Feb 052021
 


Winslow Homer Mending the nets 1881

 

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)
Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)
Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)
US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)
No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)
Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)
Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)
Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)
Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)
Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)
Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)
Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)
Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)
The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

 

 

Here’s what will determine US politics in the next 4 years. Lack of clickbait. War would be good for ratings.

 

 

Warmongers “R” Us. Any thoughts on Russia?

Atlantic Council Anonymous Expose Calls for Regime Change in China (MPN)

Influential D.C. think tank the Atlantic Council has printed a 26,000-word report laying out its strategy for combating China. Published anonymously, the report states that “the single most important challenge facing the United States” in the twenty-first century is China’s growth to rival their own power. To do so, the report states that the U.S. must use “the power of its military,” the dollar’s role as the global reserve currency, and American control over technology and communication to suffocate the nation of 1.4 billion people. It advises President Biden to draw a number of “red lines” past which the U.S. would directly intervene (presumably militarily). These include Chinese attempts to expand into the South China Sea, an attack on the disputed Senkaku Islands, or moves against Taiwan’s independence.

A North Korean strike on any of its neighbors would also necessitate an American response against China, the report insists, because “China must fully own responsibility for the behavior of its North Korean ally.” Any backing down from this stance, the council states, would result in national “humiliation” for the United States. Perhaps most notably, however, the report also envisages what a successful American China policy would look like by 2050: “the United States and its major allies continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power;” and that head of state Xi Jinping “has been replaced by a more moderate party leadership; and that the Chinese people themselves have come to question and challenge the Communist Party’s century-long proposition that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined to an authoritarian future.” In other words, that China has been broken and that some sort of regime change has occurred.

The Atlantic Council is a NATO-offshoot organization funded by the U.S. and other allied governments, including the Gulf dictatorships. Among its largest corporate sponsors include weapons manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. Its board of directors is full of high statespeople like Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice as well as senior military figures such as retired generals Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Lt. General Brent Scowcroft and Admiral James Stavridis. At least seven former CIA directors are also on the board. Thus, the council could be said to represent the consensus opinion of the national security state.

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“..during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council..”

Macron: EU Shouldn’t Gang Up On China With US (Pol.eu)

The EU shouldn’t gang up on China with the U.S. even if it stands closer to Washington by virtue of shared values, according to French President Emmanuel Macron. “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality. This one, for me, is counterproductive,” Macron said, speaking in English, during a discussion broadcast by Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council on Thursday. This kind of common front against China — as other European leaders have advocated given the new Biden administration’s revived openness to traditional alliances — risks pushing Beijing to lower its cooperation on issues like combatting climate change, and exacerbating its aggressive behavior in Asia, including in the South China Sea, according to the French president.


Macron also said “the coming semesters will be very critical for Chinese leaders and China,” given the Biden administration’s reengagement in multilateral frameworks like the World Health Organization. “As the U.S. is reengaging itself, what will be the behavior of China?” Macron asked. He pitched, once again, holding a summit of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, the U.S., U.K. and Russia. He had tried to hold such a summit in 2020 but it had fallen prey to Sino-American tensions and never materialized. Macron was answering questions from a handful of U.S. think-tankers, professors and former officials via video link in a 90-minute session recorded at the Elysée on Wednesday afternoon.

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“You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market.”

Hunger Games (Ben Hunt)

You have been told that investing in the stock market is like betting on a sports game. You have been told that you are a SPECTATOR in the game of markets, that you are WATCHING a game being played out in front of you by lots of different companies. You have been told that you should make ‘bets’ on those companies based on how well you think those companies can play the game that you are watching. The companies will play the game and they will keep score by ‘beating’ or ‘missing’ on revenues and earnings and the like, and then that score will determine whether or not your bets pay off. You have been told that the better you are at ‘analyzing’ the teams playing this game, the more ‘due diligence’ you put into studying the teams playing this game, the more money you will make with your bets.

You have been told that everyone can win with their bets, that this is how you, too, can achieve the wealth that you deserve. You have been told that the odds are ever in your favor. You have been told this for your entire life. More and more, you suspect this is a lie. But if it is a lie … what then? What meaning exists in the stock market if this is a lie? Over the past few weeks you have been told a new story. A brave story. A story of heroes. A story of meaning. You have been told that by banding together and acting as one, you can “democratize” the stock market. You have been told that you can slough off your market oppressors who “want companies to fail”.

You have been told that you can be a PARTICIPANT in the game of markets, that you can storm the playing field of companies, that you can take matters into your own hands and rescue a promising company under unfair attack. And, yes, make some good money in the process. Why not? Seems only fair. Today, as you see the collapsing stock prices of the companies you supported, you suspect that this was a lie, as well. And you’d be right. Neither story is true. Neither story has EVER been true. Both of these stories are narratives for our very own Hunger Games, a spectacle that chews up the participants in the arena while delivering enormous profits to the networks (media, financial and political) that put them on. Media networks count their profits in eyeballs, in the attention the Games garner.

Financial networks count their profits the old-fashioned way, in the sheer volume of dollar-generating order flow the Games produce. As for politicians, they get their most valuable coin of the modern realm – an issue. The wackos on the left get to propose insane transaction taxes. The wackos on the right get to tell us how much liBeRtY we are enjoying by giving Ken Griffin all of our money. The very serious centrists get to tell us about how we need “a national conversation” about the T+2 settlement issues raised here. And what about the rest of us? What about all of us reading story after story about the “Reddit Revolution” and what it means for us? What do WE get out of the Hunger Games?

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And then come the variants.

US Covid Hospitalizations Drop To Lowest Level Since Before Thanksgiving (F.)

Coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. are down to their lowest level since Nov. 24, according to The COVID Tracking Project, as signs of improvement in the pandemic appear evident across essentially the entire United States. On Thursday, there were 88,668 Covid-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, which remains well above the height of the spring and summer surges of 2020 but a significant drop from the record high of 132,474 hospitalized on Jan. 6. The rate of new cases in the U.S. has been declining for weeks, and is now averaging just under 120,000 a day for the first time since Nov. 5, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deaths, which lag behind increases in other metrics and have been at record levels, appear to finally be on the decline.

The 7-day rolling average for deaths has dropped every day during February, and is now below 3,000 a day, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Health officials are warning against complacency, especially with new strains of Covid that seem much more contagious, like the U.K. and South African varieties, that are spreading in the United States. “Now is not the time to let our guard down. Keep taking steps to protect each other,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing Wednesday.


Vaccination efforts are continuing to ramp up in the United States. As of Thursday evening, around 36.7 million Covid shots had been administered around the U.S., according to a Bloomberg tracker, with estimated 2.3% of the population fully vaccinated with two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna shots. And more help is likely on the way. On Thursday evening, Johnson & Johnson applied for emergency use authorization with the FDA for its vaccine, which only requires a single dose. Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expects approval to come “within a week or so,” and the company appears on track for a March rollout.

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Vaccinated with a non-approved and hardly tested vaccin. Take ’em to court.

No Special Freedoms For The Vaccinated In Germany (DW)

The German Ethics Council on Thursday spoke out against lifting restrictions for individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Germany has been in partial lockdown since November. Bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting facilities are closed. Schools and non-essential shops were added to the list in mid-December, with rules on mask-wearing and working from home tightened in January amid concerns over new virus variants. Vaccinations started at the end of December with people over 80 and their carers front of the line. There is currently a shortage of vaccines in Germany, and it will take several months for a majority of people to be immunized and become eligible for the lifting of restrictions.

Over the past few weeks tourism agencies, event managers and some politicians had suggested allowing those who have been vaccinated to travel, eat in restaurants, attend concerts and other events which would involve close contact with a high number of other people. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was the first high-profile politician to speak out in favor of lifting restrictions. “Someone who cannot fall seriously ill with the coronavirus anymore will not need intensive care and burden the health care system. He should no longer have to suffer restrictions to his basic rights and freedoms,” he told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in January. Such proposals have been met with criticism, for example from Left party chairwoman Katja Kipping, who urged adherence to freedom and equality stipulations in the German constitution.

