Jan 132020
 


G.G. Bain Three-ton electric sign blown into Broadway, New York. 1912

 

‘I’m Spending All My Money To Get Rid Of Trump’: Michael Bloomberg (R.)
What If @realDonaldTrump Is Brilliant? (Papachelas)
Warren, Sanders Campaigns Spar In Rare Show Of Discord (R.)
How Bad Can The Climate Crisis Get If Trump Wins Again? (G.)
Avoid UK Recession By Kickstarting Green Economy, Says Thinktank (G.)
China Is Really Worried About Unemployment, Social Unrest (CNN)
Ford’s China Vehicle Sales Drop 26% In Third Straight Year Of Decline (R.)
Downing of PS-752 Already Being Used To Smear MH-17 Skeptics (OffG)
Bolivia Exiled Ex-President Morales Calls On Radio For Armed Militias (R.)
Somebody Snuck A Potato Into CES 2020 (F.)

 

 

All of the money, none of the prospects. Will he be the first to spend a full billion? Don’t change your station.

‘I’m Spending All My Money To Get Rid Of Trump’: Michael Bloomberg (R.)

U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg told Reuters he is ready to spend much of his vast fortune to oust Republican President Donald Trump from the White House in 2020, rejecting criticism from rivals for the Democratic nomination that the billionaire is trying to buy the U.S. election. Ranked by Forbes as the eighth-richest American, Bloomberg has flooded U.S. airwaves and social media feeds with messages that he stands the best chance to beat Trump, spending more on campaign ads since he launched his campaign in November than his main Democratic rivals have over the last year.

“Number one priority is to get rid of Donald Trump. I’m spending all my money to get rid of Trump,” Bloomberg told Reuters aboard his campaign bus on Saturday, during a nearly 300-mile (483-km) drive across Texas, one of the 14 states that will vote on Super Tuesday on March 3. “Do you want me to spend more or less? End of story.” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic presidential contenders who has vowed to get money out of politics, blasted Bloomberg when he launched his campaign with a $37-million TV advertising blitz, accusing the former New York City mayor of trying to buy American democracy. “These are just political things they say, hoping they catch on and they don’t like me doing it, because it competes with them, not because it’s bad policy,” Bloomberg said.


After entering the race late and missing the first six Democratic debates, Bloomberg generally sits fifth in national public opinion polls behind Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Warren and Pete Buttigieg. But not just the two liberal standard-bearers of Warren and Sanders, all of the four are too liberal to beat Trump, Bloomberg said. “One of the reasons I’m reasonably confident I could beat Trump is I would be acceptable to the moderate Republicans you have to have,” said Bloomberg, a former Republican who made his fortune selling financial information to Wall Street firms. “Whether you like it or not, you can’t win the election unless you get moderate Republicans to cross the line. The others are much too liberal for them and they would certainly vote for Donald Trump.”

Read more …

No, I don’t think Trump is brilliant, thank you. Just funny to see this coming from Greece.

What If @realDonaldTrump Is Brilliant? (Papachelas)

History is often written by those who don’t follow the rules or, rather, by those who ostentatiously throw them onto the trash heap of history. Donald Trump is one of those people, whether we like it or not. In an era where political correctness and slick public relations are the norm in politics and beyond, Trump came along with his own unique style and turned everything on its head. This started during his candidacy for president. A one-time close associate of his described how his team tried to convince him to start using prepared speeches, reading from a teleprompter. He didn’t like the idea at all but he agreed to give it a go.

When the moment came for his first public speech, he started reading from the teleprompter, darting looks to his left and right, clearly uncomfortable with the whole process. At one point, his patience at an end, he petulantly threw down the screen and blamed his awkwardness on his team, declaring that he preferred making speeches without teleprompters. His associates were aghast for a few minutes. But after seeing the rave reception of the move by Trump’s supporters, they realized that his instinct and political brilliance was probably beyond them.

He pulled it off in domestic politics; could he also do it in foreign policy? All the relevant literature, handbooks and collected wisdom of experts far and near suggest that such a feat is impossible. What is essentially a negotiating tactic from the Manhattan real estate world cannot work in the forum of international politics. The art of pushing someone to the end of their tether and then making a deal at the last minute would be rejected as unenforceable. But that’s exactly what Trump is testing now. The assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq by American forces was a very extreme act which all Trump’s predecessors had avoided, as had even successive Israeli governments. Trump did it.

And by doing so he simultaneously sent a clear message to the Middle East that the USA is no longer dependent on its oil and natural gas reserves. Iran responded in a relatively reasonable fashion. In a few weeks, it will become clear whether those who believe that Iran will hit back harder – albeit under or over the radar – are right, or whether a new balance of power will finally emerge that puts it “in its place” and possibly leads to a new deal. That’s when a lot of so-called experts will be banging their heads against the wall.

Read more …

Prepare for 11 months of this, getting uglier as we go along.

Warren, Sanders Campaigns Spar In Rare Show Of Discord (R.)

A rare sign of discord emerged on Sunday between progressive Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over a report that Sanders’ campaign volunteers had called her a candidate of the elite in conversations with voters. “I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” Warren told reporters after a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa, which will hold the nation’s first nominating contest on Feb. 3. “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.” Warren and Sanders, who are friends, fellow U.S. senators and their party’s progressive standard-bearers, agreed early in the nominating contest to an informal non-aggression pact and have largely avoided criticizing each other.


Politico reported late on Saturday that Sanders’ campaign had distributed talking points for volunteers on what to say to voters who are thinking of supporting his main rivals – former Vice President Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Warren. The guidance suggested that volunteers argue Warren was supported by “highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what,” rather than motivating people who do not normally vote, Politico reported. Sanders said on Sunday he did not approve the negative talking points about other candidates. “We have over 500 people on our campaign. People do certain things. I’m sure that on Elizabeth’s campaign people do certain things as well,” Sanders told reporters after a rally in Iowa.

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Blaming Trump for a process that has taken centuries to develop is as silly as it is lazy. There is no government anywhere that is willing to commit anything other than lip service to this.

How Bad Can The Climate Crisis Get If Trump Wins Again? (G.)

Climate pollution in the US is up under Donald Trump and threatens to undermine international efforts to stall the crisis, especially if he wins re-election this year and secures a second term in the White House. While US climate emissions fell 2.1% in 2019, they rose significantly in 2018, according to estimates from the economic analysis firm Rhodium Group. On net, emissions are slightly higher than in the beginning of 2017, when Trump’s administration began enacting dozens of environment rollbacks aimed at helping the oil and gas industry. Trump is still working to further weaken bedrock standards. This week he proposed to allow major projects like pipelines and highways to bypass reviews of how they will contribute to global warming.

The draft rule is unlikely to become final before the November election, but it is yet another reason industries weighing climate choices might delay significant action. “What they have done is created confusion within the business community and the environmental world as to what are going to be the standards,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who led the Environmental Protection Agency under the Republican president George W Bush. “Essentially every regulation the agency promulgates gets a lawsuit that goes with it, almost inevitably … that’s the only good thing you can say about it.” Whitman called the approach “mindless” and said “whoever is a bigger donor gets to tell them what the environmental policy should be, it seems”.

In the absence of any federal climate action, states, cities and businesses have pledged their own efforts, seeking to encourage other big emitters like China and India to continue to slow their growing climate pollution. Andrew Light, a climate negotiator for President Barack Obama’s state department, said the world is taking note of those efforts, but if Trump is re-elected “you are going to see a lot of people who are worried anew about what the US can do.” Americans choosing Trump would send the signal that they don’t care about the climate, Light said.

America’s Pledge, a project to quantify ongoing US emissions reductions, estimates that non-federal actors – like states and cities – could cut climate pollution 37% below 2005 levels by 2030. A Democrat in the White House could increase that to 49% with what Light described as modest, politically achievable policy changes. Experts are increasingly calling for the US to halve its emissions by 2030 and neutralize them by 2050.

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Next up: $50 trillion. You’re being had.

Avoid UK Recession By Kickstarting Green Economy, Says Thinktank (G.)

The government fightback against the next recession should include pumping as much as £50bn into green projects, in a move that would help reboot the economy and tackle the climate emergency, according to a left-leaning thinktank. Against a backdrop of concern among economists that Britain is ill-equipped to combat another downturn on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis, the New Economics Foundation thinktank said a green plan to beat a future slump was required. In the event of a recession, it said the government should spend at least 2% of GDP, or around £30bn, to decarbonise the economy, by investing in renewable energy projects, planting trees, transport infrastructure, electric vehicles, and retrofitting homes with new insulation.

For a larger economic shock, as much as 3% of GDP, or around £50bn, could be spent. Leading economists including former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard, have called on governments around the globe to prepare for future economic shocks with readily available blueprints to raise government spending. It comes as central banks, including the Bank of England, have limited capacity to provide support because interest rates remain close to the lowest levels on record more than a decade after the financial crisis. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, has hinted that Threadneedle Street could cut rates soon, while warning that it is running out of ways to combat recessions.


The foundation said that raising investment in green infrastructure was required regardless of whether Britain was facing a recession or not. However, it said that a plan for fighting a future downturn should have decarbonisation at its core. [..] It said that spending around £10.5bn on a mass insulation programme for homes – equivalent to only a third of the coalition government’s tax cuts between 2010 and 2013 – would have enabled residential emissions to fall by around 30% by 2018.

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Why would CNN run a piece like this, at this point in time?

China Is Really Worried About Unemployment, Social Unrest (CNN)

The Chinese government wants to do whatever it can to protect the economy in 2020. It’s got an enormous task ahead of it. Beijing has made clear that the world’s second largest economy cannot spiral into a slump and risk mass layoffs as it tangles with rising debt, cooling domestic demand and an ongoing trade war with the United States. That’s particularly important this year because it marks the conclusion of the government’s 13th Five-Year Plan, during which it promised to establish a “moderately prosperous society” and end poverty. Senior members of the Communist Party’s Politburo — the seven most powerful men in China — said last week that all efforts must be taken to achieve those goals in 2020.

In recent weeks, the government has bombarded the economy with a wave of stimulus measures, from tariff reductions that could help soothe the pain from rising prices, to rate cuts that could fuel more bank lending. Authorities are also amping up the language they’re using to describe the situation. China’s State Council last month called on local governments to “go to all lengths” to prevent massive job losses this year — what it characterized as the country’s top policy priority. The chief administrative office even warned that the country could face “massive unexpected incidents” if unemployment balloons — a euphemism in China widely understood to refer to social unrest and riots, and one that is rare in public government documents.

In recent years, the government has said it has to create 11 million new jobs annually to keep employment on track. While China’s official unemployment data has barely budged over the last several years, hovering between 4% and 5%, Beijing’s messaging suggests that it is unusually worried about the slowing economy and the challenges that the year could bring. “Beijing is much more worried about social unrest than about ballooning local debt, which at one point seemed to be a priority, ” said David Zweig, director of Transnational China Consulting Limited and a professor emeritus at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Huge protests, after all, have for months consumed Hong Kong, which local officials said last November would sink into its first annual recession in a decade.

The protests have focused on calls for greater democracy, but economic factors such as the soaring cost of housing and an increasingly competitive labor market have been fueling a growing sense of dissatisfaction, particularly among the city’s young people. Social unrest might be the “black swan” risk facing the country, Zweig added, using a phrase that Chinese President Xi Jinping himself uttered last year to describe an improbable but chaotic event. “2020 is going to be very difficult, and mass unemployment may be the most feared problem,” said Frank Ching, a China political commentator and adjunct associate professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It’s not just an economic issue — it could develop into a political one. “

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And 15% for GM. Who’s taking over? Reuters doesn’t say.

Ford’s China Vehicle Sales Drop 26% In Third Straight Year Of Decline (R.)

Ford Motor Co’s China vehicle sales fell for a third consecutive year, by 26.1%, as it battles a prolonged overall sales decline in its second-biggest market that has hit demand for its mass-market Ford brand and sports utility vehicles. The U.S. automaker delivered 146,473 vehicles in China in the fourth quarter, down 14.7% year-on-year, Ford said in a statement. In total, it sold 567,854 vehicles over 2019. Ford has been trying to revive sales in China after its business began slumping in late 2017. Sales sank 37% in 2018, after a 6% decline in 2017. Anning Chen, president and chief executive of Ford Greater China, said that while 2019 was a “challenging” year for the automaker, it saw its market share in the high-to-premium segment stabilize and its sales decline in the value segment start to narrow in the second-half of the year.


“The pressure from the external environment and downward trend of the industry volume will continue in 2020, and we will put more efforts into strengthening our product lineup with more customer-centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability.” The automaker plans to launch more than 30 new models in China over the next three years of which over a third will be electric vehicles. It has also said it would localize management teams by hiring more Chinese staff and aimed to improve relationships with joint venture partners. [..] Its larger U.S. rival General Motors last week said its sales in China fell 15% from a year earlier to 3.09 million vehicles in 2019, its second year of decline.

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Waiting for the Belingcat “analysis”.

Downing of PS-752 Already Being Used To Smear MH-17 Skeptics (OffG)

Many have noted that Iran’s honorable decision to take responsibility for the catastrophe is in sharp contrast with Washington’s response in 1988 when the U.S. Navy shot down Iran Air Flight 655 scheduled from Tehran to Dubai over the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 occupants, after failing to cover it up. Just a month later, Vice President George H.W. Bush would notoriously state he would “never apologize for the United States of America. Ever. I don’t care what the facts are.” Although he was not directly referring to the incident, one can only imagine what the reaction would be if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani were to say the same weeks after shooting down the Ukrainian plane, let alone an American one.

Predictably, Tehran’s transparency has gone mostly unappreciated while the Trump administration is already trying to use the disaster to further demonize Iran. Oddly enough, Ukrainian International Airlines is partly owned by the infamous Ukrainian-Israeli oligarch, politician and energy tycoon Igor Kolomoisky, who was notably one of the biggest financiers of the anti-Russian, pro-EU coup d’etat which overthrew the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. Kolomoisky is also a principal backer of current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky whose dubious phone call with Trump resulted in the 45th U.S. president’s impeachment last month.

In another astounding coincidence, Kolomoisky’s Privat Group is believed to control Burisma Holdings, the Cypress-based company whose executive board 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter was appointed to following the Maidan junta. The former Vice President admitted that he bribed Ukraine into firing its top prosecutor who was looking into his son’s corruption by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees. Kolomoisky, AKA “the Chameleon”, is one of the wealthiest people in the ex-Soviet country and was formerly appointed as governor of an administrative region bordering Donbass in eastern Ukraine following the 2014 putsch.

He has also funded a battalion of volunteer neo-Nazi mercenaries fighting alongside the Ukrainian army in the War in Donbass against Russian-speaking separatists which the military aid temporarily withheld by the Trump administration that was disputably contingent upon an investigation of Biden and his son goes to. In 2014, another infamous plane shootdown made international headlines when Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) scheduled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Read more …

Can Evo make a come-back?

