Feb 092021
 


Horacio Coppola Avenida de Mayo entre Bolívar y Perú, Buenos Aires 1936

 

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)
14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)
Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)
Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)
Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)
A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)
Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)
House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)
Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)
Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)
No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)
As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)
It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)
Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)
The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

 

 

All suspended accounts are on the right.

 

 

U.S. COVID update: Lowest number of new cases since Oct.

 

 

NOTE: Don’t miss John Day MD’s guide for COVID prevention and treatment that I published earlier yesterday: Treat Your Own COVID.

It could save your life.

 

 

Look, Prof Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, and he doesn’t manage one word on the government failing to boost their citizens’ immune systems. It’s all about masks and gloves and testing and borders and messaging. You know, the stuff that attracts attention AFTER people have been infected.

Nobody has a chance in the face of all this myopia.

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)

First, the UK had no border policies in place for months. [..] The second fatal flaw in the UK’s response happened on 12 March, when the government made the fatal decision to stop community testing [..] Third, the government made another harmful decision in March when it delayed the first lockdown. [..] The fourth error was the lack of appropriate personal protective equipment for many health and social workers [..] Finally, the UK has continually lacked both clear leadership and messaging, which are vital in a pandemic. Rather than leading from the front, the government seems to only follow public opinion and polling.

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The Pfizer vaccine. Google translate.

14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)

In an old people’s and nursing home in Belm in the Osnabrück district, there was an outbreak of the British Corona variant despite the vaccination. In 14 seniors the virus is B.1.1.7. – although all residents had been vaccinated for the second time on January 25, the district announced. The home, all employees and their families have been quarantined. The board of directors of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Brysch, called on the Ministry of Health to closely monitor nursing homes after the second vaccination. Otherwise there would be no reliable data on the danger the mutation posed for the high-risk group. So far there have only been asymptomatic or mild courses of the disease in the residents, which could be a positive effect of the vaccination, said the press spokesman for the Osnabrück district.

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Again: no vaccine has been approved yet, just emergency authorized. But this is based on vaccination passports. Let’s have a legal expert explain it.

Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)

Israel and Greece agreed on Monday to pave the way for vaccinated tourists to travel between their two countries in an effort to boost their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the agreement in Jerusalem on Monday. The deal is designed to allow tourists with vaccination certificates to move between the countries “without any limitations, no self-isolation, nothing,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.


Both economies have large sectors devoted to tourism, an industry devastated by travel restrictions during the 11-month pandemic. The announcement comes at a time of tough new travel restrictions elsewhere around the world as governments grapple with variants of the virus. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation says international arrivals fell 74% last year, wiping out $1.3 trillion (€1 trillion) in revenue and putting up to 120 million jobs at risk. A UNWTO expert panel had a mixed outlook for 2021, with 45% expecting a better year, 25% no change and 30% a worse one.

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No proper research, emergency authorization, of course you’re going to run into gigantic problems. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)

Moderna’s delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada has hit delays because the company has encountered problems with its European supply chain and restrictions on exports of vaccine supplies, the Star has learned. A senior federal source with knowledge of the file told the Star that Moderna is trying to source the material needed to produce its vaccine, and to meet demand for materials needed to package the vaccines. The source said the company’s own supply for materials has been affected by the European Union’s attempt to control how much material is exported before its member states are supplied with vaccine. In a written statement to the Star, Moderna’s country manager for Canada, Patricia Gauthier, confirmed the company’s effort to scale up production in Switzerland is a factor in delayed deliveries to countries outside of the United States.


The statement said Moderna has provided revised short-term delivery guidance “outside of the U.S., including to the government of Canada based on the ramp up trajectory of drug substance manufacturing in Switzerland.” It also suggested no problems are occurring with its packaging process. “Fill and finish activities continue as planned,” the statement said. “Moderna remains focused on operating at the highest level of quality to ensure the safety of the vaccine.” Moderna also confirmed its contract with Canada specifies “delivery volumes per quarter,” and said it will “meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and the following quarters in order to deliver 40 million doses by the end of the third quarter.” It said its strategic collaboration with Lonza in Switzerland — which started mass production of Moderna vaccines this year — aims to manufacture up to 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per year.

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Cuba has a hard time getting the ingedients for its vaccines. Embargo, don’t you know.

Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)

Cuba’s socialist approach to developing vaccines against COVID-19 differs strikingly from that of capitalist nations of the world. Cuba’s production of four vaccines is grounded in science and dedicated to saving the lives of all Cubans, and to international solidarity. The New York Times’s running report on the world’s vaccine programs shows 67 vaccines having advanced to human trials; 20 of them are in the final phase of trials or have completed them. The United States, China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and India have each produced many vaccines; most vaccine-manufacturing countries are offering one or two vaccines. Cuba is the only vaccine manufacturer in Latin America; there are none in Africa. The only state-owned entities producing the leading vaccines are those of Cuba and Russia.

Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute has produced two COVID-19 vaccines. Trials for one of them, called Sovereign I, focus on protecting people previously infected with COVID-19. The antibody levels of some of them turned out to be low, and the vaccine might provide a boost. The other vaccine, Sovereign II, is about to enter final human trials. For verifying protection, these trials require tens of thousands of subjects, one half receiving the vaccine and the other half, a placebo vaccine. Cuba’s population is relatively small, 11 million people, too small to yield enough infected people in the short time required to test the vaccine’s protective effect. That’s why Sovereign II will be tested in Iran.

100 million doses of Sovereign II are being prepared, enough to immunize all 11 million Cubans, beginning in March or April. The 70 million remaining doses will go to Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Sovereign II “will be the vaccine of ALBA,” explained Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, referring to the solidarity alliance established in 2004 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. “Cuba’s strategy in commercializing the vaccine represents a combination of what’s good for humankind and the impact on world health. We are not a multinational where a financial objective comes first,” says Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute. Income generated by vaccine sales abroad will pay for health care, education, and pensions in Cuba just as happens with exports of medical services and medicines.

Cuba’s Center for Genetic and Biotechnological Engineering is developing two other COVID-19 vaccines; One, named “Mambisa” (signifying a female combatant in wars of liberation from Spain), is administered via the nasal route, just as is Cuba’s hepatitis B vaccine. The other vaccine, named “Abdala” (a character in a Jose Marti poem) is administered intramuscularly. The two vaccines are involved in early trials.

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Austerity is that variant.

A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)

There is a new variant of the global virus spreading again after being subdued throughout 2020. This is a very dangerous variant and if it takes hold will guarantee massive human suffering, and, a further, substantial shift in national income towards the top-end-of-town. I refer to the creeping infestation that is starting to pop up claiming that austerity will be required to pay for all the “profligacy” associated with government approach to the pandemic. I have seen this virus in the wild and it is creepy and being spread by those who seem to want to gain attention as time passes them by. Overheating threats, austerity threats – it is all part of the economics establishment trying to remain relevant. A vaccine will not work. They need to be permanently isolated.

The Prospect Magazine article (January, 26, 2021) – In defence of austerity – written by a “former head of Treasury” The sub-title begins the twisted framing: “Free money is in vogue—but there’s no such thing” – the only cost of the Bank of England buying all the debt being issued by H.M. Treasury is the wear and tear on the computer keyboards that type in the numbers. The pandemic has exposed to an increasing number of people that there is ‘free money’. They are realising that numbers just appear in bank accounts. Perhaps this former official should watch the recent speech and subsequent Q&A from the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe to the National Press Club in Canberra (February 3, 2020).

He was asked by a journalist in the Q&A: Could you please explain in the simplest terms, perhaps keeping in mind your audience outside of this room, when the RBA decides to purchase government bonds, as it’s doing, where does the RBA get that money from? Is it simply a matter of printing new money? How does it work? The Governor replied:

“Well, it’s not printing money. People think of it as printing money, because once upon a time if the central bank bought an asset, it might pay for that asset by giving you notes, you know, bank notes. I’d have to run my printing presses to do it. We don’t operate that way anymore, obviously because we live in an electronic world. When we buy a bond from a bank, the way we pay for that is credit. The banks, we’ll use Westpac, who’s the sponsor of today’s event as an example. If we bought a bond from Westpac, we would credit Westpac’s account at the Reserve Bank, and that creates the money electronically. That’s how a modern system works. And then Westpac could use that money hopefully to make some loans to some of its customers. But we can create money electronically, and that’s what we do these days …”

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John takes a trip through all the bubbles. Read.

Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)

If you’re over 40 you’ve lived through at least three epic financial bubbles: junk bonds in the 1980s, tech stocks in the 1990s, and housing in the 2000s. Each was spectacular in its own way, and each threatened to take down the whole financial system when it burst. But they pale next to what’s happening today. Where those past bubbles were sector-specific, which is to say the mania and resulting carnage occurred mostly within one asset class, today’s bubble is spread across, well, pretty much everything – hence the term “everything bubble.” When this one pops there won’t be a lot of hiding places.


Most bubbles start when an influx of outside cash sends the price of something up dramatically. This captures the imagination of the broader investing public and the process takes on a life of its own, culminating in an orgy of bad decisions and eventually a wipe-out of the easy fortunes made on the way up. So to understand the everything bubble, let’s start at the beginning with that influx of outside money. This time it’s coming from the Federal Reserve in what can only be described as the mother of all print runs. M2, a medium-broad measure of the US money supply, has more than tripled so far in this century, and lately the arc has gone vertical, rising by nearly a third in just the past year.

All this extra money has to go somewhere, so no surprise that it’s flowing in lots of different directions. Among the recipients: The bond and money markets, made up of instruments that pay interest, are in the aggregate far bigger than the world’s stock markets. And they’ve been booming, with interest rates falling steadily for four straight decades. Since bond prices are the reciprocal of bond yields, the next chart can be read as an epic bull market in bonds, one which has gained steam in the past year as massive currency creation has forced fixed income investors (who have to invest new cash somehow) to buy bonds regardless of what they yield.

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Good Lord: “Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.”

House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)

After days of infighting, House Democrats on Monday night released details of proposed coronavirus relief measures that would put the ceiling for full $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans at the same income levels as previous payouts, rejecting calls from more centrist Democrats to lower the threshold. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Ma.) released a draft version of the bill Monday night proposing $1,400 stimulus checks for single earners making up to $75,000 and for joint filers earning up to $150,000. Some centrist Democrats had called for lowering the threshold to $50,000 per year for individuals and $100,000 per year for joint filers, causing outrage from progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-Ny). Child and adult dependents will now be eligible, unlike the previous rounds of stimulus payments.


Responding to concerns that wealthy people would receive checks, the stimulus payments will phase out quicker, zeroing out when individual income reaches $100,000 and at $200,000 for households. Democrats last week passed a budget reconciliation measure, which allows them to pass a stimulus plan with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As a result, the final bill will likely be subject to intense jockeying between Democrats because the party can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate without Republican support. The measure still has to pass the rest of the House and the Senate, where it meets resistance from centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), who has been leading the charge to lower the income threshold. Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.

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Let’s do the opposite of everything she proposes, then we should be good.

Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)

The U.S. could return to full employment in 2022 if President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package is passed, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday. “There’s absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long slow recovery,” Yellen said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I would expect that if this package is passed that we would get back to full employment next year.” Long-term unemployment is nearing a historical peak nearly a year since the pandemic began. Nearly 40% of unemployed workers have been out of work for six months, the Bureau of of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, with nearly 9 million fewer Americans working now than last February. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January.

The pandemic-fueled unemployment rate will remain elevated for years to come without more federal support, Yellen said, citing an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Without additional stimulus, it could take until 2025 to send the unemployment rate back down to 4%. Yellen also said that former Obama economic adviser Larry Summer’s concerns over Biden’s stimulus plan posing risks to inflation are small compared to economic damage from failing to provide enough economic support during the pandemic. The U.S. has “the tools to deal with” the risk of inflation, Yellen said.

Democrats in Congress have moved to pass the stimulus plan within two weeks without GOP support, using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. The plan is the first of two major spending initiatives Biden will seek and includes provisions like direct payments to Americans, weekly jobless benefits through September and funding for vaccines and testing. The second bill will focus on infrastructure reform, climate change and racial equity, among other things. “We have people suffering … through absolutely no fault of their own,” Yellen said. “We have to get them to the other side and make sure that this doesn’t take a permanent toll on their lives.”

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Everything left is dangerous.

Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)

More than 100 economists, led by French economist Thomas Piketty, creator of some of the most absurd proposals embraced by the extreme left, on Feb. 5 published an open letter in which they called for a cancellation of government debt in the hands of the ECB “in exchange for greater public investment”—which, by the way, would be paid with more issuance of public debt. Fascinating. Luís de Guindos, vice president of the ECB, has settled the controversy with two pieces of evidence. “The cancellation of debt [on the ECB balance sheet] is illegal … [and] does not make any economic or financial sense at all,” he explained in a speech, according to Europa Press. The first part is obvious. It is prohibited by the bylaws of the ECB. I will explain the lack of economic logic here.

A debt write-off or cancellation is evidence of the issuer’s insolvency. If, as the economists repeat, the solvency and credit credibility of the eurozone is not at stake, why ask for a cancellation? If, in addition, as Piketty and other defenders of massive state indebtedness maintain, deficits are not a problem and increasing debt is not a concern because it creates reserves, why cancel it? Let’s not forget that many of the parties that have embraced Piketty’s idea in Europe—Podemos, Syriza, and other European radical parties—filed a proposal to exit the euro in 2015 that they have never subsequently withdrawn or rejected. Podemos MEPs presented a resolution in Strasbourg for the European Union to prepare the mechanisms for the “orderly dissolution of the euro zone.” They also proposed to establish “the mechanisms that would allow a country integrated in the single currency to abandon it to adopt another currency,” according to Spanish newspaper Crónica Global.

So basically, radical parties in Europe demand that the ECB forgives their debt and prints more while keeping the option of leaving the euro. Call that baking the cake and eating it. Most eurozone states finance themselves today at negative rates or extremely low yields. It would be a mistake to think that these low interest yields are the consequence of good government fiscal policy. If the eurozone has low interest rates and low yields it’s because European taxpayers keep it solvent—mostly thanks to Germany’s financial solvency. European taxpayers uphold the credibility of the euro as a currency, and with this the ECB can carry out expansionary policies.

Piketty and colleagues open a dangerous option: direct monetization of all and any government spending Argentina-style. And do so ignoring that the euro is the only global reserve currency with redenomination risk, and that its credibility is maintained only because of the widespread confidence in the euro area’s commitment to repay its debts. A euro bond is an asset for many investors globally only because it’s supposed to be of the lowest risk. Opening the Pandora’s box of cancellations means its status as an asset disappears.

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And then Biden wants to go break the deal that made that possible.

No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)

For the first time since the US war in Afghanistan started in 2001, no US troops died in combat in the country for an entire year. The last US combat death took place on February 8th, 2020, when two US Army soldiers were killed in a firefight. This means since the US and Taliban signed a peace deal in late February of last year, no US troops have been killed by the group. But with the withdrawal deadline approaching, the Taliban is vowing to again turn their weapons on US soldiers if they stay in Afghanistan past May 1st. While the Biden administration has yet to make a formal announcement, the chances of a US withdrawal by May 1st seem slim. Last week, a congressionally mandated report was released that warned against the May 1st deadline, which could be all the excuse the US needs to stay.


Pentagon officials have said the deadline is uncertain and insist troops levels in Afghanistan remain “conditions-based.” US officials have been complaining about the amount of violence between the Taliban and the US-backed government. On Monday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said the level of violence is “too high” and that the Biden administration is taking “a close look at the way forward in accordance with the February 2020 peace agreement.” Since the US is not the only country with troops in Afghanistan, the US-Taliban deal paved the way for all foreign and NATO forces to leave the country. While the alliance has also not made a formal announcement, NATO officials told reporters that NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond May 1st.

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Get out the popcorn.

As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)

[..] And the emotionally charged case that Trump incited the Capitol riot with his Jan. 6 speech, has developed deep cracks. Less than a half dozen Republicans have shown any interest in conviction as the facts increasingly show the riot was not spontaneous but rather planned for days and weeks with fund-raising, training, and combat threats. Even the former Capitol Police chief has weighed in with a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the attacks exhibited a “high level of coordination,” undercutting the Democrats’ spontaneous incitement narrative even further. The likelihood of Trump’s conviction has waned as the premeditation evidence mounts, and now Democrats once gleeful they could end the 45th president’s ability to ever hold office again are now pressing to get the trial over quickly as acquittal seems assured.

“It’s not clear to me that there is any evidence that will change anyone’s mind,” Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz told Politico. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, often an opponent of Trump, acknowledged the obvious, observing, “Both sides would kind of like to wrap it up fairly quickly.” The Senate trial will start Tuesday with a debate over whether the event is even constitutional with Chief Justice John Roberts refusing to preside, Trump already out of office, and a legitimate debate over whether Trump’s speech was protected “free speech” as Democratic law professor John Turley has argued. Once a dream of Democrats, the trial is feeling more like a burden to them as other elements pose obstacles and challenges to the Biden agenda.

Even Biden himself has little interest in watching the trial, his chief spokeswoman said Monday. “I think it’s clear from his schedule and from his intention that he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

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Expensive theater.

It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)

The federal government is projected to spend $483 million to keep National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., until mid-March, amid fears that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial may draw more violence. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday the price of sending National Guard troops to protect the area around the Capitol from January 6 to March 15 will total $483 million, $284 million for personnel and $199 million for operations. 5,000 troops are slated to remain in the city until March 15 as Trump’s Senate impeachment trial poses security concerns, Politico reported, including “mass demonstrations,” but it’s unclear if there is a specific threat. In the aftermath of the Capitol riots, 25,000 National Guard troops flooded Washington, D.C., for Biden’s inauguration in an effort to prevent further violence.


The majority of troops remaining in the city will do so voluntarily, according to Politico. Republican lawmakers have questioned the need for National Guard troops around the Capitol Hill complex. “We still have National Guardsmen out there, away from their families, away from their jobs, supplementing the police, and yet we can’t get a briefing on what is this dire threat that requires so many people. We still don’t have answers,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) told Fox News. Security forces were largely unprepared for the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol last month. National Guard troops were only called in after rioters stormed the building, and members of both parties are calling for investigations into security lapses surrounding the attack. But keeping thousands of troops in the city has been rocky: nearly 200 have contracted Covid-19, according to the Military Times.

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Bit of a campaign going on, even the New York Times chimes in. 10 years too late.

Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)

Media freedom groups and supporters of Julian Assange have asked the Biden administration to drop the US’s pursuit of the WikiLeaks’ founder, saying Donald Trump was opposed to the idea of a “free press”. In their first appeal to the US government since Joe Biden became president less than three weeks ago, more than 20 groups working to promote human right and a free media, wrote to the department of justice, asking it to drop the case against Mr Assange, saying they were fearful “the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged”.

“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” said the letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalise these common journalistic practices.” There was no immediate response from the White House. But in a short statement released on Monday evening, a spokesperson for the department of justice, said: “We are continuing our efforts to seek the extradition of Julian Assange.”

[..] In their letter, the activists point out the Obama administration, of which Mr Biden was a key part, decided not to pursue the prosecution of Mr Assange. “The Trump administration positioned itself as an antagonist to the institution of a free and unfettered press in numerous ways. Its abuse of its prosecutorial powers was among the most disturbing,” the letter says. “We are deeply concerned about the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged—perhaps by a future administration—against publishers and journalists of all stripes.” The New York Times said the department had a deadline of Friday to file a brief in the British court if it wanted to continue to pursue the matter. The department is currently headed by a caretaker official, Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general. The letter was addressed to him.

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War on Domestic Terror goes global.

The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

If you enjoyed the Global War on Terror, you’re going to love the new War on Domestic Terror! It’s just like the original Global War on Terror, except that this time the “Terrorists” are all “Domestic Violent Extremists” (“DVEs”), “Homegrown Violent Extremists” (“HVEs”), “Violent Conspiracy-Theorist Extremists” (“VCTEs”), “Violent Reality Denialist Extremists” (VRDEs”), “Insurrectionary Micro-Aggressionist Extremists” (“IMAEs”), “People Who Make Liberals Feel Uncomfortable” (“PWMLFUs”), and anyone else the Department of Homeland Security wants to label an “extremist” and slap a ridiculous acronym on. According to a “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” issued by the DHS on January 27, these DCEs, HVEs, VCTEs, VRDEs, IMAEs, and PWMLFUs are “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority [and] perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”

They are believed to be “motivated by a range of issues, including anger over Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, police use of force,” and other dangerous “false narratives” (e.g., the existence of the “deep state,” “herd immunity,” “biological sex,” “God,” and so on). “Inspired by foreign terrorist groups” and “emboldened by the breach of the US Capitol Building,” this diabolical network of “domestic terrorists” is “plotting attacks against government facilities,” “threatening violence against critical infrastructure” and actively “citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid-19.” For all we know, they might be huddled in the “Wolf’s Lair” at Mar-a-Lago right now, plotting a devastating terrorist attack with those WMDs we never found in Iraq, or generating population-adjusted death-rate charts going back 20 years, or posting pictures of “extremist frogs” on the Internet.

The Department of Homeland Security is “concerned,” as are its counterparts throughout the global capitalist empire. The (New Normal) War on Domestic Terror isn’t just a war on American “domestic terror.” The “domestic terror” threat is international. France has just passed a “Global Security Law” banning citizens from filming the police beating the living snot out of people (among other “anti-terrorist” provisions). In Germany, the government is preparing to install an anti-terror moat around the Reichstag. In the Netherlands, the police are cracking down on the VCTEs, VRDEs, and other “angry citizens who hate the system,” who have been protesting over nightly curfews.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 232020
 


Edward Hopper Automat 1927

 

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)
Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)
Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)
COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)
White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)
Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)
Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)
WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)
America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)
Stalemate (Paul Edwards)
China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)
Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)
UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

 

 

Trump kicks the relief bill back to Congress and says he wants $2,000 checks. Everyone scrambles to react. Bernie campaigner David Sirota writes: “The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff..?”. But what bluff? Saying the same thing as the squad is a bluff? And they can “call the bluff” only by agreeing with the man they’ve demonized for 4 years?

Trump has been talking about bigger checks for a long time. Was this a bluff that whole time? Amy Klobuchar tries her own private angle, and calls raising the stimulus to $2,000 per person “an attack on every American”. What? Is that also a bluff? At the end of the day, Trump and the Squad both want the same thing. All the rest are stuck in the middle.

And AOC tries to save the day, and her face, by saying the Squad had the proposals for $2,000 checks already written up.

Okay, explain where they went. How hard did you fight Pelosi etc. in order to get the exact same thing Trump wants?

Who’s calling whose bluff around here?

 

 

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump Kicks COVID Bill Back To Congress; Demands $2,000 Stimulus (ZH)

President Trump appeared to threaten to veto the COVID-19 stimulus package that Congress passed almost 24 hours earlier, telling lawmakers to boost checks for Americans to $2,000 as well as “get rid of wasteful and unnecessary items” in the spending bill. Trump said “throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked COVID relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left wing agenda and influence the election…” “it’s taken forever” to get a package and the bill passed “is much different than anticipated.” “It really is a disgrace,” he added. Then reeled off a list of disgusting ‘pork’ that has been piled into this record-breaking 5,593 page bill.


As Axios notes, many of the items Trump listed, such as foreign aid, which were not related to COVID-19 are not part of the coronavirus relief package. These form part of the government funding bill, which was passed alongside the coronavirus relief package. Then he took a shot at Biden and the election. “Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package and maybe that administration will be me and we will get it done.”

Trump relief speech

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“Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing..”

Force The Vote On Direct Aid (DP)

Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to veto emergency stimulus legislation unless lawmakers increased direct payments to millions of families facing the prospect of eviction, loss of health insurance, unemployment and starvation. Lawmakers had settled on meager one-time $600 checks but the president demanded $2,000 payments — a proposal that was championed months ago by congressional progressives but that was ignored by both parties’ legislative leaders. The declaration from the GOP president follows his other recent statements in support of bigger checks. The entire situation shows that Joe Biden and Democratic congressional leaders either could have driven a much tougher bargain in their negotiations over new COVID-19 relief legislation with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — or they actually deliberately prioritized austerity and didn’t want a bigger spending package in the first place.

Luckily for Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — and for millions of people who need help — Trump is giving them one last chance to do the right thing and back a bolder version of the $1,200 direct payment proposal that Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., have been pushing from the beginning of this most recent round of negotiations. In fact, seven months ago Sanders joined Sens. Kamala Harris, Ed Markey and Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing a bill to provide monthly $2,000 checks to individuals until the pandemic is over. (That’s not surprising, given that Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus he led were the original authors of the first stimulus check of the modern era, way back in 2001.) The question now: Will Pelosi, Schumer and Biden do everything in their power to call Trump’s bluff and force a vote to increase the $600 checks to $2,000?

