood that lawyers for Roberts also independently contacted the force in 2016. But the Met chose not to pursue a full investigation.

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“..the right to suck up to power..”

Pilger Blasts ‘Cruel’ Media Coverage Of Julian Assange (RT)

In a wide-ranging dismantling of mainstream media reporting on Julian Assange, award-winning journalist John Pilger has blasted the Guardian for its coverage of the WikiLeaks founder. Pilger took aim at a Guardian editorial published this week, which made the case for not extraditing the Australian to the US, where he could face 175 years behind bars for possession and dissemination of classified information. The BAFTA award-winning documentary filmmaker has offered his interpretation of what the editorial actually meant “What the Guardian was really saying was this: ‘We are the fourth estate, the bearers of true liberal principles, the guardians of sacred rights. Such as the right to suck up to power. The right to invade countries and the right to smear those who expose our double standards and, if necessary, the right to destroy them,’” he said.


If Julian were to succumb to the cruelty he has endured, week after week, month after month, newspapers like the Guardian would share the responsibility. Pilger is one of the contributors to a new book titled ‘In Defense of Julian Assange,’ and he made the comments at the book’s launch in London on Saturday. Writer and activist Tariq Ali, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, actress Pamela Anderson, and former diplomat Craig Murray are among the other high-profile names who contributed to the book, which is an essay compilation on the prosecution of Assange and freedom of speech.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 222019
 
 November 22, 2019  Posted by at 2:24 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Claude Monet O Rio 1881

 

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party presented a big plan yesterday which, as the Guardian ever so subtly put it, “would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany”. My first reaction to it is that this is inevitable. My second reaction is that it is also too early.

After decades of being squeezed by both the Tories and Tony Blair’s “New” Labour, both the British themselves, and their economy, are so parched that they will vote for something like Corbyn’s plan at some point. Unavoidable. The same on all counts I think is true for Bernie Sanders’ plans.

The wealthier classes don’t appear to be smart enough to understand that they can’t take it all, that they have to leave something for everybody else. But there’s no brake on such currents, they all get carried away, it happens all the time. One side takes too much, and the other side fights back.

Still, while what leads to Corbyn and Sanders rising may be the same, the reasons they fail to attract enough votes is different. In the US, people start shouting: socialism, communism, or maoism, leninism, stalinism, and that will do. These words are fully interchangeable for 99.9% of Americans. If there are 3 of them left that know the difference, you’re lucky.

The reason Sanders is popular is to a large extent that his Democrat competitors are so godawful. For Corbyn, there are other factors in play. But first, a bit about that plan:

Jeremy Corbyn Urges Public To Vote For ‘Manifesto Of Hope’

Jeremy Corbyn has urged the public to vote for his “manifesto of hope” as he unveiled plans for the most dramatic increase in tax and spending in more than half a century if Labour wins power next month’s general election. In an upbeat launch event at Birmingham City University, the Labour leader said he welcomed the hostility of the billionaires, bad bosses and dodgy landlords who would lose out from his policies. Experts were taken aback by the scale of Labour’s spending plans, which dwarfed the substantial increase in the size of the state envisaged in the party’s 2017 manifesto.

“See this [2019] manifesto and vote for the person who’s struggling who you don’t even know,” Corbyn urged the public, adding: “How can any government claim it cares about our country when it cares so little about the people who live here?” With Labour still trailing significantly behind the Conservatives in the polls, party strategists hope the manifesto will help to tempt wavering voters. Corbyn said it was “full of popular policies that the political establishment has blocked for a generation”. The slim red volume, titled It’s Time for Real Change, included a number of fresh announcements, in addition to the policies announced earlier in the campaign. Key plans include:

• Universal free broadband, delivered by part-nationalising BT and paid for with a tax on tech companies.
• An immediate 5% pay rise for public sector workers, plus above-inflation increases for future years.
• 100,000 new council houses a year by the end of the parliament.
• 1 million new jobs as part of a “green industrial revolution”.
• Nationalisation of rail, water and mail, and new powers to allow councils to take control of bus services.

Corbyn promised an “investment blitz”, which he said would leave no part of the country untouched, and suggested the deindustrialisation that begun in the 1980s would be reversed. “Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out huge swathes of Britain’s industry. We will rebuild it, as green industry,” he said. Torsten Bell, the director of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “This spending increase would be comparable to the first Wilson government and would mean the UK having a bigger state than Germany.”