Bolivia Exiled Ex-President Morales Calls On Radio For Armed Militias (R.)

Bolivia’s exiled former president Evo Morales on Sunday defended a call he made for the formation of armed groups, a recording of which was leaked on public radio. Speaking exclusively to Reuters on Sunday night in Argentina where he is in exile, the defiant former president confirmed his was the voice in a recording played on Bolivian radio calling for creation of armed militias “as in Venezuela”. He said people have a right to defend themselves if the new government was attacking them. He said he had not meant armed with guns and was referring to citizen defense groups that had always loosely existed. “In Bolivia, if the armed forces are shooting the people, killing the people, the people have the right to organize their security,” he said in the interview with Reuters.


“We´re not talking arms, more like slingshots,” he said. “In some times (these groups) were called militias, in other times they were called union security or union police and in some places it is called communal guard. It is not new.” In the recording released by radio station Kawsachun Coca Tropico, Morales said he and his supporters had been “too trusting” ahead of last year´s presidential election, and should have had a “Plan B.” “If between now and in a little while… I were to return (to Bolivia) or someone else goes back, we must organize as in Venezuela armed militias of the people,” Morales said in the recording. “We were too trusting. The blunder: we did not have a ‘Plan B’.”

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Is all innovation positive? Given how it’s promoted, one might think so. But that’s just because of the money involved.

Somebody Snuck A Potato Into CES 2020 (F.)

I almost walked right by it. But then I realized the object the young man was holding up, apparently thrilling the small crowd gathered around his tiny CES 2020 booth, was a potato. The vegetable in question looked like an ordinary, chunky Idaho spud, although protruding out of one side was some kind of antenna, a black plastic appendage bent upward. Close to the potato’s surface, the exterior of the antenna became a thin, blade-like electrode that pierced the skin, clearly doing… something. The man was regaling the crowd with his incredible smart product, which he said was finally unlocking the awesome decision-making power of the potato. The antenna, which he called the NeuraSpud, tapped into the potato’s “artificial intelligence.”

Once you connected your smartphone over Bluetooth to the device and launched the accompanying app, you could ask the potato anything — with your voice, no less — and it would spout an answer on the screen, the digital-vegetable equivalent of a Magic Eight Ball. If the smart potato sounds like a big, stupid stunt, that’s because it is. The man behind the idea, Nicholas Baldeck from France, told me he brought his admittedly ridiculous “invention” to CES to make a point about the torrent of smart gadgets at the show, many of which don’t really solve problems at all. “This product has way more chance of success than 60% of the startups here,” Baldeck says. “I am skeptical of this idea of ‘connected everything.’


Now it looks like innovation is about putting a chip into any object. I’m not sure the word ‘smart’ makes more sense before the word toothbrush than the word potato.” Baldeck went to a lot of trouble to make his point. His booth cost $1,000, and he spent about $4,000 in travel, equipment and marketing. Plus the electrode-driven antenna he brought really works, he says — though “works” in this context is somewhat fungible, since what the electrode is “reading” from the juices inside the potato to create the answers is probably just random junk. He also had to buy a bunch of potatoes.

Read more …

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Dec 262019
 


Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) Nativity 1406-10

 

House Democrats Mull Second Impeachment (ZH)
The Greatest Cover Up Of The Biggest Scandal (ZH)
Hunter Biden Owns Massive Home In Swanky Hollywood Hills (NYP)
Bloomberg And Steyer Hit $200 Million Mark In Combined Ad Spending (Pol.)
France’s ‘Unsustainable’ Pension System May Well Be Sustainable (F24)
Erdogan Says Turkey To Send Troops To Libya (R.)
Turkey Warns It May Evict US Forces From Military Bases (ZH)
Cattle Have Stopped Breeding, Koalas Die Of Thirst (SMH)
‘Merry Crisis!’: Sydney Mural Mocks PM’s Hawaiian Holiday (SBS)
How Ads Created A Global Junk Food Generation (G.)
The Soul Will Find a Way (Gray)

 

 

Will it be accepted?

House Democrats Mull Second Impeachment (ZH)

House Democrats may conduct a second impeachment of President Trump, according to lawyers for the Judiciary Committee. In a Monday court filing reported by Politico, House Counsel Douglas Letter argued that they still need testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, which may uncover new, impeachable evidence that Trump attempted to obstruct the Russiagate investigation (of a crime he didn’t commit). “If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment,” reads Letter’s filing.

The Democrats also argue that “McGahn’s testimony is critical both to a Senate trial and to the Committee’s ongoing impeachment investigations to determine whether additional Presidential misconduct warrants further action by the Committee,” adding that McGahn’s testimony may also be relevant to future legislation which may stem from the details of Trump’s conduct. And while DOJ lawyers acknowledged in a Monday brief that the legal fight over McGahn isn’t moot, the fact that the House Judiciary Committee moved forward with impeachment on a completely different matter removes the urgency to resolve their case. “The reasons for refraining are even more compelling now that what the Committee asserted — whether rightly or wrongly — as the primary justification for its decision to sue no longer exists,” wrote lawyers for the DOJ.

The agency also argues that the Mueller impeachment investigation is over, when House lawyers and lawmakers have described it as ongoing and active, according to the report. McGahn’s participation in House impeachment proceedings was blocked by the White House, which claimed “absolute immunity” for advisers. President Trump chimed in over Twitter following the Monday court filing, quoting “Fox and Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, who said “now all of a sudden they are saying maybe we’ll go back and visit the Mueller probe, which is absolutely unbelievable, and shows they don’t care about the American public’s tone deafness…”

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Is Barr conning Turmp? I guess we can’t rule it out.

The Greatest Cover Up Of The Biggest Scandal (ZH)

[Joe diGenova] talks about former NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers, who is allegedly cooperating with Barr and Durham. What makes the Rogers issue interesting is that he was the original whistle-blower. He is not treated as such, because the media hates Trump and anyone associated with him, but Rogers was the guy who blew the whistle on the spying to the Trump people. The great puzzle thus far has been the lack of prosecutions, despite ample evidence. The FBI agents are all guilty of crimes that have been detailed in public documents and the IG reports. There is now proof that Comey perjured himself many times. Just from a public relations perspective alone, rounding up these guys and charging them with corruption seems like a no-brainer.

Almost a year into his tenure and Barr has charged no one with a crime. One obvious explanation is that Barr is running a long con on Trump and the rest of the country, on behalf of the inner party. Robert Mueller was supposed to use his investigation to hoover up all the data so it could not be made public, in addition to harassing the Trump White House. His incompetence meant Barr took over the job and is now hoovering up all the information on the various parties. That way, everyone has an excuse for not doing anything about plot. One bit of evidence in support of this is the handling of the James Wolfe issue. He was the Senate staffer caught leaking classified information to one of the prostitutes hired by the Washington Post.

Big media hires good looking young women to sleep with flunkies like Wolf in order to get access to information. Wolf was caught and charged, but instead of getting a couple years in jail, he got two months. He will come out and land into a six-figure job as a reward for being a good soldier. An alternative explanation is that what started as a straight forward political corruption case bumped into a long pattern of behavior. In the course of investigating that pattern, the trail went much further back than the 2016 election. If there is evidence of abuse going back to 2012, maybe it goes back further. It was the Bush people, after all, who pushed for the creation of secret courts and secret warrants. Maybe Dick Cheney was listening to your phone calls after all.

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A massive home in the hills for just $2.5 million?!

Hunter Biden Owns Massive Home In Swanky Hollywood Hills (NYP)

Recovering crack addict Hunter Biden owns a home in one of the swankiest neighborhoods in America, it was revealed Monday. The son of former Vice President Joe Biden shares a ZIP code in the Hollywood Hills with celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Christina Aguilera and Halle Berry, according to documents filed in Hunter’s Arkansas paternity case. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom mid-century home is valued at $2.5 million. It sits at the end of a private gated drive and includes a pool. Biden, 49, is currently expecting his fifth child with 32-year-old wife Melissa Cohen Biden. The property was sold on June 19, records show, but it’s unclear how much Biden paid for it.


One day after the sale, a former Washington, DC, stripper filed a petition for paternity and child support against Biden in Arkansas’ Independence County Circuit Court. Lunden Alexis Roberts, 28, says she gave birth to Biden’s kid, “Baby Doe,” in August 2018. [..] Hunter tied the knot with Melissa, a South African beauty, on May 28. They live in Los Angeles, according to a New Yorker profile of Biden, which said he moved there in 2018, in order to “completely disappear”. Hunter’s disappearing act could be difficult at the Hollywood Hills home — where nearly every room has walls of floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

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Is the presidency for sale? Why not, everything else is.

Bloomberg And Steyer Hit $200 Million Mark In Combined Ad Spending (Pol.)

They entered the race late, but the two billionaires seeking the Democratic nomination are making up for lost time. Together, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have poured nearly $200 million into television and digital advertising alone, with the former New York mayor spending an unprecedented $120 million in the roughly three weeks since he joined the presidential race. That’s more than double the combined ad spending of every single non-billionaire candidate in the Democratic field this entire year. “We’ve never seen spending like this in a presidential race,” said Jim McLaughlin, a Republican political strategist who worked as a consultant for Bloomberg’s mayoral bids in New York. “He has a limitless budget.” The question isn’t whether anyone else will come close to matching Bloomberg or Steyer’s ad spending.

Rather, it’s whether all that spending is making any difference. At present, the two remain mired in single digits in the polls. Steyer isn’t spending at the same stratospheric levels as Bloomberg, yet with $83 million in ad buys so far, he’s still far outpacing everyone other than his fellow billionaire. The next highest spender on ads is Pete Buttigieg at $19 million. Unlike Bloomberg, who is attempting to jumpstart his campaign on Super Tuesday March 3, Steyer is largely focused on the four early voting states. He has spent nearly $37 million in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire — much of it on digital ads. Since joining the race in July, he’s more than doubled the combined ad spending of Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the early states.

[..] “We’re running out of ways to describe [the ad expenditures] at this point,” said Nick Stapleton, vice president of analytics at Ad Analytics, a television ad tracking firm. “It’s pretty difficult to make a comparison…You’re looking at one-third of Obama’s 2012 total [ad] spend through the general [election] in one month.”

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Don’t ever use pension and sustainable in the same sentence. Not if you value your credibility.

France’s ‘Unsustainable’ Pension System May Well Be Sustainable (F24)

Three weeks into a crippling transport strike that has wreaked havoc on Christmas holiday plans, the French government is struggling to persuade a sceptical public – and increasingly critical experts – that its controversial pension overhaul is as vital as it claims. Workers at rail and public transport companies have downed tools in protest at the plan to meld France’s 42 pension schemes into a single points-based one, which would see some public employees lose their right to early retirement – and likely result in benefit cuts for millions. The government has come under fire in particular over a “pivot age” of 64 for a full pension, which will effectively force millions to work beyond the official retirement age of 62.

Ministers insist the new system will be more transparent and fairer, in particular for women and low earners, and is critical to plugging a deficit they claim can only widen further. But after weeks of travel misery, which has dampened the start of the festive season, polls suggest that a majority of the French remain unconvinced by their arguments. According to an Odoxa survey released on Dec. 19, 66% continue to support the strike, while 57% blame the government for the standoff. At just under 14% of economic output, French spending on public pensions is among the highest in the world, a key component of a costly but cherished welfare state.

The government – along with many media outlets – routinely brandishes a study warning that the system will run a deficit of more than 17 billion euros ($18.74 billion), or 0.7% of GDP, by 2025 if nothing is done. However, the dire forecast is just one of several scenarios elaborated by the Conseil d’orientation des retraites (COR), an independent pension advisory committee, whose other projections paint a rosier picture. In another of COR’s forecasts, the deficit run by the pension system would actually shrink to 0.2% of GDP by 2030, or 5 billion euros – less than a third of the amount splashed out to appease Yellow Vest protesters earlier this year.

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Erdogan plays uniquely to the domestic crowd. Knowing that makes him make much more sense.

Erdogan Says Turkey To Send Troops To Libya (R.)

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey will send troops to Libya now that the north African country requested it, and he will present deployment legislation to the Turkish parliament in January. Erdogan visited Tunisia on Wednesday to discuss cooperation for a possible ceasefire in neighbouring Libya. In a speech Thursday, he said Turkey and Tunisia agreed to support Libya’s internationally recognised government of Fayez al-Serraj.

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He says big things to get on TV, and he can always walk them back and claim he won.

Turkey Warns It May Evict US Forces From Military Bases (ZH)

Despite mounting political and diplomatic pressure by the US and its NATO allies, Turkey has again balked at US attempts of intimidation and dug into its refusal to abandon a new Russian missile defense, saying it won’t bow to the threat of crippling US sanctions or trade the S-400s for an American system. “They said they would not sell Patriots unless we get rid of the S-400s. It is out of question for us to accept such a precondition,” said Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, late on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting, quoted by Bloomberg.

“An irrational anti-Turkish sentiment has prevailed in the Congress and it is not good for Turkish-American relations,” Kalin added, noting that Congress “should know that such language of threat would push Turkey exactly toward places that they don’t want it turn to.” Namely, right into the hands of Vladimir Putin, who is on even better terms with Erdogan than Trump, despite Turkey taking down a Russian fighter jet over its territory several years back. Separately, as the WSJ reported this morning, Erdogan once again warned that he would evict U.S. forces from two military bases in his country if Washington imposes new sanctions on his government, creating a bitter quandary for NATO as it seeks to cope with Ankara’s deepening ties to Russia.

In a television interview this month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said if the U.S. punishes Turkey for its purchase of a Russian air-defense system, then, “if necessary, we may close Incirlik and Kureci,” installations where the U.S. keeps approximately 50 B61 nuclear weapons, and operates critical radar. Erdogan’s declaration elicited an anxious reaction from U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said it raised questions about Turkey’s dedication to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: “They have that inherent right to house or to not house NATO bases or foreign troops,” Esper said. “But again, I think this becomes an alliance matter, your commitment to the alliance, if indeed they are serious about what they are saying.” “It feels like watching a car crash in slow motion,” a Western diplomat in Turkey told the WSJ.

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Gundi Rhoades is a veterinarian, scientist, mother, beef cattle farmer and member of Veterinarians for Climate Action.

Cattle Have Stopped Breeding, Koalas Die Of Thirst (SMH)

Bulls cannot breed at Inverell. They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting. My work as a veterinarian has changed so much. While I would normally test bulls for fertility, or herds of cattle for pregnancy, I no longer do, because the livestock has been sold. A client’s stud stock in Inverell has reduced from 2000 breeders to zero. I once assisted farmers who have spent their lives developing breeding programs, with historic bloodlines that go back 80 years. These stud farmers are now left with a handful of breeders that they can’t bear to part with, spending thousands keeping them fed, and going broke doing it. Cattle that sold for thousands are now in the sale yards at $70 a head. Those classed as too skinny for sale are costing the farmer $130 to be destroyed.