Pelosi clearly feels the heat — she is suddenly pretending she’s always been ready to take Trump up on his offer to support $2,000 survival checks, even though prior to about an hour ago, she had never tried to triangulate Trump against McConnell on the issue. Earlier this month, she supported a deal that did not include checks at all, and just yesterday she insisted that $600 checks were “significant.” Indeed, the $2,000 is a new ask for Democratic leaders — progressive lawmakers had been pushing it for months, but Pelosi’s much-touted HEROES Act only asked for $1,200 one-time, means-tested checks. Regardless, the Democratic House Speaker is now finally saying she wants a vote to amend the stimulus bill to increase the small $600 checks to $2,000 — and such an amendment has already been written by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.

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“That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.”

Biden’s Austerity Zealotry Helped Cut The Stimulus Bill In Half (DP)

If there is any consistent throughline in Joe Biden’s long career, it is his commitment to the ideology of austerity. He has obsessively pushed for Social Security cuts for decades, and he is stocking his administration with deficit hawks — including today’s announcement that notorious Social Security cutterBruce Reed will be White House deputy chief of staff. Biden has even threatened to veto Medicare for All legislation on the grounds that it costs too much (even though Congress says it would actually save a lot of money). Now, in the whittling down of the stimulus legislation, we see the first concrete example of how Biden’s ideology can change policy in the here and now — and in deeply destructive ways.

As pain and suffering is crescendoing across the country, Biden refrained from aggressively pushing the bipartisan initiative for $1,200 survival checks. Indeed, at a time when there was a legitimate chance to flip some Republicans — including Donald Trump! — against McConnell and push for a more robust stimulus, he demurred. However, the New York Times reminds us today that Biden was “not an idle bystander in the negotiations.” On the contrary, the paper of record tells us that the president-elect played a decisive role in making sure the legislation was cut in half. Here is the key excerpt:

“With Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate far apart on how much they were willing to accept in new pandemic spending, Mr. Biden on Dec. 2 threw his support behind the $900 billion plan being pushed by the centrist group. The total was less than half of the $2 trillion that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, had been insisting on. Mr. Biden’s move was not without risks. If it had failed to affect the discussions, the president-elect risked looking powerless to move Congress before he had taken the oath of office. But members of both parties said his intervention was constructive and gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands.”

Read that again, just so it sinks in: Biden endorsing an initiative to slash the stimulus bill in half “gave Democrats confidence to pull back on their demands” for a much more robust rescue package at a time when America faces rising food insecurity and poverty. His enthusiastic lauding of the final bill underscores the role he played. “In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for action and compromise,” Biden said in a statement. “I am heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. This is a model for the challenging work ahead for our nation.” That last line of Biden’s statement is arguably the most disturbing foreshadow of all: He is depicting the process — which starved America for months and now skimps on benefits — as a terrific “model” for the future.

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But it’s 2 different bills, says everyone. Yeah, big difference that makes.

COVID19 Catch-22: Regime-Change Policies Come With US Pandemic Relief (GZ)

The longest piece of legislation in United States history, containing both a coronavirus relief package and the annual omnibus spending package, quickly passed through Congress on December 22, with little opposition. While technically separate bills, the omnibus and stimulus were debated and passed together, at the same time.The massive piece of legislation — a staggering 5,593 pages in length — lays bare the priorities of the US government, prioritizing regime change in foreign nations and the imperatives of empire over the basic needs of Americans. In just a few hours, it passed through the House of Representatives by 359-53, and through the Senate by 92-6.

While the US public was forced to grovel for months for a $600 direct payment, the same piece of legislation pumps billions of dollars into “democracy programs” — US government code for regime-change operations via civil society NGOs — and foreign military assistance. The measly $600 survival checks pale in comparison to the massive foreign spending on regime change and titanic allocations to prop up US-friendly authoritarian militaries. On so-called “Democracy Programs” alone, the legislation appropriates $2.417 billion, and $6.175 billion on the “Foreign Military Financing Program.” Another $112.9 million is appropriated for “International Military Education and Training.”

$6 billion more is allocated toward the domestic procurement of US Air Force missiles and US Navy weapons of war. This is in addition to the $740 billion defense bill passed earlier in December. By contrast, the stimulus package comes at a value of $900 billion, with the largest portion devoted to business bailouts. The Federal News Network reports that the $1.4 trillion omnibus includes $671.5 billion allocated to “base defense spending,” with another $77 billion going to “overseas contingency operations.”

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“Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors.”

White House Memo Details How ‘Pence Card’ Can Save Trump Presidency (NF)

Sources in the Trump administration confirmed to National File that President Donald Trump’s most vocal advocates within the White House have determined that both U.S. Code and the Constitution contain language that requires Vice President Mike Pence to reject unlawful Electoral College certificates, but Pence must act by no later than Wednesday, December 23. The drafters of this White House memo believe that the federal check to the states’ elections resides with Vice President Mike Pence in his role as President of the Senate. Additionally, Pence has the sole power determine whether to reject impermissible states of electors. However, Pence is legally required to do this on the fourth Wednesday in December, which this year falls on December 23.

National File’s sources in the White House indicated that the memo was requested by those in the President’s circle who are most keen to see the 2020 election, and the ensuing fallout, administered in as transparent of a manner as possible. They also indicate that the push to find a path to verify the 2020 election’s integrity is not coming solely from the White House, but also comes from across numerous agencies in the administration. FROM THE MEMO: Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution requires that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Therefore, the papers (or “slates”) the states attempted to submit to the President of the Senate and Archivist of the United States are not legal, permissible certificates of votes and lists by Electors as recited in Title 3, U.S.C., sections 9 and 11. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin violated the U.S. Constitution’s Art. 2, S.1, Cl.2 and 14th Amendment, Section 1, Equal Protection Clause in administering their elections, therefore rendering their slates impermissible.

On Dec. 14, the States consummated a fraudulent and Constitutionally deficient certification of their electors as required by 3 USC 7. State and federal authorities have discovered Overwhelming evidence of election fraud and irregularities since Nov. 4, likely rising to the level of criminal election fraud and public corruption. Civil courts dismissed these claims procedurally, rather than on substance.

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And the Hill doesn’t like it.

Growing Number Of GOP Lawmakers Back Electoral College Challenge (Hill)

A growing number of House Republicans say they will challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. The latest Republican to say he will do so is Rep.-elect Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who will be a part of the House when it convenes in early January. He implored other Republicans to also challenge the results in a video message. “I have a message for all other Republicans across the country,” Cawthorn said. “If you are not on the record calling for fair, free and just elections now and in the future, I will come to your district and I will fund a primary opponent against you.” Not doing this to help my career in Washington, in fact this will most likely harm it. But no one should go to Washington as a career. Go there to serve the people. And on behalf of the people I am contesting this election based on constitutional violations by key states. — Madison Cawthorn (@CawthornforNC) December 21, 2020


There is no evidence the results of the last election showing President-elect Joe Biden defeating President Trump by more than 70 electoral votes and more than 7 million votes overall was unfair, and efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse the outcome have gone nowhere in the courts. The effort in the House is also doomed to failure, as it will not be possible for supporters to secure a majority vote given Democratic control of the lower chamber, and the fact that a number of Republicans also object to the effort first launched by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). But Trump has encouraged the effort, and a number of House Republicans, likely with an eye on getting attention from the most powerful Republican in the country, have said they will join Brooks.

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“Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.”

Trump Pardons George Papadopoulos (DC)

President Donald Trump granted a full pardon on Tuesday to George Papadopoulos, the former campaign aide at the center of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion with Russia to influence the 2016 election. “Mr. Papadopoulos was charged with a process-related crime, one count of making false statements, in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election,” the White House said in a statement about the pardon. “Today’s pardon helps correct the wrong that Mueller’s team inflicted on so many people.” Trump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch national convicted in the Mueller probe. Last month, Trump pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty to false statements charges on Dec. 1, 2017.

Papadopoulos was the first Trump associate to plead guilty in the Mueller probe. He served 12 days in prison on charges that he made false statements to the FBI in January 2017 regarding his interactions with a Maltese professor who claimed to have learned that the Russian government had Hillary Clinton’s emails. The FBI opened Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, on July 31, 2016, based on an Australian diplomat’s tip regarding a meeting he had on May 10, 2016 with Papadopoulos. Alexander Downer, the diplomat, claimed that Papadopoulos told him that Russia might help the Trump campaign by releasing material close to the election.

Investigators initially thought that Papadopoulos took part in a collusion scheme with Russia or knew of Trump associates who might have been. But the FBI probe, and the Mueller investigation that followed, ultimately turned up no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump associates and the Russian government. Papadopoulos has denied telling anyone on the Trump campaign about his conversations with the Maltese diplomat, Joseph Mifsud. “Notably, Mueller stated in his report that he found no evidence of collusion in connection with Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election. Nonetheless, the Special Counsel’s team still charged Mr. Papadopoulos with this process-related crime,” the White House said in its pardon statement.

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The borders already re-opened.

WHO: New UK COVID19 Strain No Deadlier, Only Slightly More Infectious (RT)

The World Health Organization has come forward to calm things down amid the anxiety over a new potentially ‘highly infectious’ Covid-19 strain found in the UK, saying it is not that different from other coronavirus strains. “There is zero evidence that the new coronavirus variant increases severity of the disease,” the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program Chief Mike Ryan told at a press conference on Monday, citing data received from British scientists. The risks faced by the people that catch this particular strain of the virus are pretty much the same as odds faced by other people suffering from Covid-19. According to the WHO, it is neither more aggressive, nor any deadlier than the other strains.= It does seem to be spreading somewhat easier, the health watchdog admitted. Still, its contagiousness appears to be nothing out of the ordinary and it is still much less infectious than diseases such as mumps.


The new strain would also hardly affect the efficacy of drugs and vaccines developed against Covid-19, the WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. “So far, even though we have seen a number of changes, a number of mutations, none has made a significant impact on … the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or the vaccines under development,” she said. WHO officials also described a flurry of travel bans to and from the UK imposed by some two dozen of nations across the world as a move taken out of abundance of caution. “We have to find a balance. It’s very important to have transparency, it’s very important to tell the public the way it is, but it’s also important to get across that this is a normal part of virus evolution,” Ryan said, while still calling this decision “prudent.”

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”.. prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.”

America Is Now Ruled By People Older Than Soviet Union ‘Gerontocracy’ (RT)

Joe Biden, set to be the oldest-ever US president, is actually on the younger side of people currently running the American political establishment, who show no sign of wanting to ever step aside for another generation. It is often overlooked that Donald Trump currently holds the distinction of being the oldest-ever US president, being 70 at the time of his inauguration. Biden will take that trophy as well if he’s inaugurated in January 2021, having turned 78 last month. Even so, he is actually younger than the current leaders of the House and the Senate! Though all major power brokers in Washington are older than the “gerontocracy” that ruled the Soviet Union in the 1970s and the 1980s, you won’t hear the US mainstream media make the comparison, as it wouldn’t fit their Narrative.

Sure, there has been some carefully calibrated talk about the “cognitive decline” of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is 87. But Feinstein is from an overwhelmingly Democrat state and she can be easily replaced at the same time as Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate who still hasn’t resigned her Senate seat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is 80, and has raised eyebrows herself with the whole “Good Morning. Sunday Morning” glitch-in-the-Matrix behavior during a TV appearance in September. Way back in 2018, Pelosi insisted that any talk about wanting someone younger in the leadership position was “sexist,” and went on to ruthlessly crush any opposition to her getting the gavel – and the power that went with it – inside the party. In the same interview, Pelosi blanked out on the name of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), calling him “whatshisname.”

Born several months ahead of Biden in 1942, McConnell is 78 himself. He had a bout with polio when very young, and though successfully treated, he’s had difficulty climbing stairs all his life. While he hasn’t shown any signs of cognitive decline, his political choices as of late have certainly caused some Republicans to wonder if he’s truly the legislative genius his supporters make him out to be. [..] the young activist House members who came in with 2018’s “Blue Wave,” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), are being kept in check by the old guard. Just last week, AOC was denied a spot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, thwarting her plans to push for her “Green New Deal” proposal. Compare this state of US politics with the notorious “gerontocracy” of the Soviet Union. Three aging Soviet leaders died in quick succession between 1982 and 1985, prompting then-US president Ronald Reagan to say “How am I supposed to get anyplace with the Russians if they keep dying on me?” Yet Reagan was 74 at the time, older than all three.

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“On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again…”

Stalemate (Paul Edwards)

In chess, stalemate describes the endgame situation in which one party has no possible legal moves. It is the point at which we are arrived in our Presidential fiasco. There has been great angst and gnashing of teeth over it, and ebullient, if tentative, rejoicing on the part of giddy enthusiasts for whom Trump’s electoral defeat represents the Jubilee, the Dawn of Glory, and re-establishment of righteousness on earth. This view, deluded and infantile as it is, is nevertheless sincere and widely held. Stalemate, though, is not victory, in chess or otherwise. In a stalemate the game ends in a draw. That said, it seems likely Trump will depart—in spite of the hysteria peddled by so many in media and cyber-flackery—without anything faintly resembling the Reichstag Fire, or even a Proud Boys version of the shootout at the OK Corral. He’ll go with a whimper, not a bang.

So the crisis ends in victory? Or has it indeed been a sort of draw? We’ve been assured from authoritative quarters, in the most decisive terms, that, in his mulish, petulant refusal to take no for an answer to his grandiose ambitions, Trump has done irreparable damage to the Great Institution of our Electoral Democracy; that his dogged denial of his loss, and utter rejection of the protocols of cordial transition have sorely undermined, and perhaps even fatally shaken, our collective faith in the purity and justice of our Constitutional process and its benign functioning. On top of that, there is now—I won’t call it news—official yammer that those pesky Russkies are at it again. Yes, by golly, they’ve diabolically infiltrated our Official Secrets Crypt, no doubt goaded into it by that fiend, Putin, who, according to what we’ve been schooled for four years to believe, ought to have been spending all his energies backing Trump, but somehow overlooked that.

It appears that after doing so much to elect him in ‘16, they didn’t bother this time and let him lose. Just no fathoming their deviltry. Anyhow, our noble protectors and defenders, those fab Security Services—FBI, NSA, CIA and the other sixteen or twenty-three sister spook units who’ve done so much to keep us from harm—all have their knickers in a twist, one hand clutching their pearls and the other making a bold fist at the Kremlin, over Vlad & Co. attacking the dead meat of our sanctified secrets catacombs. What a dogpile! What a gang-bang! Trump and the Russians, allied again, bringing all their satanic powers to bear on the frail, vulnerable vessel of our fate, the very motor and mainspring of Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean: our hallowed electoral system. Come on, somebody has to call bullshit on this nonsense.

Read more …

Two pieces from Jim Rickards at Daily Reckoning.

China Has Infiltrated America (Rickards)

Spying is as old as civilization. As long as there have been leaders with secrets and armies on the march, opponents have wanted to know what they’re thinking and where they’re going. Hence the need for spies. And it comes as no surprise that the Chinese are as good as anyone when it comes to spying and that their main target is the United States. What may come as a surprise is the scope of their success and the enormous number of operatives, influencers, sleepers and other varieties of spies who have already infiltrated critical U.S. institutions. Of course, a lot of spying today involves surveillance of phone calls, digital message traffic, online financial transactions, facial recognition software, satellite surveillance and other electronic tradecraft.

But the old fashioned methods of the human spy penetrating organizations, gaining trust and stealing secrets have never gone away. In fact, that type of human intelligence (HUMINT) seems to be having a renaissance. Members of the Chinese Communist Party who pledge to “fight for communism throughout my life … and… be loyal to the party” are hard at work inside companies like Boeing, Pfizer and Qualcomm, political strongholds like the U.S. State Department, and on Capitol Hill. Other spies operate clandestinely, including a woman named Fang Fang, a young attractive Chinese spy who worked her way into an intimate relationship with Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who routinely receives classified briefings.

This is a classic intelligence technique known as a Honey Trap. Swalwell fell for it. Somehow Fang got a heads up and fled back to China before she could be turned into a double-agent or simply arrested by the FBI. No word yet on who gave her the heads-up, but Swalwell is suspected. The Chinese intelligence services have also penetrated academia using so-called Confucius Institutes (cultural exchange facilities that are really nests of spies) and lavish research grants. Too often, Americans are ensnared in Chinese spying efforts either because they are naive or just greedy for the money the Chinese spread around. U.S. targets simply turn a blind eye to the damage to America. Until things change, America’s technological and strategic edge will be blunted by Chinese theft of secrets and compromise of elite decision-makers.

Let’s hope this changes, but don’t hold your breath. Will the U.S. intelligence community get a grip on the Chinese threat? There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the U.S. The Intelligence Community, particularly the CIA, seem to have woken up to the fact that the world has changed. The bad news is that it still seems to be riddled with the same hidebound bureaucrats, the same ‘go along to get along’ guys I saw during my years at the Agency. A big problem is the “culture of secrecy.” Forty years ago, secrets were valuable, and open-source information was not particularly useful beyond just keeping up with the news. Information used to be a scarce resource. But that world has changed. Today, information flow is like a fire hose; there’s almost more than you can process. The scarce resource today is not information; it’s analytic ability.

Read more …

War simulations. Better than board games.

Financial Warfare Is Real (Rickards)

In my 2011 book, Currency Wars, I gave a detailed description of the first-ever financial war game sponsored by the Department of Defense. This financial war game took place in 2009 at the top-secret Applied Physics Laboratory located about twenty miles north of Washington, D.C., in the Maryland countryside. Unlike typical war games, the “rules of engagement” for this financial exercise did not permit the use of any kinetic weapons such as bombs, missiles or drones. The only weapons allowed were financial instruments including stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities and derivatives. The game was played out over two days in the main War Room of the laboratory using six teams divided into the U.S., China, Russia, Europe, East Asia, and Banks & Hedge Funds.

The contestants included about 40 players on the six teams and another 60 participants including: uniformed military, civilian defense officials, observers from the Treasury, Federal Reserve, CIA and other government agencies, think tanks, universities, and financial industry professionals. In that original financial war game, a scenario involving Russia, China, gold and the destruction of the U.S. dollar was played out against a backdrop of geopolitical events, including the collapse of North Korea and a threatened Chinese invasion of Taiwan. In May 2015, the Pentagon sponsored a new financial warfare session, which I was also invited to attend. This time the financial war took place inside a secure meeting facility at the Pentagon itself.

This new financial war game exercise was smaller and more focused than the one in 2009. We had about 20 participants. Our group included representatives from the diplomatic corps, military, think tanks, universities, CIA and the National Security Council. I was one of three individuals from the investment management community. Our scenario this time was not global but was instead limited to a confrontation between China and the U.S. involving disputed jurisdiction in the South China Sea. Six nations have claims in the South China Sea – China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. These claims overlap to a great extent, setting the stage for disputes and possible war.

The South China Sea is rich in oil, natural gas reserves, fishing rights and other natural resources. The surrounding nations dispute with certain island groups – the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands – and are also using reefs, sunken vessels and landfill to create artificial islands, which they are populating with bases and military garrisons. The U.S. has treaty obligations to the Philippines and Taiwan, which could result in the U.S. becoming engaged militarily in the event of a dispute with China. This volatile mix of disputed claims, natural resources and complex treaty networks has the ingredients needed to escalate into a Third World War. All it would take to start a war is some spark, such as a collision at sea or an attack based on mistaken identity or misunderstood intentions. The occurrence of such a war is likely inevitable.

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Stating the obvious.

UN Expert Melzer Asks US President Donald Trump To Pardon Julian Assange (UN)

“Mr. President, Today, I respectfully request that you pardon Mr. Julian Assange. Mr. Assange has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for the past ten years. This is a high price to pay for the courage to publish true information about government misconduct throughout the world. I visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh High Security Prison in London, with two independent medical doctors, and I can attest to the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated, to the point where his life is now in danger. Critically, Mr. Assange suffers from a documented respiratory condition which renders him extremely vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic that has recently broken out in the prison where he is being held.

I ask you to pardon Mr. Assange, because he is not, and has never been, an enemy of the American people. His organization, WikiLeaks, fights secrecy and corruption throughout the world and, therefore, acts in the public interest both of the American people and of humanity as a whole. I ask because Mr. Assange has never published false information. The cause for any reputational harm that may have resulted from his publications is not to be found in any misconduct on his part, but in the very misconduct which he exposed. I ask because Mr. Assange has not hacked or stolen any of the information he published. He has obtained it from authentic documents and sources in the same way as any other serious and independent investigative journalists conduct their work. While we may personally agree or disagree with their publications, they clearly cannot be regarded as crimes.

I ask because prosecuting Mr. Assange for publishing true information about serious official misconduct, whether in America or elsewhere, would amount to “shooting the messenger” rather than correcting the problem he exposed. This would be incompatible with the core values of justice, rule of law and press freedom, as reflected in the American Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the United States. I ask because you have vowed, Mr. President, to pursue an agenda of fighting government corruption and misconduct; and because allowing the prosecution of Mr. Assange to continue would mean that, under your legacy, telling the truth about such corruption and misconduct has become a crime.

In pardoning Mr Assange, Mr. President, you would send a clear message of justice, truth and humanity to the American people and to the world. You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth.

Read more …

 

 

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Alexandros Maragos Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn over #Athens

 

 

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Many People Unexposed To Coronavirus Have Immune Cells For COVID19 (SMH)
The Speech Joe Biden Has Been Preparing For His Entire Life (Taibbi)
Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges (Sirota)
72% of Detroit’s Absentee Ballot Counts Were Off (DN)
Johnson, Grassley Blast Colleagues For ‘False Narratives’ About Ukraine (JTN)
“I Have A Right To Make Sure That My Home Is Secure” (ZH)
28 Million Americans on Unemployment Insurance, 17.5% of Labor Force (WS)
CEOs Get Big Pre-Bankruptcy Bonuses As Lenders and Employees Stiffed (NC)
Facebook Delenda Est (Ben Hunt)
Florida To Release 750 Million Genetically Modified Mosquitoes (BBC)
‘Bored’ Ravens Straying From Tower Of London Signal Monarchy May Fall (G.)

 

 

It’s not that long ago that it seemed impossible the US would do better than the world in new cases numbers. But here we are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The author of this particular take on T-cells can’t seem to make up his mind if this is a good thing or not.

Many People Unexposed To Coronavirus Have Immune Cells For COVID19 (SMH)

Evidence is emerging worldwide showing between 20 and 50 per cent of people who have never been exposed to COVID-19 have immune cells that can recognise and react to the virus. The discovery of T cell cross-reactivity has excited immunologists, who hope it could explain some of the mysteries that surround the virus, such as why some people get so much sicker than others. But scientists caution that it is not yet clear what the discovery means for human health. Australian National University’s head of immunology and infectious diseases, Professor David Tscharke, said: “It’s the good, the bad and the ugly – it could help, it could do nothing, or it could make COVID-19 worse.” Professor Tscharke said the cross-reactive T cells might help to fight off the virus, or they might get in the way of the immune system, making the disease worse, a phenomenon known as “original antigenic sin”.


SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (yellow) emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in a US National Institutes of Health lab. CREDIT:AP

Typically, the human adaptive immune system relies on precision. Antibodies, for example, have to be exactly the right shape to stick to a particular virus and kill it. T cells hunt for tiny fragments of virus protein – as small as eight amino acids long, in a virus that could have thousands of them – that identify a virus has infected a cell. If two viruses share protein fragments, T cells will attack both. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, shares much of its genetic code, including many of its proteins, with four coronaviruses in frequent circulation among humans. Dr Corey Smith, head of the translational and human immunology laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said some sections of the genetic codes were virtually identical.


They cause the common cold and are extremely common – more than 90 per cent of people have been exposed to them. Scientists suspect some people who have been exposed to these viruses develop T cells that can also target SARS-CoV-2. Monash University’s head of microbiology, Professor Stephen Turner, said that in the best-case scenario, cross-reactive T cells do offer some protection. “That’s why we might be seeing so much asymptomatic infection. If there is a level of protection, due to previous exposure, you have less symptoms – because you’re limiting the amount of virus that can grow,” he said. During the 2009 influenza pandemic, scientists found people who had cross-reactive T cells to that virus were less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Professor Turner said T cells needed the right signals to be activated. It was possible SARS-CoV-2 did not trigger them, or they were in the wrong place to fight the infection.

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“Start your livers..”

The Speech Joe Biden Has Been Preparing For His Entire Life (Taibbi)

The DNC drinking game Monday night was so painful (and Tuesday was worse), that I’ve decided to shorten the game tonight to cover Joe Biden’s acceptance speech only. I watched Biden speak probably a half-dozen times during the primary campaign, and perhaps a half-dozen times before. He has definite tendencies, and his stump speech hits the same six or seven notes every time, but convention addresses are different. Every line, every word, will be scripted. There shouldn’t be ad-libs, freak-outs at hecklers, etc. Guessing what an unscripted Joe Biden will do at any given moment is pretty interesting. Here we’re basically trying to guess what Biden and his handlers have decided to put on a teleprompter. Biden will be speaking sometime after 9 p.m. I will be live-streaming with Katie Halper. Details to follow.