As the graph shows, the “giant state” idea is not what it’s made out to be, compared to many countries. So on the face of it, what’s not to like for the impoverished millions in Britain? The answer is easy: there has been a large campaign of people perpetuating whole-cloth out of thin air accusations about Corbyn being an anti-semite, including from his own party (Tony Blair and his ilk).

Sure enough, the Brexit campaigners have gone through an entire litany of outrageous claims and promises, but it’s the anti-semite smear that looks likely to decide not only the December 12 elections, but also the Brexit matter. Yeah, that is deplorable. But it’s the time we live in. Some memes are funny, others are seriously misleading, and many strongly influence people’s way of thinking.

In the US, it’s enough to say that Bernie is a socialist or a leninist, in Britain you need a somewhat stronger and bigger cannon. Anti-semitism in just the thing. What makes these smears and/or memes so effective is repetition. At some point people think: I’ve seen this from ten different sources now, that means it must be true. And social media are all about endless repetition, which makes them perfect for the job.

 

That is of course also how they got to Julian Assange. A rape allegation was all it took. And then they waited 9 years to declare it false, by which point he had been silenced, drawn and quartered. Same mechanism. Jeremy Corbyn is no anti-semite, anymore than Julian Assange is a rapist, but that makes no difference whatsoever.

If you manage to plant the seed of an idea, no matter how ridiculous, in enough people’s heads, and then you make sure it’s repeated every day, you can today make anyone believe anything. Perhaps it’s time to re-label “social” media. Really, social? But the term “mass media” has already been taken.

 

And though many people will not be ready to acknowledge it, what goes for Corbyn and Assange also goes for Donald Trump. Only in his case the old mass media have been much more massively involved, not just the new not-so-terribly social media. But that principle is identical: plant an idea in people’s heads and repeat it ad nauseam.

In Trump’s case, it’s been so successful that entire media organizations that were about to croak were revived by it, at least financially. At this point it’s probably good to illuminate the role intelligence agencies play in the entire meme/smear ‘politics’. They are all over it, they hardly even attempt to hide their roles.

In the cases of Assange and Corbyn, there have been no large-scale investigations. In Corbyn’s case, none at all, and in Assange’s case, probes hidden from view that would not stand any legal daylight, in Sweden, the UK and the US. These investigations always seem directed at ‘affirming the accusers’ case, not at finding if the accused are actually guilty of what they are charged with.

As for Trump, we have of course lived through years of Mueller’s probe, which ended in nothing, seamlessly transitioning into Ukrainegate, in which another stream of potential accusers saw the limelight to provide their particular version of what “hearsay” means in legalese.

I’ve remarked before that Adam Schiff’s little theater wouldn have been throw out of a court in one second flat, because there is no proof and hearsay is inadmissible. I also think Corbyn should have taken one of his many accusers to court, simply to have a judge or jury state publicly that he is not a -proven- anti-semite. Assange obviously was never allowed any such route.

And if you looked and listened closely at the Ukrainegate spectacle, it was clear that the Mueller disaster has not closed the RussiaRussia meme/smear. Russia wants to conquer Europe. The president wanting to direct his own foreign policy was anathema for the “regular channel” crowd. “We have this thing that works beautifully”. And it ain’t the Constitution.

 

What Trump has going for him is that IG Michael Horowitz and Special Counsel John Durham are set to release their respective reports on how Russiagate came about. It looks as if they will have to do without any info of Burisma or its links to the Bidens, because the “regular channel” has frustrated efforts into finding out their roles, but then that was never their probes’ concern.

We now have the first allegation against an FBI lawyer for tampering with FISA documents, through the unusual leakage stream of CNN, which happens to employ lots of ex-FBI people. There is no doubt that we’ll see a whole lot more where that came from. It’ll be an entertaining holiday season, because of course the FBI and CIA will want to (pre-emptively) strike back. And they’re all working at CNN et al.

Their problem is they’ve been working this for years now, and came up zilch. The other side is just getting started. Looks like there’ll be more fireworks than candlelight dinners going into 2020. But perhaps it would still be a good idea for Bill Barr to find himself a good meme or smear, just to be sure.

 

 

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