They are all gone and it was all for nothing. The paddocks are bare, the dams dry, the grass crispy and brown. The whole region has been completely destocked and is devoid of life. For 22 years, I have been the vet in this once-thriving town in northern NSW, which, as climate change continues to fuel extreme heat, drought and bushfires, has become hell on Earth. Here, we are seeing extreme weather events like never before. The other day we had about eight centimetres of rain in 20 minutes. These downpours are like rain bombs. They are so ferocious that a farmer lost all of his fences, and all it did was silt up the dam so he had to use a machine to excavate the mud. Most farmers in my district have not a blade of grass remaining on their properties. Topsoil has been blown away by the terrible, strong winds this spring and summer.

We have experienced the hottest days that I can remember, and right now I can’t even open any windows because my eyes sting and lungs hurt from bushfire smoke. For days, I have watched as the bushland around us went up like a tinderbox. I just waited for the next day when my clinic would be flooded with evacuated dogs, cats, goats and horses in desperate need of water and food. The impact of the drought on wildlife is devastating to watch, too. Members of the public are bringing us koalas, sugar gliders, possums, galahs, cockatoos and kangaroos on a daily basis. The koalas affect me the most. To see these gorgeous, iconic animals dying from thirst is too hard to bear. We save some, but we lose just as many. The whole town is devastated. My business has halved. But with no horses to breed, no cattle to test and care for, what am I going to do?

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I still can’t take Oz politics serious.

‘Merry Crisis!’: Sydney Mural Mocks PM’s Hawaiian Holiday (SBS)

A mural of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Hawaiian garb with flames rising all around him has appeared on an inner-Sydney wall. Artist Scott Marsh on Tuesday posted a photo of the Chippendale artwork – with Mr Morrison saying “Merry Crisis!” via a speech bubble – on Instagram. Mr Morrison is depicted in the mural wearing an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, orange lei and Santa Claus hat while holding a cocktail. In the background, red and black flames rise high. It follows the prime minister’s decision last weekend to cut an overseas family holiday in the US state short to respond to the bushfire crisis. “Heading out to Hawaii when the country is literally on fire is probably not a really great move in terms of leadership. I think public sentiment around that is all pretty unified,” Mr Marsh told AAP on Tuesday.

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How to fight overpopulation.

How Ads Created A Global Junk Food Generation (G.)

Nepalese schoolgirl Prasiddhika Shrestha is holding up a video camera at her aunt’s house, filming her cousins as they devour crisps, corn puffs, soda and dalmoth, a traditional lentil-based snack. “What is it that you like eating most?” she asks them. “Lay’s chips and Coke,” says Diwani, who drinks between one and two litres of soft drink every day. Rihana includes a pack of Kurkure corn puffs in her daily diet. Prasiddhika is among 100 schoolchildren in seven countries asked by researchers from University College London to film themselves and the food they eat for a study about the exposure of children to unhealthy diets.

Kiran Dahal, a Nepalese schoolboy, is filming in his school’s canteen, where children are scrambling over each other to buy junk food at lunchtime. “I bought two [corn puffs], a packet of dalmoth, pakoda [fried snack], chewing gum and a packet of instant noodles,” he says, showing them to the camera one by one. Pupils Laxmi and Nima eat six packs of instant noodles between them each day. “We see Coke on TV during races and football matches. We also see instant noodles on advertisements,” they say. An unhealthy diet is a major cause of “non-communicable diseases” such as heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and strokes.

Such diseases accounted for 66% of deaths in Nepal in 2017. A report this year by the UN’s children agency, Unicef, found that 43% of Nepalese children are either stunted or overweight. “The situation regarding junk food is very worrisome in Nepal,” says Atul Upadhyay of the global health organisation Helen Keller International, who is featured in UCL’s Nepal film study, produced in collaboration with the Kathmandu-based centre for research on environment, health and population activities. “Children are eating more unhealthy food than they are eating healthy food.”

Professor Sarah Hawkes, director of UCL’s centre for gender and global health, and the lead researcher behind the project, says the footage collected by children in Nepal was similar to those filmed in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Vietnam and the UK. “All children we worked with shared the common experience of pervasive, powerful and, it seems, often unregulated advertising and promotion,” she says. “The children’s footage vividly communicates that, once they step outside schools, they, and their parents, have very little control over what they see and experience, what is on their local high street, or what is going into the food they purchase there.”

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Can’t beat James Brown for Christmas. Good story.

The Soul Will Find a Way (Gray)

It’s hard to bury James Brown. At any moment in a day you’ll hear his voice, his name, a beat or a song. A Brown phrase crystallizes a situation like when it’s time to leave a room – “it’s too funky in here” or when it’s time to go to work or party–“you gotta get on the good foot,” or when hearing someone being deceitful or stupid– “talking loud and saying nothing.” The substance that fed Brown’s music won’t decompose. For the sake of discussion, let’s call it soul power. Soul power is a connection to the people and their experiences: good, bad and ugly. It means hearing what you feel and feeling what you hear. It’s in the call and response like a preacher to the congregation.

It can be in one person singing their story alone, like when Otis Redding sings “Sitting on the dock of the bay.” It’s putting the blue note in a plea, a wail, a moan, a holler or a shout. It’s about the process of life with all its messiness. Now, this is not about who has or doesn’t have soul. It’s about where Brown got his supply. I believe, there is something cosmically black about South Carolina. My belief arises from the fact that the vast majority of African slaves brought to the United States for life on the plantation disembarked on Sullivan’s Island– the “black Ellis Island”–just off the coast of Charleston.

Brown picked up from the vibes the Africans brought off the slave ships and taken out into the fields. He inherited what they sang about and how they sang it. Plantation slaves subversively sang “Jackass rared, Jackass pitch. Throwed ole Marsa in de ditch,” while Brown sang “you can’t tell me how to be the boy when you know I’m grown.” The Roma or black Gypsies also settled among and intermixed with the Africans in the low country region of South Carolina. Thus a context for Brown’s constantly being on the road with his itinerant band of musicians, all decked out in their ornate costumes, living free-wheeling lives.

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Dec 072019
 
 December 7, 2019  Posted by at 10:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Homeless mother and child walking from Phoenix to Imperial County CA Feb 1939

 

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)
Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)
What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)
A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)
Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)
Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)
Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)
Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)
Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)
Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

 

 

If you look only at jobs, and not even the quality of those jobs, things may appear shiny. We get it.

Donald Trump and Jerome Powell Can ‘Take Another Victory Lap’ (Y!)

The November jobs report crushed expectations on Friday, sending the stock market surging. “Jerome Powell and Donald Trump can take another victory lap,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Federal Reserve advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence. The economy added 266,000 jobs in November, according to a report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The prior two months of job gains were revised higher pushing the three month average of job adds to 205,000. “In stark contrast to just about every other source of economic data, the jobs data insists the U.S. economy is strong, and that is all markets care about as it is the most visible and most quoted,” Booth said. “The reaction in the dollar and bond yields speaks volumes to how surprised markets were to this data.”


[..] As for Fed Chair Jerome Powell, he has steered a Federal Reserve that cut interest rates three times so far this year in an effort to reverse the hawkishness of Fed policy last year, which included four rate hikes, and to get ahead of any economic weakness sparked by the ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The Federal Reserve meets again next week, and most market participants aren’t expecting any changes to rates. “Despite the strengthening trend, this [jobs report] will not change anything at the Fed aside from what officials say publicly,” Booth said.

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Abe and the BOJ looked only at deflation. And the harder they tried to make them spend, the more fearful of spending the Japanse people became.

Abenomics has Failed Japan. Financial Times Wants to Make it Global. (Lacalle)

A recent article in the Financial Times, “Abenomics provides a lesson for the rich world,” mentioned that the experiment started by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the early 2010s should serve as an important warning for rich countries. Unfortunately, the article’s “lessons” were rather disappointing. These were mainly that the central bank can do a lot more than the ECB and the Fed are doing, and that Japan is not doing so badly. I disagree. The failure of Abenomics has been phenomenal. The balance sheet of the Central Bank of Japan has ballooned to more than 100% of the country’s GDP, the central bank owns almost 70% of the country’s ETFs and is one of the top 10 shareholders in the majority of the largest companies of the Nikkei index.

Government debt to GDP has swelled to 236%, and despite the record-low cost of debt, the government spends almost 22% of the budget on interest expenses. All of this to achieve what? None of the results that were expected from the massive monetary experiment, inventively called QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) have been achieved, even remotely. Growth is expected to be one of the weakest in the world in 2020, according to the IMF, and the country has consistently missed both its inflation and economic growth targets, while the balance sheet of the central banks and the country’s debt soared. Real wages have been stagnant for years, and economic activity continues to be as poor as it was in the previous two decades of constant stimulus.

[..] The wrong diagnosis will lead to worsening outcomes. When the government is surrounded by economists that tell them that the problem of the economy is that there are too many savings, the government will decide to raise taxes and create a larger problem attacking consumption. With private debt at 221% of GDP. Japan has many issues, none of them being a “savings glut.” If you abandon structural reforms, the results will be worse. The QQE program was based on three “arrows”: monetary policy, government spending, and structural reforms. Guess which arrow they forgot to implement? Exactly. Structural reforms never happened, and when they did, they came in the form of higher taxes and more interventionism, the opposite of what the economy needed.

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Back to the 18th century we go.

What the ‘Expert’ Panel Should Have Told You About Impeachment (ET)

Many phrases in the Constitution—such as “necessary and proper,” “Privileges and Immunities,” and “Convention for proposing Amendments”—carry specialized 18th century meanings not obvious to the modern reader. Recall that most of the leading Founders were lawyers and the Constitution is a legal document. Some of these phrases derive from 18th century law. Therefore, to understand them you have to consult 18th century legal materials in addition to better-known sources such as the 1787 convention debates or the Federalist Papers. Unfortunately, most of the scholars called by the House Judiciary Committee to address the meaning of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” were not able to do so accurately.

According to the authoritative Westlaw database, two of the three Democratically appointed witnesses have published no scholarly work on impeachment: Their specialties are in other areas. None showed any familiarity with 18th century fiduciary standards—which (as explained below) are part of the law of impeachment. All of the witnesses voted against President Trump, and several have been involved in anti-Trump activity. It’s not surprising, therefore, that, except for professor Jonathan Turley’s heavily footnoted 53-page written statement, the testimony was biased and superficial. [..] The core of the case against President Trump is that he used his political position to seek re-election assistance from a foreign government. Although there’s dark talk of crimes committed, the principal charge is fiduciary rather than criminal. In other words, a “high … Misdemeanor.”

House Democrats have struggled to define Trump’s alleged offense. Initially, they described it as “quid pro quo.” Then they employed the term “bribery.” The legally correct designation is “self-dealing.” Self-dealing is betraying your employer’s interests to enrich yourself. It’s a violation of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. We can assume the president might benefit from a Ukrainian investigation, but that doesn’t mean asking for an investigation was self-dealing as defined by fiduciary, and therefore by impeachment, law. There’s nothing unusual or improper about a president asking a recipient of U.S. foreign aid to address corruption. As for seeking political advantage: If we punished every politician who did that, they would all be swinging from the yardarm.

This is as true in foreign as in domestic affairs. When President Barack Obama told the Russian president he would have more flexibility after his re-election, he was saying (1) an agreement now would benefit both Russia and the United States, but (2) I’m going to sacrifice our mutual interests for the present because such an agreement might hurt my re-election campaign. Was this impeachable self-dealing? Almost certainly not. So where is the divide between “normal” conduct and impeachable conduct? To answer this, we need to weigh at least three factors: impeachment precedent, the national interest, and the practice of other presidents.

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The Horowitz report is due on Monday. He’s scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

A Fraught Moment (Kunstler)

The IG has no real law enforcement powers. He can only refer or recommend further action. Nevertheless, a great miasma of anxiety oppresses the Democratic Party now as it awaits whatever Mr. Horowitz has to say about these matters. The party’s propaganda arms at The New York Times, the WashPo, and cable news networks worked up a frenzy of distractions and ruses this past week — for instance the “bombshell” that International-Man-of-Mystery Joseph Mifsud was not a hireling of the FBI. Of course, nobody ever claimed he was. Rather, he is suspected of being an agent of the Italian intel service with links to British intel, both used by the CIA as beards for its nefarious activities around its own election meddling of 2016.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic caucus has been busy with ersatz impeachment proceedings, which are invidiously scheduled to continue next week as a smokescreen to conceal the Horowitz findings. It’s been a frantic campaign for them at a fraught moment in this long saga — but the odor of desperation is thick and rank. Of course, behind the Horowitz report loom the specters of Barr & Durham. Whatever they’ve been up to has been hermetically sealed in a globe of silence even more oppressive and nightmarish for the Dems than the IG’s inquiry. Barr & Durham are able to make things stick, most crucially genuine criminal culpability for the entire RussiaGate fiasco and all of its offshoots, including the most recent “Whistleblower” caper — a patently treasonous scheme. Who knows if and when indictments start raining down, but there’s a chance that it will be a very hard rain indeed.

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Jeff Cortese, a financial crimes manager in the private sector, is the former acting chief of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit.

Strzok and Page Did Real Damage (Cortese)

Strzok and Page were employed by what was the world’s leading law enforcement agency. The integrity of their work and the work of their FBI peers was paramount to maintaining stability and confidence in the country and its law enforcement. It’s not news that the FBI’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but the extent of the impact from the imprudence of Strzok and Page is likely not fully understood by most people. Their obvious improprieties created a level of widespread distrust in the FBI not previously seen. Recruiting assets and sources, finding willing participants for interviews, and even trial success can all be adversely impacted by the decline in the FBI’s reputation.

Former colleagues have told me they recently lost otherwise strong cases because lone jurors claimed after trial they refused to convict anyone investigated by the FBI. Criminals are literally walking the streets because the FBI has lost the confidence of the American people. And that decline is directly linked to the famously poor judgment made by two senior FBI employees who knew better. This is precisely why the FBI teaches its agents never to engage in activity on FBI phones or in a public forum that reveals personal bias. The risk to the Agency is too significant. The work of all the great men and women in the FBI should not be jeopardized by the actions of one, or two, of its people.

As Americans we have a soft spot for stories of redemption. We are a country of second chances, and that is a good thing. The idea that anyone could find pleasure in someone’s downfall is abhorrent, even if they hold opposing political views. That is not to say Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not do this to themselves. They did. They made themselves political talking points that will be used by politicians and pundits until the next election, and perhaps beyond.