Chancellor Angela Merkel also ruled out special regulations this Monday. The COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory in Germany. Distinguishing between the vaccinated and those not vaccinated would be the same as a mandatory vaccination,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had warned. The ethics council on Thursday pointed out that it had to be clarified first whether vaccinated people might still be able to transmit the virus. Only if that were ruled out could any exemption from rules such as wearing masks in public places be considered. “At the present time, withdrawing state restrictions on freedoms for vaccinated people should not take place as it is not yet possible to reliably assess infectiousness,” Ethics Council head Alena Buyx told a news conference in Berlin on Thursday.

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For entertainment purposes only.

Trump Rejects Dems’ Request To Testify At Impeachment Trial (AP)

House Democrats on Thursday asked Donald Trump to testify under oath for his Senate impeachment trial, challenging him to respond to their charge that he incited a violent mob to storm the Capitol. A Trump adviser said the former president won’t testify. Although Democrats might not have the power to force Trump’s testimony, the request from House impeachment managers is part of their overall effort to put the violent events of Jan. 6 on the record for history and hold him accountable for his words. Democrats will look to use his refusal to testify against him as they argue that the ex-president has avoided responsibility for his actions.

Hours after the Democrats’ request was revealed, Trump adviser Jason Miller dismissed the trial as “an unconstitutional proceeding” and said the former president would not testify. Separately, Trump’s lawyers denounced the request as a “public relations stunt.” The impeachment trial starts Feb. 9. Trump, the first president to be impeached twice, is charged with inciting an insurrection on Jan. 6, when a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol to interrupt the electoral vote count. Five people died. Before the riot, Trump had told his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn his election defeat. Democrats have said a trial is necessary to provide a final measure of accountability for the attack. If Trump is convicted, the Senate could hold a second vote to disqualify him from seeking office again.

In the letter to the former president and his attorneys, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the impeachment managers, asked that Trump explain why he and his team have disputed key factual allegations at the center of their case. He asked that Trump provide testimony about his conduct “either before or during the Senate impeachment trial,” and under cross-examination, as early as Monday, Feb. 8, and not later than Thursday, Feb. 11. The request from Raskin cites the words of Trump’s own attorneys, who in a legal brief earlier this week not only denied that Trump had incited the riot but also asserted that he had “performed admirably in his role as president, at all times doing what he thought was in the best interests of the American people.”

With that argument, Raskin said, Trump had questioned critical facts in the case “notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense.” He said Trump should be able to testify now that he is no longer president. Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen responded hours later that the letter proves that Democrats “cannot prove your allegations” and that an impeachment trial is too serious “to try to play these games.”

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Not a new issue.

Incitement Is Not A Real Crime (McMaken)

[..] in an essay written for a small newspaper in the late 1960s, Rothbard explains the problem with claiming incitement is a real crime: “Suppose that Mr. A tells Mr. B: “Go out and shoot the mayor.” Suppose, then, that Mr. B, pondering this suggestion, decides it’s a darn good idea and goes out and shoots the mayor. Now obviously B is responsible for the shooting. But in what sense can A be held responsible? A did not do the shooting, and didn’t take part, we will assume, in any of the planning or executing of the act itself. The very fact that he made that suggestion cannot really mean that A should be held responsible. For does not B have free will? Is he not a free agent? And if he is, then B and B alone is responsible for the shooting.

If we attribute any responsibility at all to A, we have fallen into the trap of determinism. We are then assuming that B has no will of his own, that he is then only a tool in some way manipulated by A. Now, if Person A participated in the planning of a riot or a murder, then Person A is guilty of conspiracy, not incitement. But Person A is not guilty of anything for have merely suggested to Person B that he shoot the mayor. Person B, after all, is responsible for his own actions. [..] if the will is free, then no man is determined by another; then just because somebody shouts “burn, baby, burn,” no one hearing this advice is thereby compelled or determined to go and carry the suggestion out. Anybody who does carry out the advice is responsible for his own actions, and solely responsible.

Therefore, the “inciter” cannot be held in any way responsible. In the nature of man and morality, there is no such crime as “incitement to riot,” and therefore the very concept of such a “crime” should be stricken from the statute books.” [..] Cracking down on “incitement to riot,” then, is simply and purely cracking down on one’s natural and crucial right to freedom of speech. Speech is not a crime. And hence the injustice, not only of the crime of incitement, but also of such other “crimes” as “criminal sedition” (sharp criticism of the government), or “conspiracy to advocate overthrow of the government”—in other words, planning someday to exercise one’s basic and natural right to freedom of speech and advocacy.

A decade later, Rothbard emphasized the importance of rejecting the notion of incitement as a crime in his book For a New Liberty. Under the section titled “Freedom of Speech,” he writes: “What, for example, of “incitement to riot,” in which the speaker is held guilty of a crime for whipping up a mob, which then riots and commits various actions and crimes against person and property? In our view, “incitement” can only be considered a crime if we deny every man’s freedom of will and of choice, and assume that if A tells B and C: “You and him go ahead and riot!” that somehow B and C are then helplessly determined to proceed and commit the wrongful act. But the libertarian, who believes in freedom of the will, must insist that while it might be immoral or unfortunate for A to advocate a riot, that this is strictly in the realm of advocacy and should not be subject to legal penalty.”

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Maybe you can indict them for incitement.

Smartmatic Files $2.7 Billion Lawsuit vs Fox News, Giuliani, Powell (CNN)

A voting technology company swept up in baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election filed a monster $2.7 billion lawsuit on Thursday against Fox News, some of the network’s star hosts, and pro-Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, alleging the parties worked in concert to wage a “disinformation campaign” that has jeopardized its very survival. “We have no choice,” Antonio Mugica, the chief executive and founder of Smartmatic, told CNN Business in an interview about the company’s decision to file the lawsuit. “The disinformation campaign that was launched against us is an obliterating one. For us, this is existential, and we have to take action.”

The lawsuit, filed in New York state court, accused Fox, Giuliani, Powell and hosts Lou Dobbs, Maria Bartiromo, and Jeanine Pirro of intentionally lying about Smartmatic in an effort to mislead the public into the false belief that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. “They needed a villain,” the lawsuit said. “They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.” “Without any true villain, defendants invented one,” the lawsuit added. “Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story.”

In a statement on behalf of the network and the named hosts issued after the lawsuit was filed, a Fox News spokesperson said, “FOX News Media is committed to providing the full context of every story with in-depth reporting and clear opinion. We are proud of our 2020 election coverage and will vigorously defend this meritless lawsuit in court.” Asked for comment, Powell said in a statement, “I have not received notice or a copy of this alleged lawsuit. However, your characterization of the claims shows that this is just another political maneuver motivated by the radical left that has no basis in fact or law.” In a statement of his own, Giuliani said, “The Smartmatic lawsuit presents another golden opportunity for discovery. I look forward to litigating with them.”

Giuliani and Powell have also been sued by another voting technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, for promoting their voter fraud conspiracies. Giuliani called Dominion’s lawsuit against him an “act of intimidation” to “censor the exercise of free speech” and Powell called Dominion’s lawsuit against her “baseless.”

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Danielle DiMartino Booth: “Suggesting administration should have sway over Fed policy was error in judgment. But let’s face it, since Volcker departed, each successive administration’s influence increased. Judy just gave voice to the truth. In the end, the establishment won the war..”

Biden Withdraws Judy Shelton’s Fed Nomination (Hill)

President Biden on Thursday formally withdrew Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board, closing the book on her quest to join the central bank. Shelton’s nomination was withdrawn with more than two dozen other officials nominated by former President Trump in January shortly before he left office. The Democratic takeover of the Senate in January effectively ended Shelton’s chances of confirmation, and Biden’s withdrawal of her nomination does little more than clear the way for his eventual pick to fill the final vacant spot on the Fed board. Biden has not yet indicated who he would nominate in Shelton’s place.