Drink EVERY TIME:
• Biden says, “Folks.”
• Biden says, “The United States of America.” Double-shots for any multiple-America construction, e.g. “The best America is an America where Americans believe in the American dream.”
• Biden says, “Middle-class.”
• Biden says, “Get up!” as in, “Folks, you’ve got to get up! This is the United States of America!”
• Biden says, “You guys.”
• Biden says, “Barack” or references the “Obama-Biden administration.”
• Biden says, “Soul of America.”
• Biden points out a surprising percentage of something, e.g. “Look, folks, seventy-four percent of venture capital goes to four cities.”
• Biden says, “My Mom used to say” or mentions one of his father’s relatable jobs, e.g. “He sold a hell of a lot of cars!”
• Biden makes a self-deprecating joke about his age or his tendency to say puzzling things.
• Biden finishes a section of his speech with a rhetorical flourish, and he sounds angry, and you can’t tell why, because he’s talking about something non-angering.
• Biden tells a story about a rewarding interaction with an ordinary person, as in, “I walk over to the guy up in the bucket. And there’s seven guys around him, all with hard hats on. I yelled up and said, ‘Hey, man, thanks!’”
• Biden references a job you’ve never heard of, as in “Why is a sandwich maker being forced to sign a non-compete clause?”
• Biden says “systemic.”
• Biden tells us there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.

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If David Sirota keeps this up, they’ll ban him from the party.

Team Biden Now Signals Austerity, Despite Campaign Pledges (Sirota)

The Democratic convention has sucked up all the political oxygen in America — so much so, that most people missed Team Biden signaling that it may back off the entire agenda it is campaigning on. This monumental declaration went almost completely unnoticed for an entire day — which is a genuinely disturbing commentary on how the biggest of big political news gets routinely ignored. To review the situation: earlier this month, Bloomberg News reported that Biden’s “campaign rolled out a $3.5 trillion economic program over the past month” — one that “promises to invest in clean energy and caregiving, buy more made-in-America goods, and start narrowing the country’s racial wealth gaps.” This, said the news service, was proof that Biden no longer adhered to an ideology of austerity and deficit hawkery — which would be good news.

But then on the eve of Biden’s convention speech, the Democratic nominee’s top aide suggested to Washington reporters that, in fact, that’s not true. Here’s the key excerpt: Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, a Biden confidant who succeeded him in the Senate, predicted during a Wall Street Journal Newsmakers Live interview Tuesday that a large increase in federal spending would be difficult to achieve in 2021. “When we get in, the pantry is going to be bare,” said Mr. Kaufman, who is leading Mr. Biden’s transition team. “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit…forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” Economist Dean Baker goes over exactly how destructive and insane this ideology is.

As he says: “The idea that we would not address pressing needs, like climate change, child care, and health care because we are concerned about the debt burden is close to crazy. As long as the economy is not near its capacity, there is zero reason not to spend to address these priorities.” What I find particularly troubling is that Kaufman’s quote made it into the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The newspaper tweeted it out early in the morning. It sat out there for almost 24 hours — an eternity in the current news ecosystem. And yet, as far as I can tell, nobody noticed. Hell, the Journal’s tweet had all of 1 retweets on it as of this morning.

[..] This monumental declaration was in a major newspaper — it should have set off immediate alarm bells from all the think tanks, unions and advocacy groups in Washington whose job is to make sure that this kind of destructive austerity ideology does not once again take hold in the Democratic Party. There should have been press releases, and statements of outrage and congresspeople on TV talking about it. But for an entire day, there was nothing, until it was shamed into the conversation. This is not the first time there’s been silence on stuff like this — less than a month ago Biden explicitly promised his Wall Street donors that despite his public campaign promises, he will not be pushing new legislation to change corporate behavior.

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Hmmm: “..people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it..”

72% of Detroit’s Absentee Ballot Counts Were Off (DN)

Recorded ballot counts in 72% of Detroit’s absentee voting precincts didn’t match the number of ballots cast, spurring officials in Michigan’s largest county to ask the state to investigate ahead of a pivotal presidential election. [..] In 46% of all Detroit’s precincts — absentee and Election Day — vote counts were out of balance, according to information presented Tuesday to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Specifically, the number of ballots tracked in precinct poll books did not match the number of ballots counted. The situation could amplify the spotlight on absentee ballots in Michigan ahead of an election for which record levels of mail-in voting are expected and President Donald Trump is already raising concerns about how votes will be handled. The election results for the primary weren’t incorrect, said Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and one of the canvassing board’s four members.


But, he said, something had gone wrong in the process of tracking ballots precinct by precinct. Having balanced precincts is particularly important in Michigan because precincts whose poll books don’t match with ballots can’t be recounted, according to state law. Instead, the original election results would stand. “It was a perfect storm,” Kinloch said. The “storm” involved a record number of absentee ballots being cast in Michigan’s primary and seasoned election workers not feeling it was safe to help with administering the election because of COVID-19, he added. The Wayne County board is asking Benson, a Detroit resident, to investigate “the training and processes used by the City of Detroit” in the primary election. The board also requested that the first-term Democrat appoint a state monitor to oversee the counting of absentee ballots in the general election.

Detroit had problems with precinct count mismatches in the November 2016 election. Election officials couldn’t reconcile vote totals for 59% of precincts in the city during a countywide canvass of vote results with most of the issues involving too many votes. Those votes couldn’t be recounted when Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein demanded a statewide recount following Donald Trump’s initial 13,000-vote victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. A recount was started but stopped and nullified by the courts when Stein was ruled ineligible for a recount request because she had no chance at victory. The results eventually were certified as a 10,704-vote victory for Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan in 28 years. It was the Republican businessman’s smallest margin of victory in the nation.

The problems with the Detroit’s numbers in the Aug. 4 primary included ballots being put in the wrong tracking containers, said Monica Palmer, one of the Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. “It was so inaccurate that we can’t even attempt to make it right,” said Palmer, chairwoman of the board. Winfrey said the vast majority of the absentee voting precincts in the city were less than three ballots off, plus or minus. Being off by three or fewer is allowed, Winfrey said — but it’s unclear what policy she was referring to. [..] Winfrey also said Thursday that people shouldn’t “expect perfection or anything close” to it after elections staffers have worked more than 20 hours.

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Running out the clock.

Johnson, Grassley Blast Colleagues For ‘False Narratives’ About Ukraine (JTN)

Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Chuck Grassley of Iowa sent letters to two of their Democratic colleagues, lambasting them for claiming that an investigation regarding U.S. policy in Ukraine during the Obama presidency is tainted by Russian disinformation—Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are the recipients of the August 20 letters. The investigation that the Democrats have said is poisoned by Russian disinformation pertains to possible conflicts of interest in America’s Ukraine policy when Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of Burisma.

A press release says that the two Democratic senators have “falsely claimed that Grassley and Johnson are relying on information from Andriy Derkach as part of their ongoing oversight, despite the chairmen’s clear denials of having any communication with Derkach.” The Republican Senators in their letters said that as far as they know the sole instance of disinformation injected into the investigation has come from Democrats. “Regarding reports that we have received ‘packages’ of information from certain Ukrainian nationals – that is false. Further, the only relevant disinformation that we are aware of are documents that Minority Leader Schumer, Senator Warner, Speaker Pelosi, and Chairman Schiff referenced in their recent letter that your Democratic colleagues have introduced into our investigation,” the senators wrote in the letters to their Democratic colleagues.

“For example, the Schumer letter references a document, created by a Ukrainian national that mentions our names along with other Republican senators and administration officials, to suggest falsely that we might have received information from this individual. Liberal media outlets have picked up that reference, clearly from a leak, even though we have not received any information from that person, including tapes, and we have publicly and privately stated as much. To repeat, the only document in our investigation that has been described as disinformation is a document that your Democratic colleagues, not us, introduced into the record. If you and your colleagues are so concerned about disinformation, why do you continue to promote it?” Johnson and Grassley asked.

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This is so nuts it can only mean she herself is certified nuts.

“I Have A Right To Make Sure That My Home Is Secure” (ZH)

[..] nothing compares to what just happened in Chicago whose Mayor Lori Lightfoot – best known for encouraging local BLM protests, going so far as saying that black lives are “more important that downtown corporations” after the unprecedented looting that took place last week – defended the Chicago Police Department’s ban on protesters being able to demonstrate on the block where she lives, telling reporters Thursday that she and her family at times require heightened security because of threats she receives daily. Yes, Mayor Lori is all about BLM protests… as long as they are literally not in her back yard. Lightfoot refused to elaborate on the specific threats according to the Chicago Tribune, but said she receives them daily against herself, her wife and her home.

Lightfoot also told reporters that comparisons to how the Police Department has protected previous mayors’ homes, such as Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood residence, are unfair because “this is a different time like no other.” “I think that residents of this city, understanding the nature of the threats that we are receiving on a daily basis, on a daily basis, understand I have a right to make sure that my home is secure,” Lightfoot said, failing to grasp the simplest truth that all citizens of “her” devastated city also have a right to make sure that their home is secure although unlike Lightfoot they don’t have the local police to protect them. Because when it comes to outrageous liberal hypocrisy, things get complicated.

Lightfoot and Chicago police Superintendent David Brown were asked at an unrelated news conference about a Tribune report noting police have banned protesters from demonstrating on her block in the Logan Square neighborhood, ordering officers to arrest anyone who refuses to leave. The directive surfaced in a July email from then-Shakespeare District Cmdr. Melvin Roman to officers under his command. It did not distinguish between the peaceful protesters Lightfoot regularly says she supports and those who might intend to be destructive, but ordered that after a warning is given to demonstrators, “It should be locked down.” Activists and police sources could not cite instances when the city repeatedly locked down her predecessor Emanuel’s block against protesters.

The Kenwood block where former President Barack Obama lived with his family when his primary residence was in Chicago was shut down for access only by residents after his election. But Lightfoot said such comparisons “don’t make any sense,” after Brown referenced the ongoing coronavirus pandemic – which she has repeatedly overriden as a concern when BLM protests are to be held – as well as civil unrest that have flared since the George Floyd killing at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I’m not going to make any excuses for the fact that, given the threats I have personally received, given the threats to my home and my family, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they’re protected,” Lightfoot said. “I make no apologies whatsoever for that.”

It wasn’t clear if Lightfoot would apologize to all those millions of Chicago residents who – just like her – are trying to avoid threats against their own families by angry, violent looters; looters whose despicable actions Lightfoot has repeatedly turned her eyes away from in hopes of peak virtue signaling.

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So what’s the plan, guys? Green jobs?

28 Million Americans on Unemployment Insurance, 17.5% of Labor Force (WS)

What happened in the latest reporting week for unemployment claims was disconcerting: “Initial” claims under state unemployment insurance programs by newly laid-off workers rose. And initial claims under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provided by the CARES Act that covers gig workers, also rose. This means that people lost their work at a faster rate than they did in the prior week. In terms of “continued” claims: The number of people on unemployment insurance (UI) under state programs (blue bars) declined, as some people returned to work. But the number of people on UI under federal and other programs (red bars) jumped. Combined, the number of people on UI under all programs ticked down by 199k to 28.06 million, the Labor Department reported this morning. It was the least catastrophic reading since mid-May, but still a horrendously huge number, representing about 17.5% of the labor force:

Blue columns: The number of people who continued claiming unemployment insurance under regular state programs fell by nearly 1 million to 14.27 million (not seasonally adjusted), continuing the fairly consistent downtrend that had started in May. Red columns: The number of people on UI under all federal programs and some other programs – after having fallen by 2.4 million last week – jumped by 737k to 13.79 million (not seasonally adjusted), driven by increases in federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims and in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claims.


Initial claims under state programs, filed by newly laid off workers, caused some head-scratching this morning, because they “unexpectedly” rose – and they rose both on a seasonally adjusted basis (by 135k to 1.11 million) and on a not seasonally adjusted basis (by 53k to 892k). So we can’t blame some seasonal adjustments gone awry. This was the first increase since the week ended July 11:

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Yves Smith.

CEOs Get Big Pre-Bankruptcy Bonuses As Lenders and Employees Stiffed (NC)

Nothing like paying for failure. The Financial Times describes how CEOs who ran their companies into the ground are nevertheless rewarded with “retention bonus” payouts shortly before the business declare bankruptcy, often mere days ahead. The absurd rationale is that it is necessary to keep a failed CEO on in order to reduce disruption. It appears instead that boards would rather pay a rich and unwarranted premium to keep a bad known quantity around, perhaps due to personal allegiances to the incumbent or because they might actually have to rouse themselves to oust the dud leader and select a replacement. Are we to believe that the stipends these boards approve has any relationship with the market value of these CEOs, even charitably assuming someone would hire them after their companies collapses underneath them?

Are we to believe there was no able lieutenant worth a battlefield promotion? No retired industry greybeard who could be engaged for an eighteen month to three year gig? No one in the ranks of turnaround expert or “temp for hire” CEOs who would do? Even worse, some of these payments are flat out looting: “Brad Holly, Whiting’s chief executive who joined the company in November 2017, received $6.4m at the end of March under a new compensation plan approved by the board of directors, which he also chairs, less than a week before the company filed for bankruptcy. Whiting, which expects to emerge from Chapter 11 next month, said last week that Mr Holly would step down as chief executive when that happens and would receive an additional $2.53m in severance. In total, Whiting paid out more than $14m to executives just a few days before declaring itself bust. In a regulatory filing on April 1 the company said its pay plan was designed “to align the interests of the Company and its employees”.

$6.4 million for Holly for at most five months of babysitting bankruptcy lawyers? Seriously? Another example: “Briggs & Stratton’s board approved more than $5m in retention payments on June 11, including more than $1m to chief executive Todd Teske, who has led the company for a decade. Four days later the company failed to make a $6.7m interest payment on a bond due later this year, and on July 20 it filed for bankruptcy. On July 19, the company’s board voted to terminate the health and life insurance benefits of the company’s retirees… The company’s 2020 bond is now trading at just a few cents on the dollar, reflecting slim hopes of recovery.

Why are these losers who almost assuredly have nowhere to go being paid in advance? Why aren’t they instead getting $1 per year and working for a contingent payout to be paid when the company emerged from bankruptcy, say tiered based upon results versus specified targets? This is the sort of deal that someone who cared about salvaging the company, as opposed to his personal bottom line, should accept.

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Facebook is the opposite of free speech.

Facebook Delenda Est (Ben Hunt)

I’m pretty close to being a free speech absolutist. Or at least I have an old-school small-l liberal John Stuart Mill-esque belief in free speech, with an extremely high bar for the “harm” that speech must directly inflict on other citizens before a rightfully constituted government, based on the consent of its citizens, has a legitimate duty to regulate that speech. And I believe that the US Supreme Court has been pretty much spot-on with its free speech decisions like Brandenburg v. Ohio and R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, where they said (roughly speaking) that even speech calling for violent protest against the government is protected speech and that hate speech isn’t a thing. Let me repeat that last one. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that hate speech is not a thing. I think this is exactly right.

To be clear, I also believe that a private organization has the right to apply hate speech standards (or any other speech standards) to its members, if those members have the ability to leave the private organization AND that organization does not enjoy unique government support. So, for example, if I choose to attend a private religious college, and they have rules against hateful/blasphemous speech, then it’s fine for them to kick me out when I start doing my hateful blasphemous speech thing. I’d never go to that college in the first place, and there are plenty of other schools I can attend. But if ALL colleges started imposing hate speech standards, or if the ONLY college started imposing hate speech standards, or if ANY public college started imposing hate speech standards … well, I’d have a real problem with any of these circumstances.

And I believe that a just government has a duty to intervene in these circumstances. Now I also believe that the US Supreme Court got it terribly, terribly wrong with Citizens United, where they decided (again, roughly speaking) that non-real life citizens – like corporations or other constructed legal entities – enjoy the same protections for political speech that real life citizens do. I’ll repeat that one, too. The US Supreme Court has held that constructed entities of pooled capital (corporations) or pooled labor (unions) or pooled political influence (parties) have the same protection for their political speech as unconstructed/unpooled you and unconstructed/unpooled me. I think this is nuts.

To be clear, I also believe that limitations on how much money or time real life citizens can spend on their political speech are similarly nuts. So, for example, I believe that really rich American citizens like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos or George Soros or Charles Koch can spend as much money as they please – literally billions of dollars if they want – to proclaim whatever cockamamie political idea they want to proclaim. What is unacceptable in my view – but is exactly what Citizens United allows – is for really rich guys to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech after they are dead, or (worse!) for corporations and unions and parties to spend unlimited amounts of other people’s money on political speech, with the same legal protections as real life citizens.

Government does not exist to protect the rights of a dead rich guy’s money. Government does not exist to protect the rights of corporations, unions and political parties. Government EXISTS to protect the unalienable rights of its citizens, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Because “we” are so much smrter than God.

Florida To Release 750 Million Genetically Modified Mosquitoes (BBC)

Local officials in Florida have approved the release of 750 million mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to reduce local populations. The aim is to reduce the number of mosquitoes that carry diseases like dengue or the Zika virus. The green-lighting of a pilot project after years of debate drew a swift outcry from environmental groups, who warned of unintended consequences. One group condemned the plan as a public “Jurassic Park experiment”. Activists warn of possible damage to ecosystems, and the potential creation of hybrid, insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. But the company involved says there will be no adverse risk to humans or the environment, and points to a slate of government-backed studies.

The plan to release the mosquitoes in 2021 in the Florida Keys, a string of islands, comes months after the modified mosquitoes were approved by federal regulators. In May, the US Environmental Agency granted permission to the British-based, US-operated company Oxitec to produce the genetically engineered, male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are known as OX5034. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are known to spread deadly diseases to humans such dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever. Only female mosquitoes bite humans because they need blood to produce eggs. So the plan is to release the male, modified mosquitoes who will then hopefully breed with wild female mosquitoes.

However the males carry a protein that will kill off any female offspring before they reach mature biting age. Males, which only feed on nectar, will survive and pass on the genes. Over time, the aim is to reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the area and thereby reduce the spread of disease to humans.

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A -large- group of ravens is called an unkindness of ravens, or a conspiracy of ravens.

‘Bored’ Ravens Straying From Tower Of London Signal Monarchy May Fall (G.)

A lack of tourists is driving the ravens at the Tower of London to boredom and causing them to fly away. Legend has it the monarchy and the Tower of London will fall if its six resident ravens leave the fortress. The birds, known as the guardians of the tower, are shrouded in myth and live in lodgings on the South Lawn. There are seven in total – the required six, plus one spare. The tower closed on 20 March and reopened five weeks ago. However, few tourists have returned. Summer visitor numbers would usually exceed 15,000 but because of the coronavirus pandemic, they have fallen to fewer than 800 a day. As a result, the birds are restless for more company.

With a lack of regular tourists, the birds have been venturing away, according to those who work there. Christopher Skaife, a raven master, told the Sun: “If the ravens were to leave, the tower would crumble to dust. The tower is only the tower when the people are here. “The ravens have always been so important … because they’ve been surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the ravens.” The seven ravens are Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina. They are free to roam the tower precincts in the day and preside over four territories within its walls.

Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned the crown and the tower would fall if they left. Skaife said during lockdown they got bored and lonely because there were no full bins to rummage or people bringing them food. He encouraged the Beefeaters who guard the building to throw them their leftovers. Skaife said: “It’s been tough because the ravens only saw me or one warden walking by during the lockdown. They depend on tourists. “Never in a raven’s history have we seen fewer people in the Tower of London. Even in world war two, there were still hundreds in and around.”


Beefeaters and a resident raven. Photo: Lynn Fergusson/Reuters

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

 

 

China building about 21.4 million vehicles annually; wide gap for next-largest producer, as Japan only makes 8.3 million each year (U.S. has gone from 2nd to 6th place over past 20 years).

 

 

If Japan were in the Atlantic, it would stretch the length of the American coastline.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 182020
 


John Vachon Paramount Theater and dairy truck, 44th Street, NYC 1943

 

Zelenko Study Suggests HCQ, Zinc Effective as Early Corona Treament (PRN)
Oxford Vaccine Could Provide ‘Double Protection’ (Sky)
Coronavirus Symptoms Fall Into Six Different Groupings (G.)
The Fed Is Setting The Stage For A Major Policy Change (BBG)
EU Leaders Deadlocked Over COVID Recovery Plan (R.)
As EU Leaders Squabble, The Elephant In The Room Goes Unnoticed (Varoufakis)
On Eve Of Bankruptcy, US Firms Shower Execs With Bonuses (R.)
A Tale of Two CNNs: A Network Struggling With Objectivity (Turley)
St. Louis Prosecutor Targeting McCloskeys Gets $78,000 From Soros Group (JTN)
White Helmets Co-Founder Stole Aid Money Destined For Syria (RT)
Docs Show Peter Strzok Tore Apart NYT Report On Trump-Russia Contacts (DC)
Joe Biden’s Plagiarism Is a Danger to America (Epshteyn)
A Bigger Picture (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maté NYT

 

 

“Hydroxychloroquine’s main function within this treatment approach is to allow zinc to enter the cell. Zinc is the virus killer..”

Zelenko Study Suggests HCQ, Zinc Effective as Early Corona Treament (PRN)

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a New York based primary care physician, announced that a retrospective analysis based on his patient data is available to read online at www.thezelenkoprotocol.com. The study, which has been submitted for peer review, found that early intervention and treatment of risk stratified COVID-19 patients in the outpatient setting resulted in five times less hospitalizations and deaths. The medications used in the treatment approach were zinc, low dose hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin. Prior studies of COVID-19 treatments have been largely based on severely ill patients in the hospital. This study examines outcomes of patients treated after their first visit to the doctor’s office.

Using simple risk stratification criteria, Dr. Zelenko identified which patients required prescriptions for the triple drug therapy, and prescribed these medications for five days. To produce the study, Zelenko collaborated with Dr. Roland Derwand, a German medical doctor and life science industry expert, and Professor Martin Scholz, an independent consultant and adjunct professor for experimental medicine at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany. Derwand and Scholz performed the data analysis while Zelenko handled all in-person treatments. The main results show that of 141 patients who were treated with the triple therapy, only 2.8% (4/141) were hospitalized compared to 15.4% of an untreated control group (58/377) (odds ratio 0.16, 95% CI 0.06-0.5; p<0.001).

Only 0.71% (1/141) patients died in the treatment group, versus 3.5% (13/377) in the untreated group (odds ratio 0.2, 95% CI 0.03-1.5; p=0.16). “These three medications are affordable, available in pill form, and work in synergy against COVID-19,” said Zelenko. “Hydroxychloroquine’s main function within this treatment approach is to allow zinc to enter the cell. Zinc is the virus killer, and azithromycin prevents secondary bacterial infection in the lungs and reduces the risk of pulmonary complications.” “The world seems to have forgotten common medical knowledge: that we want to treat any patient with an infectious disease as soon as possible,” said Derwand. “What differentiates this study is that patients were prescribed these medications early, in the outpatient setting. Dr. Zelenko treated his risk stratified patients immediately and didn’t wait for the disease to intensify.”

“The well-tolerated 5-day triple therapy resulted in a significantly lower hospitalization rate and less fatalities with no reported cardiac side effects compared with relevant public reference data of untreated patients,” said Sholz. “The magnitude of the results can substantially elevate the relevance of early use, low dose hydroxychloroquine, especially in combination with zinc. This data can be used to inform ongoing pandemic response policies as well as future clinical trials.” “It’s unfortunate much of the news coverage surrounding hydroxychloroquine has been negative,” Zelenko added. “This study suggests that when taken early and together with zinc and azithromycin, this cost-effective drug can be part of the solution to the pandemic.”

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Shame they don’t explain what that double thing might be. Reads like an ad.

Oxford Vaccine Could Provide ‘Double Protection’ (Sky)

Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they have made a breakthrough in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Human trials are reported to have shown promising results after the team discovered the jab could provide “double protection” against the virus. Blood samples taken from volunteers in phase one trials have shown the vaccine stimulated the body to produce antibodies and T-cells, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. T-cells play a central part in the body’s immune response. A source told the newspaper that the combination “will hopefully keep people safe”. The vaccine is one of more than 100 in development as the coronavirus continues to spread – infecting more than 13 million people and killing at least 582,000.

David Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial, said the vaccine team was “absolutely on track”. He added: “Nobody can put final dates… things might go wrong but the reality is that by working with a big pharma company, that vaccine could be fairly widely available around September and that is the sort of target they are working on.” The vaccine development is being supported by the UK government and AstraZeneca. The pharmaceutical company’s chief executive said last month that phase one trials were due to finish and a phase three trial had begun which will see the vaccine given to thousands of people so it can be tested for efficacy and safety.

The firm has reached agreements to supply around two billion doses worldwide, despite acknowledging that it is not yet certain the vaccine will work. The vaccine is based on a weakened version of the common cold that causes infections in chimpanzees. It also contains the genetic material of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 – the strain of coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. The UK government has also given £41m to the development of another coronavirus vaccine being developed by London’s Imperial College.