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“The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump. Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did.”

Pelosi Puts A Brave Face On A Doomed Mission (Tucker Carlson)

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House: “Let us begin where our Founders began in 1776: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.” With those words, our founders courageously began our Declaration of Independence, from an oppressive monarch, for among other grievances, the king’s refusal to follow rightfully passed laws. In the course of today’s events, it becomes necessary for us to address, among other grievances, the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law.” It’s just mesmerizing on many levels. But what did it mean exactly? Well, it was a metaphor. Trump is a slightly more orange version of King George III.

Democrats are the patriots plotting to overthrow him with violence. If that strikes you as alarming, Pelosi has a few words of comfort. A group of 18th-century slaveholders, she assures us, would have been completely in favor of what she’s doing. Pelosi: “James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, warned that the president might betray his trust to foreign powers, which might prove fatal to the republic. Another Founder, Gouverneur Morris, feared that a president may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust. He emphasized that this magistrate is not the king. The people are the king.” So, James Madison has given Nancy Pelosi his personal seal of approval. Remember that the next time Pelosi’s acolytes try to pull Madison’s statue off its pedestal for crimes against progressive orthodoxy.

For a brief moment, the Founders of our country are useful to the left, so they’re being presented as heroes. Enjoy it while it lasts. The framers, Pelosi tells us, worried that corrupt Americans might take money from foreign powers to do their bidding. And that, class, is why we need to impeach Donald Trump.Get it? Wait a second. Trump didn’t take money from Ukraine; Hunter Biden did. Trump just pointed that out. He was on James Madison side on that score, vigilantly policing bribery by a hostile foreign power. And for that, he must be removed from office.

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But not him?

Bloomberg On His Democratic Rivals: ‘Trump Would Eat ‘Em Up’ (R.)

Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg said on Friday that Donald Trump would easily defeat any of his Democratic White House rivals in next year’s election, bluntly declaring: “Donald Trump would eat ‘em up.” Bloomberg, 77, a billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, was a late entry into the race last month. He has been privately disparaging of his Democratic presidential rivals but this was the first time he had been so critical of them in public. In an interview on CBS’s “This Morning,” Bloomberg said: “I looked at our national government getting worse, the way we’re behaving overseas and domestically, led by our president.”


“I said back in 2016, ‘He is the wrong person for the job. He doesn’t have the temperament or the ethics or the intellect to do the job.’” Bloomberg added: “And I said, ‘We just can’t have another four years of this.’ And then I watched all the candidates. And I just thought to myself: ‘Donald Trump would eat ‘em up’.” Bloomberg, a former Republican and independent, fears that liberal candidates such as U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and their proposed costly expansion of government programs, will alienate voters in battleground states.

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I wouldn’t want to create the impression that Kamala due to a lack of money.

Kamala Harris, Michael Bloomberg, and a Supreme Court Decision (IC)

Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California suspended her presidential campaign on Tuesday. Why? Because, she said, she did not “have the financial resources we need to continue. I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign.” Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who definitely is a billionaire, has spent at least $57 million of his own money since he jumped into the race on November 24. Harris, by contrast, raised $36 million as of her last campaign filing in October. Of that, she’d spent almost $26 million since she announced her campaign last January 21. The divergence in the fates of the two candidates can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of campaign finance law.

But the case involved is not Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from 2010. It’s a far less famous one: Buckley v. Valeo, from 1976. The decision opened the door for billionaires — and, more generally, the ultra-rich — to spend as much as they want on their own political campaigns. The divergence in the fates of Harris and Bloomberg can be traced back to a Supreme Court decision — not from Citizens United in 2010, but Buckley v. Valeo in 1976. One of the main forces behind the case was a young Republican lawyer named John Bolton, later to become President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for a time. In Bolton’s memoir, he proudly states that “Everyone knew the decision in Buckley v. Valeo could determine … the future shape of American politics.” Bolton was right — and his long-ago efforts continue to bear fruit today.

Watergate was, among other things, a scandal about money in politics. President Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign had accepted bribes, including $200,000 from the chairman of the board of McDonald’s in return for permission from the federal government to raise the price of their Quarter Pounder cheeseburger. Soon after Nixon resigned in 1974, Congress responded with significant amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. This included a new limit of $50,000 per calendar year on what presidential candidates could spend of their own money on their campaign. Adjusting for inflation, that’s about $275,000 today.

Just two years later, however, the Supreme Court struck that limit down in the Buckley case. Those running for political office could now spend any amount of their own fortune they wanted. In fact, the court stated, it could be good for the wealthy to self-fund runs for office, because “the use of personal funds reduces the candidate’s dependence on outside contributions and thereby counteracts the coercive pressures and attendant risks of abuse.”

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Are we now all free to call each other whatever we want?

Musk’s Defamation Win May Reset Legal Landscape For Social Media (R.)

Elon Musk’s daring has left its mark on electric cars and rockets, and now experts say the entrepreneur may have reshaped U.S. defamation law with his willingness to defend at a high-stakes trial a lawsuit over an off-the-cuff tweet. The victory by Tesla Inc’s outspoken chief executive over a Twitter message describing a British cave explorer as “pedo guy” has raised the bar for what amounts to libel online, according to some legal experts. Musk defended his comments as trivial taunts made on a social media platform that he argued everyone views as a world of unfiltered opinion, which is protected as free speech, rather than statements of fact.

“I think this verdict reflects that there is a feeling that internet tweets and chats are more like casual conversation whether you call it opinion or rhetoric or hyperbole and should not be punished in a lawsuit,” said Chip Babcock, a lawyer who defends against defamation lawsuits. Several other attorneys who specialize in defamation cases privately expressed surprise at the outcome of what they viewed as a strong case for the cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth. They attributed it to Musk’s fame and the perceived youthfulness of the jury. But they also agreed it would shift the legal landscape, undercutting the cases that would have seemed viable before the trial while defendants would use it to try to reduce possible settlement values.

Musk’s court papers cast his comments as part of the rough-and-tumble world of Twitter, which rewards and encourages emotional outbursts and sucks in readers worldwide but that no one takes seriously. Mark Sableman, a lawyer who defends defamation cases, said the freewheeling nature of social media has inevitably changed the understanding of language and what amounts to defamatory factual statements, versus opinion. “I think defendants in modern defamation cases are likely to point to the vitriolic no-holes-barred nature of modern social media, cable TV, and political discourse, in contending that many words and accusations formerly considered defamatory are now understood only as mere opinions, not factual assertions,” he said.

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“..some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one.”

Saudi Arabia Retreats From The Troubles Its Clown Prince Caused (MoA)

Iran has enabled the Houthi to resist throughout the 5 years of war the Saudis waged on them. Drones and missiles parts provided by Iran to the Houthi allowed them to compel the Saudis to file for peace. It is thereby highly unlikely that the Houthi will dissociate themselves from Iran. They will agree to end their attacks on Saudi Arabia if the Saudis end their attacks on Yemen and pay for the damage their war has caused. If the Saudis do not agree to that more of their helicopters will come down in flames and more of their oil installations will be set on fire. The war on Yemen was started by clown prince Muhammad bin Salman who was then Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia.

He had hoped for a fast victory but the well equipped Saudi military proved to be incapable of defeating barefoot Houthi in the mountains of north Yemen. The war costs the Saudis several billions per month and threatened to ruin the state. Muhammad Bin Salman’s other projects did not go any better. He had planned to sell shares of Saudi Aramco at international stock exchanges and at a total valuation of 2 trillion dollar. The move was supposed to bring in $100 billion to finance a further industrialization of the Saudi economy. After many delays Saudi Aramco is now finally making its initial public offering. The shares will start trading on December 11. But the stock will only be listed at the Saudi Tadawul exchange.

The initial share price offer puts the value of the company at $1.7 trillion which is higher than the $1.5 trillion estimate international banks had published. Today the Saudis announced a large cut in their oil output to increase the global oil prices and the company’s valuation. That might attract more urgently needed buyers to the IPO. But the stocks will still be sold to mainly domestic entities, if needed with some pressure. Instead of attracting $100 billion of fresh money from abroad some $25.6 billion will be taken out of the left Saudi trouser pocket to be put into the right one. The economic benefit for the country is dubious.

Two and a half years ago the clown prince tried to attack and occupy Qatar. The given ideological reason was the Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood. But the real reason was the Saudi need for more money which MbS tried to gain through a real estate and resource grab. The project failed when Turkish troops came to Qatar’s aid.

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Nov 162019
 
 November 16, 2019  Posted by at 9:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate (Maté)
The Deep State’s Deep State Department (Kunstler)
Dems Switched From “Quid Pro Quo” To “Bribery” Because Of A Focus Group (HA)
Bloomberg To Spend $100m On Anti-Trump Ads In Battleground States (Hill)
Obama Cautions 2020 Hopefuls Against Going Too Far Left (Hill)
Obama Left An Ambassador to Die (PJMedia)
When Did Ukraine Become a ‘Critical Ally’? (Buchanan)
Aviation Academic: I Wouldn’t Ride A 737 MAX No Matter What Boeing Says (ND)
Arbuthnot Out as Assange’s Judge, Says Wikileaks Lawyer Jen Robinson (CN)
Julian Assange’s Lawyer Says His Health Is ‘Seriously Deteriorating’ (SMH)

 

 

Aaron Maté has delved deep into the material. John Durham could use this.

The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate (Maté)

In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. intelligence community produced a report saying Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to swing the 2016 election to Donald Trump. The January 2017 report, called an Intelligence Community Assessment, followed months of leaks to the media that had falsely suggested illicit ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin while also revealing that such contacts were the subject of a federal investigation. Its release cast a pall of suspicion over Trump just days before he took office, setting the tone for the unfounded allegations of conspiracy and treason that have engulfed his first term.

The ICA’s blockbuster finding was presented to the public as the consensus view of the nation’s intelligence community. As events have unfolded, however, it now seems apparent that the report was largely the work of one agency, the CIA, and overseen by one man, then-Director John Brennan, who closely directed its drafting and publication with a small group of hand-picked analysts.

Nearly three years later, as the public awaits answers from two Justice Department inquiries into the Trump-Russia probe’s origins, and as impeachment hearings catalyzed by a Brennan-hired anti-Trump CIA analyst unfold in Congress, it is clear that Brennan’s role in propagating the collusion narrative went far beyond his work on the ICA. A close review of facts that have slowly come to light reveals that he was a central architect and promoter of the conspiracy theory from its inception.

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“The president dispatched Mr. Giuliani to Ukraine because he didn’t trust the State lifers to get to the bottom of the mischief emanating from Kiev during the 2016 election..”

The Deep State’s Deep State Department (Kunstler)

For now, it comes down to this: the US State Department is at war with the White House. State’s allies in the Democratic majority congress want to help overthrow the occupant of the White House because he’s interfering in the department’s foreign policy. The lifers at State are the same ones who executed a coup in 2014 against Ukraine’s government and threw out the elected president Victor Yanukovych because he tilted to join a Russian-backed regional customs union rather than NATO. State’s diplomatic lifers are old hands at coups. Now they’re at it at home, right here in the USA.

Ever since the Maidan Revolution of 2014, they have worked sedulously to exert control over Ukrainian affairs. And they especially can’t stand that the recently elected president Zelensky declared that he wants to improve his country’s relationship with next-door-neighbor (and ex-sovereign) Russia. The occupant of the White House, Mr. Trump, had often expressed a similar interest to improve the USA’s relations with Russia. State would prefer to amp up a new cold war. Mr. Trump has some nerve interfering with that!

The lifers at State also have something to hide: their exertions to connive with Ukraine government officials they controlled to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election in favor of their former boss, Mrs. Clinton. The current impeachment spectacle is an attempt to pitch a smokescreen over that embarrassing mess, which includes the CIA’s and FBI’s efforts to blame Russia for their own illegal interventions in the 2016 election — the heart of the three-year impeachment narrative. The Joe-and-Hunter Biden affair is the left anterior descending artery in that heart.

The current testimony in the House Intel Committee raises another question. Whose back-channel diplomats are legitimate in US foreign policy: Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolf Giuliani, or State’s own boy, billionaire freelance international political adventurer George Soros? The president dispatched Mr. Giuliani to Ukraine because he didn’t trust the State lifers to get to the bottom of the mischief emanating from Kiev during the 2016 election, in which State lifers played an active role, along with Mr. Soros and his agents — in particular an outfit called the AntiCorruption Action Center, jointly funded by Mr. Soros and State (i.e. US taxpayers).

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Ha ha ha!

Dems Switched From “Quid Pro Quo” To “Bribery” Because Of A Focus Group (HA)

WaPo reported on it last night: “Several Democrats have stopped using the term “quid pro quo,” instead describing “bribery” as a more direct summation of Trump’s alleged conduct. The shift came after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted focus groups in key House battlegrounds in recent weeks, testing messages related to impeachment. Among the questions put to participants was whether “quid pro quo,” “extortion” or “bribery” was a more compelling description of Trump’s conduct. According to two people familiar with the results, which circulated among Democrats this week, the focus groups found “bribery” to be most damning. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the results have not been made public.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a House Intelligence Committee member, kicked off the effort to retire “quid pro quo” from the Democratic vocabulary during a Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he said “it’s probably best not to use Latin words” to explain Trump’s actions.”

It makes me laugh to think of Dems needing a focus group to explain to them that “bribery,” a concept even kindergarteners grasp as wrong, is a bit more effective than “quid pro quo” when trying to turn public opinion against the president. That’s so elementary that I assumed they switched to bribery in their messaging for legal reasons, because it’s an impeachable offense specified in the Constitution. No more hiding by the GOP behind the vagueness of the term “high crimes and misdemeanors”! Pelosi was about to put them on the spot: This is bribery, son. It’s right there in black and white in Article II. If the facts are there, you must vote to remove.

But no, turns out she and Schiff needed a group of average joes to officially confirm that bribe sounds worse than some Latin term known mainly to lawyers. I’m surprised Trump hasn’t highlighted the focus-grouping on Twitter yet. Not only does it underline that impeachment is a political process, being run by people who stand to gain electorally by investigating him, but it leaves Democrats open to the claim that they’re not just tweaking the terminology based on public opinion, they’re tweaking the actual charges. If the facts, which haven’t changed materially since this started, told a straightforward story of bribery all along then why was the less definitive “abuse of power” cited until recently as the core claim against POTUS?

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States for sale.

Bloomberg To Spend $100m On Anti-Trump Ads In Battleground States (Hill)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to drop $100 million on anti-Trump ads in key swing states during the 2020 election. The digital ad campaign will focus on Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and will run starting Friday through the end of the primary season, according to multiple news reports. The ads will not feature Bloomberg himself. “Mike believes that Trump is an existential threat to the country,” Bloomberg spokesman Jason Schechter told CNN. “He’s not waiting to take on the President, he’s starting now. This is all hands on deck.”