Trump announced in 2019 that he would nominate Shelton, a former campaign adviser, to the Fed board after Senate Republicans rejected four of his previous picks. She was formally nominated in early 2020 and narrowly approved for a confirmation vote by the Senate Banking Committee last July despite GOP concerns about her criticism of Fed independence, past support for the gold standard and inconsistent views on monetary policy. Shelton came remarkably close to confirmation in December, but coronavirus-related absences and the opposition of three Republican senators blocked her from joining the Fed. Trump renominated Shelton in January after the new Congress convened, but Republicans were unable to confirm her before losing their Senate majority.

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“Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.”

Largest US Mall Landlord Sent Jingle Mail to Deutsche Bank (WS)

Deutsche Bank this week foreclosed on a $177.5 million mall mortgage. The mortgage had been securitized and spread over two commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) in 2012. The collateral is 560,000 square feet of retail space at the 1.2 million square-foot Town Center at Cobb, in Kennesaw, Cobb County, Georgia. The regional mall has over 170 stores, including a Macy’s, a JCPenney, and a Belk (just filed for bankruptcy). The mall was owned by Simon Property Group, the largest mall landlord and mall REIT [SPG] in America, which, in one of its acts of jingle mail, had returned the mall to the lenders. “Jingle mail” was engraved into the American lexicon during the housing bust, when homeowners voluntarily turned their homes over to lenders, presumably by mailing them the house keys.

Most home mortgages are recourse loans, and banks can drag the homeowner to court over any deficiency after the foreclosure sale – except in the 12 “non-recourse” states. But commercial real estate mortgages are non-recourse; all the lender gets is the collateral, and the owner walks away. At the time of securitization in 2012, the collateral for the loan was valued at $322 million, according to Trepp, a data firm that tracks CMBS. And everything was hunky-dory. In October 2020, the value was slashed by 60% to $130.4 million. The legal notice by Deutsche Bank of the foreclosure sale, reported by the Marietta Daily Journal on January 27, specified that the mall would be sold on February 2 “at public outcry to the highest bidder for cash before the Courthouse door of Cobb County.” The opening bid would be $130.4 million.

And this is what happened on February 2, according to the Marietta Daily Journal: “[Attorney Matthew Norton of the law firm Polsinelli] “read the legal notice in full on the southern steps of the county’s justice center, a recitation that took over half an hour to complete. The bargain hunters who attended the morning’s residential foreclosure auctions left hours before, leaving Norton to conduct the “public outcry” on the courthouse steps across the street from an empty Flournoy Park.” And there were no bids. So Deutsche Bank and other CMBS holders are now the proud owners of the mall. Simon Property Group has washed its hands off it, letting the CMBS holders eat the losses. And the new owners, Deutsche Bank and holders of CMBS, will now get to manage the mall.

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“In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others.”

Dominant Capital Is Much More Powerful Than You Think (RWER)

According to the theory of capital as power (CasP), capitalists and corporations are driven not to maximize profit, but to ‘beat the average’. Their yardstick is not an unmeasurable theoretical abstraction, but the readily observable performance of others. Their aim is not to increase their ‘material gain’, counted in fictitious utils or socially necessary abstract labour time, but to earn more money than everyone else. And the reason, we argue, has to do with power. In capitalism, capital is power, and to accumulate it differentially – i.e., relative to others – is to fortify and augment one’s organized power over others. Following Kepler’s modern notion of force, CasP sees capitalized power not as a stand-alone qualitative entity, but as a quantitative relationship between entities.

First, capitalized power is not absolute, but relational. It’s not a ‘battery’ or ‘energy’ that some entities possess and use to impose their will over others. Instead, it is the actual structure of differential relationships among capitalist owners and organizations as well as between those owners and organization and others who are subjugated to them and resist their domination. Second, capitalized power is a pure quantity. The actual institutions, structures and processes of capitalist power – from production, to finance, to government, religion, ideology, international relations, crime and what not – vary greatly. They are qualitatively different from each other and, in that sense, hard if not impossible to compare and aggregate. But in capitalism, these qualitative differences all get reduced to pure numbers: they are converted to the universal quantities of differential profit, investors’ hype and risk perceptions – and from there they get discounted to the universal quantity of differential capitalization.

The ongoing quest to beat the average and accumulate differentially goes hand in hand with CasP’s notion of ‘dominant capital’. All capitalists try to beat the average, but only some succeed and only a minority succeeds systematically, at least over a certain period. In time, this minority percolates up the hierarchies of power to formulate the cluster we call dominant capital. This cluster comprises the largest government-backed corporate coalitions at the centre of any given sector, a particular society, a group of countries and, ultimate, the capitalist world as a whole. The constituent entities of dominant capital change over time – the Alphabets and Apples of today have substituted the U.S. Steels and AT&Ts of a century ago and will likely be replaced by others in the future. But topologically, as a ruling entity, dominant capital is ubiquitous. There is hardly a capitalist setting without it.

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Why would anyone ever vote again?

Dems Are Lucy, The Football Is $2,000 (DP)

The image of Lucy and the football is a good way to understand Democrats and the promised $2,000 checks — the party promised the checks immediately, but now seems intent on pulling the ball away at the last minute, expecting Charlie Brown to laugh. But millions of struggling middle-class families who were deceived probably won’t find it funny. The Washington Post, HuffPost and Bloomberg are reporting that Democrats may limit full $1,400 survival checks to individuals earning less than $50,000 and couples earning less than $100,000. A bipartisan group of senators is also now pushing an amendment to “ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible” for checks. At least one Democratic senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, has said he opposes the new proposed income limits.


Biden’s original proposal would send full checks to individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000 — the same income limits Congress has used for previous rounds of checks. The proposed changes, which are being discussed in the name of “targeting” payments to those who need it, could affect checks for millions of people who have previously received COVID economic impact payments. Under the new terms being debated, about four in ten Americans could be excluded or receive partial checks, according to census data. Roughly 36 percent of U.S. households earn more than $100,000 — and some of the 29 percent of American households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are single households.

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Bezos will have more time for his hobbies soon.

Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking (DP)

Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper’s chief “fact checker” Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos’s highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump’s 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations. This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler’s own newspaper.

At a time when Americans’ trust in media has plummeted, Kessler is a perfect illustration of how the cottage industry of fact checking has turned itself into a system of Orwellian misinformation — one that uses fact-o-meters and Pinocchios to insist that war is peace and ignorance is strength. Rather than clarifying reality, fact checking is routinely used to hide the truth and shield the powerful from accountability — it has helped politicians hide their votes to cut Social Security; let health care industry lobbyists distort statistics about medical bankruptcies and Medicare for All; and abetted Wall Street’s efforts to downplay bank bailouts. Now, comes the crescendo: The newspaper owned by a man worth $180 billion is deploying fact checking to try to revise the entire history of the tax cuts that enriched his retail conglomerate.

And what a coincidence — the revision is happening just as the tax policy may be revisited by a new Democratic president. Not surprisingly, this particular broadside is being directed at Sanders, arguably the most prominent critic of Bezos and Amazon in all of American politics. He introduced legislation to shame the company for its labor practices, he successfully pressured the company to raise its workers’ wages and has championed legislation to tax billionaires. Bezos’s company has responded by attacking the Vermont senator — and now his newspaper is trying to reinforce those attacks under the deceptive guise of fact checking, all as it warns readers on every story that democracy dies in darkness.

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A curious celebration.

The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election (Time)

A weird thing happened right after the Nov. 3 election: nothing. The nation was braced for chaos. Liberal groups had vowed to take to the streets, planning hundreds of protests across the country. Right-wing militias were girding for battle. In a poll before Election Day, 75% of Americans voiced concern about violence. Instead, an eerie quiet descended. As President Trump refused to concede, the response was not mass action but crickets. When media organizations called the race for Joe Biden on Nov. 7, jubilation broke out instead, as people thronged cities across the U.S. to celebrate the democratic process that resulted in Trump’s ouster.