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If you let an algoritm do your work for you, it had better be a very good one. This feels shaky.

Coronavirus Symptoms Fall Into Six Different Groupings (G.)

Symptoms of Covid-19 appear to fall into six different groupings, researchers have revealed, in work they say could help to predict whether a patient will end up needing a ventilator or other breathing support. The team say the findings could give healthcare providers several days advanced warning of demand for hospital care and respiratory support. But it could also help flag patients at risk of becoming seriously ill, meaning home support, such as an oxygen meter or nurse visits, could be provided so that any deterioration is spotted quickly and hospital attendance is prompt. At present, the team added, the average time to get to hospital with Covid-19 is 13 days.

[..] The researchers drew on data from 1,653 users who tested positive for Covid-19, reported persistent symptoms and regularly logged updates on their health and situation. Overall, 383 of these users made at least one trip to hospital, and 107 required either extra oxygen or ventilation. [..] The team then used machine learning algorithms – a type of artificial intelligence – to explore whether some symptoms, among the 14 monitored, cluster together. The results suggest six different groupings based on the type of symptoms, when they occurred, and their duration within the first 14 days of participants’ sickness.

And there was more. “We saw that there was a very clear gradient between these clusters and outcomes in terms of [participants’ need for] respiratory support,” said Dr Claire Steves, clinical senior author on the paper from King’s College London, adding other factors such as older age or certain pre-existing medical conditions were more common in some groups.

The six groupings, or “clusters”, are:
Cluster 1: Mainly upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as a persistent cough, with muscle pain also present. About 1.5% of patients in this group required respiratory support, with 16% making one or more trips to hospital. This was the most common cluster of symptoms, affecting 462 participants.
Cluster 2: Mainly upper respiratory tract symptoms, but also a greater frequency of skipped meals and fever. Of patients in this group 4.4% required respiratory support, with 17.5% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 3: Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, but few other symptoms. While only 3.7% of patients in this group later needed respiratory support, almost 24% made at least one visit to hospital.
Cluster 4: Early signs of severe fatigue, continuous chest pain and cough. Of patients in this group 8.6% required respiratory support, with 23.6% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 5: Confusion, skipped meals and severe fatigue. Of patients in this group 9.9% required respiratory support, with 24.6% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 6: Marked respiratory distress including early onset of breathlessness and chest pain, as well as confusion, fatigue and gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost 20% of this group needed respiratory support and 45.5% made one or more visits to hospital. But this was the least common symptom cluster, affecting 167 participants.

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The theories they base their decisions on are either outdated, plain wrong or made up on the spot. They have one thing in common: they benefit banks, not people. As long as the Fed remains in place, the US will never have a healthy economy.

The Fed Is Setting The Stage For A Major Policy Change (BBG)

For the Federal Reserve, this time really is different. Having learned a hard lesson in the last recovery – don’t tighten monetary policy too early – the central bank is leaning in the opposite direction. In practice, that means the Fed will not just emphasize actual inflation over forecasted inflation, but will also attempt to push the inflate rate above its 2 per cent target. It’s a whole new ballgame. The Fed’s traditional Phillips curve approach to forecasting inflation, which relies on the theory that inflation accelerates as unemployment falls, was widely criticized during the most recent economic recovery. Inflation remained quiescent in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis even as the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 per cent, well below the 2012 high estimate of the natural rate, or 5.6 per cent.

The Fed’s commitment to Phillips curve-based inflation forecasts induced it to raise interest rates too early in the cycle and continue to boost rates into late 2018 even as faltering markets signaled the hikes had gone too far. The Fed was eventually forced to lower rates 75 basis points in 2019 to put a floor under the economy. Inflation remained stubbornly below the Fed’s 2 per cent target throughout that period. Faced now with the prospect of another prolonged period of low inflation, Fed officials are signaling they will place less emphasis on Phillips curve estimates when setting policy. Fed Governor Lael Brainard said this week that “with inflation exhibiting low sensitivity to labor market tightness, policy should not preemptively withdraw support based on a historically steeper Phillips curve that is not currently in evidence.”

No longer are estimates of longer-run unemployment taken as almost certainly indicating the economy is at full employment. Instead, Brainard said the Fed should focus on achieving “employment outcomes with the kind of breadth and depth that were only achieved late in the previous recovery.” The Fed is going to try to run the economy hot to push down unemployment. By de-emphasizing the Philips curve, the Fed loses its primary inflation forecasting tool. Instead of an inflation forecast, the Fed will rely on actual inflation outcomes to determine the appropriate time to change policy. Brainard pointed out that “research suggests that refraining from liftoff until inflation reaches 2 per cent could lead to some modest temporary overshooting, which would help offset the previous underperformance.”

Read more …

The sheer quantity of the economic losses may well tear the EU apart. The rich countries have rich citizens to answer to, the poor have different problems.

EU Leaders Deadlocked Over COVID Recovery Plan (R.)

EU leaders failed on Friday to make headway in negotiations over a massive stimulus plan to breathe life into economies ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, returning to their Brussels hotels shortly before midnight to rest and try again in the morning. Many of the 27 heads declared on arrival for their first face-to-face summit for five months that a deal was crucial to rescue economies in free fall and shore up faith in the European Union, which has lurched for years from crisis to crisis. But officials said a thrifty camp of wealthy northern states led by the Netherlands stood its ground on access to the recovery fund, in the face of opposition from Germany, France, southern nations Italy and Spain, and eastern European states.

The proposed sums under discussion include the EU’s 2021-27 budget of more than 1 trillion euros and the recovery fund worth 750 billion euros that will be funneled mostly to Mediterranean coast countries worst affected by the pandemic. Diplomats said the 27 remained at odds over the overall size of the package, the split between grants and repayable loans in the recovery fund and rule-of-law strings attached to it. But the main stumbling block was over vetting procedures to access aid, an EU official said, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanding that one country could block payouts from the fund if member states backslide on economic reform. “If they want loans and even grants then I think it’s only logical that I can explain to people in the Netherlands … that in return those reforms have taken place,” Rutte said, estimating the chances for a deal at fifty-fifty.

Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki was even more gloomy. As the leaders broke up for the day, he tweeted that they were divided by a bundle of issues and said it was “highly probable” that they would fail to reach a deal on Saturday or even on Sunday if the summit drags past its scheduled two days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who celebrated her 66th birthday around the negotiating table in Brussels, was also cautious on chances for an agreement, envisaging “very, very difficult negotiations”.

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Recovery plan: 1%. Austerity: 4%.

As EU Leaders Squabble, The Elephant In The Room Goes Unnoticed (Varoufakis)

While the media are reporting the news of the deadlocked EU Summit negotiations over the so-called ‘Recovery Fund’, an eerie silence prevails regarding the Elephant in the Room: The huge wave of austerity the Eurozone is sleepwalking towards. Let’s look at the facts. Even if the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Rutte, and the rest of the ‘frugal four’, were to remove their objections to the Recovery Fund’s terms and conditions, the net fiscal effect across the Eurozone will be no more than 1% annually for three years. Now, let us turn to the Elephant in the Room: the dreaded return of the obligation to balance government budgets, the infamous Fiscal Compact.

According to the optimistic scenario of the European Commission, the Eurozone’s mean government budget in 2020 will be -8% of total Eurozone GDP . Of this, next year, the nascent steady-state recovery will remove, at best 4%, leaving the Eurozone, on average, with a -4% 2021 budget deficit. Moreover, as this is a mean, some countries (e.g. Italy and Greece) are facing, in 2021, a steady state budget deficit in excess of -8% (down from -15% in 2020). Which means that, to get back to balanced budgets, on average, the Eurozone will impose upon itself fiscal austerity of approximately 4% of its aggregate GDP, with countries like Italy and Greece facing an austerity nightmare in excess of 8% of their crushed GDP.

If this were to be allowed to happen, the Recover Fund’s 1% annual fiscal boost will be countered by a 4% fiscal austerity wave. As Europe begins to recover from the pandemic’s disastrous effects, Brussels will be hitting our economies over the head with a sledgehammer. And yet, ultimate proof that the EU’s establishment resembles the Bourbons (in that they forget nothing and learn nothing!), our great and good leaders refuse to discuss this ominous Elephant in the Room, choosing instead to invest hours in endless negotiations over the 1% fiscal boost and whether it should be reduced or how it will be managed.

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This is America.

On Eve Of Bankruptcy, US Firms Shower Execs With Bonuses (R.)

Nearly a third of more than 40 large companies seeking U.S. bankruptcy protection during the coronavirus pandemic awarded bonuses to executives within a month of filing their cases, according to a Reuters analysis of securities filings and court records. Under a 2005 bankruptcy law, companies are banned, with few exceptions, from paying executives retention bonuses while in bankruptcy. But the firms seized on a loophole by granting payouts before filing. Six of the 14 companies that approved bonuses within a month of their filings cited business challenges executives faced during the pandemic in justifying the compensation.Even more firms paid bonuses in the half-year period before their bankruptcies.

Thirty-two of the 45 companies Reuters examined approved or paid bonuses within six months of filing. Nearly half authorized payouts within two months. Eight companies, including J.C. Penney and Hertz, approved bonuses as few as five days before seeking bankruptcy protection. Hi-Crush Inc, a supplier of sand for oil-and-gas fracking, paid executive bonuses two days before its July 12 filing. J.C. Penney – forced to temporarily close its 846 department stores and furlough about 78,000 of its 85,000 employees as the pandemic spread – approved nearly $10 million in payouts just before its May 15 filing. On Wednesday, the company said it would permanently close 152 stores and lay off 1,000 employees.

[..] Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group in March temporarily closed all of its 67 stores and in April furloughed more than 11,000 employees. The company paid $4 million in bonuses to Chairman and Chief Executive Geoffroy van Raemdonck in February and more than $4 million to other executives in the weeks before its May 7 bankruptcy filing, court records show. Neiman Marcus drew scrutiny this week on a plan it proposed after filing for bankruptcy to pay additional bonuses to executives. Hertz – which recently terminated more than 14,000 workers – paid senior executives bonuses of $1.5 million days before its May 22 bankruptcy, in part to recognize the uncertainty they faced from the pandemic’s impact on travel, the company said in a filing.

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Turley is overly diplomatic. CNN left objectivity behind a long time ago. CNN only still exists because Trump exists and they can dump on him 24/7.

A Tale of Two CNNs: A Network Struggling With Objectivity (Turley)

There was a telling moment of dissonance on CNN this week, a network that is now unrelenting in its negative and highly partisan coverage of the Administration. CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta has been repeatedly called out for such bias and sent out a clearly misleading tweet bashing White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Meanwhile, CNN host Jake Tapper set the record straight in fairness to McEnany. While I have occasionally criticized Tapper, I have more often praised him for his professionalism and intellect. This is why. This is what CNN was once and, with the help of figures like Tapper, it could be again: an honest and objective news organization.

In Thursday’s briefing, McEnany repeated President Trump’s call for children to go back to school in the fall. “The science should not stand in the way of this, but as Dr. Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote, ‘Of course, we can do it. Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.’ The science is very clear on this. For example, you look at the JAMA pediatric study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than the seasonal flu. The science is on our side here. We encourage localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.”

She is clearly citing the science as supporting the position of the Administration. However, Acosta clipped the statement to make it sound like McEnany was dismissing the relevance of science: “The White House Press Secretary on Trump’s push to reopen schools: ‘The science should not stand in the way of this.’” That was clearly and absolutely false. However, Acosta knew that it would play well in the eco-journalistic model adopted by CNN. He quickly racked up 30,000 retweets. He then later added that McEnany actually meant the opposite. That received less than 700 retweets. It is the ultimate example of the demand of many viewers to only hear news that supports their own bias and adds to a type of journalistic comfort zone.

That was clearly and absolutely false. However, Acosta knew that it would play well in the eco-journalistic model adopted by CNN. He quickly racked up 30,000 retweets. He then later added that McEnany actually meant the opposite. That received less than 700 retweets. It is the ultimate example of the demand of many viewers to only hear news that supports their own bias and adds to a type of journalistic comfort zone. To Acosta’s credit, he sent out the second tweet, but saying “McEnany went on to say ‘the science is on our side here’” does not quite capture the scene. The quote was McEnany referring to a scientific study and, right after the line quoted, McEnany said “The science is very clear on this.” She then two lines later added “The science is on our side here.” The entire quote was McEnany raising a scientific study that supports their position.

It is akin to a McEnany saying “National security is not relevant because the Defense Department report supports this policy” only to have Acosta tweet “The White House Press Secretary: “National Security is not relevant” in White House policy. Over at CNN headquarters however Tapper stepped out of that comfort zone and corrected CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta after he repeated the same false narrative that McEnany was having an “alternative facts kind of moment.” Tapper responded: “If I could just say, Sanjay,. I think she was just trying to say that the science shouldn’t stand in the way because the science is on our side. I don’t know that all of the science is on their side- and certainly, this White House, their respect for science knows bounds, let’s put it that way, but I think that’s what she was getting at.”

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Where the real battle is.

St. Louis Prosecutor Targeting McCloskeys Gets $78,000 From Soros Group (JTN)

The Missouri Justice Public Safety PAC, which is linked to George Soros, has donated nearly $78,000 in contributions to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s 2020 campaign, according to her July 15, 2020 financial report, obtained by Just the News. Missouri Justice & Public Safety PAC, which donated the amount through in-kind contributions, was contacted for this story but has yet to respond with comment. The Washington, D.C.-based political action committee is listed at the same street address as one that contributed to Gardner’s 2016 campaign. The Safety and Justice PAC that contributed to the 2016 campaign has the same 13th Street NW address of the Missouri Justice & Public Safety PAC. Both have financial links to Soros.

“Yes, it’s no secret we contribute to Safety and Justice PACs,” Soros spokesman Michael Vachon, told Just the News. “We are for criminal justice reform.” The Gardner campaign filed its financial report on Thursday, the same day Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to Attorney William Barr calling for a federal civil rights investigation into Gardner. Gardner, St. Louis’ top prosecutor, remains under criminal investigation for her handling of the criminal investigation into former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens. More recently, Gardner has targeted Mark and Patricia McCloskey for defending their home June 28 when they brandished their guns as hundreds of Black Lives Matters protestors trespassed onto their property as they headed to the St. Louis mayor’s home.

The protesters barged through the McCloskeys’ privately closed gate and onto their private road. President Trump and Missouri Governor Michael Parson have even weighed in with concern for how Gardner is handling the situation. Hawley, who is the former Missouri attorney general, argues that Gardner has abused her office after seizing McCloskey’s guns while pursuing a possible indictment of the married couple.

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I’m so surprised I can’t tell you. These wankers receive over $30 million a year from governments?! To do what? Plants chemical canisters twice a year?

White Helmets Co-Founder Stole Aid Money Destined For Syria (RT)

As Western governments opened their checkbooks for the White Helmets – a controversial ‘rescue organization’ in Syria – their co-founder used the cash to top up his wage and even finance his wedding, according to a Dutch report. Days before he plunged from a window in Istanbul to his death last year, White Helmets co-founder and British mercenary James Le Mesurier admitted to defrauding Mayday Rescue, an organization that fundraised for the anti-government rescue group in Syria. According to documents seen by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Le Mesurier told an accountant sent to audit the charity’s books that he forged receipts for $50,000, pretending that it was sent to finance an evacuation operation in Syria.

Instead, the money was paid to Le Mesurier himself. In addition to paying himself a salary of €24,000 ($27,414) per month, Le Mesurier dipped into company cash to finance a lavish wedding in Istanbul in 2018, and to issue loans to his new wife, former diplomat Emma Winberg, the report claims. The accountant sent to investigate Mayday found that “tens of thousands of dollars in cash” were withdrawn to pay for the “fairytale wedding.” Meanwhile, governments across the Western world were lining up to support Mayday, and channel money to the White Helmets. According to a 2018 report by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the organization took in $127 million between 2014 and 2018, with only $19 million of this haul coming from non-state donors.

The government of the Netherlands paid out almost $11.5 million in this period, while similar donations flowed in from Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Qatar, and others. Despite being hailed as fearless rescue workers, the White Helmets have been accused of partnering with Al-Qaeda. Operating exclusively in rebel-held territory, the group’s members have been photographed posing with jihadists and have been accused of staging chemical weapons attacks to draw in Western forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Le Mesurier’s death was deemed a suicide by Turkish authorities. Shortly afterwards, a number of countries that had donated to Mayday demanded an accountant have another look over the organization’s books. According to De Volkskrant, this probe found that most of Mayday’s financial records are “missing.” Donations were not just handed to the organization in Amsterdam and forwarded to Syria, but distributed through a network of commercial organizations in Turkey and Dubai.

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Less than four months until the election.

Docs Show Peter Strzok Tore Apart NYT Report On Trump-Russia Contacts (DC)

An FBI document released Friday details at least 14 inaccuracies in a New York Times report from early 2017 that leveled shocking allegations of Trump associates’ contacts with Russian intelligence officers. The document shows then-FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok’s comments on a Feb. 14, 2017 article entitled “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” Written by journalists Michael Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, the story cited four current and former American officials who said that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies had intercepted call records showing that Trump associates had contacts with Russian intelligence in the year prior to the election. Strzok, who was the lead investigator on the Trump investigation, spotted 14 errors in the article.

The Senate Judiciary Committee released the document on Friday along with a memo of the FBI’s interviews with a key source of information for dossier author Christopher Steele. “This statement is inaccurate and misleading as written,” Strzok wrote in reference to the lead of the Times story, which said that officials had intercepted calls and obtained phone records of contacts between Russian intelligence officials and individuals associated with Trump. “We have not seen evidence of any individuals affiliated with the Trump team in contact with [Intelligence Officers],” Strzok’s note said. The Times reported that sources said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was one of the individuals picked up in intercepted calls with Russian intelligence officers.

The story also said that the FBI was sifting through a vast trove of call logs and intercepted communications as part of the investigation into any links between Trump associates and Russia. Strzok discounted those allegations, writing that “we are unaware of any call with any Russian government official in which Manafort was a party.” He also wrote that the FBI had “very few” call logs in its possession. Strzok reiterated in another section of the document that the FBI had no evidence that any Trump advisers had contact with Russian intelligence officials. “Again, we are unaware of ANY Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials,” he wrote.

The Times also inaccurately reported that the FBI was at the time investigation Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant. “We have not investigated Roger Stone,” Strzok wrote in reference to a section that said the FBI had “closely examined” the political operative along with several Trump campaign aides. [..] Sen. Lindsey Graham, who released the FBI documents on Friday, said in a press release that Strzok’s annotations on the Times article “are devastating in that they are an admission that there was no reliable evidence that anyone from the Trump Campaign was working with Russian Intelligence Agencies in any form.”

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And he’s not even doing the plagiarizing. His puppeteers to do it for him.

Joe Biden’s Plagiarism Is a Danger to America (Epshteyn)

Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden has a serious problem: His compulsive plagiarism has gotten out of control. As is clearly evident from his new policy platform, the former vice president just can’t stop stealing original ideas from other politicians—a rather worrying sign for someone whose mental fitness for the pressures of the presidency has already come under serious scrutiny. Biden’s “Made in America” doctrine—which calls for increased government purchases from U.S. producers—is strikingly similar to President Trump’s own America First economic platform. In fact, it’s almost identical to the executive order the president signed a full year ago prioritizing the purchasing of American-made products and the hiring of American workers by government agencies.

“Biden starts with a pretty basic idea—when we spend taxpayer money, we should buy American products and support American jobs,” the document reads, echoing Donald Trump’s repeated calls to “buy American” products and “hire American” workers (the very ideas the president has already put into practice using his executive authority). “He plagiarized from me, but he could never pull it off,” President Trump said recently, pointing out that Biden’s policies would not have nearly the same rejuvenating effect on the U.S. economy as Trump’s own decisive actions. “He likes plagiarizing. …But he said the right things because he’s copying what I’ve done, but the difference is he can’t do it.”

Of course, this sort of thing is nothing new for Biden. The “unity platform” he just released—a 110-page list of policy recommendations for the Democratic Party—shamelessly appropriated entire chunks of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “democratic-socialist” political agenda, in many cases word-for-word. Indeed, Biden even invited members of Bernie’s policy team to help craft the proposals. Last year, the Biden presidential campaign was also called out for pilfering language from various far-left special interest groups while crafting the candidate’s climate and education policies. Biden’s track record of plagiarism, in fact, can be traced all the way back to his days in law school. When confronted with his academic fraud, Biden airily blew off the accusations by claiming that his cheating was not “malevolent.”

The ugly tendency came back to haunt him during his 1988 presidential campaign, when he shamelessly stole turns of phrase from former Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and even appropriated the life story of British Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock. Biden’s extensive history of plagiarism shows that neither he nor his political team have a clear, independent vision for the country. While the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has never liked being called an empty vessel or a Trojan horse, that is precisely what his candidacy this election cycle has now become.

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Jim back to basics.

A Bigger Picture (Jim Kunstler)

In 1918, the country was lashed by a far deadlier pandemic disease at the same time it was fighting a world war, and daily life barely missed a step. The economy then was emphatically one of production, not the mere consumption of things made elsewhere in the world (exchanged for US IOUs), nor of tanning parlors, nail salons, streaming services, and Pilates studios. The economy was a mix of large, medium, and small enterprises, not just floundering giants, especially in the retail commerce of goods.

We lived distributed in towns, cities not-yet-overgrown, and a distinctly rural landscape devoted to rural activities — not the vast demolition derby of entropic suburbia that has no future as a human habitat. Banking was only 5% of the economy, not the bloated matrix of rackets now swollen to more than 40% of so-called GDP. Government at the federal and state levels was miniscule compared to the suffocating, parasitic leviathan it is now. What happened? Like Hemingway’s old quip about a man going broke slowly and then all-at-once, we allowed everything in American life to creep into hapless giantism too cumbersome to adapt to new conditions, and suddenly conditions have changed.

And now it’s all coming apart: the dying chain stores, the giant zombie companies that can only exist by borrowing money to buy back their own stocks, the auto-makers who have run out of lending schemes for non-creditworthy customers, the shale oil fracking companies that could never make a red cent, the agri-biz farmers grown morbidly obese on a diet of credit and government subsidies (just like their end-customers grew obese on engineered snack-foods), the Wall Street lords of financialization hypothecating fortunes by leveraging the stripped assets of everything not nailed down from sea to shining sea, the swelling underclass conditioned to helplessness, addiction, and vice, the inescapable ambient tyranny of media hype, propaganda, and disinformation, and, of course, the catastrophe that government has become.

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 September 11, 2019  Posted by at 1:26 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

 

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this.

That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted. And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy.

So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Once again, testimony to Julian’s profound insight if not intelligence. And testimony to how much he is missed, withering away in solitary confinement in a prison for terrorists while he should be explaining our world to us.

Still, Varoufakis has some good points as well I find:

The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels.

Wayne has some more well-argued thoughts on the difference in thinking between Assange and Varoufakis. Here he is:

 

 

Wayne Hall: I am Wayne Hall and I’m speaking from Athens. I have a message for the Unity 4j network in defence of Julian Assange and first and foremost for the Greek group. Many if not most of Julian’s defenders in Europe are on the Left. In the US the situation is different but here we are talking about Europe. Some of Julian’s Leftist defenders even criticize him for not being Left himself. If he is not a Leftist what is he?

I think he would say that the question of truth and falsehood should take priority over political identity and that this is particularly urgent because at this moment the world is approaching a situation of near total domination of either falsehood in public discussion or else of censorship. At the moment a hot issue in Europe is Britain’s relations with the European Union. It is certainly more discussed than Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Wikileaks.

I have proposed the idea of opening a discussion under the title “From Wikileaks to Brexit” and I have been confronted with this question “what is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit?” The first point I would like to make in response to this is to remind people, or inform people, because most probably they will not know, that on the day of the Brexit referendum (23rd June 2016) that has led to the current situation in relations between Britain and the EU, Julian Assange organized a comprehensive debate on Brexit with a wide range of activists, scholars and other citizens, and made it available through live streaming.

At that time Julian was still in the Ecuadorian Embassy and was able to receive visitors, have access to the internet and speak to the public. This was changed on 28th March 2018 and on 11th April 2019 Assange was expelled from the Embassy, tried and imprisoned. At the moment he is being held incommunicado and also prevented from preparing for the hearing on extradition to the United States, to be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. The hearing in England is programmed for 25th February 2020.

The discussion on Brexit hosted by Julian Assange has characteristics that are not present in the Brexit debate as it is being conducted today. The Assange discussion strives for impartiality and a plurality of viewpoints, mostly sincere, unscripted viewpoints of a kind that seem today, unfortunately, to be disappearing from public discussion.