The announcement of the ad campaign comes as Bloomberg takes steps to plunge into the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, a move that could potentially upheave the party’s presidential nominating contest. The former mayor filed paperwork to appear in the Alabama and Arkansas primaries, but did not file paperwork for the crucial New Hampshire primary by the Friday deadline. The $100 million investment could serve as a counterbalance to President Trump’s gargantuan war chest – the president and the Republican National Committee combined to raise $308 million so far this year, and started November with $156 million in cash reserves.

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Odd. He hasn’t said a word so far and now this? Paving the way for Hillary? Piling on Sanders AGAIN?

Obama Cautions 2020 Hopefuls Against Going Too Far Left (Hill)

Former President Obama cautioned the crowded Democratic 2020 primary field from moving too far to the left, saying voters could be turned off by messages calling for massive societal and government transformations. “Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality,” Obama said at a meeting of fundraisers, according to The New York Times, which was in attendance at the event. “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it.” The former president cited health care and immigration as issues where certain proposals from 2020 contenders, none of whom he mentioned by name, may be beyond the pale for many voters.


His comments could be implied as critiques of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have called for a “political revolution” and “big structural change,” introducing policies that would eliminate private health insurance and place a moratorium on deportations. Obama, who is still widely liked among the Democratic Party faithful, recognized that 2020 candidates would have to move beyond his White House’s platforms, but that there could be a limit to how far left the contenders’ plans could go. “I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal and if they hear something as bold as possible then immediately that’s going to activate them,” he said.

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“..Yovanovitch wouldn’t even had known about the tweet until after her testimony had Schiff not posted the tweets in the first place..”

Obama Left An Ambassador to Die (PJMedia)

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.” “They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President,'” Trump continued. “The U.S. now has a very strong and powerful foreign policy, much different than proceeding administrations. It is called, quite simply, America First!” Trump also noted that he’s done far more for Ukraine than his predecessor than Obama.

This triggered Adam Schiff. “What we saw today is it wasn’t enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared. It wasn’t enough she was attacked. It wasn’t enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason. But we saw today witness intimidation in real-time by the president of United States,” Schiff said. “Once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chilled her but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of the inquiry very seriously,” he added. Really? First of all, Yovanovitch wouldn’t even had known about the tweet until after her testimony had Schiff not posted the tweets in the first place, but regardless, where’s the intimidation? I can’t see any. If Schiff was taking this seriously, he wouldn’t be lobbing absurd charges for the purpose of piling on more ridiculous charges against Trump hoping something will stick.

But what really gets me is how it’s been almost seven years since Barack Obama left one of his ambassadors to die in a terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate, and the same people who defended the Obama administration endlessly over that, are feigning outrage over Trump’s tweet expressing his opinion. Democrats have been crying “impeach!” over everything for years, and now every time Trump expresses an opinion, we’re hearing “intimidation.” The same party that defended the Obama administration’s failure to protect our consulate in Libya from an attack that claimed four American lives, including that of a U.S. ambassador, are now trying to tell us that we should be outraged over a harmless tweet—a tweet that, regardless of what one thinks of the content, was written after Yovanovitch started testifying, and as far as Trump knew, she wouldn’t have even had an opportunity to see until well after her testimony concluded? A tweet that she’d have been oblivious to had Schiff not brought it up.

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“Despite constant pressure from Sen. John McCain and our neocons to bring Ukraine into NATO, wiser heads on both sides of the Atlantic rejected the idea.”

When Did Ukraine Become a ‘Critical Ally’? (Buchanan)

Indeed, Ukraine has never been a NATO ally or a “critical ally.” Three decades ago, George H.W. Bush implored Ukraine not to set out on a course of “suicidal nationalism” by declaring independence from the Russian Federation. Despite constant pressure from Sen. John McCain and our neocons to bring Ukraine into NATO, wiser heads on both sides of the Atlantic rejected the idea. Why? Because the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Ukraine is not now and has never been a vital interest of ours that would justify a U.S. war with a nuclear-armed Russia. Instead, it was the avoidance of such a war that was the vital interest that nine U.S. presidents, from Truman to Bush I, secured, despite such provocations as the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the building of the Berlin Wall.

In February 2014, the elected pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by U.S.-backed protesters in Maidan Square, cheered on by McCain. This was direct U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of Ukraine. Victoria Nuland of the State Department conceded that we had dumped billions into Ukraine to reorient its regime to the West. To Vladimir Putin, the Kyiv coup meant the loss of Russia’s historic Black Sea naval base at Sebastopol in Crimea. Rather than let that happen, Putin effected an uprising, Crimea’s secession from Ukraine, and the annexation by Russia. In eastern Ukraine, the pro-Russian Donbass rose up in rebellion against the pro-NATO regime in Kyiv. Civil war broke out. We backed the new regime. Russia backed the rebels. And five years later, the war goes on. Why is this our fight?

During the Obama years, major lethal aid was denied to Ukraine. The White House reasoned that arming Ukraine would lead to an escalation of the war in the east, greater Russian intervention, defeat for Kyiv, and calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily, risking a war with Russia. Not until Trump became president did lethal aid begin flowing to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles.

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The FAA is getting into trouble.

Aviation Academic: I Wouldn’t Ride A 737 MAX No Matter What Boeing Says (ND)

Monash University aviation expert and co-author of Up in the Air Greg Bamber said that he would not feel safe flying on the 737 MAX under current circumstances. “I would not be getting on one at the moment,” Professor Bamber said. “Boeing has made several earlier forecasts of the planes being back in the air very soon which it did not keep. “I think there’s a lot of ground still to cover.” Boeing’s behaviour has created a “trust deficit”, Professor Bamber said. “They are saying that the first people that will be flying on these planes will be Boeing executives and airline executives, and they will be on a big push to try to reassure the public and on a charm offensive to convince people to trust Boeing again,” he said.

He outlined two ongoing areas of concern. The first is the technical issue of fixing the fault with the 737 MAX planes – the MCAS system, which was designed to prevent the plane stalling, but was not disclosed to pilots – and led to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Air tragedies. Boeing misled both “the airlines it was selling these planes to”, and the pilots, by not disclosing the new MCAS system and putting it in their manuals, Professor Bamber said. “Boeing did this for commercial reasons, putting profits before people. They wanted to pretend that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 was not a new aircraft on a new system, and they wanted to persuade airlines to buy it on the grounds that pilots wouldn’t need new training,” he said. “Just fixing the technical issue is one thing … but once that’s done and the regulators are convinced that has been done, it is then going to be necessary to try to fix the trust deficit and retrain the pilots and convince the travelling public that the planes are safe.”

The second issue is that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States allowed Boeing to act with little oversight and “almost self-regulate”, Professor Bamber said. “The FAA In the US is also to some extent at fault here,” he said. “The primary fault is with Boeing, but the American authority had been captured by Boeing. The FAA allowed Boeing to almost self-regulate.” Boeing has a “major challenge ahead”, Professor Bamber said. “Even if the FAA does reverse the grounding its likely that other regulators in Australia, Asia, and Europe, won’t necessarily follow suit any longer. “They will want to take time to do their own investigations because they now have a trust deficit with the FAA.”

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It took her all this time to recuse herself. But they have more of these people.

Arbuthnot Out as Assange’s Judge, Says Wikileaks Lawyer Jen Robinson (CN)

WikiLeaks lawyer Jen Robinson said Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the judge presiding over Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings who is embroiled in a conflict of interest, will no longer be be sitting on the case. Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate enmeshed in a conflict of interest, will no longer be presiding over the extradition proceedings of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, said WikiLeaks lawyer Jen Robinson, at an event in Sydney on Friday night. “Yes, there was some controversy about her sitting on the case,” Robinson said. “She won’t be sitting on the case going forward.” Robinson told Australian journalist Quentin Dempster at the event that she was “not sure” who would take over from Arbuthnot.

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis of the Daily Maverick reported on Friday: “The son of Lady Emma Arbuthnot, the Westminster chief magistrate overseeing the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange, is the vice-president and cyber-security adviser of a firm heavily invested in a company founded by GCHQ and MI5 which seeks to stop data leaks, it can be revealed. Alexander Arbuthnot’s employer, the private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, has a multimillion-pound investment in Darktrace, a cyber-security company which is also staffed by officials recruited directly from the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

These intelligence agencies are behind the US government’s prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secret documents. Darktrace has also had access to two former UK prime ministers and former US President Barack Obama. The revelations raise further concerns about potential conflicts of interests and appearance of bias concerning Lady Arbuthnot and the ties of her family members to the UK and US military and intelligence establishments. Lady Arbuthnot’s husband is Lord James Arbuthnot, a former UK defence minister who has extensive links to the UK military community.

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“The Australian government has not, as far as I am aware, raised any objection to the treatment of Julian Assange by the US or his indictment under the espionage act”

Julian Assange’s Lawyer Says His Health Is ‘Seriously Deteriorating’ (SMH)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains ill and effectively isolated in a high-security prison alongside inmates facing charges for violent offences and terrorism, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson told a Sydney audience on Friday night. “I was with Julian on Tuesday… and his health is obviously significantly and seriously deteriorating,” said Ms Robinson, a prominent human rights advocate and barrister who has defended Mr Assange since 2010. Ms Robinson was in Sydney as a guest of the global association of Writers, PEN International, which was marking its Day of the Imprisoned Writer in support of free speech.

She said that during his seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mr Assange had not been able to access proper sunlight or space to exercise and the UK had refused permission to let him access outside medical care, forcing him to “choose between his right to asylum and his right to health”. Mr Assange, 48, has now completed his sentence for breaching bail as a result of that asylum. He is being held in Belmarsh Prison outside London as the British government considers an extradition application from the United States over allegations he conspired to break into a classified Pentagon computer. Should he be convicted he faces 175 years in prison. His hearing will be heard in February.

Ms Robinson said Mr Assange should be supported as a journalist and publisher for his release of millions of pages of secret US military and diplomatic cables, and criticised Australian governments of both parties for failing to intervene on his behalf. “The Australian government has not, as far as I am aware, raised any objection to the treatment of Julian Assange by the United States or an objection to his indictment under the espionage act,” she said. “One wonders, had the Australian government raised their concern about this treatment of an Australian citizen whether the Trump administration would have pursued these charges.” She said that it would have a devastating effect on free speech around the world if the US was able to successfully prosecute a journalist who was not a US citizen for actions he had not undertaken on US soil.

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David Graeber tweeted: “if there was anything that really set my thinking on the path that led to the bullshit jobs book, it was probably this brilliant meme”

 

 

 

 

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Nov 092019
 
 November 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Sheperd and sheperdess in a meadow 1888

 

MSM Gets History & Russia All Wrong AGAIN (RT)
Trump Has ‘No Problem’ Releasing Second Phone Call With Ukraine (NBC)
Anonymous Author Writes Trump’s Decision-Making Is Eroding Over Time (NBC)
‘Steady State’ Kept ‘Wheels From Coming Off The White House Wagon’ (Hill)
Facebook Scrubs All References To Alleged Whistleblower Eric Ciaramella (ZH)
Trump On Impeachment: ‘They Shouldn’t Be Having Public Hearings’ (Hill)
Giuliani: Ukraine Quid Pro Quo Intended To Benefit Trump Personally (WE)
Enter the Old White Knight (Kunstler)
Brazil’s Former President Lula Released From Prison (RT)
Southwest and American Pull 737 MAX Until Early March (R.)

 

 

Over 20 million Russians died in WWII. This should be mandatory knowledge in all western schools. And for reporters. It’s about respect. It should also be mandatory for US presidents to attend V-Day, certainly when it’s the 75th.

MSM Gets History & Russia All Wrong AGAIN (RT)

US President Donald Trump managed to trigger his critics again by saying he would love to go to Russia for the celebration of victory in WWII – which a reporter and most media misnamed as the long-nonexistent “May Day parade.” “I would love to go if I could,” Trump said on Friday, answering a reporter who had asked if he would go to the “May Day parade” in Moscow next year. “I am thinking about it.” Trump noted it was in the middle of the campaign season for the 2020 US presidential election, so he might be busy. The mere mention of the possibility of going to Russia is enough to send the US president’s critics into a frenzy, but the mention of “May Day” had them additionally shrieking in outrage.

“All roads lead to Putin!” exclaimed Raw Story, rolling out a gamut of #Resistance Twitter reactions echoing that line from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Leading the way was CNN anchor Jim Sciutto, who characterized the parade as “a celebration of Russian military power, which Putin is using to undermine US national security interests across the globe.” [..] The trouble with all these hot takes is that there is no such thing as the “May Day military parade,” and hasn’t been in over 50 years. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union did roll out the tanks and missiles on Red Square for International Workers’ Day, but the last such military display was in 1968.

Trump’s own response on Friday – “It’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war” – indicates he knew perfectly well to which event he’d been invited: the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ triumph over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, which Russia will celebrate on May 9, 2020.

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No, NBC, it’s V-Day, not a May Day military parade.

Trump Has ‘No Problem’ Releasing Second Phone Call With Ukraine (NBC)

President Donald Trump said Friday that he spoke to the president of Ukraine by phone in April, months before the call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, and that he was willing to provide a transcript of the call. “I have the second call, which nobody knew about,” Trump said, speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Friday morning, referring to that spring conversation. “I guess they want that to be produced also. … I understand they’d like it, and I have no problem giving it to them.” Trump was referring to the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, which was prompted by a whistleblower complaint about a phone conversation Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy on July 25.


The president said that the White House counsel did not want to release “all this information” but that he did not object to turning it over. “I had a call, I’m sure it was fine. I make a lot of calls. But I have no problem releasing it. I’m very transparent,” he said, though he was concerned that doing so “sets a bad precedent” with foreign leaders who might worry about the privacy of their future conversations with the United States. Trump said his first phone call with Zelinksiy was “very revealing,” adding it was another “perfect” call. Trump also said that he is considering visiting Russia for its May Day military parade. “I am certainly thinking about it,” he said, adding that President Vladimir Putin had extended an invitation

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Smearing has turned anonymous. The media should ignore it completely. They do the opposite.

Anonymous Author Writes Trump’s Decision-Making Is Eroding Over Time (NBC)

President Donald Trump’s behavior can be so erratic that most top administration officials have pre-written resignation letters ready to submit, an anonymous author claiming to be a senior official in the Trump administration says in a book scheduled to be published this month. To complicate matters, the president’s decision-making abilities are getting worse with time, according to excerpts of “A Warning” that were obtained and read Thursday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The author, described only as “a senior Trump administration official,” is the same person who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last year headlined, “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.”