A second odd thing happened amid Trump’s attempts to reverse the result: corporate America turned on him. Hundreds of major business leaders, many of whom had backed Trump’s candidacy and supported his policies, called on him to concede. To the President, something felt amiss. “It was all very, very strange,” Trump said on Dec. 2. “Within days after the election, we witnessed an orchestrated effort to anoint the winner, even while many key states were still being counted.” In a way, Trump was right. There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans. The pact was formalized in a terse, little-noticed joint statement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO published on Election Day. Both sides would come to see it as a sort of implicit bargain–inspired by the summer’s massive, sometimes destructive racial-justice protests–in which the forces of labor came together with the forces of capital to keep the peace and oppose Trump’s assault on democracy.

The handshake between business and labor was just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign to protect the election–an extraordinary shadow effort dedicated not to winning the vote but to ensuring it would be free and fair, credible and uncorrupted. For more than a year, a loosely organized coalition of operatives scrambled to shore up America’s institutions as they came under simultaneous attack from a remorseless pandemic and an autocratically inclined President. Though much of this activity took place on the left, it was separate from the Biden campaign and crossed ideological lines, with crucial contributions by nonpartisan and conservative actors. The scenario the shadow campaigners were desperate to stop was not a Trump victory. It was an election so calamitous that no result could be discerned at all, a failure of the central act of democratic self-governance that has been a hallmark of America since its founding.

Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears. They executed national public-awareness campaigns that helped Americans understand how the vote count would unfold over days or weeks, preventing Trump’s conspiracy theories and false claims of victory from getting more traction. After Election Day, they monitored every pressure point to ensure that Trump could not overturn the result. “The untold story of the election is the thousands of people of both parties who accomplished the triumph of American democracy at its very foundation,” says Norm Eisen, a prominent lawyer and former Obama Administration official who recruited Republicans and Democrats to the board of the Voter Protection Program.

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Oct 142018
 


René Magritte The song of love 1948

 

Companies Buying Their Own Shares Could Fuel The Next Market Rally (CNBC)
Market Crash? Another ‘Red Card’ For The Economy (Lacalle)
4 Lessons From Iceland On Dealing With A Financial Crisis (WEF)
‘Crazy’ That Current Account Deficits Are ‘A Sin:’ Singapore Deputy PM (CNBC)
Draghi to Rome: Don’t Expect An ECB Rescue If Budget Talks Fail (CNBC)
Canada ‘Concerned’ About Khashoggi But Will Sell Arms To Saudis – Trudeau (RT)
David Davis Calls For Cabinet Rebellion Over Brexit Plan (BBC)
Brexit Negotiators Poised To Miss Deal Deadline As UK Hardliners Rebel (ZH)
Internet Censorship Just Took An Unprecedented Leap Forward (CJ)
Professor Exposes Rigged Markets One Academic Paper At A Time (ZH)
Hammer Time (Jim Kunstler)
Who The Hell Cares What Old People Think About Climate Change? (Ol.)
What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’? (Goodell)
‘Not Everything Was Looted’: British Museum To Fight Critics (G.)

 

 

“.. in the last 12 months, the companies in the S&P 500 have purchased $646 billion of their own stock, 29 percent more than the previous 12 months..”

“..at least $350 billion of buybacks that have been planned for the year and are just waiting to be put to work.”

Companies Buying Their Own Shares Could Fuel The Next Market Rally (CNBC)

With stocks down significantly, corporate buybacks could help stabilize the market. Buybacks have been one of the big stories supporting the market this year. DataTrek estimates that in the last 12 months, the companies in the S&P 500 have purchased $646 billion of their own stock, 29 percent more than the previous 12 months. And there’s plenty of “dry powder” left. One firm estimates at least $350 billion of buybacks that have been planned for the year and are just waiting to be put to work. And no, it is not just Apple that is buying its own stock. More than 300 large-cap companies have active buyback programs.

Unfortunately, some traders are resurrecting an old chestnut to help explain the current market weakness. They say we are entering a “blackout” period, when corporations cannot buy their stock because they are about to report quarterly earnings. It’s a neat explanation, except there’s not a lot to it. “Buybacks do occur during blackout periods,” Ben Silverman at InsiderScore told me. “Buyback volume does often decline in the first month of the quarter due to some buyback blackouts,” but companies can, and do, continue to buy back stock, he told me. Another trader (who declined to be identified) confirmed Silverman’s point. Corporate buybacks decline in the month before earnings, but only marginally. He estimated the decline is 30 percent or less.

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“..disproportionate valuations…”

$20 trillion worth of them.

Market Crash? Another ‘Red Card’ For The Economy (Lacalle)

The first thing we must understand is that we are not facing a panic created by a black swan, that is, an unexpected event, but by three factors that few could deny were evident: 1) Excessive valuations after $20 trillion of monetary expansion inflated most financial assets. 2) Bond yields rising as the US 10-year reaches 3.2%. 3) The evidence of the Yuan devaluation, which is on its way to surpass 7 Yuan per US dollar. 4) Global growth estimates trimmed for the sixth time in as many months. Therefore, the US rate hikes – announced repeatedly and incessantly for years – are not the cause, nor the alleged trade war. These are just symptoms, excuses to disguise a much more worrying illness.

What we are experiencing is the evidence of the saturation of excesses built around central banks’ loose policies and the famous “bubble of everything”. And therein lies the problem. After twenty trillion dollars of reckless monetary expansion, risk assets, from the safest to the most volatile, from the most liquid to the unquoted, have skyrocketed with disproportionate valuations.

The cracks in the building always appear first with currencies. Countries that have become accustomed to the idea that “this time is different” and that debt does not matter, started to multiply their indebtedness in foreign currency. Debt in dollars from emerging countries soared to 41% of their total debt. In the first three months of 2018, global debt rose 11% to a record of 247 trillion dollars (according to the IIF), and that of emerging markets soared by 2.5 trillion to an all-time high of 58.5 trillion. . When the lowest risk bond, the United States 10-year, went to 3.1%, the synchronized growth and complacent veil lifted, and many assets showed how risky they truly are.

Markets woke up to a reality that we had decided to ignore. That rates do rise. And if the safest bond gives a return of 3.2% … Am I willing to buy bonds from much riskier countries with negligible spreads? Add to that “sobriety” effect, another one. The inevitable devaluation of the yuan , which soared to almost 7 against the dollar. Am I willing to buy emerging markets and commodities when China exports its imbalances sending disinflationary pressure to the rest of the world?

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Iceland took it serious. No-one else did.

4 Lessons From Iceland On Dealing With A Financial Crisis (WEF)

Days after the collapse of 97% of its banking industry, Icelandic authorities designed a comprehensive policy of accountability, based on two overlapping objectives: establishing the truth and punishing those responsible. An independent truth commission was mandated to document the causes of the meltdown, and the newly established Office of the Special Prosecutor was tasked to thoroughly investigate and prosecute those responsible for any crimes committed in the run up to the crisis. Both mechanisms have been remarkably successful.

Published in 2010, the truth commission’s 2,200-page report not only documented the manifold failings of the financial system in Iceland but also offered specific recommendations to protect state institutions from a future crisis. The report instantly became a bestseller, with copies sold in supermarkets. It was a popular gift – parents even gave it to their children to help them avoid making the same mistakes. The Office of the Special Prosecutor successfully prosecuted 40 bank executives. This is remarkable, especially given the small population of the island and the comparative experience of other European countries affected by the recession, such as Ireland, Cyprus, or the UK (table below).

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Not many people see is that way.