Hopefully this offers the beginning of an answer to the question “What is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit”? The participant in the discussion that is featured in the following video is Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister in the first six months of the 2015 to 2019 SYRIZA government headed by Alexis Tsipras. Varoufakis resigned from this government in protest at its surrendering to pressures from the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Assange’s and Varoufakis’ stance on the Brexit issues are not the same. Assange is more or less favourable to Brexit. Varoufakis and the citizens’ movement he founded, DiEM25, campaigned against it, saying that the issue was not that Britain should withdraw from the EU but that the EU should become an entity with which British people and people in other EU member countries would wish to be associated.

Assange asked Varoufakis an important question just before the result of the referendum became known. He said, if the Remains side wins, will there be any pressure at all for the kinds of changes in the EU that DiEM25 seeks to promote? Varoufakis replied that DiEM will see to it that the pressure continues. But is this what has happened, even though it is the Leave side, not the Remain side, that won the referendum? There has been a separation between the Assange question and the Brexit question.

A defence campaign for Julian Assange is under way but it faces a mainstream media blackout. A recent concert by Pink Floyd member Roger Waters was totally ignored by the channels that the majority of people watch. Was DiEM25 able to help get this concert into the mainstream media? And in any case, was Roger Waters’ message the same as what Julian’s message would have been if he had been able to speak for himself? Has the campaign against Brexit, against Trump and against Boris Johnson displaced the campaign for democracy? And is democracy favoured when a British Prime Minister is prevented from being able to call an election?

All because of a change in the electoral law voted on the initiative of the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg in 2011 to make it more difficult for his coalition partner the Tory David Cameron to bring down the fragile Tory-Lib Dem coalition government that was in power at that time. How much is the media talking about this factor? How much is it being mentioned by DiEM25? Doubtless it would be mentioned by Julian Assange but he is no longer a participant in public discussion. If disinformation and censorship is becoming universalized and control over it almost total, the question of right wing versus left wing politics becomes a secondary issue.

Not to be ignored but not given priority over accuracy and availability of correct information. This is a basic component of Julian Assange’s world view. On 8th September 2019 Labour members of the House of Commons sang “The Red Flag” as they supported the moves against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to call an election. Is the symbolism of this enough to open minds?

 

 

Transcript for the video


Introduction:

The Brexit referendum took place on 23rd June 2016 to ask if the United Kingdom should remain a member of, or leave the European Union. Julian Assange, at that time being given political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy but also free from the restrictions later imposed by the successor Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno, was still able to receive visitors, organize meetings and use the internet. He held a marathon videorecorded discussion of Brexit with a variety of activists, journalists, public figures and supportive citizens. The referendum resulted in 51.89% of votes being in favour of leaving the EU. One of the people Assange interviewed was Yanis Varoufakis.

 

Julian Assange: This is Brexit club, live streaming at Brexitclub.eu throughout the evening as we count the Brexit vote from here inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. I’m Julian Assange. This embassy, some of you probably know, has been under a police siege for the last four years, incredibly. Here at the centre of the siege we have Yanis Varoufakis calling in from Rome. He is the immediately former Finance Minister of Greece, who famously negotiated with Schaeuble and the European Central Bank in relation to the Greek bailout. Naomi Colvin, the London director of the Courage Foundation. She represents a number of people who are being extradited from the UK. Craig Murray,former ambassador to Usbekistan. A Scot, so he’ll have some social perspective. He’s come down…. Where in Scotland, Craig?

Craig Murray: Edinburgh.

Julian Assange: To join us. And Srecko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher, who perhaps can give us an Eastern European perspective. He’s also involved in something that Yanis Varoufakis founded, which is the DiEM25 movement, which is the movement from the Left, essentially, to create ideas and structure a unity for a new and better Europe, not the Europe we have now, which I think most people concede has an enormous democratic deficit.

Yanis, your thoughts from Rome, where you are now. (He’s not from Rome. He’s Greek).

Yanis Varoufakis: Well you know we’re all pigs after all, you know. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, even Spain. We’re all the swine of Europe. Well, Julian, you say that from where I’m standing it seems that the “remain” may have a small lead. It’s not clear yet. As we know DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe movement that you were so kind as to refer to a moment ago – and which of course you have signed the Manifesto of.

Julian Assange: That’s right, which I have signed the Manifesto of I must confess and which I helped, with some words……

Yanis Varoufakis: Unlike you, as a movement, we have campaigned vigorously in favour of a radical “in” vote, not the kind of “in” votes or “remains” that Cameron has been campaigning for, which together with Hillary Clinton, Francois Hollande, Wolfgang Schaueble, Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Barack Obama and all the other contributors to the loss of the European Union legitimately, technically and so on. We’ve been campaigning for a radical “in” and “against” the European Union approach, to struggle within the European Union institutions in order to usurp them, in a sense.

A standard dialectical position about how to enter a particular set of institutions and try to change them from within through confrontation, not just mere reform. One way or the other, my view – and I think it’s where we differ is that the British people have clearly given the ambivalence that they are displaying on the runup to the referendum and I’m sure that that ambivalence will be demonstrated today….

And we’re saying that the establishment, both in London and in Brussels, has spectacularly failed with Brexit. The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels. And it is clear to us in DiEM25 that if “remain” wins, even though we campaigned for “remain”, we are not in any mood for celebration.

We rejected the logic of the European Union, the creation of the Brexit. But we also reject the logic of “business as usual”, which is the establishment view in Brussels and in London. And as of today, whatever the result might be we are going to promote, continue promoting a radical agenda for confronting the Establishment in London and Brussels and Paris everywhere and to put in practice the ideas that can be linked to. . Bring together European democrats in a fight to democratize Europe. And therefore we see 24th June as the beginning of a very long campaign. We certainly don’t see it as the beginning of “business as usual” or the end of some process.

Julian Assange: Do you think there are opportunities, Yanis, in the case of a “remain” result, of course, you know the Junckers of this world, the Camerons, respectively I suppose, European federalists and Transatlanticists will be celebrating, trying to suggest that it was a landslide, for example. I think that is highly unlikely. It seems like it is going to be a very close vote, whichever way it is. Do you think that there is an opportunity to take hold. Is there an opportunity at all if there is a “remain” outcome?

Yanis Varoufakis: Oh there is always an opportunity and we are going to make sure there is one. We will carve one out of the Establishment’s hopes for “business as usual”. We’re not going to allow them to celebrate. We’re going to make sure that the scare that they got from this referendum, and they did get a major scare, is going to be magnified. And we are going to try to utilize that fear that the popular will has instilled into their souls by coalescing around a democratic campaign from Ireland to Greece, from the Baltics all the way to Portugal. We’re not going to allow them to even imagine that they can continue doing what they have been doing all those years.

And in any case the European crisis, including immigration, even though it has a gigantic human cost in terms of actual lives that are being diminished as a result of this crisis, nevertheless this crisis is going to make sure that they cannot be allowed to celebrate. They know that they are clueless. They have no idea as to stabilize this undemocratic, antidemocratic, European Union, and it is the peoples of Europe that have an opportunity to seize upon the democratic process that culminates in this referendum in order to create the space we need for an integrating democracy in Europe and for making sure that they have sleepless night after sleepless night.

Julian Assange: Tomorrow, Yanis, when the result is known and I guess the work must start, tomorrow, across the weekend, on Monday, if it’s a leave, what is the call by DiEM to heed the lessons of a Leave vote?

Yanis Varoufakis: I’d like to speak personally for a moment and then on behalf of DiEM. I can do that too but I think it is more honest and straightforward to speak personally. I happen to be a politician who last year was crushed by Brussels, crushed by Berlin, crushed by Frankfurt, where the European Central Bank is domiciled. and vilified by the scandal press, throughout Europe, in Greece, the world over. And yet in this campaign I campaigned for remaining in the EU.

Not because of any love lost between me and the European Union but because of the particular judgements that we need an internationalist agenda, we need a narrative of binding people together, within the European Union against the European Union. I believe in being honest to people like Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jean-Claude Juncker, my own comrades who remain now in the European Union completely surrendered to its ways and means and the idea that there is no alternative logic, and I say to them: We radicals who opposed Brussels argue for Remain.

We went, I went, personally, to Birmingham, to Ireland, to Wales, to Ireland, to London, to Scotland, and campaigning for the British people to stay in. And the British people turned it down. And they turned it down not because they didn’t want to listen to me. They turned it down because you, the Establishment of the European Union has made such a deep mess of the European Union that it was impossible to convince them to continue to accept you as the established order of Europe. So we tried to save the European Union from you, and you who are supposed to be the custodians of the European Union have failed so badly.

Julian Assange: I mean, to my mind, if there is a successful Leave vote, and I mean we have some vote counts here, but they’re very early. 146,000 England-wide Leave votes 136,000 Remain votes. I don’t think you can say very much on that. Actually, here we have some slightly updated but still very early. Remain on 49.5%. Brexit on 50.5%. The vote counts are only 150,000 so it doesn’t really mean anything statistically. But, what was I saying? So yes, if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far.

And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted.

And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy. So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Yanis Varoufakis: It is very much so. Indeed I dedicated a whole book recently on precisely that. And I’ve described the European Union as a postwar cartel of heavy industry which was pretty adept at creating consensus around it throughout Europe. Think of the period of growth when it was distributing monopoly profits throughout Europe and in a way which was very unequal but nevertheless it created alliances between different social groups for instance there was a Greek monopoly that gave the profits to farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Cartels that could be good at distributing the goodies during the good times but they are pretty appalling and inefficient when it comes to distributing burdens in periods of crisis and particularly when it comes to arresting the crisis through macroeconomic adjustment policies which recycle surpluses and deficits in a way that is macroeconomically sustainable. And Europe has really failed in this task especially since 2008. And you don’t have to wait for today’s result, or tonight’s result to be given. Just look at the Eurobarometers. The Eurobarometer is an official European Union opinion poll which is controlling over time. …..

Julian Assange: And what is it? It’s a port for the EU.

Yanis Varoufakis: The vast majority of Europeans declared that they have confidence in the institutions of the European Union. Percentages above 65-70%. In some countries more than 80%. If you look at the same data today on the same questions. “Do you trust the institutions of the European Union?” in most countries you get below 50%. In some countries you get below 35%. So there is no doubt about it.

 

 

NOTE: the video continues after the conversation with Varoufakis, and I didn’t want to cut it off.

 

 

 

 

Aug 052019
 


Piet Mondriaan Study for Blue Apple Tree Series 1908

 

Currency War Begins: China Crashes Yuan Past 7, Halts US Agri Imports (ZH)
China Lets Yuan Slump Past 7 Per Dollar For First Time In Over A Decade (R.)
Hong Kong Brought To A Standstill As City-Wide Strikes And Protests Hit (G.)
Job Growth In Trump Land Is Dead In The Water (MW)
10 Alarming Things About The Economy That Politicians Won’t Tell You (MW)
The Crashes That Cause Grown Men To Cry (Eric Peters)
Inside The Plunge Protection Team: Chaos (ZH)
Russiagate is the New 42 (Craig Murray)
Austerity Populism (G.)
Bellingcat Unloads 4,000-Word Hit Piece On Tulsi Gabbard (RT)
America’s Other Original Sin (Bacevich)

 

 

“..trade talks, even the fake kind, is now over, dead and buried..”

Currency War Begins: China Crashes Yuan Past 7, Halts US Agri Imports (ZH)

Update 2: – China’s central bank has confirmed that it is, indeed, on, saying that it is able to keep the yuan exchange rate at a reasonable and balanced level – whatever that means – while acknowledging that the Yuan plunging beyond 7 per dollar is due to market supply and demand, trade protectionism and expectations on additional tariffs on Chinese goods. Meanwhile, resorting to its old, tired and worn out tricks, Dow Jones reports that the PBOC will crack down on short-term Yuan speculation, and anchor market expectations. Which is great… if only the PBOC didn’t say exactly the same back in May, when it warned currenct traders that those “shorting the yuan will inevitably suffer from a huge loss.” Three months later, it’s currency traders 1 – Beijing 0.


Update 1 – China is firing all the big guns tonight, because just an hour after Beijing effectively devalued the yuan, when it launched the latest currency war with the US, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government has asked its state-owned enterprises “to suspend imports of U.S. agricultural products after President Donald Trump ratcheted up trade tensions with the Asian nation last week.” China’s state-run agricultural firms have now stopped buying American farm goods, and are waiting to see how trade talks progress. Translation: trade talks, even the fake kind, is now over, dead and buried, and the only question is how Trump will react.

[..] in a dramatically unsettling move for global stability, China’s offshore yuan just collapsed below 7/USD — after the PBOC fixed the onshore yuan below 6.90 for the first time in 2019 — the currency plunging a stunning 12 handles to its weakest on record against the dollar as countless stop losses were triggered and thousands of traders were margined out.

“A break of 7 is quite shocking to the market, and close attention will be paid to how China would deal with this move,” says Tsutomu Soma, general manager of the investment trust and fixed-income securities at SBI Securities Co. in Tokyo in a phone interview. This is the weakest offshore yuan has ever been against the dollar…

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Beijing control over the yuan is worrisome. It also prohibits uptake of the currency in global trade.

China Lets Yuan Slump Past 7 Per Dollar For First Time In Over A Decade (R.)

China on Monday let the yuan tumble beyond the key 7-per-dollar level for the first time in more than a decade, in a sign Beijing might be willing to tolerate further currency weakness in the face of an escalating trade row with the United States. The sharp 1.4% drop in the yuan came after the People’s Bank of China set the daily mid-point of the currency’s trading band at 6.9225 per dollar, its weakest level since December 2018. “Today’s fixing was the last line in the sand,” said Ken Cheung, senior Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong. “The PBOC has fully given the green light to yuan depreciation”. The shakeout in the yuan comes days after Trump stunned financial markets by vowing to impose 10% tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports from Sept. 1, abruptly breaking a brief month-long ceasefire in the bruising trade war.

After opening the onshore session at 6.9999 per dollar, the yuan had weakened to 7.0266 per dollar by 0351 GMT, down 1.2% on the day after earlier losing as much as 1.4% of its value. Monday marked the first time the yuan had breached the 7-per-dollar level since May 9, 2008. With the escalating trade war giving Beijing fewer reasons to maintain yuan stability, analysts said they expect the currency to continue to weaken. “In the short-term, the yuan’s strength would be largely determined by the domestic economy. If third-quarter economic growth stabilizes, the yuan could stabilize around 7.2 or 7.3 level,” Zhang Yi, chief economist at Zhonghai Shengrong Capital Management in Beijing.


Capital Economics senior China economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said the PBOC had probably been holding back against allowing a weaker yuan to avoid derailing trade negotiations with the United States. “The fact that they have now stopped defending 7.00 against the dollar suggests that they have all but abandoned hopes for a trade deal with the U.S.,” he said.

Read more …

Organizers swore peaceful protests. But a few agitators can take care of that.

Hong Kong Brought To A Standstill As City-Wide Strikes And Protests Hit (G.)

Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has warned that mass protests have pushed the region to the brink of a “very dangerous situation” as residents have gone on strike, paralysing the city. Lam, who has disappeared from public view for the past two weeks, gave a media briefing in which she condemned the protests for hurting Hong Kong’s economy and stability. “Such extensive disruptions in the name of certain demands or uncooperative movement have seriously undermined Hong Kong law and order and are pushing our city, the city we all love, and many of us helped to build, to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” she said.

On Monday, transport across Hong Kong was brought to a standstill and more than 150 flights out of the city were cancelled. Almost 100 outbound and 100 inbound flights were cancelled. Protesters also blocked key roads and stopped trains throughout the city. [..] Protesters have shifted tactics beyond only marches and protests in the streets. Civil servants from more than 30 government departments, as well as pilots, teachers, construction workers, engineers, and aviation staff all pledged to strike on Monday.


On Monday morning, several lines of the MTR, the rail network serving Hong Kong, were suspended as protesters, many wearing face masks and black clothing, blocked the doors of trains, preventing them departing the stations. There were also reports of discarded umbrellas being wedged in train doors to prevent them from closing, delaying services. Monday’s planned city-wide protest, which is aimed to disrupt peak-hour travel of commuters, is the fifth consecutive day of mass demonstrations in the city. Simultaneous rallies were planned for seven of Hong Kong’s 18 districts on Monday. Hong Kong has not held a general strike in more than 50 years.

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“Rural America is older, sicker, poorer and more dependent upon state aid than it was before.”

Job Growth In Trump Land Is Dead In The Water (MW)

Since the economy began adding jobs after the Great Recession nine years ago, about 21.5 million jobs have been created in the United States, the second-best stretch of hiring in the nation’s history, second only to the 1990s. But job growth isn’t being spread evenly across the land. Most of the new jobs have been located in a just a few dozen large and dynamic cities, leaving slower-growing cities, small towns and rural areas — where about half of Americans live — far behind. Along with climate change and racial justice, economic development is America’s biggest challenge over the next few decades. Inclusive growth is a must, or else our society will fall apart. The problem: No one — certainly not President Trump — has found the magic wand that will bring back jobs to rural and small-town America.

According to a study titled “The Future of Work in America” by the McKinsey Global Institute released in July, 25 cities that are home to about 30% of Americans will capture about 60% of the job growth between 2017 and 2030, just as they did between 2007 and 2017. Twelve are megacities (and their extended suburbs): Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington. Another 13 are high-growth hubs in smaller cities: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Portland (Ore.), Raleigh, San Antonio, San Jose, Seattle, and Tampa. A few other smaller, fast-growing cities will also add jobs, while vast swaths of the South, Midwest and Plains will lose jobs.


The New York metro area, home to 20 million people, added more jobs over the past year than all the small towns and rural areas — with 46 million people — did combined. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the political map will recognize that the growth is mostly occurring in places that vote for Democrats, while the stagnation is mostly in places that vote for Republicans. Donald Trump has appealed to those who are the most fearful, the most resentful and the most despairing, but the situation hasn’t gotten any better since his election. Rural America is older, sicker, poorer and more dependent upon state aid than it was before.

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Feel lucky?

10 Alarming Things About The Economy That Politicians Won’t Tell You (MW)

Here are 10 remarkable forecasts and assumptions that Washington is making and isn’t telling you. These are all contained in the Congressional Budget Office’s most recent Long-Term Budget Outlook, the cornerstone document of government financial and economic planning.

1. We’re going to have a lot more immigrants. A lot. They’re expecting a net 22.5 million more immigrants to come to the U.S. over the next 20 years. By 2049, they’re expecting immigration to account for a stunning 87% of annual population growth.

2. We’re going to have a lot more illegal immigrants. Despite the current bluster and the scandals at the border, the CBO expects we’ll have 2.4 million more illegal immigrants (or “undocumented residents,” or whatever) in 20 years’ time than we have today.

3. We’re going to be up to our eyeballs in debt. The national debt is expected to skyrocket to an “unprecedented” 144% of GDP by 2049, or twice the level today. That would put the debt just under $100 trillion. The figure today: Around $18 trillion. As recently as 2000: $4 trillion. Oh, and this isn’t even the worst-case scenario: The national debt could exceed 200% of GDP in 30 years’ time, the CBO acknowledges.

4. We’re going to owe so much money that by 2049 the annual interest on the debt will be about 5% of GDP — roughly the share that we spend today on Social Security. And that’s even if interest rates stay low. Despite rising debt and federal spending, the government is expecting — or hoping — the average rate on federal debt will rise only from today’s lowly 2.4% to 4.2%, still modest by historic standards, by 2049.

5. This debt, and these deficits, will damage the economy. They will crowd private investment out of the debt markets, reducing income and growth, says the CBO. And as we’ll have to borrow more and more from abroad to finance the government, they’ll lead to bigger and bigger interest payments leaving the country.

6. Social Security, Medicare, other health programs and net interest are going to soak up so much of the budget that we’re going to have to slash everything else to the smallest share of the economy in 70 years — just 7%. The average over the past 50 years: 11%.

7. Just to keep the federal deficit to these levels, your taxes will go up. The Obama tax hike on “Cadillac” health-insurance plans will kick in starting in 2022, and the 2017 Trump tax cuts will expire in 2025.

8. Most working stiffs can say goodbye to any other tax cuts. Uncle Sam is explicitly relying on your taxes to go up thanks to “bracket creep,” where income-tax brackets rise only in line with inflation while your income — you hope — rises faster.

9. While tax rates go up for most people, they won’t for those earning the most. That’s because more and more of their income will be above the Social Security “cap,” saving them an effective 12.4% a year. The cap this year is $132,900.

10. Meanwhile, working stiffs will be taxed at twice the marginal rate of those who live on dividends. By 2049, says the CBO, labor income will be taxed at a marginal rate of 32%, compared to just 16% for capital income. Good to know, isn’t it? It would be great to see some of this stuff come up in the presidential race, wouldn’t it?

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“The Fed hiked 25bps to 3.25% in Feb 1994. Grown men cried on the trading floor. Salesmen. They were soon laid off. Their clients suffered staggering losses. They too were fired.”

The Crashes That Cause Grown Men To Cry (Eric Peters)

He started his career in 1989, with Fed Funds at 9.75%. The Fed slashed rates to 8.25% in Dec 1989 as the S&L Crisis unfolded. They continued cutting until Aug 1992, when rates hit a mindboggling low of 3.00%. The Fed kept money that cheap for 1.5 yrs. Investors had recently earned 9.75% for taking no risk and found themselves starved for returns. So banks structured complex products that offered enhanced yields by selling volatility – they were great, provided the Fed neither hiked nor cut rates. They flew off the shelves. Salespeople gouged their clients. The Fed hiked 25bps to 3.25% in Feb 1994. Grown men cried on the trading floor. Salesmen. They were soon laid off. Their clients suffered staggering losses. They too were fired.


And as their bosses and boards discovered the scale of their unbounded risk, they instructed the banks to get them out at the best price. Whenever that happened, the cost was far bigger than expected. And this in turn was reflexive. Those clients who had earlier assured themselves that they could stomach the ride – because they were long-term investors – were forced to vomit. They call that period The Great Bond Massacre. But it seemed like every few years, another great massacre would unfold in one thing or another. So he assumed that this is how the world worked. Of course, he wasn’t alone. Global central bankers also recognized this to be the case. So they strived to avoid new massacres. But their tools only worked when the mechanic applied greater leverage with each use. Massacre after massacre, they cranked away. By 2019, they had produced the longest economic expansion and equity bull market in American history.

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Is this enough to end the Fed?

Inside The Plunge Protection Team: Chaos (ZH)

Now, thanks to Bloomberg, we have a much more detailed look into what transpired at the trading desk of the “Plunge Protection Team”, and what we learn is that the past year said institution which forms the bedrock of support for the US capital market has been gripped by what at times is sheer chaos. Why? Perhaps it will not come as a surprise to anyone, that the reason for said chaos is another career economist, in this case the “new” president of the New York Fed, John Williams (no relation to the Star Wars guy). As Bloomberg details in a “must read” report, “an unusual level of internal tension broke out in recent weeks at the fortress-like Federal Reserve Bank of New York in lower Manhattan.”

This was prompted by the sudden departure of the two longtime officials mentioned above, which “shook staff, sank morale and drew attention to the leadership of the New York Fed under John Williams as he enters his second year at the helm.” And yes, this is the same John Williams who two weeks ago prompted a mini market tantrum following one of the most epic communication fuck ups by a central banker. As Bloomberg writes “the story involves Simon Potter, who ran the all-important markets desk, and Richard Dzina, head of the financial services group. Both were abruptly relieved of their roles in late May by Williams.


Little explanation was given, but according to current and former New York Fed employees, as well as those close to the bank, the nature of the exits, by fault or design, seemed to be a warning: fall in line.” It is not clear exactly what the two titans of US capital markets had to “fall in line” for, but two things are certain – i) Potter did not “resign”, he was fired by Williams, and ii) now that an economist with zero capital markets experience is in charge, and following his termination of Potter and Dzina, the world is one step closer to collapse as a clueless PhD hack is in charge of the most important market in the world.

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“Judge Koeltl concluded that, quite simply, the claims made as the basis of Russiagate are insufficient to even warrant a hearing.”

Russiagate is the New 42 (Craig Murray)

Douglas Adams famously suggested that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. In the world of the political elite, the answer is Russiagate. What has caused the electorate to turn on the political elite, to defeat Hillary and to rush to Brexit? Why, the evil Russians, of course, are behind it all. It was the Russians who hacked the DNC and published Hillary’s emails, thus causing her to lose the election because… the Russians, dammit, who cares what was in the emails? It was the Russians. It is the Russians who are behind Wikileaks, and Julian Assange is a Putin agent (as is that evil Craig Murray). It was the Russians who swayed the 1,300,000,000 dollar Presidential election campaign result with 100,000 dollars worth of Facebook advertising.

It was the evil Russians who once did a dodgy trade deal with Aaron Banks then did something improbable with Cambridge Analytica that hypnotised people en masse via Facebook into supporting Brexit. All of this is known to be true by every Blairite, every Clintonite, by the BBC, by CNN, by the Guardian, the New York Times and the Washington Post. “The Russians did it” is the article of faith for the political elite who cannot understand why the electorate rejected the triangulated “consensus” the elite constructed and sold to us, where the filthy rich get ever richer and the rest of us have falling incomes, low employment rights and scanty welfare benefits. You don’t like that system? You have been hypnotised and misled by evil Russian trolls and hackers. [Whether Trump and/or Brexit were worthy beneficiaries of the popular desire to express discontent is an entirely different argument and not one I address here].