The column said “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” The information is coming from an anonymous source, and NBC News does not know who the writer is nor whether they were in a position to have witnessed what they say transpired. In the book excerpts, the author describes near-daily “five-alarm fire drill” that leads senior officials to cancel plans and race to the White House to intercept Trump before he can enact his latest “wacky or destructive idea.” “Staff throw up the Bat-Signal, calling a snap meeting or a teleconference. ‘He’s about to do something,’ one warns the group, explaining what the president is about to announce.” “‘He can’t do this. We’ll all look like idiots, and he’ll get murdered for it in the press,’ another exclaims. “‘Yeah, well, I’m telling you he’s going to do it unless someone gets to him fast,’ the first warns. ‘Can you cancel your afternoon?'”

[..] In excerpts published separately by The Washington Post, the author likens Trump to “a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport.” “I’ve sat and listened in uncomfortable silence as he talks about a woman’s appearance or performance,” according to the Post’s excerpts. “He comments on makeup. He makes jokes about weight. He critiques clothing. He questions the toughness of women in and around his orbit. He uses words like ‘sweetie’ and ‘honey’ to address accomplished professionals. This is precisely the way a boss shouldn’t act in the work environment.”

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One half of the nation keeps on eating it all up.

‘Steady State’ Kept ‘Wheels From Coming Off The White House Wagon’ (Hill)

In a new book, the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed has described a “steady state” that formed to “keep the wheels from coming off the White House wagon,” according to excepts from the book read by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on her show Thursday. “The early Steady State formed to keep the wheels from coming off the White House wagon,” Maddow read from the excerpts of the book “A Warning.” “When presidential appointees started conferring about their shared concerns with the nation’s chief executive … it was done informally, in weekly phone calls or on the margins of meetings,” Maddow continued, citing the book. Many of the concerns staff members had about the president stemmed from his “inattentiveness” and “impulsiveness.”


[..] “In Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable,” the person wrote last year. “This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state,” they continued at the time. The Post on Thursday also reported on an excerpt of the book in which the anonymous person, billed as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” wrote that officials wake up “in a full-blown panic” due to Trump’s tweets.

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And Twitter too. Curious. Everyone knows the name. So why the censorship?

Facebook Scrubs All References To Alleged Whistleblower Eric Ciaramella (ZH)

Facebook announced on Friday that it would be removing an posts which name alleged Trump-Ukraine whistleblower Eric Ciaramella. “We are removing any and all mentions of the potential whistleblower’s name and will revisit this decision should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in the debate,” Facebook said in a statement in which they claim it violates their “coordinating harm” policy which prohibits content ‘outing of witness, informant, or activist.’ On Wednesday, the social media giant removed ads naming Ciaramella which had been viewed several hundred thousand times according to the Washington Post.

On Friday, Breitbart’s Allum Bohkari reported that the news outlet’s posts containing references to Ciaramella had been scrubbed from the site. Wednesday evening, Facebook removed Breitbart posts reporting on the fact other respected news outlets have reported the identity of the alleged whistleblower is Eric Ciaramella. Any Facebook user who attempts to click on that article on Facebook is now given a message that says, “this content isn’t available at the moment.” To be clear, Breitbart did not “out” the alleged whistleblower but did provide additional relevant reporting about him; he is, after all, a public figure, having served on the National Security Council. Moreover, his name has been used in the Mueller report (p283) and Ambassador Bill Taylor’s testimony.

Administrators of Breitbart News’ Facebook page began receiving notifications on Wednesday evening stating that Breitbart’s page is “at risk of being unpublished” but were not given any details as to why, or even which posts were allegedly at issue. -Breitbart Of note, it is not against the law for anyone except the Inspector General to disclose a whistleblower’s name. “There is no overarching protection for the identity of the whistleblower under federal law,” said attorney Dan Meyer, the former executive director of the intelligence community whistleblower program, adding “Congress has never provided that protection.”

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I think he means there should not be any hearings.

Trump On Impeachment: ‘They Shouldn’t Be Having Public Hearings’ (Hill)

Trump on Friday blasted the impeachment proceedings in his most extensive public comments since the first transcripts were released on Monday. He attacked Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment process and suggested an attorney for the whistleblower who raised concerns about his call with the Ukrainian president should be sued “and maybe for treason.” Trump downplayed the potentially damaging effects of the transcripts that have been released thus far, claiming he was unfamiliar with many of the witnesses and that none of them had first-hand information. “I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump said. “The testimony has all been fine. I mean for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. There are some very fine people. You have some Never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge.”

The president asserted that the only thing that counts is the partial transcript from his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Trump has insisted that document shows the call was “perfect,” it depicts the president urging his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” the Bidens after Zelensky brought up the need for military assistance. Trump added that he’s open to releasing a similar memo detailing an earlier call with Zelensky if Democrats demand a copy. The House Intelligence Committee will hold public hearings next week with three witnesses who have testified privately in recent weeks, presenting new challenges for Trump’s efforts to discredit members of his own administration.

Diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent will testify on Wednesday, and former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify Friday. The White House has refused to cooperate with the process thus far, directing officials not to testify. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney did not comply with a subpoena to testify on Friday. Trump told reporters at the White House he would have no problem with Mulvaney speaking with lawmakers, but he did not want to “give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt.”

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A very strange conclusion by the Washington Examiner. Defending a client against false accusations, which Giuliani says he did and does, equals “prioritizing Trump’s personal gain over that of the people”?!

Giuliani: Ukraine Quid Pro Quo Intended To Benefit Trump Personally (WE)

Here, the president’s personal attorney has conceded that he used formal diplomatic channels and the powers of the Oval Office to prioritize Trump’s personal gain over that of the people. Trump’s only option at this point is to throw Giuliani and his back-channel under the bus. It’s evident that Burisma only hired Hunter Biden for access to his father, even though it’s unclear that the vice president ever allowed the oil company or his son to exploit that connection. Furthermore, we know for a fact that Ukraine favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. But we have diplomatic channels and strategies to combat legitimate corruption and investigate malfeasance.


Furthermore, Trump’s personal legal defense should not involve using the powers of the presidency — potentially without the property security clearances — to gain exculpatory evidence. For a personal attorney to use congressionally approved aid to advance a president’s personal interests over national interests is unconscionable. If Trump signed off on that, then yes, it’s clearly an impeachable abuse of power that proves he’s willing to illicitly interfere with the 2020 election.

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“..liable to end in a farrago of humiliation so intense that all the Lawfare ninjas on God’s green earth will not avail to rescue the Democratic Party’s lost honor..”

Enter the Old White Knight (Kunstler)

And how does Mike measure up against his old Boomer Gen fellow New Yorker and sometime adversary, Mr. Trump? For all of his gilded trappings, there’s no denying that Mr. Trump is beloved by what used to be known as the Salt of the Earth — more lately the “Deplorables” — despite the fact that the president may have actually never been on a New York Subway once in his well-padded life, while Mike was a renowned “strap-hanger” in his city hall glory days. The awful irony! Also, President DJT is almost never seen dressed in anything but that straightjacket of a business suit and tie, gold cufflinks and all, while Mike has often appeared in Hamptons casuals of perfectly distressed blue jeans, polo shirt, and Gucci loafers which, these days, is tantamount to hippie garb.

Mike’s most obvious selling point is that he appears to be what used to be known as “a normal person,” that is in speech, manner, and general comportment. But, normal to whom these days? Perhaps not to the WalMart shoppers moiling by the tens of thousands in those heartland arenas where Mr. Trump casts his magic spells of plain speech and surly manner, much beloved in these days of dastardly, confabulating lawyer-speak, gender studies crypto-metaphysical bullshit, and self-serving New York Times Ivy League ambiguation.

Speaking of which, what might Mike Bloomberg do about the impeachment circus led by the imbecile Adam Schiff that is liable to end in a farrago of humiliation so intense that all the Lawfare ninjas on God’s green earth will not avail to rescue the Democratic Party’s lost honor? Or, how will a Bloomberg campaign maneuver through the blizzard of indictments coming down against the former agents, servelings, chore-boys, foot-soldiers, and media sirens of Barack Obama’s runaway Deep State?

Read more …

Brazil will have to get rid of Bolsonaro. But it may be too corrupted to achieve that.

Brazil’s Former President Lula Released From Prison (RT)

A judge has ordered the release from jail of former President of Brazil Lula da Silva until his appeal process ends. Da Silva stands accused of corruption, though he and his supporters call the charges politically motivated. On Friday, the judge accepted the request filed by the ex-president’s defense team, authorizing him to leave jail. Da Silva will now be able to stay out of prison until his appeal process continues. Within two hours after the release request was accepted, former Brazilian President walked out of jail, meeting a large crowd of his supporters who gathered outside to celebrate the occasion. Shortly after the ruling, Lula’s official Twitter account released a video of of the 74-year-old working out. The post was accompanied by two words only: “Lula free”.


The move follows the Thursday ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, which overturned, in a 6-5 vote, its own 2016 decision, which had obliged convicted criminals to go to jail after they lose their first appeal. Now, the court decided such a provision to be non-constitutional, since the country’s basic law says no one can be considered guilty until due process is over. Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, was slapped with a 12-year jail term as a result of a probe into an alleged massive corruption scheme, commonly known as the ‘Car Wash.’ The socialist icon has always maintained his innocence, vehemently rejecting all the accusations as politically-motivated.

Read more …

I wouldn’t bet on March either.

Southwest and American Pull 737 MAX Until Early March (R.)

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines Group Inc said on Friday they are extending Boeing 737 MAX cancellations until early March, just shy of the one-year anniversary of an Ethiopian Airlines crash of the jet that led to a worldwide grounding. Southwest and American, the two largest U.S. operators of the aircraft, have had to scale back growth plans and are together canceling more than 300 flights a day, taking a hit to profits as they manage slimmer fleets without the 737 MAX. Southwest, which has bet its entire growth strategy on Boeing’s newest single-aisle aircraft, had previously canceled all its 737 MAX flights until Feb. 8 and now expects a return to service on March 6, though it warned that the timeline could get pushed back again.


Boeing Co is facing increasing hurdles in obtaining approval to return the plane to service before the end of this year as it has targeted. [..] Reuters reported this week that U.S. and European regulators will need to return to a Rockwell Collins facility in Iowa to complete an audit of Boeing’s software documentation after regulators found gaps and substandard documents. Boeing has confirmed it must submit revised documentation. That has thrown into question when Boeing would be able to complete a certification test flight. The Federal Aviation Administration has said it would not unground the planes until 30 days after that flight occurs.

Read more …

 

A nice graph from Statista, but if they don’t specify which currency the debt is in, it loses much of its meaning.

 

 

 

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Oct 092018
 


Pieter Bruegel the Elder Two monkeys 1562

 

And there we go again. Another IPCC report, and they all keep getting more alarming than the previous one. And then nothing substantial happens. Until the next report is issued and makes everybody’s headlines for a day, or two. Rinse, spin and repeat. “Now we really have to do something!”. “World leaders have a moral obligation to act!”.

Oh boy. To start with that last bit, world leaders don’t act because of moral obligations. They act to stay in, or get in, power. And they all know that to achieve that goal they must keep their people happy, even if dictators do this differently from ‘democratically elected’ leaders.

The first tool they have for this is control of the media, control of the narratives that define -or seem to- their societies. If a society is in bad shape, they will control the media to show that it is doing fine. if it’s actually doing fine, they will make sure all the praise for this is theirs and theirs alone.

So what makes their people happy? One thing far ahead of anything else is material comfort. If leaders can’t convince people that they’re comfortable, their power is in danger. Once enough people are miserable or hungry, a process is set in motion that threatens to push leaders aside in favor of someone who promises to make things better. There’s never a shortage of those.

 

Leaders, politicians, think short-term. They may see further into the future than the next election, but that is not useful information. If they enact measures aimed at 10 years from today or more, they risk being voted out in 2 years, or 4. It’s not even their fault, it’s how the system works. It is different for dictators, but not even that much.

The general notion is clear. But that means we can’t rely on our leaders to act against the climate change the IPCC keeps warning of. because is has a -much- longer time window than the next elections -or the next coup in dictator terms. Even if every IPCC report depicts a shorter window than the last one, it’s still not inside those 4-year election cycles (numbers vary slightly, 4 is typical).

A typical ‘response’ to the climate threat are the COP meetings and agreements. I have fulminated plenty against COP21, the Paris accord, even named it CON21. Because that was signed by those very leaders tied down in their election cycles. Completely useless. That most of the other signees were business leaders who represent oil companies, airlines and Big Tech with huge server parks seals the reality of the deal.

These are not the people who will solve the problems. They have too much interest in not doing so. The CEO’s have their profits to think about, the politicians their elections. They should be kept out of the decision-making process. But they’re the only ones who are in it.

I still think the issue was never better epitomized than in the December 2016 piece in the Guardian by Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney entitled “How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change” , about which I said at the time:

These fine gents probably actually believe that this is perfectly in line with our knowledge of, say, human history, of evolution, of the laws of physics, and of -mass- psychology. All of which undoubtedly indicate to them that we can and will defeat the problems we have created -and still are-, literally with the same tools and ideas -money and profit- that we use to create them with. Nothing ever made more sense.

That these problems originated in the same relentless quest for profit that they now claim will help us get rid of them, is likely a step too far for them; must have been a class they missed. “We destroyed it for profit” apparently does not in their eyes contradict “we’ll fix it for profit too”. Not one bit. It does, though. It’s indeed the very core of what is going wrong.

Profit, or money in general, is all these people live for, it’s their altar. That’s why they are successful in this world. It’s also why the world is doomed. Is there any chance I could persuade you to dwell on that for a few seconds? That, say, Bloomberg and Carney, and all they represent, are the problem dressed up as the solution?

This week’s IPCC report says the efforts to keep warming at acceptable levels (1.5ºC) will cost many trillions of dollars every year. But a billionaire publisher and a central bank head want to make a profit?! Hey, perhaps they can, as long as you and I pay… But they won’t solve a thing. if only because not doing that will be too profitable. Still, while they’re at it, maybe they can do us a favor.

You see, what is hardly ever mentioned, let alone acknowledged, is that we have more than one major existential problem, and they exist in such a form of symbiosis that solving only one doesn’t make much difference.

We have a changing climate, we have accelerating species extinction, we have plastics in our fish, and we have a global economy that’s about to topple over. The common thread in all these is an overkill in energy use and therefore an overkill in waste. Thermodynamics, 2nd law. Waste kills. By raising temperatures, finishing off wildlife, plugging rivers and oceans with plastics, making increasing amounts of people economically miserable.

But as I wrote a while ago, our economies exist to produce waste, it’s not just a by-product -anymore-. If we stop making things we don’t need, and things that do harm to our world and our lives, our economies will collapse. We must continue on our path or see our lifetstyles plummet. They will anyway, we’re just delaying the inevitable, but we’re stuck.