‘Crazy’ That Current Account Deficits Are ‘A Sin:’ Singapore Deputy PM (CNBC)

For decades, developing countries have relied on outside investments to boost their growth despite trade imbalances. But running a current account deficit has come to be regarded as “a sin,” according to Singapore’s deputy prime minister. Such a development is just “crazy,” Tharman Shanmugaratnam told CNBC on Friday during the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance on the Indonesian island of Bali. Shanmugaratnam was referring to the widely held outlook that nations should seek to avoid current account deficits — which indicate they’re operating on borrowed means because the value of incoming goods, services and investments exceeds the amount leaving the country.

“How did the Singapores and Koreas of the world grow?” he said. “We grew by running current account deficits at an early stage of development so we could invest ahead for growth while our savings were being built up.” Singapore was able to rely on financing through foreign direct investments and long-term investors during its early years of growth, as the international financial system at that time had capital flowing to developing economies, Shanmugaratnam said. “Today, it’s a sin to run a current account deficit and that’s crazy,” said the minister, who is also the chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator. “I mean, it’s bad in economics, it’s bad in policy sense, and the whole world is going to suffer.”

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But Draghi’s still an Italian.

Draghi to Rome: Don’t Expect An ECB Rescue If Budget Talks Fail (CNBC)

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi is sending a warning to Rome ahead of its formal budget submission: Don’t expect the ECB to save the day. In a Saturday press conference at the IMF and World Bank meetings in Bali, Indonesia, Draghi said he was confident that a budget agreement would be reached and urged all parties to “calm down with the tone.” He also voiced relief that there has not been evidence of a wider spillover effect in European bond markets, even as Italian yields hit multi-year highs. “Everything that happened today is local to Italy.”

When asked whether an eventual realization of contagion or a further rise in Italian yields would force the ECB to scrap tightening plans by year end, Draghi told CNBC: “I don’t want to speculate on this. I just don’t want to conceive such a hypothesis. I’m confident that the authorities — and by the way all parties, not only Italy — all parties will in the end find a compromise solution, an agreement.” He went on to suggest that the situation had been “dramatized,” and that was “not the first time there are deviations from established rules in Europe.” But investors are worried that the Italian government may seize on that precedent and take a gamble that running foul of EU budget rules won’t incur serious penalties, and that, if things do turn worse for Italian financial markets, they”ll be able to lean on the ECB for support. Draghi, for his part, told CNBC that would not be a possibility.

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“..Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian envoy. It then froze trade talks, cut academic ties, and suspended flights to Canada.”

But arms sales trump everything.

Canada ‘Concerned’ About Khashoggi But Will Sell Arms To Saudis – Trudeau (RT)

Ottawa will keep its $15bn arms deal with Riyadh despite concerns over Saudi involvement in the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the diplomatic row over human rights, Prime Minister Trudeau said. “We respected that contract,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday, adding that his cabinet has put forward measures to make the arms sales more transparent. “We are making sure Canadians’ expectations and laws are always being followed,” he said. The contract was signed in 2014 by the previous conservative government, and has since been upheld by Trudeau. The specifics of the sales were originally not disclosed by the parties.

According to documents obtained by CBC News last month, a Canadian company is to ship 742 LAV-6 light armored vehicles to Riyadh. The same outlet revealed in March that hundreds of the LAV-6s will be outfitted as “heavy assault” and “anti-tank” types. [..] Human rights campaigners and journalists have criticized Canada’s approach to Saudi Arabia as inconsistent. They point out that the government doesn’t mince words when attacking the kingdom’s human rights record, but at the same time never waivers in its willingness to ship military hardware to Riyadh. Media reports have also strongly suggested that the Saudis might be using Canadian-made LAVs against civilians in Yemen.

[..] Canada stuck to the arms deal even after becoming embroiled in a diplomatic spat with Riyadh in August. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called on the kingdom to release two high-profile dissidents. In response, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian envoy. It then froze trade talks, cut academic ties, and suspended flights to Canada.

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She won’t have a cabinet left soon.

David Davis Calls For Cabinet Rebellion Over Brexit Plan (BBC)

Cabinet ministers should “exert their collective authority” and rebel against Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis has said. The PM has suggested a temporary customs arrangement for the whole UK to remain in the customs union while the Irish border issue is resolved. Brexiteers suspect this could turn into a permanent situation, restricting the freedom to strike trade deals. Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Davis said the plan was unacceptable. “This is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times,” he added.

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal with Brussels, with wrangling continuing over the nature of a “backstop” to keep the frontier open if a wider UK-EU trade arrangement cannot resolve it. The EU’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by Mrs May and the DUP. Mr Davis said the government’s negotiating strategy had “fundamental flaws”, arising from the “unwise decision in December to accept the EU’s language on dealing with the Northern Ireland border”.

On Saturday evening, German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung reported a deal had already been reached between Mrs May and the EU, and would be announced on Monday. But a No 10 source told the BBC the report was “100%, categorically untrue” and negotiations were ongoing. The paper said it had seen a leaked memo from EU negotiators to EU ambassadors stating: “Deal made.”

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Too many people want too many too different things.

Brexit Negotiators Poised To Miss Deal Deadline As UK Hardliners Rebel (ZH)

[..] early Sunday in London, the Brexiteer hardliners published an open letter signed by 63 Conservative MPs, including David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic backbenchers and former Brexit minister Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister. At the same time, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a pro-leave MP, published an editorial in the Sunday Telegraph demanding that any possibility that the UK could remain in a “temporary customs arrangement” after the Brexit transition period ends in December 2020 be stricken from the final agreement – because leaving open the possibility would be tantamount to ignoring the political will of the 17.4 million Britons who voted for Brexit.

Meanwhile, Davis demanded in an editorial in the Sunday Times that Cabinet ministers should “exert their collective authority” and rebel against Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal. All of this is happening amid even more conflicting reports, citing sources from the EU and sources from No. 10 Downing Street, affirming and denying that a deal had been reached. Underscoring the hostility to a deal, the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said Sunday that she would prefer a “no deal” Brexit to a “backstop” transition agreement that would require any borders between Northern Ireland and the UK, arguing that this would amount to the “annexation” of Northern Ireland by the EU, per CNBC.

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The Atlantic Council got going. Social media have become too big a threat to the narrative.

Internet Censorship Just Took An Unprecedented Leap Forward (CJ)

While most indie media was focused on debating the way people talk about Kanye West and the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an unprecedented escalation in internet censorship took place which threatens everything we all care about. It received frighteningly little attention. After a massive purge of hundreds of politically oriented pages and personal accounts for “inauthentic behavior”, Facebook rightly received a fair amount of criticism for the nebulous and hotly disputed basis for that action. What received relatively little attention was the far more ominous step which was taken next: within hours of being purged from Facebook, multiple anti-establishment alternative media sites had their accounts completely removed from Twitter as well.

As of this writing I am aware of three large alternative media outlets which were expelled from both platforms at almost the same time: Anti-Media, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police, all of whom had millions of followers on Facebook. Both the Editor-in-Chief of Anti-Media and its Chief Creative Officer were also banned by Twitter, and are being kept from having any new accounts on that site as well.

“I unfortunately always felt the day would come when alternative media would be scrubbed from major social media sites,” Anti-Media’s Chief Creative Officer S.M. Gibson said in a statement to me. “Because of that I prepared by having backup accounts years ago. The fact that those accounts, as well as 3 accounts from individuals associated with Anti-Media were banned without warning and without any reason offered by either platform makes me believe this purge was certainly orchestrated by someone. Who that is I have no idea, but this attack on information was much more concise and methodical in silencing truth than most realize or is being reported.”

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Interesting man.