Except virtually none of this is true. Mueller’s inability to defend in person his deeply flawed report took a certain amount of steam out of the blame Russia campaign. But what should have killed off “Russiagate” forever is the judgement of Judge John G Koeltl of the Federal District Court of New York. In a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee against Russia and against Wikileaks, and against inter alia Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Julian Assange, for the first time the claims of collusion between Trump and Russia were subjected to actual scrutiny in a court of law. And Judge Koeltl concluded that, quite simply, the claims made as the basis of Russiagate are insufficient to even warrant a hearing. The judgement is 81 pages long, but if you want to understand the truth about the entire “Russiagate” spin it is well worth reading it in full. Otherwise let me walk you through it.

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Poverty as a means of getting rid of the unwanted.

Austerity Populism (G.)

In a recent book ostensibly focused on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, but partly about recent British political history, the academics Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts explain the last decade in terms of “austerity populism”. Cuts, welfare crackdowns and the case for leave, they explain, were all sold to the public via the exclusion of supposedly unproductive undesirables: “scroungers” in the austerity narrative; “migrants” in the stories that swirled around the 2016 referendum. Both traded on a nostalgic idea of national struggle, keeping calm and carrying on, and some strange, latent belief that the country was in need of a purgative spell of pain akin to an imaginary version of the second world war.

In this vision, David Cameron’s election victory in 2015 and the leave side’s win a year later were watershed moments on the same national journey. But if austerity populism has so far been politically successful, it also comes with obvious risks. Trumpeting the wonders of slashing services and kicking around the poor only works for as long as the majority of people are largely untouched by those things – which is why Johnson is now partly changing tack and pledging to spend money (although our nasty, broken benefits system and countless imperilled public services will surely remain untouched).


By the same token, the romance of leaving the EU will only endure while its losers – sheep farmers, car industry workers, people who have come to the UK from central and eastern Europe – form a minority, and enough voters can still be persuaded that they will be winners in a Tory Brexit. Yet, however shambolic the opposition offered by Labour, the lived reality of no deal would surely risk tipping too many people into doubt and fear and away from the Conservatives, which is one reason why Johnson and his allies are in such an obvious hurry. The emotional side of me would simply describe this all as a very English tragedy, centred on a mean-spiritedness that the woman I met in Dover would instantly recognise. And at least until the end of this long, overheated summer and the start of an autumn of nightmares, millions of us will carry on behaving much as we have done for the last decade: not just passing by on the other side, but dancing as we do it.

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A weird propaganda tool. That we pay attention to it is a flashing red sign of where our societies are at.

Bellingcat Unloads 4,000-Word Hit Piece On Tulsi Gabbard (RT)

Running as an anti-war candidate in the US comes with a target painted on your back that draws fire from those rooting for foreign interventions. In case of Tulsi Gabbard, it includes a lengthy piece on chemical attacks in Syria. Gabbard, a Democratic presidential hopeful, became the most-googled candidate during the second primary debate – but the surge of public interest came with renewed attacks against her anti-interventionist agenda. In case you’ve missed it all, Gabbard has been branded a ‘Russian’ spoiler for whichever candidate is eventually picked, and, once again, an apologist for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Joining the chorus of bashers on Sunday was Elliot Higgins, the founder of the UK-based ‘citizen investigation’ outlet Bellingcat, who wrote a whopping 4,000-word piece attacking Gabbard’s negative attitude toward regime change wars. In particular, Higgins didn’t like her skepticism over chemical weapons attacks in Syria reflected on her campaign website. The attacks were used by Washington to justify missile attacks against the country’s government – and by extension continued illegal US military presence in the country.


The mammoth piece starts with screenshots featuring logos of RT and InfoWars (Russian propaganda, dear readers, conspiracy theories!) and goes on to criticize anyone doubting the US-favored narrative about what happened in Syria. MIT Professor Theodore Postol gets an honorable mention, with whom Higgins no longer debates in person since their encounter in 2018. Back then, Higgins failed to address Postol’s technical criticisms of his investigations and instead resorted to mocking applauses and calling his opponent a tool of Russian propaganda.

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Always a sucker for a good history lesson.

America’s Other Original Sin (Bacevich)

Can there be more than one Original Sin? I’m guessing that may be a theological nonstarter, but as a basis for historical interpretation there is real merit in considering the possibility of multiple exiles from the Garden of Eden. That the arrival of the first African slaves to Jamestown 400 years ago this month qualifies as America’s Original Sin is now widely recognized. While holdouts remain, most agree that slavery and racism together have left an indelible stain on our nation. Many would argue that this awareness has arrived belatedly. I might even cite myself as an example.

As a kid growing up in Northwest Indiana in the middle of the last century, I judged slavery to have been an unfortunate mistake long since corrected. In the de facto segregated Calumet region where my family lived, race obviously remained a sensitive subject, but to my mind one best kept at arm’s length. I had more important things to worry about than the relationship between white people like me and those who were not white—why the Cubs were permanently stuck in or near the National League cellar being but one example. In the decades since, I’ve learned to see matters differently. So have many others.

But let me suggest the possibility of a Second Original Sin, not rising to the level of the first, but at least deserving far more attention than it has received. And that’s the sin committed in December 1898, when the United States laid claim to the Philippines. The history of this transaction, centering on a transfer of sovereign authority from Madrid to Washington, is both well known and almost entirely forgotten. As had been the case with race in East Chicago, Indiana, back in the late 1950s, the incorporation of the Philippines into an increasingly far-flung American empire has been written off. This, I have come to believe, is unfortunate, especially today when the American empire appears increasingly precarious.

The essential facts are these. In April 1898, the United States went to war with Spain. The war’s nominal purpose was to liberate Cuba from oppressive colonial rule. The war’s subsequent conduct found the United States not only invading and occupying Cuba, but also seizing Puerto Rico, completing a deferred annexation of Hawaii, scarfing up various other small properties in the Pacific, and, not least of all, replacing Spain as colonial masters of the Philippine Archipelago, located across the Pacific.


1898 US Political Cartoon: U.S. President William McKinley is shown holding the Philippines, depicted as a savage child, as the world looks on. The implied options for McKinley are to keep the Philippines, or give it back to Spain, which the cartoon compares to throwing a child off a cliff.

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May 052019
 


Giovanni Bellini The transfiguration c1490

 

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)
Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)
Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)
Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)
Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)
Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)
May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)
Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)
Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)
American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)
US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)
Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

 

 

The Democrats, as personified by Pelosi, Schumer, Hillary, Biden etc., have no identity other than being against everything Trump. There are people in the party who do have ideas and an identity, like Tulsi Gabbard, AOC, and I’m not saying they’re all great ideas, but at least they have some. But they’re being sidelined.

And it’s of course funny to see Pelosi “pre-accusing” Trump of doing what she has done for 2+ years now. Accuse your opponent of what you yourself have done. Classic.

Pelosi: Trump Could Contest 2020 Election Results – Be Prepared (Carter)

In a New York Times interview on Saturday, Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal), shared her concerned that President Trump would not voluntarily step down unless Democrats win by a “big” enough margin in 2020. The Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative, expressed her concern over a possible scenario where Trump would not accept the election results if he were to lose re-election by a slim margin, the NY Times reported. “We have to inoculate against that, we have to be prepared for that,” Pelosi told the newspaper Wednesday.


“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections. “He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people,” she added. “We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.” In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.

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Biden literally has nothing at all. Other than scolding Trump.

Joe Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Time’ To Lay Out His Healthcare Plan (Ind.)

As Joe Biden storms through Iowa and prepares for his first visit as a presidential candidate in South Carolina, the Democratic front-runner has said he doesn’t “have the time” to lay out the details of his healthcare plan. “I don’t have time; I don’t want to keep you standing any longer,” Mr Biden said recently in Iowa City, declining to lay out his vision for America’s healthcare future to the assembled crowd, according to POLITICO. Likewise Mr Biden has been less than exhaustive when it comes to his other plans, be it foreign policy, or how to tackle climate change. The approach — one in which the former vice president has focused on the values needed in an American president, instead of on specifics of policy — stands in contrast to some of his stiffest competition from fellow Democrats hoping to shake up Democratic politics as we know it.


For months now, his closest competitor in the polls, Bernie Sanders, has been plugging his universal healthcare plan on the campaign trail, which he has dubbed Medicare for All. It’s a policy the Vermont senator has introduced repeatedly in Congress, and ran on in 2016, too. But Mr Sanders isn’t alone in pushing policy in the race. Elizabeth Warren has become known for doing so, offering up plans on issues ranging from healthcare – increase consumer subsidies, force insurers to accept tougher rules, and make insurance cheaper in the US — to improving accountability for private companies in charge of military housing.

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Two different takes on the same topic. First, the Press Association, which labels Paul Joseph Watson and James Woods as “Right-Wing Extremists”. A bit much, perhaps? Other labels I see flash by are far-right, alt-right, extremist conservatives. Isn’t it the labeling itself that is extremist?

Trump Criticizes Social Media Bans Of Right-Wing Extremists (PA)

US president Donald Trump has criticised social media companies after Facebook banned a number of extremist figures and has declared he was “monitoring and watching, closely!!” Mr Trump, who tweeted and retweeted complaints on Friday and Saturday, said he would “monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms”. He has previously claimed social media companies are biased against conservatives, something the companies have rejected as untrue. His comments came after Facebook this week banned Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones and other extremists, saying they violated its ban on “dangerous individuals”.


The company also removed right-wing personalities Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Laura Loomer, along with Mr Jones’s site, Infowars, which often posts conspiracy theories. The latest bans apply to Facebook’s main service and to Instagram, and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. Facebook’s move signalled new effort by the social media giant to remove people and groups promoting objectionable material such as hate, racism and anti-Semitism. The company said it has “always banned” people or groups that proclaim a violent or hateful mission or are engaged in acts of hate or violence, regardless of political ideology. On Twitter, Mr Trump cited a number of individuals he said were being unfairly treated by social media companies, including Mr Watson and actor James Woods. He insisted it was “getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

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But here’s how Cristina Laila at Gateway Pundit, the site known for Cassandra Fairbanks’ reporting on Julian Assange, phrases the issue. Whole different vocabulary.

Still, there’s a much bigger issue here. As I wrote in the comments the other day: What Facebook and Google are doing is very dangerous for the fabric of society. They’re turning us into China. It’s equal to saying: you cannot have a car, or gas, or a phone, a home. Because you grow a beard, or you have a crappy old car, or whatever.

Or it’s like saying you cannot drive on a certain road, maybe that’s a better example. At some point infrastructure must be available to everyone. You can’t say: this is private, go build your own road, or put up your own telephone poles, because your skin is black and we don’t like that around here.

“Facebook is a private company” is dead before you hit the water (for the same reason as AT&T). Problem is, no politician wants to burn their hands on the issue, which they don’t understand to begin with, until it’s too late. It’s much easier to say: look over there, those guys don’t do anything either.”

So, should Facebook be able to throw people out that haven’t been accused of anything criminal?

Trump Fires Off Tweetstorm on Social Media Censorship of Conservatives (GP)

The tech tyrants at Facebook went into overdrive this week and banned Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones — without any explanation, the conservative journalists were labeled “dangerous” by Facebook. President Trump fired off a tweetstorm Friday evening on the social media censorship of conservatives and named James Woods and Paul Joseph Watson. “I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!” Trump tweeted. “We’re looking into it,” Trump said as he defended his friends Diamond and Silk.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump said linking to a Breitbart article on Twitter’s silencing of James Woods. Paul Joseph Watson works for Infowars and has been employed by Alex Jones for several years. On Thursday Paul Joseph Watson was banned from Facebook for being associated with Infowars and Alex Jones. Paul Joseph Watson has NEVER broken Facebook rules… But he associates with Alex Jones. Facebook is now banning anyone who is linked to Infowars or has shared too many stories from the conservative Infowars page. But it’s even worse… It is now a violation of Facebook policy to speak positively ANYWHERE about people they don’t like.

Twitter also banned conservative actor James Woods last weekend for paraphrasing American essayist, poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, for “abusive behavior.” James Woods tweeted, “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss.” #HangThemAll – similar to a quote from an essay Emerson wrote on Plato:“When you strike at a king, you must kill him.”

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If Americans were interested in the truth, they’d insist on their politicians and media and intelligence talking to the VIPS and Julian Assange. The fact that they haven’t, tells you all you need to know.

Orwellian Cloud Hovers Over Russiagate (McGovern)

George Orwell would have been in stitches Wednesday watching Attorney General William Barr and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spar on Russia-gate. The hearing had the hallmarks of the intentionally or naively blind leading the blind with political shamelessness. From time to time the discussion turned to the absence of a legal “predicate” to investigate President Donald Trump for colluding with Russia. That is, of course, important; and we can expect to hear a lot more about that in coming months. More important: what remains unacknowledged is the absence of an evidence-based major premise that should have been in place to anchor the rhetoric and accusations about Russia-gate over the past three years. With a lack of evidence sufficient to support a major premise, any syllogism falls of its own weight.


The major premise that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and gave WikiLeaks highly embarrassing emails cannot bear close scrutiny. Yes, former CIA Director John Brennan has told Congress he does not “do evidence.” In the same odd vein, Brennan’s former FBI counterpart James Comey chose not to “do evidence” when he failed to seize and inspect the DNC computers that a contractor-of-ill-repute working for the DNC claimed were hacked by Russia. Call us old fashioned, but we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) still “do evidence” — and, in the case at hand, forensic investigation. For those who “can handle the truth,” the two former NSA technical directors in VIPS can readily explain how the DNC emails were not hacked — by Russia or anyone else — but rather were copied and leaked by someone with physical access to the DNC computers.

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The Fed is a socialist organization.

Fed To Give Banks A $36 Billion Taxpayer-Funded Subsidy (Middleton)

Before 2009, the Fed did not pay interest on banks’ excess reserves held at the Fed. This practice was introduced as a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the banks during the crisis (taxpayer-funded because the Fed turns over any profit at the end of the year to the Treasury). After beginning this practice, the Fed’s chief trader, Simon Potter, realized it could be used to raise interest rates without expelling excess reserves from the Fed, by sucking liquidity out of the short-term markets. In fall 2015, it began raising the interest rate on excess reserves, with the anticipated effect. At a current rate of about $36 billion a year, this is a cost to the Treasury that is indefensible. This amount is about half the budget for food stamps, for example, which politicians want to cut. There is no provision for these funds ever to be paid back. It is welfare for the bankers.

If the banks had been required to take excess reserves back onto their books it would have required financial disclosure of their quality, which is probably toxic for many. However, with the Financial Accounting Standards Board recently promulgating Financial Accounting Statements 56 and, previously, 157, the “extend and pretend” statement, it would seem they feel less and less need for financial disclosure of any kind. FAS 56 states that the government does not have to disclose what it spends taxpayers’ money on because of national security concerns.

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Lose big and do a deal. It would be voted down.

May Urges Corbyn To Agree A Brexit Deal (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has stepped up calls on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a cross-party deal to leave the European Union, following poor results for both parties in local elections on Thursday. May’s Conservatives lost more than a thousand seats on English local councils that were up for re-election, and Labour – which would typically aim to gain hundreds of seats in a mid-term vote – instead lost 81. Both parties have been locked in talks for the past few weeks to try to broker a Brexit deal that can get a majority in Parliament, after May’s minority government suffered three heavy defeats on her preferred deal earlier this year.

Senior Conservatives said on Saturday there was an increased need for compromise after the local election results, and the leader of the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party said a deal with Labour could be done within days. May added her voice to these calls in an essay published in a Sunday newspaper. “To the Leader of the Opposition I say this: Let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Times reported that the Conservatives would offer new concessions to Labour when talks restart on Tuesday, including a temporary customs union with the European Union, which would last until a national election due in June 2022.

“At that point Labour could use their manifesto to argue for a softer Brexit if they wanted to and a new Conservative prime minister could argue for a harder Brexit,” a source cited by the Sunday Times said.

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There is no solution. the sooner everyone understands that the better. Even a national government is now out of the question.

Anger Grows At May-Corbyn Bid To Stitch Up Brexit Deal (G.)

Last-ditch efforts by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn to strike a compromise on Brexit looked doomed on Saturday as the party leaders faced mounting revolts from their own MPs and activists. Following Thursday’s local elections, in which both the Conservatives and Labour were punished severely by voters for failing to break the political deadlock, May and Corbyn have insisted their parties must now urgently agree a way forward in cross-party talks which will resume on Tuesday. On Saturday the prime minister reiterated her appeal, saying: “We have to find a way to break the deadlock. I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.”

But opposition MPs and Tory Brexiters warned any deal the leadership teams stitch up behind the scenes would face inevitable defeat in parliament and cause more acrimony in the parties. The Observer can reveal that 104 opposition MPs, mainly from Labour but also SNP, Change UK, Green and Plaid Cymru, have written to May and Corbyn insisting they will not back a “Westminster stitch-up” unless there is a firm guarantee that any deal is then put to a confirmatory referendum. The MPs say: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”

They say that, “whatever the deal” is, it must be the subject of another referendum so voters can have the “final say”. Separately, senior Tory MPs insisted that any deal struck with Labour that involved anything close to a customs union – Corbyn’s central demand in the talks – would be rejected by more than 100 of the party’s MPs, who would see it as a betrayal of May’s promises on Brexit.

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No, both.

Austerity, Not ‘Failure’ Of Brexit, Behind Tories’ Election Wipeout (G.)

In my book Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment (2015), I pointed out that the “age of austerity” experienced during the post-1945 Attlee government was unavoidable as a debilitated UK adapted from a wartime economy to peacetime. Resources were strictly limited, and production had to be channelled away from armaments towards the normal needs of the population. Spending power was restricted because goods and food were in short supply. The austerity policy imposed by the Cameron-Osborne administration in 2010-15 – in coalition, let us not forget, with the Lib Dems – was a policy choice. George Osborne, in particular, seized the opportunity of the financial crisis of 2007-09 to cut back on public spending, or at least restrain its rate of growth.


The most obvious victims were local authorities and the electors they serve. Cuts varying between 30% and 40% were imposed on central government grants to local authorities, and the consequences were cumulative. Hardly a day goes by without sad reports of the impact the cuts are having on public services, one of the most recent being the way teachers in overstretched state schools are having to dip into their own pockets to provide textbooks. There are countless other examples. We were told by Theresa May and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, that austerity was coming to an end. But there is precious little sign of it. Which brings us back – I know you have been waiting for it – to the way that Brexit would compound the deleterious effects of austerity, a conclusion reached by every forecast I have examined.

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Big Ag wants it all. But YOU can still go look for a farmers’ market.

American Farmers Go Bankrupt (ZH)

The collapse of multi-generational family farms has sent bankruptcies in the Midwest to ten-year highs. “Bankruptcies in three regions covering major farm states last year rose to the highest level in at least 10 years. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, had double the bankruptcies in 2018 compared with 2008. In the Eighth Circuit, which includes states from North Dakota to Arkansas, bankruptcies swelled 96%. The 10th Circuit, which covers Kansas and other states, last year had 59% more bankruptcies than a decade earlier,” reported WSJ. Steffes Group, a top auction firm in the upper Midwest, has seen auction activity rise 40% in 2019. “Up until now, there wasn’t a lot of motivation to exit farming,” said auctioneer Scott Steffes. “Now, what I’m hearing from folks is, ‘It’s no longer fun to farm.’”

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There are far too many trucks anyway.

US Trucking Skids into Downturn after Phenomenal Boom (WS)

Orders for Class-8 trucks – the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US to feed the goods-based economy – plunged 52% in April compared to April last year, to 16,400 orders, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence on Friday. It was the lowest April since 2016 when the industry cycled through its last transportation recession. This comes after orders had already plunged 67% year-over-year in March, 58% in February and January, and 43% in December. The collapse in orders is on the scale of the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016. The chart shows the percent change of orders for each month compared to a year earlier:

The industry is very cyclical with big swings in both directions. Trucking companies get exuberant when capacity tightens and freight rates shoot up as they did in late 2017 and 2018, and they’re inclined to order when business is booming, but it takes a while to get these trucks built, and order backlogs at truck manufacturers piled up to reach close a year at the peak in 2018. Fear of not getting the equipment when they need it can cause industry-wide bouts of over-ordering at the peak of the cycle, which was summer 2018. But as capacity rises, and the cyclical freight business backs off from its blistering growth phase and ticks down a little as it has been since late 2018, trucking companies adjust by reducing their orders, and when push comes to shove, if they can still do it, by cancelling their orders. And that’s what is happening here.

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I think perhaps everyone intuitively understands how to re-design cities. Cars must go first.

Urban Greening Can Save Species, Cool Warming Cities, Make Us Happy (Conv.)

The current climate and ecological crisis demands a radical redesign of how we live and organise our societies. Yet these urgent changes, though complex, are far from impossible. Some of them are simple, beautiful, and beneficial to all. By greening our cities with street trees, urban parks, and community and rooftop gardens, we can keep ourselves cool amid rising temperatures, reverse the steady erosion of the rich tapestry of life on Earth, and foster happiness and social connection in the process. It is widely known that greenery in urban spaces helps improve city microclimates.

Thanks to heat generated by traffic and industrial activity, as well as the spread of heat-trapping concrete buildings that have steadily replaced plant life, urban air temperature is often higher than in rural environments. Hotter cities compel urban denizens to opt for air conditioners in order to stay cool, which further strains energy demands and worsens the urban heat island effect. Plants can help cool cities through the water that evaporates from their leaves when exposed to the sun’s rays, and by shading surfaces that otherwise might have absorbed heat. Research has found that on a sunny day, a single healthy tree can have the cooling power of more than ten air-conditioning units.

Plants also help keep harmful pollutants such as microscopic particulate matter at bay through a complex process known as dry deposition, whereby particles penetrate and become trapped in the wax or cuticles of leaves. Although banning or at least restricting vehicle use in city centres is crucial, mass greening can further reduce pollution and keep cities cool in the increasingly scorching summers that lie ahead.

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Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon
– Susan Ertz

 

 

Feb 212019
 


Jan van Eijk The Arnolfini portrait 1434

 

A $3 Trillion Debt Tsunami Is About To Flood The Stock Market (MW)
Attorney General Barr To Announce End Of Mueller Probe Next Week: CNN (ZH)
Mueller Report May Be ‘Anti-Climactic’ – Clapper (Hill)
FBI Top Lawyer Believed Hillary Clinton Should Face Charges (Solomon)
Conservative Split As Tory Rebels Denounce Hardline Brexiters (G.)
How Not To Organise A Split In A Party (Galloway)
UK And Ireland Retailers Warn Of 40% Tariffs On Food In No-Deal Brexit (G.)
UK Economy £100 Billion Smaller Because Of Austerity (G.)
Germany Rebuffs UK Call To Back Off Saudi Arms Freeze (ZH)
Bernie Sanders Raised $6 Million In One Day After Launching Campaign (ZH)
Ocasio-Cortez Refuses To Back Bernie Sanders For 2020 (Ind.)

 

 

They’re all still talking about the markets that aren’t markets. Curious. Is it because it’s all they have? Either way, seems leargely useless to me.

A $3 Trillion Debt Tsunami Is About To Flood The Stock Market (MW)

Will Nasgovitz, who oversees about $1.3 billion in assets as the chief executive of Heartland Advisors, isn’t calling for a “full blown financial crisis,” but, with trillions in corporate debt coming due in the coming years, the industry veteran’s not exactly predicting smooth sailing in the stock market, either. “With interest rates low, the economy strong, and relatively easy lending standards, the thinking went that borrowing to buyback shares or finance acquisitions was a low-risk strategy,” Nasgovitz explained in a recent post. “But the next five years could severely test that Pollyanna view.” Nasgovitz used this chart to illustrate his stance. As you can see, about $3.3 trillion — or 48% of all current outstanding commercial debt — comes due by 2023.

The timing could be problematic. “The sheer volume would be challenging for the market to digest in the best of scenarios, let alone this late in an economic expansion,” Nasgovitz wrote. “Adding to our sense of caution are early signs that lending standards have begun to tighten for commercial and industrial borrowers.” He says that, as banks become more stringent, borrowers could end up paying higher rates just to secure funds to retire outstanding obligations. “While we don’t currently see signs of a full-blown financial crisis on the horizon,” he concluded, “we do believe that excessive debt adds unnecessary challenges to companies in general and will likely be a headwind for heavy borrowers in the intermediate term going forward.”

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Overall sentiment: it won’t amount to much. So the media’s next steps are being prepared in the vein of “Just because Mueller couldn’t find a thing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”.

Russiagate has been the media’s golden goose; what can they turn to now?