And politicians are utterly useless and utterly unfit in situations like this. But ask yourself: are you any better? If you were told that in order to ‘save the planet’, you’d have to cut your energy use in half, which would take away many of your comforts and luxuries, would you do it?

A better question yet is, if you would agree to do that, and then see that your neighbor does not, would you still cut your driving and flying and electricity? That’s hard enough on an individual level, but how about if one nation does, while another refuses? Or when nations that have much lower per capita energy consumption tell the West: you go first?

 

What do you think the odds are that we’ll find a global solution, approach, before the 2030 cutoff date the IPCC provides in its latest report? While the likes of Bloomberg and Carney still talk about climate change as a profit opportunity? I know what I think.

The report says we need to drastically ‘reform’ our economies and lifestyles. Cutting our energy use in the West in half won’t be enough, if only because billions of people demand more energy at their disposal. Will you cut into your lifestyle, will your children, when they see their neighbors increasing their energy use, when they see entire nations increase theirs?

We don’t have ‘leaders’ that can stop species extinction or a warming planet or an economic collapse, because they either are clueless or they will be voted out of power if they tell the truth. Extend and pretend is a term that’s used to describe economic policies a lot, but it actually paints an accurate picture of everything we do.

“Free”, surplus, energy can come in the shape of sugar in a petri dish full of bacteria, or of stored carbon on planet earth. In both cases, the outcome is as predictable as can be. Can we, with our billions of cars and billions of miles flown every year, and billions of phones and computers, return to the energy use of only 100 years ago? Don’t think so.

On the contrary, we’re constantly increasing our energy consumption. Just like the bacteria do in the petri dish. Until they no longer can, until reality, physics, thermodynamics, sets a limit. One of my favorite themes is that we are the most tragic species ever because we can see ourselves doing things that we know are harmful to us, but we can’t stop ourselves from continuing.

The best we can hope for is that tomorrow morning everything will be the same again as where we started today. But no, that’s not sufficient, either, many of the things we’ve unleashed have 20+ year runtimes, and they’re already baked into the cake of our futures. We can’t start afresh every morning, no Groundhog Day for us. Every morning the alarm goes off things have gotten worse. And we can’t stop that.

 

 

Oct 132017
 
 October 13, 2017  Posted by at 7:45 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630

 

“The Cost of Missing the Market Boom is Skyrocketing”, says a Bloomberg headline today. That must be the scariest headline I’ve seen in quite a while. For starters, it’s misleading, because people who ‘missed’ the boom haven’t lost anything other than virtual wealth, which is also the only thing those who haven’t ‘missed’ it, have acquired.

Well, sure, unless they sell their stocks. But a large majority of them won’t, because then they would ‘miss’ out on the market boom… Some aspects of psychology don’t require years of study. Is that what behavioral economics is all about?

And it’s not just the headline, the entire article is scary as all hell. It reads way more like a piece of pure and undiluted stockbroker propaganda that it does resemble actual objective journalism, which Bloomberg would like to tell you it delivers. And it makes its point using some pretty dubious claims to boot:

 

The Cost of Missing the Market Boom Is Skyrocketing

Skepticism in global equity markets is getting expensive. From Japan to Brazil and the U.S. as well as places like Greece and Ukraine, an epic year in equities is defying naysayers and rewarding anyone who staked a claim on corporate ownership. Records are falling, with about a quarter of national equity benchmarks at or within 2% of an all-time high.

If equity markets in places like Greece and Ukraine, ravaged by -in that order- financial and/or actual warfare, are booming, you don’t need to fire too many neurons to understand something’s amiss. Some of their companies may be doing okay, but not their entire economies. Their boom must be a warning sign, not some bullish signal. That makes no sense. Stocks in Aleppo may be thriving too, but…

“You’ve heard people being bearish for eight years. They were wrong,” said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at St. Petersburg, Florida-based Raymond James, which oversees $500 billion. “The proof is in the returns.” To put this year’s gains in perspective, the value of global equities is now 3 1/2 times that at the financial crisis bottom in March 2009.

If markets crash by, pick a number, 20-30-50% next week, will Mr. Saut still claim “The proof is in the returns”? I doubt it. Though this time he might be right. As for the ‘value’ of global equities being 250% (give or take) higher than in March 2009, does that mean those who were -or still are- bearish were wrong? Or is there some remote chance that the equities are part of a giant planetwide bubble?

Aided by an 8% drop in the U.S. currency, the dollar-denominated capitalization of worldwide shares appreciated in 2017 by an amount – $20 trillion – that is comparable to the total value of all equities nine years ago. And yet skeptics still abound, pointing to stretched valuations or policy uncertainty from Washington to Brussels. Those concerns are nothing new, but heeding to them is proving an especially costly mistake.

$20 trillion. That’s a lot of dough. It’s what all equities in the world combined were ‘worth’ 9 years ago. It’s also, oh irony, awfully close to the total increase in central bank balance sheets, through QE etc. Might the two be related in any way?

 

 

Clinging to such concerns means discounting a harmonized recovery in the global economy that’s virtually without precedent – and set to pick up steam, according to the IMF. At the same time, inflation remains tepid, enabling major central banks to maintain accommodative stances.

‘Harmonized recovery’ is a priceless find. But you have to feel for anyone who believes it. And it’s obviously over the top ironic that central banks are said to be ‘enabled’ to keep rates low precisely because they fail to both understand and raise inflation. Let’s call it the perks of failure.

“When policy is easy and growth is strong, this is an environment more conducive for people paying up for valuations,” said Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley. “The markets are up in line with what the earnings have done, and stronger earnings helped drive a higher level of enthusiasm and a higher level of risk taking.”

Oh boy. He actually said that? What have earnings done? He hasn’t read any of the warnings on P/E (price/earnings) for the (US) market in general –“the Shiller P/E Cyclically Adjusted P/E, or CAPE, ratio, which is based on the S&P 500’s average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years, is above 30 when its average is 16.8”– or for individual companies (tech) in particular?

The CAPE ratio has been higher than it is now only twice in history: right before the Great Depression and during the dotcom bubble, when tech companies didn’t even have to be able to fog a mirror to attract billions in ‘capital’. And the chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan Stanley says markets are in line with earnings? Again, oh boy.

No, it’s not earnings that “..helped drive a higher level of enthusiasm and a higher level of risk taking.” Cheap money did that. Central banks did that. As they were destroying fixed capital, savings, pensions.

 

 

The numbers are impressive: more than 85% of the 95 benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg worldwide are up this year, on course for the broadest gain since the bull market started. Emerging markets have surged 31%, developed nations are up 16%. Big companies are becoming huge, from Apple to Alibaba.

Look, emerging markets and developed economies have borrowed up the wazoo. Because they could. Often in US dollars. That may cause a -temporary- gain in stock markets, but it casts a dark spell over the reality of these markets. If it’s that obvious that a substantial part of your happy news comes from debt, there’s very little reason to celebrate.

Technology megacaps occupy all top six spots in the ranks of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization for the first time ever. Up 39% this year, the $1 trillion those firms added in value equals the combined worth of the world’s six-biggest companies at the bear market bottom in 2009. Apple, priced at $810 billion, is good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500.

To cast those exact same words in a whole different light, no, Apple is not ‘good for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500’. Yes, you can argue that Apple’s ‘value’ has lifted other stocks too, but this has happened in a time of zero price discovery AND near zero interest rates. That means people have no way to figure out if a company is actually doing well, so it’s safer to park their cash in Apple.

Ergo: Apple, and the FANGs in general, take valuable money out of the stock market. At the same time that they, companies with P/E earnings ratios to the moon and back, buy back their stocks at blinding speeds. So yeah, Apple may be ‘good’ for the total value of the 400 smallest companies in the S&P 500, but at the same time it’s not good for that value at all. It’s killing companies by sucking up potential productive investment.

And Apple’s just an example. Silicon Valley as a whole is a scourge upon America’s economy, hoovering away even the cheapest and easiest money and redirecting it to questionable start-up projects with very questionable P/E ratios. But then, that’s what you get without price discovery.

 

 

Overall, U.S. corporate earnings are expected to rise 11% this year, on track to be the best profit growth since 2010. And after years of disappointments, European profits are set to climb 14% in 2017, Bloomberg data show. The expectations for both regions are roughly in line with forecasts made at the beginning of the year, defying the usual pattern of analysts downgrading their estimates as the months go by.

Come on, the European Central Bank has been buying bonds and securities at a rate of €60 billion a month for years now. How can it be any wonder that officially stock markets are up 14%? Maybe we should be surprised it’s not 114%. Maybe the one main point in all of this is that the ECB is still buying at that rate, and thereby signaling things are still as bad as when they started doing it.

Meanwhile, Asia is home to some of the world’s steepest rallies, led by Hong Kong stocks that are up 29% this year. Shares in Tokyo also hit fresh decade highs this week, bolstered by investor confidence before the local corporate earnings season and a snap election this month. “Asia will benefit from continued improving regional growth, stable macroeconomic conditions and undemanding valuations,” said BNP Paribas Asset Management’s head of Asia Pacific equities Arthur Kwong. Any pullback in Asian equities after the year-to-date rally presents a buying opportunity for long-term investors, he wrote in a note.

In Japan, so-called investor confidence is based solely on the Bank of Japan continuing to purchase anything that’s not bolted down. In China, the central bank buys the kitchen sink as well. How, knowing that, can you harp on about increased investor confidence? As if central banks taking over entire economies either isn’t happening, or makes no difference to economies? Buying opportunity?

Global economic growth has been robust in most places, with Europe finally joining the party and the euro-area economy on track for its best year since at least 2010. The region’s steady recovery has eclipsed worries about populism, which a few years ago would have been enough to derail any stock market rally.

No, global economic growth has not been ‘robust’. Stock market growth perhaps has been, but that’s only due to QE and buybacks. Still, stock markets are not the economy.

“I’ve never been so optimistic about the global economy,” said Vincent Juvyns, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Ten years after the financial crisis, Europe is recovering and we have synchronized economic growth around the world. Even if we get it wrong on a country or two, it doesn’t change the big picture, which is positive for the equity markets.”

Oh man. And at that exact moment the ECB announces it wants to cut its QE purchase in half by next year.

Nowhere is the shifting sentiment more pronounced than in Europe, where global investors began the year with a election calendar looming like a sword of Damocles. Ten months later, the Euro Stoxx 50 Index is up 10%, Italy’s FTSE MIB Index is up 17% and Germany’s DAX Index is up 13%. The rally is even stronger when priced in U.S. dollars, with the Euro Stoxx 50 up 23% since the start of the year.

Sure, whatever. I don’t want to kill your dream, and I don’t have to. The dream will kill itself. You’ll hear a monumental ‘POP’ go off, and then you’re back in reality.

 

 

Note: Rembrandt painted the portrait above when he was just 23-24 years old.

 

 

Jun 282015
 
 June 28, 2015  Posted by at 9:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Harris&Ewing Red Cross Motor Corps, Washington, DC 1917

Just another normal morning at the Automatic Earth. Shaking off the local drink – when in Rome.. – and perusing a thousand views and pieces, many on the inevitable topic of ‘Da Referendum’. And I got to say, I can’t even tell whether it’s just me, but there is this huge divide between what a simple vote can and should be, and how it is perceived and presented.

And no, it’s not my ouzo-riddled stupor, it’s what common sense I have left that has me wondering what causes the divide. Case in point, Bloomberg has a piece called “Tsipras Asking Grandma to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair”. The implied connotation being that asking grandma about anything other than knitting patterns and souvlaki recipes is asking for trouble. What does she know? Politics should be decided by politicians. Well, and bankers of course. And Bloomberg editors. Did I mention economists?

Tsipras Asking Grandma to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair

Economists with PhDs and hedge-fund traders can barely stay on top of the vagaries of Greece’s spiraling debt crisis. Now, try getting grandma to vote on it. That’s what Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is doing by calling a snap referendum for July 5 on the latest bailout package from creditors.

The 68-word ballot question namechecks four international institutions and asks voters for their opinion on two highly technical documents that weren’t made public before the referendum call and were only translated into Greek on Saturday. Worse, they may no longer be on the table. IMF chief Christine Lagarde told the BBC late on Saturday that “legally speaking, the referendum will relate to proposals and arrangements which are no longer valid.”

Tsipras’s decision means everyone from fishermen to taxi-drivers and factory workers will have to form an opinion on the package, with their country’s economic future hanging in the balance. A rejection of the bailout terms could lead to an exit from the euro area and economic calamity; accepting them would probably keep Greece in the euro, but with more austerity.

“Usually in democracies, it’s the technocrats and the politicians who take care of the details, while voters are asked about broader issues and principles,” said Philip Shaw, the chief economist in London at asset manager Investec. “This is a transfer of responsibility from parliament to the voters.”

Now, we all know that when and where democracy was born, and I’m quite literally at a stone’s throw from the very spot it was, as I write this, grandma had precious little say. But grandpa did, and repeatedly, the idea was that people would vote on all big decisions to be made, instead of having them decided by some power-happy individual.

We all, or most of us, think to this day that that was a good, and indeed world-changing, initiative. We talk about democracy all the time like it’s a good thing. So where does Bloomberg come from belittling the concept to the point where they put the word ‘Grandma’ in their headline, in an obvious attempt at making the entire thing look ridiculous?

They could instead have said ‘grandpa’ (big difference already) or ‘cab driver’ or ‘unemployed person’ or, get ready for this, ‘the people’. “Tsipras Asking The People to Figure Out If Greek Debt Deal Is Fair”. Sounds completely different, doesn’t it? Really, we cannot talk about democracy anymore without trying to ridicule it, Bloomberg?

Greece’s own Mr Piggy, Evangelos Venizelos, who bears a lot of blame for what Greece goes through today from his stint as finance minister, and is still PASOK’s go-to guy, though they were almost voted out of existence in January, tried a nice take. He claimed that the referendum was unconstitutional, something to do with fiscal matters not being allowed to be out before the people.

As if Syriza were too stupid to have read the law before letting Tsipras call the July 5 vote.

I’m thinking there’s not a shade of doubt that we will see the craziest claims and reports and theories. From Greek opposition parties, from ‘respectable media’, from US and European spin doctors offering ‘help’ to the likes of Venizelos and Samaras et al.

But that Bloomberg thing sure sets the tone. We have lost even the most basic principle and notion of what democracy means: a vote by the people on matters that concern the people. As Yanis Varoufakis tweeted yesterday:

Democracy deserved a boost in euro-related matters. We just delivered it. Let the people decide. (Funny how radical this concept sounds!)

What else can we say? Let’s keep it at this: we’ve come a long way. We can’t even talk about democracy anymore without ridiculing it.

Oh, and the title of this piece? Blame Virgil, Roman poet, well over 2000 years ago.