Professor Exposes Rigged Markets One Academic Paper At A Time (ZH)

Finance professor John Griffin, along with his doctoral student companion, Amin Shams, were the two academics that drew market-moving conclusions about bitcoin last year, while the digital currency was trading around $20,000. After sifting through 2 terabytes of trading data, they alleged that bitcoin was being manipulated by someone using the cryptocurrency Tether to purchase it. Tether remains a relatively little-known crypto, which is pegged to one US dollar. Part of its appeal is that it can “stand in” for dollars when necessary, according to Bloomberg. Griffin and Shams authored a paper in June, with the results of their findings ultimately catalyzing many digital assets to move lower, despite the fact that the CEO of Tether publicly denied that its currency was used to prop up bitcoin.

Griffin works at the University of Texas at Austin, and has become quite an unpopular figure on Wall Street for similar work he has done in the past on ratings companies, the VIX and investment banks. In most of his findings, he claims that these well-known financial instruments and players are, in one way or another, rigged. And the professor seems to enjoy exposing precisely that: rigged, manipulated markets and shady players. “I not only want to understand the world, but make it better,” he told Bloomberg. Griffin’s work has become popular reading within the DOJ and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to Bloomberg.

These regulators – many of them low on resources, time and staff – welcome any additional help they can get (the SEC’s budget has forced it into a hiring freeze and the CFTC budget was cut by Congress in March of this year). John Reed Stark, a former attorney in the SEC’s enforcement division, stated: “It’s incredibly helpful to have an expert of Griffin’s caliber.”

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“..the threat to order might be so great that an unprecedented “emergency” has to be declared, with soldiers in the streets of Washington..”

Hammer Time (Jim Kunstler)

If I were President, I’d declare Oct 12 Greater Fool Day. (Nobody likes Christopher Columbus anymore, that genocidal monster of dead white male privilege.) The futures are zooming as I write, a last roundup for suckers at the OD corral, begging the question: who will show up on Monday. Nobody, I predict. And then what? The great false front of the financial markets resumes falling over into the November election. The rubble from all that buries whatever is left of the automobile business and the housing market. The smoldering aftermath will be described as the start of a long-overdue recession — but it will actually be something a lot worse, with no end in sight.

The Democratic Party might not be nimble enough to capitalize on the sudden disappearance of capital. Their only hope to date has been to capture the vote of every female in America, to otherwise augment their constituency of inflamed and aggrieved victims of unsubstantiated injustices. It’s been fun playing those cards, and the Party might not even know how to play a different game at this point. Democratic politicians may also be among the one-percenters who watch their net worth go up in a vapor in a market collapse, leaving them too numb to act. The last time something like this happened, in the fall of 2008, candidate Barack Obama barely knew what to say about the fall of Lehman Brothers and the ensuing cascade of misery — though unbeknownst to the voters, he was already a hostage of Wall Street.

Complicating matters this time will be the chaos unleashed in politics and governing when the long-running “Russia collusion” melodrama boomerangs into a raft of indictments against the cast of characters in the Intel Community and Department of Justice AND the Democratic National Committee, and perhaps even including the Party’s last standard bearer, HRC, for ginning up the Russia Collusion matter in the first place as an exercise in sedition. The wheels of the law turn slowly, but they’ll turn even while financial markets tumble. And the threat to order might be so great that an unprecedented “emergency” has to be declared, with soldiers in the streets of Washington, as was sadly the case in 1861, the first time the country turned itself upside down.

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Good angle.

Who The Hell Cares What Old People Think About Climate Change? (Ol.)

The loudest and most powerful voices when it comes to the future of the planet — the ones with their hands on the levers of power — have a strong tactical advantage: they will be dead before the shit really hits the fan. This fact curiously goes unspoken, for the most part. Popular arguments tend to be framed around a rosy vision preserving the planet for future generations, which gives our boomer aristocracy the most effective cover story imaginable. They don’t need to care about that, as nice as it sounds. Why would they? It’s all completely hypothetical to them. You may as well be talking about climate patterns in Narnia. Make no mistake: older generations living in the developed world are part of history’s most under-appreciated death cult.

This isn’t abstract psychoanalysis. There is a brutal calculus going on in the minds of everyone from your skeptic uncle to the bankrollers of squillion dollar think tanks whenever they think or talk about climate change. They know that they will never have to really answer for their opinions on this matter, because they’ll be six feet under (and loving it!) when the world’s arable land is rendered infertile and its coastal cities flooded by rising oceans. In some dark and venal corner of their minds, they’re thinking about that fact all the damn time. Despite the frightening predictions of the new IPCC report, they’ve still got plenty of wiggle room to keep denying until they’re dead – which will be sooner rather than later. With any luck they’ll even avoid being held accountable in any concrete way, which for the conservative commentariat is an even worse fate than the Mad Max hellworld towards which we are hurtling.

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One scary dude.

What’s Another Way to Say ‘We’re F-cked’? (Goodell)

[..] a scientist named Richard Alley in a Skype discussion with students at Bard College, as well as with Eban Goodstein, director of the Graduate Programs in Sustainability at Bard. It would be just another nerdy Skype chat except Alley is talking frankly about something that few scientists have the courage to say in public: As bad as you think climate change might be in the coming decades, reality could be far worse. Within the lifetime of the students he’s talking with, Alley says, there’s some risk — small but not as small as you might hope — that the seas could rise as much as 15-to-20 feet.

[..] Richard Alley is not a fringe character in the world of climate change. In fact, he is widely viewed as one of the greatest climate scientists of our time. If there is anyone who understands the full complexity of the risks we face from climate change, it’s Alley. And far from being alarmist, Alley is known for his careful, rigorous science. He has spent most of his adult life deconstructing past Earth climates from the information in ice cores and rocks and ocean sediments. And what he has learned about the past, he has used to better understand the future. For a scientist of Alley’s stature to say that he can’t rule out 15 or 20 feet of sea-level rise in the coming decades is mind-blowing.

And it is one of the clearest statements I’ve ever heard of just how much trouble we are in on our rapidly warming planet (and I’ve heard a lot — I wrote a book about sea-level rise). To judge how radical this is, compare Alley’s numbers to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released on Monday. That report basically argued that if we don’t get to zero carbon emissions by 2050, we have very little chance of avoiding 1.5 Celsius of warming, the threshold that would allow us to maintain a stable climate. The report projected that with 2 Celsius of warming, which is the target of the Paris Climate Agreement, the range of sea level rise we might see by the end of the century is between about one and three feet.

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Sure. But start giving back what was. Problem is, so much of it WAS looted that the museum would become a pretty empty place.

‘Not Everything Was Looted’: British Museum To Fight Critics (G.)

The British Museum is launching an initiative intended to counter the perception that its collections derive only from looted treasures. The monthly Collected Histories talks, which begin on Friday, will provide information on how certain artefacts entered the collection, with the museum saying it will offer a more nuanced take on these stories than is available elsewhere. The museum has long faced criticism for displaying – and refusing to return – looted treasures, including the Parthenon Marbles, Rosetta Stone, and the Gweagal shield.

Earlier this year, the art historian Alice Procter’s Uncomfortable Art Tours around London institutions, including the British Museum, made headlines for their attempts to expose the role of colonialism, with those on the tour given “Display It Like You Stole It” badges. Dr Sushma Jansari, the curator of the Asian ethnographic and South Asia collections at the British Museum, said she had devised Collected Histories in response to Procter’s tours. “There are a lot of partial histories and they tend to focus on the colonial aspect of the collecting so you have a bunch of people who tend to be quite angry and upset,” she said. “We’re trying to reset the balance a little bit. A lot of our collections are not from a colonial context; not everything here was acquired by Europeans by looting.”