Attorney General Barr To Announce End Of Mueller Probe Next Week: CNN (ZH)

Barely a week after being sworn in as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr is reportedly planning to announce as early as next week that Robert Mueller has completed his investigation and that a confidential report on Mueller’s findings will be submitted to Congress in the very near future. According to CNN, the preparations – which are in line with an NBC report from late last year that the Mueller report would be completed by the end of February – “are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.” Barr has said that he wants to be as “transparent” as possible while being “consistent with the rules and the law.”

According to the law, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the AG after the investigation ends. But the rules don’t require it to be shared with Congress or the public (though, like everything involving the Mueller probe, it will almost certainly leak). One thing that remains unclear is to what extent Mueller’s findings will be shared with Congress (since the DOJ typically frowns on publicizing embarrassing or compromising information about people who haven’t been charged with a crime…though that principle has apparently gone out the window over the last two years). CNN also noted that it’s possible that Mueller has made referrals to other prosecutors besides the New York US attorney who brought charges against Michael Cohen.

The existence of other investigations might also soon come to light. CNN reported that attorneys from the US attorney’s office for Washington DC have been visiting Mueller “more than usual.” Signs that the Mueller probe is winding down have been multiplying in recent weeks. Four of his 17 prosecutors have been reassigned, and the grand jury he has used to secure his indictments hasn’t convened since late January. While Trump is probably hoping that the Russia collusion narrative will decidedly die after the report is released, former DNI James Clapper – whom Trump threatened to strip of his security clearance – warned that the report might leave open the question of whether there actually was collusion between Trump and Russia, giving the release a disappointingly anti-climactic feel, according to the Hill.

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A ‘subtle’ shift: now that going after Trump himself is going nowhere, Clapper et al claim Putin uses Trump as an unwitting asset. Takeaway: they will simply continue their collusion accusations. And Putin is an even easier victim.

Give me one reason why this entire cabal should not be investigated.

As I said yesterday: “Isn’t it supremely ironic that Mueller’s main objective today is trying to come up with some narrative that justifies his own probe? It’s circular ‘logic’ at its very best.

But why is McCabe so cocky about his treasonous(-like) behavior? Imagine someone like him doing an interview like that 2 years (or 6) into Obama’s presidency, saying it was possible Barack was an asset of China. Just imagine.”

Mueller Report May Be ‘Anti-Climactic’ – Clapper (Hill)

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday that he’s far from sure that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will clear up questions about President Trump and Russia. He said he was hopeful the Mueller probe will provide some answers, but warned it might not even draw a conclusion on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. “I think the hope is that the Mueller investigation will clear the air on this issue once and for all. I’m really not sure it will, and the investigation, when completed, could turn out to be quite anti-climactic and not draw a conclusion about that,” Clapper said Wednesday on CNN.

Clapper, a frequent critic of Trump’s, said people in the intelligence community see a strange deference on the president’s part toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The strange thing I think that has bothered a lot of people both in and out of the intelligence community is this strange personal deference to Putin by the president. I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset,” Clapper said Wednesday. He added that if Trump were indeed advancing Putin’s interests, he would more likely be doing so unwittingly.

The White House has lashed out at Clapper over his criticism in the past and announced in August it was reviewing existing security clearances for Clapper and several other former intelligence and law enforcement officials who have criticized the White House. Speculation has ramped up over Trump’s relationship with Russia after it was reported last month that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into whether the president was working on behalf of Moscow’s interests. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday claimed that he believes “it’s possible” Trump is a Russian asset.

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And there’s Comey again, out to save the country.

FBI Top Lawyer Believed Hillary Clinton Should Face Charges (Solomon)

For most of the past three years, the FBI has tried to portray its top leadership as united behind ex-Director James Comey’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for transmitting classified information over her insecure, private email server. Although in the end that may have been the case, we now are learning that Comey’s top lawyer, then-FBI General Counsel James Baker, initially believed Clinton deserved to face criminal charges, but was talked out of it “pretty late in the process.” The revelation is contained in testimony Baker gave to House investigators last year. His testimony has not been publicly released, but I was permitted to review a transcript.

During questioning by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Baker was unequivocal about his early view that Clinton should face criminal charges. “I have reason to believe that you originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with regard to violations of law — various laws, with regard to mishandling of classified information. Is that accurate?” Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, asked Baker. Baker paused to gain his lawyer’s permission to respond, and then answered, “Yes.” He later explained why he came to that conclusion, and how his mind was changed: “So, I had that belief initially after reviewing, you know, a large binder of her emails that had classified information in them,” he said.

“And I discussed it internally with a number of different folks, and eventually became persuaded that charging her was not appropriate because we could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — we, the government, could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — she had the intent necessary to violate (the law).” Asked when he was persuaded to change his mind, Baker said: “Pretty late in the process, because we were arguing about it, I think, up until the end.” Baker made clear that he did not like the activity Clinton had engaged in: “My original belief after — well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials — I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged.”

His boss, Comey, announced on July 5, 2016, that he would not recommend criminal charges. He did so without consulting the Department of Justice (DOJ), a decision the department’s inspector general (IG) later concluded was misguided and likely usurped the power of the attorney general to make prosecutorial decisions. Comey has said, in retrospect, he accepts that finding but took the actions he did because he thought “they were in the country’s best interest.”

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More will follow. 5 weeks left.

Conservative Split As Tory Rebels Denounce Hardline Brexiters (G.)

Three Conservative MPs who resigned to join a new independent group on Wednesday said Theresa May had allowed their former party to fall prey to hardline Brexiters and declared that the Tory modernising project had been destroyed. In the latest evidence that Brexit is reshaping the political landscape, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, all outspoken critics of May’s stance on Europe, said the Conservative party as they had known it under David Cameron was dead. “I’m not leaving the Conservative party – it has left us,” said Soubry at a hastily convened press conference around the corner from the House of Commons. “The modernising reforms that had taken years to achieve were destroyed.”

Allen was asked if she could ever return to the Conservatives and answered: “If we do our jobs properly, there won’t be a Tory party to go back to.” She added: “We’re about creating something better that is bang smack in the centre ground of British politics that people out there, I am convinced, we are convinced, want.” The dramatic resignations – announced shortly before May confronted Jeremy Corbyn at prime minister’s questions – sent shockwaves through Westminster, where MPs had barely digested news of the Labour split. The move reduces May’s already tenuous working majority to eight, raising still more questions over her authority amid rumours that there could be further Tory defections.

On Wednesday night, Allen told ITV’s Peston that “a third of the party” – around 100 of her former colleagues – shared her frustrations at its direction. The Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC: “The government which I am supporting implementing a no-deal Brexit – what would I do? I would not be able to maintain my support of the government. I would have to leave the party.”

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George Galloway is right: center liberal parties are exactly what the whole world is rejecting.

How Not To Organise A Split In A Party (Galloway)

Just seven MPs announced their departure from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and though there may be others to come this was their first rank. And there lies the first problem. Other than Chuka Umunna virtually nobody has ever heard of the new Independent Group of MPs who were quickly dubbed the ‘Seven Dwarfs’. [..] From a crowded field I’d say the next biggest blunder was registering their parliamentary factions as a private company in a transparent effort to avoid…transparency! It’s true that Chuka and co are the corporate suit types and most of them are more familiar with the boardroom than the boiler room but no parliamentary group in history has turned themselves into a business!

The reasons – millions of them – are not hard to discern. A political party must declare who’s funding it and how much. A private company doesn’t. But again what seemed like a wheeze is in fact a blunder. I’m now free to speculate that they’ve already received millions from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and President Putin. It’s probably not true, but how can one tell? [..] I may be wrong and Manchester United may win the Champions League but I’m perfectly sure Centrist neo-liberal politics are currently out of fashion throughout the world. I base this on 14 weeks of mayhem on the streets of France, and not much more than that in President Macron’s opinion poll ratings. On Mrs Merkel slouching out of the German Chancery in ruins. On the Rushmore like ruin of Hillary Clinton. On the portrait of Dorian Gray that is the haunted face of the most hated man in Britain, Tony Blair.

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And that’s only the tariffs.

UK And Ireland Retailers Warn Of 40% Tariffs On Food In No-Deal Brexit (G.)

A no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs of 40% or more being imposed on food such as beef and cheddar cheese, driving up prices in shops and squeezing household budgets across the UK and Ireland, retail organisations from both countries have warned. With mounting fears that the UK could leave the European Union without an agreement in 36 days’ time, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Retail Ireland, issued a joint warning that this outcome could lead to delays at borders and shortages of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. The scheduled withdrawal on 29 March comes at a time in the year when the UK imports a lot of fresh, out-of-season, produce – 90% of the lettuce consumed in Britain, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruits come from, or arrive via, Europe.

Increased tariffs, the devaluation of sterling and new regulatory checks would drive up the cost of fresh food and drink, which would be passed on to consumers, the retail bodies warned. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both fall back on the World Trade Organization’s most favoured nation tariffs, which means import duties on everyday food items from fruit to cheese. This would mean a 42% tariff on imported cheddar, 46% on mozzarella, 40% on beef, 21% on tomatoes and 15.5% on apples, the BRC said. Last year one of the UK’s largest dairy producers, based in Northern Ireland, warned that leaving the customs union under a hard Brexit could lead to the price of meat doubling in the UK and the price of dairy, half of which is imported, rising by up to 50%.

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Imagine taking that into a severe recession.

UK Economy £100 Billion Smaller Because Of Austerity (G.)

Austerity policies from the Treasury have resulted in slower growth in every year since 2010 and left each household £300 a month worse off as a result, a thinktank has said. The New Economics Foundation said its analysis of the impact of tax and spending changes since the Conservatives came to power, first as part of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, had left the economy £100bn smaller than it would otherwise have been. Although the peak impact of the attempt to reduce a record peacetime budget deficit occurred during the first two years of the 2010-15 parliament, the thinktank said austerity was still acting as a drag on output. The NEF said the cumulative effect of tax, public spending and welfare adjustments on growth by the end of the 2018-19 financial year would be to leave the average household £3,629 a year worse off – the equivalent of £1,495 per person.

The latest public finances figures, due out on Thursday, will show whether the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is on course to hit his forecast for a budget deficit in 2018-19 of £25.5bn – one sixth of its level in the aftermath of the financial crisis and deep recession of 2008-09. Alfie Stirling, head of economics at the NEF, said work by the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Institute for Fiscal Studies made it possible to isolate the effects of austerity. “At this time of year there is often renewed speculation over whether the chancellor will meet his year-end deficit targets by March. But for nine years, the elephant in the room has largely been missed: the sheer scale of economic damage that these targets have contributed to in the first place.”

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The Germans have a much smaller weapons industry.

Germany Rebuffs UK Call To Back Off Saudi Arms Freeze (ZH)

Germany is feeling the pressure from western allies over its weapons exports freeze in the wake of the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a freeze first announced in November, which included plans to reject any future export licences to Riyadh, but not previously approved deals. German allies like the UK have lately implored the German government to soften its stance, noting the potential broader economic impact on Europe. British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, currently in Berlin to discuss the terms of Brexit, reportedly wrote to the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, in a private letter first revealed by Der Spiegel that UK defense companies would be hindered in contractual obligations related to Eurofighter Typhoon and the Tornado fighter jet delivery, namely to supply parts affected by the German arms freeze.

Hunt told Maas in the letter published in German press: “I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defence industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its Nato commitments.” This follows comments by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the past weekend’s Munich Security Conference acknowledging the need for “common export controls guidelines” across Europe. She said during a question-and-answer session after her speech at the conference: “We have because of our history very good reasons to have very strict arms export guidelines, but we have just as good reasons in our defense community to stand together in a joint defense policy. And if we want … to develop joint fighter planes, joint tanks, then there’s no other way but to move step-by-step towards common export controls guidelines.”

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It’s like nothing changed in 4 years. Only this time Bernie may be the favorite.

Bernie Sanders Raised $6 Million In One Day After Launching Campaign (ZH)

Just one day after officially launching his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination during an interview on Vermont Public Radio, Bernie Sanders has already raised more than $6 million through more than 220,000 individual contributions, according to CNN. Sanders, who consistently ranks near the top of most polls alongside former Vice President Joe Biden, saw the money pour in from donors in all 50 states. The average contribution was $27, which is roughly in line with the average contribution from Sanders 2016 upstart primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, in which he won a number of crucial primaries (all while actively working against the DNC). Confirming his outsize popularity in an increasingly crowded field, the self-described “Democratic Socialist”‘s haul dwarfs the $300,000 raised by Elizabeth Warren during the 24 hours after her official campaign launch.

Of the $6 million raised, some 10% (about $600,000) came in the form of recurring donations, providing “a huge, dependable grassroots donor base that will afford the campaign a consistent budgeting baseline.” During his last race, Sanders regularly touted the fact that his campaign was largely funded by small donations. And it appears this is already emerging as a central theme for the 2020 race. “The only way we will win this election and create a government and economy that work for all is with a grassroots movement – the likes of which has never been seen in American history,” Sanders said in his message announcing his campaign. “They may have the money and power. We have the people.”

On top of that $6 million haul, Sanders is entering the race with more than $9 million left in his US Senate campaign committee: funds that he can transfer to his presidential campaign. That puts him behind only Warren ($11 million) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($10.3 million).

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She has no reason to support anyone at all.

Ocasio-Cortez Refuses To Back Bernie Sanders For 2020 (Ind.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has refused to endorse Bernie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, despite working on the senator’s first presidential campaign. A spokesperson for Ms Ocasio-Cortez, like Mr Sanders a self-described democratic socialist, refused to comment directly on the 77-year-old’s Tuesday announcement he is running for a second time. “We’re excited to see so many progressives in the race,” spokesperson Corbin Trent said. “We’re not thinking at all about the next election.” Any endorsement by Ms Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be influential on the outcome of the race, thanks to her massive support among the grassroots of the party. But the 29-year-old, a congresswoman for New York, is unlikely to offer an endorsement before her state’s Democratic primary next year, and may even permanently withhold any explicit support for a single candidate.

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Dec 082018
 


Getty Vigil in front of White House on the evening after Pearl Harbor attack Dec. 7 1941

 

France Braced For ‘Ultra-Violent’ Protests (BBC)
S&P 500 Closes In An Official ‘Death Cross’ (CNBC)
A Death Cross For The S&P 500 Highlights A Stock Market In Tatters (MW)
Dow Down Over 500 Points, Wipes Out 2018 Gains In Wild Week On Wall Street (CNBC)
George H. W. Bush, Wimp (Matt Taibbi)
Five Eyes Against Huawei (Voltaire)
Russia Ready To Switch Off Visa & Mastercard Ahead Of Tougher Sanctions (RT)
UK Ministers Warn No-Deal Brexit Chaos May Last Six Months (Ind.)
EU Support For Austerity Opens Door To Far Right – Corbyn (G.)
Capture the Flag (Kunstler)
Uber Files Confidential IPO Paperwork (R.)
The Column I Didn’t Want To Write About Julian Assange (SMH)
Media Is Giving The US Cover To Extradite Assange (Hrafnsson)
97% Decline In Monarch Butterflies (G.)

 

 

The French government goes about this so wrong you’d think they want the violence. Macron hasn’t been seen in many days, he left public displays up to his PM and left his country alone. Now they say there will be only 10,000 protesters, a ridiculously low number, and solemnly proclaim “10,000 is not the people, it’s not France.”

In fact, a large majority of people support the protests. Not the violence, but that’s not the core of this. Moreover, the students, who were not taking part last week, have now joined the yellow vests. And the government’s suggesting they -and the other protesters- are not really French.

Tear gas is being employed already on Saturday morning. Paris is under siege. And not from the protesters.

France Braced For ‘Ultra-Violent’ Protests (BBC)

France is braced for renewed anti-government protests, with nearly 90,000 security personnel on the streets. Some 8,000 officers and 12 armoured vehicles will be deployed in Paris alone, where shops have been boarded up and sites like the Eiffel Tower closed. The “yellow vest” movement began three weeks ago in opposition to a rise in fuel tax but ministers say it has been hijacked by “ultra-violent” protesters. Last week saw hundreds arrested and scores injured in violence in Paris. They were some of the worst street clashes seen in the capital for decades. The authorities are certainly not underestimating the threat. There were 65,000 security officers across the country last weekend and that has been increased to 89,000, even though Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he expected fewer protesters than last weekend, perhaps about 10,000 nationwide. He said: “10,000 is not the people, it’s not France.”

The security forces will want to prevent a repeat in the capital, where the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised, police were attacked and cars overturned and burned last weekend. Mr Castaner has vowed “zero tolerance” towards violence. He said: “According to the information we have, some radicalised and rebellious people will try to get mobilised. Some ultra-violent people want to take part.” The barricade-smashing armoured vehicles have not been seen in the Paris area since riots erupted in poor suburbs in 2005. Mr Castaner added: “These past three weeks have seen the birth of a monster that has escaped its creators.”

[..] The government has said it is scrapping the unpopular fuel tax increases in its budget and has frozen electricity and gas prices for 2019. The problem is that protests have erupted over other issues. Granting concessions in some areas may not placate all the protesters, some of whom are calling for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions, easier university requirements and even the resignation of the president. He has been called by some “the president of the rich”.

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“It’s almost confirming what could be a change in trend to the downside.”

S&P 500 Closes In An Official ‘Death Cross’ (CNBC)

The chart of the S&P 500 Index is flashing a warning of more selling ahead. A pattern, called the ‘death cross,’ appeared on the chart on Friday as stocks plunged. The S&P 500’s average price of the last 50 days, dropped below the 200-day moving average, a sign of negative momentum and possible change in trend, according to technical analysts. “It just means you’re lower for longer, meaning there’s no real bounce, which is a sign of real selling.” said Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com. “Sometimes you break moving averages and you get some kind of quick fast recovery…but when you stay down longer, all of a sudden it’s showing real selling. That’s why people don’t like the death cross. It’s almost confirming what could be a change in trend to the downside.”

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It highlights a stock market that doesn’t exist.

A Death Cross For The S&P 500 Highlights A Stock Market In Tatters (MW)

The S&P 500 index on Friday has joined the ranks of market benchmarks forming that dreaded Wall Street chart pattern: the death cross. A death cross has materialized in the S&P 500 with the 50-day moving average at 2,759.28.02, below the 200-day moving average of 2,762.02, according to FactSet data. A death cross is what chart watchers refer to as the point where the 50-day — a short-term trend tracker — crosses below the 200-day, which is used to define the longer-term trend. Many believe the cross marks the point where a shorter-term decline graduates to a longer-term downtrend.

S&P 500’s Thursday action— falling in tandem with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (and briefly with the Nasdaq Composite)— helped deliver a breach for the large-cap index’s short-term trend line beneath the 200-day. The formation marks the first time the 50-day MA was below the 200-day for the S&P 500 since April 22, 2016, according to Dow Jones Market Data. However, the last time that a death cross formed was in January of 2016. The move for the benchmark comes amid a series of bearish patterns that have cropped up in equities and fixed-income markets, highlighting growing concerns about the durability of a bull run in stocks that has lasted about a decade as the economy’s vital signs have also been strong, in a long-running, if measured, rebound from the 2007-09 financial crisis.

[..] the ominous formation also is a sign of how viciously equity markets have unraveled in the past several weeks. More than half of the S&P 500’s 11 sectors have seen death crosses, and a chunk of the index’s constituents are in bear markets, having declined at least 20% from a recent peak. Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are in correction, usually defined as a 10% drop from a peak, while the Russell 2000 is 15% beneath its recent peak.

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Without functioning markets, wild swings are guaranteed.

Dow Down Over 500 Points, Wipes Out 2018 Gains In Wild Week On Wall Street (CNBC)

Stocks dropped sharply on Friday, concluding what has been a wild week for Wall Street. A weaker-than-expected jobs report and China-U.S. trade tensions sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average lower by 558.72 points to 24,388.95 and erased its gains for the year. At one point, the Dow was up more than 8 percent for 2018. The S&P 500 pulled back 2.3 percent to 2,633.08 and also turned negative for the year. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.05 percent to close at 6,969.25. Shares of large-cap tech companies led the way lower. Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google-parent Alphabet all traded lower. Apple’s stock also fell 3.6 percent — erasing its gains for the year — after Morgan Stanley cut its price target on the tech giant’s shares, citing weakening iPhone sales.

For the week, the major indexes all dropped more than 4 percent. Thursday’s session included a violent drop of nearly 800 points, followed by a strong rebound from those levels. This week was also the worst for the indexes since March. Indexes fell to their lows of the day after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors are expected to bring charges against Chinese hackers allegedly trying to break into technology service providers in the U.S., another negative headline amid tense trade talks between the two countries. [..] “You’ve gone from a period of zero sensitivity to headlines to a period of hypersensitivity,” said James Athey, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “We’re now in a world where no one knows which way is up and which way is down.”

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Delightful from Taibbi on among other things the years-long feud between HW and Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau. Do read¡

I’ve left the HW story alone, overkill. But I was thinking all the time: if there’s one thing HW was not, it was a leader. I’m not the only one.

George H. W. Bush, Wimp (Matt Taibbi)

For most of his political life, George Herbert Walker Bush was basically the unimaginative proxy for other powerful interests. He was always the front man for the fellas at the club, be it Skull and Bones or the CIA (he retains the dubious distinction of being the only spy head to become president). He excelled in this brute-behind-the-scenes role. But once fashioning himself as something other than Ronald Reagan’s wingman, politics demanded he offer the national public glimpses of his personality. Sadly, he was president before he found out he didn’t really have one. This would have been fine, if he’d been a more confident person.

But Bush was not satisfied to be remembered as a dull imperial steward, and his flailing efforts to carve out a macho personal myth on par with Reagan or Kennedy marred both his presidency and large swaths of the planet. Unable to let insults stand, he dreamed up stunt after stunt in an attempt to counter Heathers-style media taunts that grew out of inside jokes circulated in Washington during the Reagan years. His presidency turned into an endless cycle: Bush would do something goofy/out of touch, the press would bash his brains in for it and he’d overreact, often by having someone bombed or jailed.

[..] In December 1989, Bush invaded Panama, ostensibly to capture former American client/human rights monster Manuel Noriega. The New York Times cheered Bush for going through the “rite of passage” of the presidency, which involved “a need to demonstrate the willingness to shed blood.” The paper was one of many to describe the invasion as a triumph over both Newsweek and Doonesbury: “For President Bush… a man still portrayed in the Doonesbury comic strip as the invisible President – showing his steel had a particular significance.”

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Encryption. Wonder how many people will get a Huawei phone now, and be safe from spying.

Five Eyes Against Huawei (Voltaire)

Washington has asked Ottawa to arrest Meng Wanzhou and to extradite her. This young woman is the financial director and daughter of the founder of Huawei, the Chinese Telecom Giant. She was arrested on 6 December in Canada. The motive for the war undertaken by Washington against Huawei is deep-rooted and spurious are the justifications. The heart of the problem is that the Chinese firm uses a system of encryption that prevents the NSA from intercepting its communications. A number of governments and secret services in the non-Western world have begun to equip themselves exclusively with Huawei materials, and are doing so to protect the confidentiality of their communications.

The covers/excuses for this war are theft of intellectual property or in the alternative, trade with Iran and North Korea, and violating rules of competition by benefitting from national subsidies. The Five Eyes is a system of electronic espionage by Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. They have begun to exclude Huawei from their auctions.

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Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but Russia is well prepared.

Russia Ready To Switch Off Visa & Mastercard Ahead Of Tougher Sanctions (RT)

Moscow faces prospects of harsher sanctions this coming January as the US Congress is set to discuss a new package of anti-Russian penalties. The Russian central bank has warned the country’s lenders over potential risks.
The regulator has recommended that Russian financial institutions take the necessary preventive steps in case their partner-banks are forced to stop providing connection to services by the world’s two most used payment systems – Visa and Mastercard, reports Russian business daily Vedomosti. The list of Russia’s banking majors that are currently working as an intermediary include Credit Union “Payment Center,” one of Russia’s largest private lenders Uralsib, Rosbank that operates as a Russian subsidiary of the international financial group Societe Generale, Russia’s second biggest bank VTB and privately owned Promsvyazbank.

VTB and Promsvyazbank have already been included in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), approved by US Congress last summer. The legislation allows Washington to introduce penalties against enterprises and individuals that are seen as hostile towards the US or loyal to regimes that are hostile to the US. The Central Bank of Russia advises that Russian banks should look for an alternative sponsor that will be able substitute a current provider of Visa and MasterCard services, seal a maintenance service contract and test an opportunity of integrating.

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May’s cabinet now warns of chaos unless her Brexit plan is executed. Ignoring that if such chaos erupts, it’s their own fault; the government must prepare. So essentially they’re saying: we haven’t prepared the country, so you must support us.

UK Ministers Warn No-Deal Brexit Chaos May Last Six Months (Ind.)

Emergency plans to fly in medical supplies have been laid to ensure hospitals remain stocked amid six months of expected chaos at Britain’s channel ports after a no-deal Brexit. Critical supplies could also be diverted away from channel routes and some drugs may even be rationed to ensure stocks do not run out. The plans were published as a government assessment suggested a no-deal departure from the EU could mean severe disruption until the end of September 2019 to shipping between Dover and Calais and traffic using the Channel Tunnel.