Jun 162015
 
 June 16, 2015  Posted by at 10:32 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Jack Delano Conductor picks up message from operator on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe 1943

While I’m on the Greece topic again today, I can’t help but pointing out some of the changes in tone I’ve noticed in the press recently, shifting towards outright oftentimes vicious if not ridiculous antagonism vs Greece. Remember, there is an agenda, there are pre-cooked narratives galore, and these people are not your friends.

I won’t be able to cover all the things I would like to right now, let’s start with just the one. And I’m warning you: it might get philosophical.

This is from Marc Champion for Bloomberg yesterday:

Tsipras Isn’t on the Side of Democracy

Recently, I asked whether the Greek government actually wants to strike a deal on its debt, or if its increasingly erratic approach to negotiations might reflect a determination to ensure that Greeks blame their creditors, not their government, for a coming meltdown. [..] Here’s what Tsipras said in a statement about the abortive talks and current bailout:

“One can only suspect political motives behind the fact that the institutions insist on further pension cuts, despite five years of pillaging via the memoranda. The Greek government has been negotiating with a specific plan and documented proposals. We will wait patiently till the institutions adhere to realism.

Those who consider our sincere wish for a solution as well as our efforts to bridge the gap as a sign of weakness, should have in mind the following: We are not only carrying a historical past underlined with struggles. We are carrying our people’s dignity as well as the aspirations of all Europeans. We cannot ignore this responsibility. It is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. It has to do with democracy.”

Tsipras’s proposition that he’s championing the hope of downtrodden masses across Europe is nonsense. Germans may be wrong and unfair to prefer losing the loans they made Greece to taking a haircut, but they have a democratic right to believe they’re correct.

Really, Champion? Where do I start? How about “its increasingly erratic approach to negotiations”? At the very least, that doesn’t sound like a subjective view at all. It’s also completely off, but that’s another matter.

Syriza has stuck to what it said all along: negotiations are possible, but not about everything. Not about making a desperate people even more desperate. Not only is that useless and harmful to all parties involved in the talks, it’s also immoral. Granted, ‘immoral’ may be considered a subjective view too. Then again, it shouldn’t be.

But how sticking to your convictions qualifies as ‘erratic’, I simply don’t know. I presume that’s a subjective interpretation of what the author reads in the press. Maybe he never realized there were convictions in play, maybe he figured it was all just another political barter trade, two goats for a cow. It’s not.

Then, “championing the hope of downtrodden masses across Europe” is merely a frankly pretty stupid interpretation of Tsipras’ words. Who talks about “our people’s dignity” and “the aspirations of all Europeans”. Oh, and “democracy”. Why that needs to be translated as ‘downtrodden masses’ reveals a lot about who Champion is, but nothing about Tsipras. It’s just not what he says.

The last point is more interesting, and more cantankerous at the same time. Champion contends that Germans have the right to insist on Greek haircuts before they take losses on loans they made to Greece. And the right to “believe they’re correct” about whatever it is they believe.

Is that an attempt to turn democracy into a religion, or is it just me?

First off, Germans made no such loans to Greeks, not in the way they are consistently presented. Instead, their government insisted in 2010 on bailing out their own banks and have the Greek people pay for that bailout when it was crystal clear the Greeks wouldn’t be able to, let alone should.

If that is still not obvious, here’s the thing: it’s why we are where we are. If Merkel and Sarkozy had simply told their people what was really going on, we wouldn’t be in this mess. And they might have lost their office.

Bailouts of French banks were even more costly. Costly not to the French, but to the Greeks. And I’ll repeat myself again: that is and was a political decision, not an economic one. Which is the pivotal point in the entire Greek saga.

Thing is, this was never explained to the German or French people. Their media, and their politicians, have always persisted in maintaining the less-than-honest version. That is it was wasteful Greeks who were to blame, not German and French greedy well-connected bankers and their losing wagers.

Which leads to the question: if Germans have been consistently misled about the whole Greece issue, what exactly is the value of their “democratic right to believe they’re correct”? A phrase that sounds pretty absurd to begin with, mind you, if you read it more than once.

Is it that being lied to in and of itself is a ‘democratic right’, or is this about the right to draw -inevitably faulty- opinions based on those lies? How does that work? Honest, I don’t get it.

Do Bloomberg’s mostly American readers, after reading Champion’s obvious distortions of what Tsipras said, spiced with the author’s personal ‘opinions’, then also have a democratic right to judge Greece based on those words? I’m going to have to guess so.

But let’s get real: What does any of this have to do with democracy anymore? And, more importantly, where does it leave the democratic rights of the Greek people? Do they need to be fed lies too to participate in this game?

The Greek people have had no say in how Berlin and Paris presented the bailouts of their domestic banks to their respective homebase(s). All they have a say in is how Tsipras and Syriza stand up for them. That right there defines, and limits, their democratic rights. That’s all they got -left-. They have the right to elect a government that promises to take care of their interests, better than umpteen governments before them who didn’t.

How does that compare with the Germans’ alleged right to “believe they’re correct”? When all they’ve been fed is a greatly distorted version of what actually went down?

I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.

I think what Champion says is that people have a democratic right to be wrong. But do they then also have the right to hurt others while exercising that ‘right’?

Doesn’t this put the onus on their governments and media? Do they have a democratic right to spread distorted information? If so, what is democracy, exactly? What is left of it if all that is valid?

I suggest you and I revisit this, and in the meantime I’m curious to see what you have to say about it. How do lies, distortions and subjective opinions relate to democracy? Is lying and distorting a democratic right, for politicians and journalists?

Apr 112015
 
 April 11, 2015  Posted by at 7:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Harris&Ewing Inauguration of air mail service, Washington, DC 1918

That title may be a bit much, granted, because never is a very long time. I might instead have said “The American Consumer Won’t Be Back For A Very Long Time”. Still, I simply don’t see any time in the future that would see Americans start spending again at a rate anywhere near what would be required for an economic recovery. Looks pretty infinity and beyond to me.

However, that is by no means a generally accepted point of view in the financial press. There’s reality, and then there’s whatever it is they’re smoking, and never the twain shall meet. Admittedly, my title may be a bit provocative, but in my view not nearly as provocative, if not offensive, as Peter Coy’s at Bloomberg, who named his latest effort “US Consumers Will Open Their Wallets Soon Enough”.

I know, sometimes they make it just too easy to whackamole ’em down and into the ground. But even then, these issues must be addressed time and again until people begin to understand, and quit making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons. People have a right to know what’s truly happening to their lives, and their societies. And they’re not nearly getting enough of it through the ‘official’ press. So here goes nothing:

US Consumers Will Open Their Wallets Soon Enough

People are constantly exhorted to save, but as soon as they do, economists pop up to complain they aren’t spending enough to keep the economy growing. A new blogger named Ben Bernanke wrote on April 1 that there’s still a “global savings glut.” Two days later the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the weakest job growth since 2013, which economists quickly attributed to soft consumer spending.

The first problem with Coy’s thesis is that even if people open their wallets, far too many of them will find there’s nothing there. And Bernanke simply doesn’t understand what savings are. His ideas through the past decade+ about a Chinese savings glut were always way off the mark, and his global – or American – savings glut theory is, if possible, even more wrong. In the minds of the world’s Bernankes, there’s no such thing as people opening their wallets to find them empty. If they don’t spend, they must be saving. That there’s a third option, that of not having any dollars to spend, is for all intents and purposes ignored.

The U.S. personal savings rate—5.8% in February—is the highest since 2012. “After years of spending as if there were no tomorrow, consumers are now saving like there is a tomorrow,” Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial, wrote to clients in March. Saving too much really can be a problem when spending is weak.

The little man inside, when I read things like that, tells me this is nonsense. So I decided to look up how the US personal savings rate is calculated. Turns out, it’s another one of those whacky goal-seeked government numbers. At least, that’s what I make of it. Mainly, though not even exclusively, because of things like this, from a site called Take A Smart Step:

[The personal savings rate in] November 2012 was 3.6%, this is not even close to where we need to be for financial health. This savings rate barely gives us enough to handle emergencies, and makes us as a nation weaker. The government calculates the personal savings rate as the difference between the after tax income and consumption of Americans. So they include not only retirement savings, but debt repayments, college savings, emergency fund savings, anything that was not spent.

Making paying off your debt (i.e. money you’ve already spent) count towards your savings is a practice fraught with questionable consequences. But useful for economists, and accountants alike, no doubt. The problem with it is that it hides reality behind a veil. Because debt repayments are not really savings at all; people are not free to spend what they put into paying off debt, on something else, like iPads, cars or trinkets. Not even on hookers or crack cocaine, for that matter.

For the vast majority of what is paid off in debt, there’s no such thing as free choices. People pay off debt because they must. Or, to look at it from another, wide lens, angle, Americans would have to stop servicing their debt payments if they want to ‘start spending’ again.

Going through the numbers from various sources, I can see that the US personal savings rate is presently some 5.8% of pre-tax income, and debt repayment is close to 10% of disposable -after tax – income. I’m still trying to make those stats rhyme. But no matter how you read and interpret them, it should be clear that debt repayments are a large part of ‘official’ savings. Even if they really shouldn’t be counted as such.

Of what remains in real savings, retirement/pension savings must necessarily be a substantial percentage, and it would be weird to call those things ‘saving like there is a tomorrow’, if only because they are about, well, tomorrow. But that seems to be the new normal: creating the impression that saving any money at all is somehow detrimental to the economy. A truly crazy notion, if you ask me. Let’s get back to Bloomberg’s Coy:

There are only two things you can do with a dollar, after all: spend it or save it. If you spend it, great—that’s money in someone else’s pocket.

In someone else’s pocket, but no longer in yours. Why would that be so great? It’s only great if that someone has added value to something by doing productive work, not if you simply swap paper assets.

If you save it, the financial system is supposed to recycle your dollar into productive investment with loans for new houses, factories, software, and research and development.

That notion of ‘the financial system is supposed to’ refers to theories such as those that Bernanke and his ilk ‘believe’ in. Theories that have no practical value. What is normal for many everyday Americans is crippling debt levels, and no such thing is recognized in these theories. After all, according to them, whatever amount of dollars you get in, you either spend or save them. And if you use them to pay off previously incurred debt, you’re supposedly actually saving, even though you no longer have possession of the money in any way, shape or sense, nor a choice of what to spend it on.

But if no one’s in the mood to invest more and interest rates are already as low as they can go (as they are in much of the world), the compulsion to save can sap demand and throw people out of work. For the U.S. economy, the good news is that the jump in the personal savings rate is probably no more than a blip. Three economists from Deutsche Bank Securities in New York explained why in a March 25 report called ‘U.S. Consumers: Still Shopping, Not Dropping’. While noting a “deceleration” in consumer spending, they wrote, “we think that concerns about the outlook for the consumer are overstated.” Their model of the U.S. economy predicts the savings rate will fall to 3% to 3.5% by 2017.

Oh sweet lord. Now a falling savings rate has become a beneficial thing, even when and where savings are very low. Not saving will allegedly save the economy. How did that happen? If we may presume that debt repayments will continue virtually unabated, and there seems to be little reason to think otherwise, this means that by 2017 there will be just about nothing saved at all anymore in America. Which means there’d be very little left of the ‘If you save it, the financial system is supposed to recycle your dollar into productive investment’.

The only ‘growth’ perspective America has left is to grow its debt levels continually, continuously and arguably exponentially.

Other economists have also concluded that the spending dropoff is temporary, which is why the slowdown in job growth, to just 126,000 in March, didn’t set off many alarm bells. “Consumer spending is starting to look more and more like a coiled spring,” says Guy Berger, U.S. economist at RBS Securities. One sign that consumers aren’t retrenching: On April 7 the Federal Reserve reported that consumer credit rose $15.5 billion in February, in line with the recent past.

They got deeper into debt, and this is a sign they’re not ‘retrenching’? A coiled spring? Really?

According to Deutsche Bank Securities, the first reason to think consumers will resume spending is that their incomes are rising. Annual growth in average hourly earnings has averaged about 2% since 2010, which isn’t great but does exceed inflation. With more people working as well, aggregate payroll outlays are up 4.9% from the past year, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The rises in stock and home prices should make consumers more willing to live a little, say the Deutsche Bank authors. They calculate that households’ net worth is almost 6.5 times consumers’ disposable personal income. That’s the highest ratio since before the housing crash.

But that last bit is arguably all due to QE induced asset bubbles. Not an argument the author would make, I know, but nevertheless. Coincidentally, another Bloomberg article published the same day as the one we’re delving in here is called:Why Your Wages Could Be Depressed for a Lot Longer Than You Think. Perhaps the respective authors should have a sit down.

No question, the high savings rate depresses spending in the short run. Purchases of durable goods, from cars to couches, remain well below their 60-year average share of GDP. But all that saving helps consumers get their finances in order, which will allow them to satisfy pent-up demand for that sweet new Ford F-150.

No no no: they just paid off part of their debts. How can that possibly mean they’ll go out and get a new F-150? In real life, they spent their money instead of saving it. Either way, they don’t have it any longer to spend on a F-150. It would mean they need to get into new debt. On top of what they still have left over even AFTER paying down part of it.

Fed data show that financial obligations including debt service, rent, and auto leases are about their lowest in comparison to disposable income since 1981.

Hmm. According to Wikipedia, “Household debt as a % of disposable income rose from 68% in 1980 to a peak of 128% in 2007, prior to dropping to 112% by 2011.” It’s about 105% today. So that’s just a very weird statement. Someone’s wrong, very wrong, and I think I know who that would be. Maybe Peter Coy conveniently ignores mortgage payments when he talks about “financial obligations including debt service, rent, and auto leases”?!

When consumers are ready to borrow more, it won’t hurt that, according to the Fed’s survey of banks’ senior loan officers, banks are easing lending standards.

See? That’s what I said: they can only spend if they acquire new debt. They’re just getting rid of the last batch, and it’s going mighty slowly at that. Lest we forget, when debt as a percentage of income falls, that is due to quite an extent to people failing to make any debt payments at all, and losing their homes and cars. This is a dead economic model. This model is pining for the fjords.

These factors add up to an optimistic consumer.

Oh, c’mon. What is that statement based on? That ‘sky high’ savings rate that is really just poor slobs paying off what they can in debt repayments so they won’t get hit with even more fees and fines?

What I think these factors add up to, is a delusional reporter. There is no excess saving. It’s ludicrous. As far as people have any money at all, they’re using it to pay down their previously incurred debts. And that gets tallied into their savings rate by the government’s creative accounting methods. That’s all there is to the whole story. But it will, regardless, induce a few more poor souls to sign up for more mortgages and car loans and feel like happy American consumers on their way down into the maelstrom.

It’s sad, it really is. Maybe we should first of all stop referring to the American people as ‘consumers’. That might help.