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Aug 302018
 


Henri Matisse Trivaux pond 1916-17

 

Trump Says ‘No Reason’ For Military Exercises With South Korea (CNBC)
NATO Think Tank Continues Pre-Election Interference (RPI)
Whistleblower Exposes Key Player in FBI Russia Probe: “It Was A Set-Up” (SC)
CNN Lies About Cohen Story, Refuses to Comment (Greenwald)
The Media’s Chronic Misreporting on the Trump/Russia Story (Greenwald)
Russian Oligarch, DOJ And A Clear Case Of Collusion (ZH)
India’s Rupee Falls To An All-Time Low (CNBC)
Trade War Won’t Cause ‘Major’ Hit To China’s Economy – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)
Argentina Asks IMF For Early Release Of Standby Funds (R.)
Pound Sterling Rallies As Raab And Barnier Turn Optimistic On Brexit (Ind.)
EU’s Barnier Says Must Prepare For A ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (R.)
Car Manufacturing In Britain Fell By 11% In July (G.)
1000s Of British Expats Living In Spain Return To UK As Brexit Nears (Exp.)

 

 

“Trump’s announcement came a day after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there were no plans to cancel future exercises with South Korea.”

Trump Says ‘No Reason’ For Military Exercises With South Korea (CNBC)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday indicated that the U.S. will not participate in joint military exercises with South Korea, citing his “warm” relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even as U.S. efforts to denuclearize the reclusive dictatorship have stalled. “There is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” Trump said in a string of tweets Wednesday. Trump’s announcement came a day after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there were no plans to cancel future exercises with South Korea.

“As you know, we took this step to suspend several of the larger exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit,” Mattis said Tuesday at the Pentagon. It was his first press briefing in five months, a timeline that has included President Donald Trump’s high-profile meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises. We will work very closely, as I said, with the secretary of State and what he needs done,” he added, noting that forces on the Korean Peninsula have continued with small-scale training exercises.

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On the Atlantic Council’s board: Henry Kissinger, Michael Hayden and Michael Chertoff. These are the people ‘advising’ Facebook on content.

NATO Think Tank Continues Pre-Election Interference (RPI)

On August 24 what is in effect the social media warfare division of the Atlantic Council published an article accusing the Russian television and print news outlet RT of running a one-sided attack against the Democratic Party and several leaders thereof ahead of this November’s politically pivotal Senate and House of Representatives elections. (Thirty-five Senate seats and all 435 House seats are being contested.) The Atlantic Council, until recently kept comparatively in the shadows for obvious reasons, is a think tank that has more than any other organization effected the transition of the NATO from a seeming Cold War relic with the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 to the world’s only and history’s first international military network with 70 members and partners on six continents currently.

All thirteen new full member states are in Eastern and Central Europe; four of them border Russia. Three months ago it began collaborating with Facebook to police and censor that and (presumably) soon after other social media companies which in recent decades have become the major sources of information and communication for the seven billion citizens of the planet. No modest undertaking. This is by way of follow up to a Directive on Social Media issued four years ago by NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the bloc’s military command in Europe (which also oversees activities in Israel and until the activation of U.S. Africa Command ten years ago almost all of Africa).

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Excellent from Sara Carter. I took these snippets to make the point that both Flynn and Papadopoulos feel threatened by Mueller, and can’t afford to defend themselves. That’s how Mueller gets guilty pleas.

Whistleblower Exposes Key Player in FBI Russia Probe: “It Was A Set-Up” (SC)

Halper was not only spying on Page for the FBI in 2016, but he had also made contact in September 2016 with another Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos. He invited Papadopoulos to London that September, luring him with a $3,000 paycheck to work on a research paper under contract. By this time the young Trump campaign volunteer had already been in contact London-based professor, Josef Mifsud, who had basically informed him that the Russians had damaging material about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Misfud’s role has also come into question by Congress. Eventually, Papadopoulos was swept into Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation and pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.

His wife, Simona Papadopoulos, who’s been a vocal advocate for her husband, told SaraACarter.com that essentially he was forced to plead guilty because of threats from Mueller’s team and lack of financial resources. After testifying behind closed doors last month to the House Intelligence Committee, Simona told this outlet that she testified to Congress “as far as George is concerned, he met with individuals following the same pattern of behavior….and all of a sudden (Halper) was asking if he was doing anything with Russians…. This is the case with Halper, who is now proven to be a spy, possibly with (Australian Ambassador) Alexander Downer” who her husband met with in London.

[..] Flynn’s career with Trump ended as quickly as it came. He was forced to resign as Trump’s National Security Advisor 27 days after taking the job. The highly classified conversation between Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked to the Washington Post in January 2017 and he was later questioned by the FBI on that conversation. According to former FBI Director James Comey, the agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he was lying, but in the end, Flynn pled guilty to one count of lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He had already spent more than $1 million in lawyers fees and sold his home to help with the debt. According to sources, Flynn’s family was being threatened by the Mueller team.

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The sordid tale of Lanny Davis continues.

CNN Lies About Cohen Story, Refuses to Comment (Greenwald)

CNN’s blockbuster July 26 story – that Michael Cohen intended to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he was present when Donald Trump was told in advance about his son’s Trump Tower meeting with various Russians – includes a key statement about its sourcing that credible reporting now suggests was designed to have misled its audience. Yet CNN simply refuses to address the serious ethical and journalistic questions raised about its conduct. The substance of the CNN story itself regarding Cohen – which made headline news all over all the world and which CNN hyped as a “bombshell” – has now been retracted by other news outlets that originally purported to “confirm” CNN’s story.

That’s because the anonymous source for this confirmation, Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis, now admits that, in essence, his “confirmation” was false. As a result, both the Washington Post and the NY Post outed Davis as their anonymous source and then effectively retracted their stories “confirming” parts of CNN’s report. CNN, however, has retracted nothing. All inquiries to the network are directed to a corporate spokesperson, who simply says: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.” A newsletter sent Sunday night from CNN’s two media reporters, Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, contained the same corporate language, but addressed none of the questions raised about CNN’s report.

It’s certainly possible that CNN had other sources for this story besides Davis, who now repudiates it. It’s hard to see how CNN’s story could be true given that Davis, Cohen’s own lawyer, explicitly says that Cohen has no information that Trump had prior knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, that Cohen cannot and will not tell Mueller that this happened, and that Davis’ prior claims about Cohen’s knowledge and intentions are false. Axios reported that Cohen testified under oath to Congress that he has no knowledge that Trump had prior knowledge of the meeting and repeated this to leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee again after CNN’s report. Davis now says Cohen – rather than intending to tell Mueller he has such information – stands by his long-time claim that he has none.

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From the same Glenn Greenwald article. False claims galore.

The Media’s Chronic Misreporting on the Trump/Russia Story (Greenwald)

The other self-serving tactic media outlets use in situations like this is to claim that their errors are just good faith and rare mistakes, and that those who report on their mistakes are exaggerating their significance. This claim was also prominently featured in the New Yorker’s critique of my work, and is reflexively applied to anyone who has critiqued the dominant media narrative on this story. This tactic is also itself highly deceitful. The reality is that from the start of the Trump/Russia story, the U.S. media has repeatedly and frequently – not rarely and periodically – gotten major stories completely wrong, always in the same direction: exaggerating the threat posed by Russia to the U.S., and concocting evidence of Trump/Russia collusion even when such evidence did not exist.

Last December, I reported on what I call (and still believe) was the U.S. media’s “most humiliating debacle in ages”: a blatantly false and equally hyped CNN story claiming that an unknown person had emailed Donald Trump Jr. access to the WikiLeaks email archive before it was published: a story that MSNBC’s Ken Dilanian purported to “confirm.” That story – predictably and by design – generated huge headlines around the world, and was given breathless coverage on cable news given its obvious significance. In fact, the email in question was sent after WikiLeaks had published that archive to the entire world, rendering the magic-bullet email utterly worthless, not a massive scoop proving collusion.

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Swamp.

Russian Oligarch, DOJ And A Clear Case Of Collusion (ZH)

Steele and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr communicated extensively about the Russian Oligarch as recently as February 2016, which included efforts to obtain a Visa for Deripaska to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting int he US. Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling. Ohr, meanwhile, was demoted twice after the DOJ’s Inspector General discovered that he lied about his involvement with opposition research firm Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson – who employed Steele. Ohr’s CIA-linked wife, Nellie, was also employed by Fusion as part of the firm’s anti-Trump efforts, and had ongoing communications with the ex-UK spy, Christopher Steele as well. What’s more, Ohr met with Deripaska according to Solomon.