Ministers continued to put up a defiant front on Friday, saying they were determined to push ahead with the House of Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, though Downing Street insiders indicated it could still be pulled if efforts to turn rebels fall flat at the weekend. While MPs secured measures this week that make a no-deal scenario less likely, it is still possible if Ms May’s deal is rejected and parliament fails to opt for any alternative course before 29 March. Ministers had already told drug manufacturers to build six-week stockpiles in anticipation of Brexit customs disruption, but after the new assessment indicated Brexit disorder could last six months, further measures were deemed necessary.

In a letter to pharmaceutical firms, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The revised cross-government planning assumptions show that there will be significantly reduced access across the short straits, for up to six months. “This is very much a worst-case scenario; however, as a responsible government, we have a duty to plan for all scenarios. “Whilst the six-week medicines stockpiling activities remain a critical part of our UK-wide contingency plan, it is clear that in light of the changed border assumptions described above this will now need to be supplemented with additional action.”

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True enough, but declaring yourself ‘internationalist’ and ‘socialist’ may not be the smartest meassage at this point.

EU Support For Austerity Opens Door To Far Right – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has told an audience of European socialists that EU support for austerity has caused hardship for ordinary people, and that unless something changes there is a risk that “the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum”. Speaking at the Congress of European Socialists in Lisbon, the Labour leader also said his party respected the result of the Brexit referendum and it was the duty of the left in the UK to “shape what comes next”. Corbyn argued that Labour would be internationalist whether the UK was inside or outside the EU, and promised that the party would “work together to help build a real social Europe” by protecting workers’ and consumers’ rights. He said: “EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe.”

It had “damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit”. However, he promised that under his leadership Labour would take a different approach, and he added a stark warning: “If the European political establishment carries on with business as usual, the fake populists of the far right will fill the vacuum. European socialists have to fight for a different kind of Europe.” In a speech on the first day of the two-day event attended by Labour’s sister parties around Europe, Corbyn said of Brexit: “In a country where a million families are using food banks, over 4 million children are living in poverty, and real wages are lower today than they were in 2010, the British people voted to leave the EU. We respect that decision; it’s our job to shape what comes next.”

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What’s the difference between analysis and propaganda? It’s very unclear in America these days.

Capture the Flag (Kunstler)

It’s obvious that the Obama White House, along with CIA director John Brennan, and Director of National intel James Clapper, used the FBI and the DOJ (with support from the nation’s two leading newspapers), and help from Britain’s MI6 intel shop, to run illegal operations against Mr. Trump during the 2016 election, and then persisted in acts to delegitimize him after Jan 20, 2017. All this, of course, is apart from whether you like Mr. Trump or approve of his policies. It’s well documented elsewhere that Robert Mueller’s mission to detect election “collusion” between Russia and Mr. Trump was a bust, and that all he has to show for it is a roll of contrived convictions for lying to federal prosecutors and the FBI.

The case of General Flynn lies at the center because he served as Mr. Obama’s Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and he knew too much about US shenanigans around the notorious Iran nuclear deal and other shady doings. They were alarmed when he went over to Mr. Trump’s campaign, and determined to disable him. Once Mr. Trump appointed Gen. Flynn Director of National Security, Mr. Obama engineered an “incident” in late December of 2016 (confiscating Russian properties in Maryland over alleged election meddling and laying down new sanctions), that prompted Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to phone Gen. Flynn, the incoming DNS. US Intel was prepared for that set-up and recorded the call, which required the illegal “unmasking” of Flynn, a nicety of spycraft.

Thus, the FBI had a transcript of the phone call and were easily able to entrap Flynn in mis-remembering the particulars of the call. Where is that transcript? The predicate for this operation was completely dishonest: that incoming senior government officials are forbidden to speak to foreign ambassadors. In fact it is their duty to consult with foreign officials, especially in Mr. Flynn’s job, and a long-established tradition of every presidential transition. The coup cadres of the Deep State used The New York Times and The Washington Post to persuade the public that Gen. Flynn had done something treasonous, when it was nothing more than routine transition business.

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The IPO to end all IPO’s?!

Uber Files Confidential IPO Paperwork (R.)

Uber Technologies Inc has filed paperwork for an initial public offering, according to three people with knowledge of the matter, taking a step closer to a key milestone for one of the most closely watched and controversial companies in Silicon Valley. The ride-hailing company filed the confidential paperwork on Thursday, in lock-step with its smaller U.S. rival, Lyft Inc, which also announced on Thursday it had filed for an IPO, setting the stage for one of the biggest technology listings ever. The simultaneous filings extend the protracted battle between Uber and Lyft, which as fierce competitors have often rolled out identical services and matched each other’s prices.

Uber’s most recent valuation was $76 billion, and could be worth $120 billion in an IPO. Its listing next year would be the largest in what is expected to be a string of public debuts by highly valued Silicon Valley companies, including apartment-renting company Airbnb and workplace messaging firm Slack. Uber’s debut will be a test of investor tolerance for legal and workplace controversies, which embroiled Uber for most of last year..

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For some reason, people think it’s very normal to hate Assange. They don’t explain why, though, it’s presented as a given.

The Column I Didn’t Want To Write About Julian Assange (SMH)

We don’t like Julian Assange. That much is clear. Back in 2010, after the original Iraq leak, he seemed a reasonable imitation of a public-spirited whistleblower. By the time I met him in 2012 he was already obsessed by how the leftist media had abandoned him, blaming a conspiracy among Oxbridge PPE (Politics, Philosophy, Economics) graduates. That struck me as narcissistic paranoia although it is, I suppose, remotely possible that such a cabal existed. Now, the question of why the left “hates” Assange occupies his few remaining supporters almost exclusively. Personally I think hate is too strong. Most people just consider Assange a spoilt-brat egomaniac with murky motives, a limelight habit and some profoundly questionable political affiliations.

As further allegations emerge (from Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigations) as to his working with Russia to destabilise Clinton, perhaps in return for being rescued from London (allegations which Assange denies), many hold Assange responsible for Trump. So yes, the dislike is legit. But if egomania and dumb politics were a crime half the population would be in porridge. You don’t abandon someone to a system of revenge indictments, secret trials and solitary confinement because they’re arrogant, or even arrogant and wrong. So it’s not the emotion we need to analyse but the leap from “I’m no longer sympathetic” to “throw away the key”.

[..] Back in 2011 a grand jury was convened in Virginia to determine whether Assange was indictable. Grand jury proceedings are inherently secret. Involving neither judge nor jury they are prosecutor-led, with no defendant right to a defence, attendance or even knowledge. Their findings too are secret. Thus, despite years of enduring rumours of a “sealed indictment” against Assange we know only that last month, US prosecutors inadvertently revealed that secret charges had been laid against Assange. Put it together. An old arrest warrant for skipping bail on a charge that was always feeble and has since been dropped, a refusal to deny extradition intentions, secret charges emerging from a secret court over an act that may not even be illegal and for which the principal culprit has already been pardoned. Does anyone really think such a system could produce a fair trial?

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The Guardian piece is way overexposed, but okay, here’s WikiLeaks new editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson.

Media Is Giving The US Cover To Extradite Assange (Hrafnsson)

The Guardian’s attack on Assange came only days after it was confirmed that he has been indicted some time ago, under seal, and that the U.S. will seek his extradition from the U.K. The story was published just hours before a hearing brought by media groups trying to stop the U.S. government from keeping its attempts to extradite Assange secret. The story went viral, repeated uncritically by many media outlets around the world, including Newsweek. This falsely cast Assange into the center of a conspiracy between Putin and Trump. The Guardian even had the gall to post a call to its readers to donate to protect “independent journalism when factual, trustworthy reporting is under threat.”

[..] This is part of a series of stories from The Guardian, such as its recent claim of a “Russia escape plot” to enable Assange to flee the embassy, which is not true. What do these stories have in common? They all give the U.K. and Ecuador political cover to arrest Assange and for the U.S. to extradite him. Any journalists worth their salt should be investigating who is involved in these plots.

[..] Numerous commentators have criticized The Guardian for its coverage of Assange. Glenn Greenwald, former columnist for The Guardian, writes that the paper has “…such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.” Another former Guardian journalist, Jonathan Cook, writes: “The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.”

Hours before The Guardian published its article, WikiLeaks received knowledge of the story and “outed” it, with a denial, to its 5.4 million Twitter followers. The story then made the front page, and The Guardian asserted they had not received a denial prior to publication—as they had failed to contact the correct person. A simple retraction and apology will not be enough. This persecution of Assange is one of the most serious attacks on journalism in recent times.

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Really, guys? Blame it all on climate change? I wouldn’t.

97% Decline In Monarch Butterflies (G.)

In the 1980s, roughly 4.5 million monarchs wintered in California, but at last count, there may be as few as 30,000. The hillside groves of eucalyptus trees that tower over the Santa Cruz shoreline would, not so long ago, be teeming with monarch butterflies at this time of year. Boughs would be bent under the weight of black and orange clusters, as hundreds of thousands of the magical invertebrates nestled into the leaves, waiting out the frost on the California coast before returning north. Now, on a sunny December afternoon the boardwalk that weaves through the monarch preserve, at Natural Bridges State Beach, is filled with school children craning necks and straining eyes to catch a glimpse. The monarchs are there – but they are harder to spot.

Just two years ago, 8,000 overwintered here, but these days, just more than a thousand are fluttering amidst the Santa Cruz trees. It’s part of a troubling trend: over the last two decades monarch numbers in the West have declined by roughly 97%. “It is a sad reality of climate change,” said Anthony Dutierrez, a volunteer guide at the park and biology student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as he takes a break from guiding school children through a tour. “For every little thing that changes there’s not just one consequence – it’s a whole chain reaction.” According to the Xerces Society, a conservation organization, in the 1980s between 10 million and 4.5 million monarchs spent the winter in California. The last count, conducted annually by volunteers each November, showed that in 2018 there may be as few as 30,000 across the state – a number that’s 87% lower than just the year before.

“We had a lot of reason to suspect that it was going to be a bad year, but we were shocked at just how bad,” said Xerces Society Conservation biologist Emma Pelton. She said that year-to-year fluctuations can be expected, but this kind of continuous drop-off is cause for concern. “It is in the context that the population has already declined 97%. So, it’s OK if you have millions of butterflies and they drop down a little bit – that’s not a huge deal. But if you have 200,000 butterflies to begin with and you have a bad year? Now we only have 30,000 left.”


Photograph: Michael Yang / Rex Features

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Dec 022018
 
 December 2, 2018  Posted by at 10:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Claude Monet Camille Sitting on the Beach at Trouville 1870-71

 

US Markets To Close On Wednesday In Honor Of George H.W. Bush
US, China Agree To Trade War Ceasefire, More Talks (AFP)
Putin Refuses To Release Ukrainian Sailors And Ships (G.)
Putin Briefs Trump Over Ukraine As EU Leaders Up Pressure (AFP)
Mattis Says Russia Tried To ‘Muck Around’ US Vote, Again (AFP)
Mueller’s RussiaGate Probe: Conflicts and Special Interests (Adam Carter)
Trump To Notify Congress In ‘Near Future’ He Will Terminate NAFTA (R.)
Property Investors Can’t Expand As Lending Rules Toughen Up (NewsCorp)
France Is Deeply Fractured. Gilets Jaunes Are Just A Symptom (Guilluy)
Theresa May Faces Fresh Battle Over Publishing Brexit Legal Advice (BBC)
How Greece’s Financial Crisis Led To A Baby Bust (WaPo)

 

 

No, no, no, what a missed opportunity! They should have shut down the military instead for a day, or the CIA. And preferably longer than one day. But Bush had nothing to do with the markets.

US Markets To Close On Wednesday In Honor Of George H.W. Bush

Major U.S. markets will be closed on Wednesday in honor of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will both close on Wednesday in observance of the National Day of Mourning after Bush’s death Saturday at the age of 94. Both the NYSE and Nasdaq will also observe a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m. ET on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday out of respect for Bush. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify on Wednesday on the economic outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee. A spokesman for the committee did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday about whether the hearing would be rescheduled.

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How predictable would you like it?

US, China Agree To Trade War Ceasefire, More Talks (AFP)

US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to suspend any new tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies, even if huge existing duties will remain in place. Following more than two hours of dinner talks between the two leaders, the White House said an increase of tariffs from 10 to 25 percent due to kick in on January 1 would now be put on hold, providing room for intense negotiations. The agreement, hashed out over steak in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, lowers the temperature in a conflict that has spooked world markets. The two leaders, who were in Buenos Aires for a summit of the G20 countries, called it “a highly successful meeting,” the White House said.

“The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries and has opened up new space for win-win cooperation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Under the agreement, Trump is shelving a plan to raise existing tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent from the start of next year. However, the truce is only partial. Some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports already face 25 percent tariffs while the 10 percent tariffs, which target a massive $200 billion in goods, will also remain in effect. Meanwhile, China has targeted $110 billion worth of US imports for tariffs. If there is any further retaliation, Trump has warned, he will slap punitive duties on the remaining $267 billion in Chinese goods coming to the United States.

And Saturday’s truce also contained an ultimatum. The White House made clear that the 10 percent tariffs would still leap up to 25 percent if China doesn’t meet US demands in 90 days. These include China stopping a host of trade barriers, intellectual property theft and other actions that Washington say make fair trade impossible. Tough negotiations lie ahead, but Trump was upbeat. “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” he said in a statement.

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From Twitter: “Martial Law prohibits the diffusion of military movements in #Ukraine therefore won’t post the Armed Forces movements but I can safely say that #Odessa is being heavily prepared for war.”

Look, “sailors and ships?” They were armed navy vessels with soldiers, not fishing boats with civilians.

Putin Refuses To Release Ukrainian Sailors And Ships (G.)

Vladimir Putin has said it is “too early” to return Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels seized by Russia in the Sea of Azov, accusing the Ukrainian government of provoking an incident as a distraction from domestic problems. Putin was speaking to reporters after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with the Russian leader because of Moscow’s refusal to release the 24 Ukrainians. The Russian president said it was necessary to detain the captives while a legal case was put together to demonstrate that the three Ukrainian naval vessels violated Russia’s territorial waters. He said the ships’ logs would show that their attempt to cross the Kerch strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov – enclosed by Russia, the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine – was a deliberate provocation.

Asked if he might consider exchanging the captive sailors for Russians in Ukrainian detention, Putin said: “We are not considering a swap and Ukraine did not raise this issue, and it’s too early to talk about that. They are still being investigated. “We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper,” he added, arguing that the incident was part of a wider pattern of Ukrainian provocation. “The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all,” Putin said. “As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures.”

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Putin has finally put his foot down. Has he taken too long? if he’d done it earlier, would Ukraine try such stunts?

Putin Briefs Trump Over Ukraine As EU Leaders Up Pressure (AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday he briefed his US counterpart Donald Trump on the Ukraine crisis as he came under pressure over Moscow’s robust foreign policy at the G20 summit in Argentina. Putin said he explained Moscow’s position to Trump when the leaders met briefly at a summit dinner Friday. “We spoke standing up. I replied to his questions about the incident in the Black Sea,” Putin told reporters at the end of the summit. Putin strode into the summit under a cloud, having drawn outrage from Europe over last week’s incident in which his navy detained three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors – causing Trump to abruptly cancel their scheduled meeting. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko kept up the pressure from Kiev, saying Putin had refused to take his calls since the crisis started.

[..] Away from the summit, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Moscow had shown “brazen contempt” for a deal “that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage.” Putin – who has praised his navy for defending Russian territory – “provided exhaustive explanations on this incident in the Black Sea, explaining everything in detail, in exactly the same manner as yesterday during his meeting with the French president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax. Far from offering comforting words, Putin said at a post-summit press conference he saw no end in sight to the four-year conflict in eastern Ukraine “as long as the current Ukrainian authorities remain in power.” “The current Ukrainian authorities have no interest in resolving the conflict, especially by peaceful means,” he said.

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Oh, let’s see the evidence or shut up. And stop mucking around in Russia and Ukraine while you’re at it.

Mattis Says Russia Tried To ‘Muck Around’ US Vote, Again (AFP)

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that Russia tried to meddle in the US midterm elections last month – just as it did in the 2016 vote that brought President Donald Trump to power. The already strained ties between Washington and Moscow have “no doubt” worsened over Russian’s continued attempts to interfere in the US voting process, Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. Russian President Vladimir Putin “tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines,” the Pentagon chief said. Putin has “continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended,” Mattis said, stressing he was unsure whether there were growing threats from Russia.

“We’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them.” Mattis spoke as President Donald Trump suddenly scrapped a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, citing a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ahead of last month’s vote, Twitter and Facebook shut down thousands of Russian-controlled accounts, while 14 people from Russia’s notorious troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, were indicted. And US law enforcement agencies warned that “Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.”

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Robert Mueller comes with a long history. That’s why he was picked.

Mueller’s RussiaGate Probe: Conflicts and Special Interests (Adam Carter)

Robert Mueller was the director of the FBI between 2001 and 2013, spanning both Bush and Obama administrations. He was appointed as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 United States general election on May 17, 2017. Since his appointment, Mueller has been promoted as a champion of justice and a pursuer of truth by the mainstream press. He has been hailed as incorruptible by some and “America’s straightest arrow” by others. However, history shows us that Mueller investigating anything may, inherently, come with disadvantages when it comes to the pursuit of truth. According to whistleblowers, under Mueller’s leadership, crimes and scandals involving both government officials and the private-sector were ignored or covered-up by the FBI, and there are questions about further cover-ups before he became the agency director.

In July 2017, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley wrote an article titled “No, Robert Mueller And James Comey Aren’t Heroes” in which the author details the not-so-perfect history of both Mueller and Comey, suggesting that those lionizing the pair may be suffering from amnesia. Rowley explains that Mueller and Comey presided over post-9/11 cover-ups, secret abuses against the Constitution, enabled Bush/Cheney fabrications used as the pretext for waging war and demonstrated incompetence. The article also references Mueller’s attempts to mislead everyone following 9/11 and Rowley’s efforts to challenge Mueller on his silence about what he knew.

Going further, Rowley covers Mueller’s bungled Amerithrax investigation that targeted an innocent man, violations of privacy, infiltration of non-violent anti-war groups and also references Mueller’s history before being director of the FBI: “Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI operated) Bulger gang.”

Earlier this year, Republican congressman Louie Gohmert also highlighted various issues in a report titled “Robert Mueller Unmasked” that opened with a bold assertion: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence. He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”

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This will easily lead into January and the Democratic Congress. Let the courts decide.

Trump To Notify Congress In ‘Near Future’ He Will Terminate NAFTA (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will give formal notice to the U.S. Congress in the near future to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), giving six months for lawmakers to approve a new trade deal signed on Friday. “I will be formally terminating NAFTA shortly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his way home from Argentina. “Just so you understand, when I do that – if for any reason we’re unable to make a deal because of Congress then Congress will have a choice” of the new deal or returning to trade rules from before 1994 when NAFTA took effect, he said. Trump told reporters the trade rules before NAFTA “work very well.” NAFTA allows any country to formally withdraw with six months notice.

Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a new trade agreement on Friday known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump’s decision to set in motion a possible end to largely free trade in North America comes amid some skepticism from Democrats about the new trade deal. The U.S. landscape will shift significantly in January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, after winning mid-term elections in November. Presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described the deal as a “work in progress” that lacks worker and environment protections.

“This is not something where we have a piece of paper we can say yes or no to,” she said at a news conference on Friday, noting that Mexico had yet to pass a law on wages and working conditions. Other Democrats, backed by unions that oppose the pact, have called for stronger enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards, arguing that USMCA’s state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism is too weak. A 2016 congressional research report said there is a debate over whether a president can withdraw from a trade deal without the consent of Congress, and there is no historical precedent for the unilateral withdrawal from an free trade deal by a president that had been approved by Congress. The issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. courts.

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From Australia, for the entire western world.

Property Investors Can’t Expand As Lending Rules Toughen Up (NewsCorp)

Property investors wanting to expand their holdings are finding doors slamming in their faces as new lending restrictions bite hard. Harsher income tests, tighter rules for interest-only loans, tax changes and tougher assessments of rents and repayments have put the brakes on, and lending specialists believe more squeezing is likely. Almost one-third of the nation’s 2.1 million residential real estate investors own more than one property, according to Australian Taxation Office data, and many see it as their ticket to retirement wealth instead of the struggling share market. However, expanding beyond one investment property has become much tougher this year amid factors including:

• Investors’ ability to repay is now being based on interest rates between 7.25 and 8 per cent, rather than the 4 per cent many are currently charged. • Lenders only count 70 per cent of a property’s rental income. • Interest-only loans, popular among investors, are harder to come by and harder to continue, resulting is higher repayments when they switch to principal-and-interest. The result is that potential investment loans are assessed as unaffordable even if the investor has no problems paying it back.

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Yet another analysis of how the left abandoned its voters. Meanwhile, gilets jaunes are now active in Belgium and Holland. If they can organize well enough, they’re here to stay for a while.

France Is Deeply Fractured. Gilets Jaunes Are Just A Symptom (Guilluy)

From the 1980s onwards, it was clear there was a price to be paid for western societies adapting to a new economic model and that price was sacrificing the European and American working class. No one thought the fallout would hit the bedrock of the lower-middle class, too. It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole. The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer. The problem is at the same time unemployment, insecurity and poverty have also increased.

The central question, therefore, is not whether a globalised economy is efficient, but what to do with this model when it fails to create and nurture a coherent society? In France, as in all western countries, we have gone in a few decades from a system that economically, politically and culturally integrates the majority into an unequal society that, by creating ever more wealth, benefits only the already wealthy. The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic.

But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock. It is in this France périphérique that the gilets jaunes movement was born. It is also in these peripheral regions that the western populist wave has its source. Peripheral America brought Trump to the White House. Peripheral Italy – mezzogiorno, rural areas and small northern industrial towns – is the source of its populist wave. This protest is carried out by the classes who, in days gone by, were once the key reference point for a political and intellectual world that has forgotten them.

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May digging her hole ever deeper. As if people have no right to know what’s coming.

Theresa May Faces Fresh Battle Over Publishing Brexit Legal Advice (BBC)

Opposition parties plan to join forces in a bid to force the government to publish the full legal advice it received ahead of the Brexit agreement. “All parties” would press for contempt of Parliament proceedings if MPs are not shown the advice, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said. Theresa May has promised MPs only a summary of the legal position. Some MPs believe the advice given suggests the Northern Ireland “backstop” would continue indefinitely. [..] on Monday Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who wrote the advice, will offer only a limited summary of the legal advice given to government, during a statement to Parliament.

Ministers insist it is a long-standing convention that legal advice to the cabinet is kept confidential, and that government would otherwise be unable to function. The prime minister’s refusal to release the full advice prompted Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government since the general election in 2017 – to accuse her of having “something to hide”. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “If the full legal advice is not forthcoming, we will have no alternative but to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament – and we will work with all parties to take this forward. “The full legal implications of this deal clearly need to be known and debated in full by our Parliament.”

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Austerity truly is death by a thousand cuts.

How Greece’s Financial Crisis Led To A Baby Bust (WaPo)

During the country’s deep and prolonged crash, which began in late 2009 and worsened in 2011 and beyond, an already-low birthrate ticked down further, as happened throughout the troubled economies of Southern Europe. Greece was also hit by a second factor, with half a million people fleeing the country, many of them young potential parents. Although Greece has been on the front lines of the migrant wave from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of new arrivals have moved on to other parts of Europe, and the newcomers don’t make up for the losses. As a result, the country’s recession has helped produce postwar Greece’s smallest generation — a group of young children who are now reaching elementary age, some arriving at schools wearing secondhand shoes and backpacks, and who are only at the earliest stages of grasping the daunting era they’ve been born into.

“The kids don’t know we used to be better off,” said Sotiria Papigioti, the mother of a first- and a second-grader at Kalpaki. “But when they ask for things, I tell them, ‘We’re not in the position to afford this.’ ” Greece’s fertility rate, of about 1.35 births per woman, is among the lowest in Europe, and well below the rate of 2.1 needed for a stable population, not accounting for immigration. The fertility rate in Greece had been on the upswing before the crisis, hitting 1.5 births per woman in 2008. That progress has since been erased, and the birthrate has plummeted back toward the depths seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Some countries, in the aftermath of economic crises, have seen a quick recovery in their fertility rates. But that is unlikely to happen in Greece, said Byron Kotzamanis, a demographer at the University of Thessaly, because even before the crisis the average woman in Greece wasn’t having children until age 31. Some women who postponed pregnancy during the recession have lost out on their chance entirely. As a result, Kotzamanis said, the recession has permanently reduced the size of the newest Greek generation — and has reduced the pool of parents in years to come. “We’ll have fewer and fewer births in Greece over the next decades,” Kotzamanis said.

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