“By 2015, Steele’s work had left him friendly with one of Deripaska’s lawyers, according to my sources. And when Ohr, then the associate deputy attorney general and a longtime acquaintance of Steele, sought help getting to meet Deripaska, Steele obliged. Deripaska, who frequently has appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at high-profile meetings, never really dealt with Steele, but he followed his lawyer’s recommendations and met with Ohr, my sources say. -The Hill The September 2015 meeting between Ohr, Deripaska and several FBI agents in New York sought the Russian billionaire’s assistance regarding organized crime investigations. That meeting was facilitated by Steele.

To recap: Bruce Ohr = the #4 official at the DOJ, met with a billionaire friend of Vladimir Putin, in a sit-down arranged by Christopher Steele. Steele and the DOJ, meanwhile, were accusing Donald Trump of collusion with Putin – while the Obama administration used Steele’s dodgy dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Talk about actual collusion!

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India’s still largely inward looking, but still, what is imported -oil!-gets much more expensive.

India’s Rupee Falls To An All-Time Low (CNBC)

The Indian rupee fell to a record low on Thursday morning, following a declining trend all year — which economists attributed to rising oil prices, broader emerging market concerns, and strong month-end dollar demand. It slid to 70.8100 against the dollar, after a previous new low just a day before at 70.475. That marked a 10.97 percent decline since the start of the year. “Weakening has accompanied rising investment concerns about emerging markets more broadly, as well as a widening current account deficit, itself largely the result of higher oil prices,” said a Deutsche Bank Wealth Management report on Thursday.

More expensive oil leads to a higher import bill for India, a net importer of oil. Higher oil prices also lead to a widening current account deficit — a measure of the flow of goods, services and investments in and out of the country. Oil prices have been up more than 7 percent since mid-August, DBS Economist Radhika Rao explained in a note following the previous record low on Wednesday. Along with that, end-month dollar demand has also added to the pace of currency sell-off, she said. “Markets get a sense that the authorities are tolerant of a weaker rupee, with little by way of jawboning or verbal intervention,” Rao added.

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I think Beijing is more nervous than this lets on.

Trade War Won’t Cause ‘Major’ Hit To China’s Economy – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)

The Chinese government will continue implementing measures in order to cushion its economy from the impact of the ongoing trade spat with the U.S., a leading China economist said Wednesday. “We are not expecting any major growth correction because we think the potential impact from trade tariffs will be partially cushioned by the policy easing measures taken by the policy makers,” Robin Xing, chief China economist at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Beijing. Just last week, the U.S. and China slapped tariffs on $16 billion worth of goods on each other. Both countries also imposed tit-for-tat levies on $34 billion worth of each other’s imports in July.

Market watchers are now keeping their eyes on a fresh round of U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods expected later this year. If the U.S. imposes those additional tariffs, the impact could be “amplified” by how connected supply chains in East Asia are to China, Xing said. In fact, the trade war’s disruption to supply chains could cut 0.7 percentage points from China’s growth, he said. That will spur Beijing to take up more meaningful easing measures such as tax cuts and boosts to credit and liquidity in China’s financial system.

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Sure, just sell all your assets.

Argentina Asks IMF For Early Release Of Standby Funds (R.)

Argentina is asking the IMF for early release of funds from the country’s $50 billion standby financing deal, President Mauricio Macri said in a televised address on Wednesday, a move aimed at calming turbulent markets. The country’s currency has weakened 40.79 percent in 2018. Investors are concerned that with high inflation, a weak economy and fallout from a global selloff in emerging markets, Argentina may have problems meeting its dollar debt obligation in 2019. “We have agreed with the IMF to advance all the necessary funds to guarantee compliance with the financial program next year,” Macri said. “This decision aims to eliminate any uncertainty.” The Argentine peso dropped to trade more than 6 percent lower against the dollar on the news.

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Michel Barnier, said the bloc is “prepared to offer a partnership with Britain such as has never been with any other third country..”

Pound Sterling Rallies As Raab And Barnier Turn Optimistic On Brexit (Ind.)

The pound has rallied against the dollar and the euro following bullish Brexit comments from both UK and EU officials. Sterling rose more than 1 per cent against the greenback to hit $1.3006, and was up 0.99 per cent against the euro to €1.1118. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told the Lords EU committee on Wednesday that he was “confident a deal is within our sights”. He said: “We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal.” He said the 17 October deadline for a deal could be pushed back, but added: “I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council – and the possibility that it may creep beyond that – we want to see some renewed energy.

“We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also I think some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests. We need that to be matched obviously, it’s a negotiation.” Meanwhile the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the bloc is “prepared to offer a partnership with Britain such as has never been with any other third country”. “That kind of bullishness has been in short supply of late – if it has ever been there at all – and had a hugely rejuvenating effect on the pound,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex.

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But wait! Keep ’em guessing!

EU’s Barnier Says Must Prepare For A ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (R.)

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday the bloc must prepare for a no-deal Brexit, even if its goal was an orderly exit. The EU needed to be well prepared for everything, Barnier said, telling German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: “That includes the no-deal scenario.” He said the issue of the Irish border with Northern Ireland was “the most sensitive point” of the negotiations. Of a solution to the issue, he added: “I think that is possible.”

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The industry wants to both cry for help AND look strong.

Car Manufacturing In Britain Fell By 11% In July (G.)

The number of cars built in UK factories slumped by 11% last month compared with a year ago. Just over 121,000 cars left production lines, with a fall of 35% in models built for the UK, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Car production for export in July fell by 4.2%. Despite the reduction, the sector remains on track to meet 2018 expectations, said the SMMT. Just under 955,500 cars were built in the first seven months of the year, down by 16% for the UK market and 1.2% for export. This marks an improvement on June, when production for the UK plunged 47%, although there was a 6% rise in cars made for export.

Model changes, operational adjustments and preparations for new emissions standards affected output last month, said the SMMT. Its chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “While the industry is undoubtedly feeling the effects of recent uncertainty in the domestic market, drawing long-term conclusions from monthly snapshots requires a health warning. “The bigger picture is complex and month by month fluctuations are inevitable as manufacturers manage product cycles, operational changes and the delicate balance of supply and demand from market to market. “To ensure future growth, we need political and economic clarity at home, and the continuation of beneficial trading arrangements with the EU and other key markets.”

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Those were the days.

1000s Of British Expats Living In Spain Return To UK As Brexit Nears (Exp.)


Figures show the number of Brits living in Bendorm has fallen from around 5,000 before the 2007 financial crash to 2,825 last year. Almost 5,000 waved adios to Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca over the same period of time and by 2017, 14,981 expats remained on the Balearic islands. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported the total number of British residents in Spain had dropped from 397,892 to 240,785 – a fall of 157,107. It said data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute showed the number of residents from 15 EU-countries in Spain had fallen by a quarter but the number of British expats had fallen 40 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of Britons leaving Spain outnumbered those who arrived. In the previous four years, 40,454 more Britons arrived in Spain than left.

The drop in expats was put down partly to a shake up in municipal enrolment regulations in Spain but many returnees fear Brexit will have a negative impact on their lives abroad while others say life on the continent has become too expensive with the devaluation of the pound. Michelle Ball, who has a shop in La Xara, Alicante having arriving in Valencia as a 14-year-old, said: “Many are returning because life has become incredibly expensive. “My mother has lost €160 a month in her pension since the Brexit referendum because of the devaluation of the pound. “Now her pension is €690. And since the Spanish government made changes a few years back she also has to pay a portion for her medicines. It’s not a lot but it doesn’t help either.”Sterling fell to its lowest against the euro in nearly a year yesterday after Theresa May played down the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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