Nov 132019
 
 November 13, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Pitcher of flowers on a table 1942

 

DC Bars To Open Early For Impeachment Mania (Hill)
Adam Schiff’s ‘Ham Sandwich’: Not An Inquiry, Just A Show (Hill)
The Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is Already In Big Trouble (Fox)
Trump Fumes As Dems Get Ready For ‘Sober And Rigorous’ Public Hearings (G.)
Bolton: Some Of Trump Foreign Policy Guided By Personal Interest (NBC)
Trump On Fed: Others Have Negative Rates: ‘Give Me Some Of That Money’ (CNBC)
Prince Andrew Accuser Target Of Suit Questioning Her Forced Sex Claims (USAT)
Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales Thanks Mexico For Saving His Life (RT)
Morales Endures Twists And Turns During Flight To Political Asylum In Mexico (RT)
Opposition Senator Declares Herself ‘Interim President’ Of Bolivia (RT)
Alexander Downer Says Assange Should Not Expect Australian Intervention (SMH)
Wisconsin’s Dairy Crisis: “We Are Losing Two Farms A Day!” (SHTF)
Russians Interfere In New Zealand ‘Bird Of The Year’ Contest (RT)

 

 

“Subpoena Colada”.

DC Bars To Open Early For Impeachment Mania (Hill)

Restaurant and bar owners in Washington are aiming to cash in on impeachment in a decidedly #thistown way, opening their doors early so the city’s politically minded revelers can imbibe as they take in the House’s first televised hearings. The House impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is poised to enter a new phase on Wednesday, with public hearings scheduled in the Intelligence Committee, with more set for Friday. Duffy’s Irish Pub, in the District’s H Street NE neighborhood, will feature what it’s dubbing “happy hearing hours,” with $5 rail drinks and $2 off all drafts and wine during all impeachment hearings. The watering hole — which boasts eight large, flat-screen TVs with a “stadium sound” system — says it’s also whipping up a pair of impeachment beverages to mark the occasion.


Bartenders will be serving a “Subpoena Colada” and a drink called “James and the Giant Impeachment.” The eatery isn’t the only place prepping for all the impeachment action in the House. Union Pub says it will be open for business at 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, just 10 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin. The Capitol Hill tavern will be showing everything impeachment on all its TVs and will be featuring a surplus of specials. For $7, customers can pick up a variety of peachy cocktails, including its “Impeachment Please”, made with peach-flavored Jim Beam, simply syrup and orange bitters, or “I Got 99 Problems But Impeachment Ain’t One,” a Sobieski peach vodka, peach Schnapps, orange juice, Sprite and lemon libation.

Read more …

“As a matter of due process, Schiff’s made-for-TV spectacle is a bad joke.”

Adam Schiff’s ‘Ham Sandwich’: Not An Inquiry, Just A Show (Hill)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and his House Intelligence Committee are taking the show public this week. The inquiry he’s been running is, he claims, analogous to a grand jury investigation: It’s a preliminary investigative stage before the inquiry’s transfer to the Judiciary Committee for the formal consideration of articles of impeachment. Grand juries, however, never go public. And that is precisely because they are intentionally one-sided. They are kept secret by law to avoid prejudicing the suspect. Prejudice is exactly what Schiff is aiming for, however. The point is not impeachment; it is to wound President Trump politically. To be clear, Schiff’s grand jury analogy is bogus. Congress is not a grand jury.

Grand juries are designed to be at least somewhat objective — a body of impartial citizens who, by constitutional mandate, must be satisfied there is probable cause that a crime has been committed before the state is permitted to indict and try a citizen presumed to be innocent. In theory, the grand jury is there to protect the suspect from an overbearing prosecutor. Here, House Democrats are the overbearing prosecutor, not the protective grand jurors. What is happening in the House is a political exercise. Schiff is a hyper-partisan. With the anti-Trump media leaving his absurd grand jury analogy unchallenged, he exploits it when it is useful, namely, when telling Republicans they will not be permitted to call their witnesses, and he puts the analogy aside when it is not useful, namely, in convening one-sided public hearings.

As a matter of due process, Schiff’s made-for-TV spectacle is a bad joke. That was underscored this past weekend when (a) Democrats gave Republicans a ridiculously short deadline to propose their own witnesses, whom Chairman Schiff reserved the right to veto; (b) Republicans duly proposed witnesses on the issues of Democrats’ collusion with Ukraine in the 2016 election campaign and in possible corruption; and (c) Schiff, as predictably as sunrise, ruled the GOP’s witnesses irrelevant. In point of fact, the witnesses that Republicans seek to call are entirely relevant to what would be at issue in an impeachment trial, to wit: Is any misconduct by the president alleged in an article of impeachment sufficiently egregious that he should be removed from power? But, see, a grand jury is not a trial.

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Views of the proceedings vary wildly. Here’s Greg Jarrett…

The Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is Already In Big Trouble (Fox)

The clown show known as an “impeachment inquiry” is getting more comical and hapless by the day. Consider the latest remark from the circus master himself, California Rep. Adam Schiff, (think Bozo, not Pennywise). The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says he doesn’t want Republicans turning the impeachment proceedings into a “sham.” The hilarious irony is lost on no one. Schiff has already managed to accomplish it all on his own. At first, Schiff wanted the faux “whistleblower” who triggered the impeachment farce to testify. Then, suddenly, he didn’t. What changed? In the interim, evidence emerged that Schiff and/or his staff colluded with the “whistleblower” before the complaint was ever filed and then lied about it, earning Schiff “Four Pinocchios” from The Washington Post.

The chairman now wants to conceal his own role in engineering the pretext for impeachment and his subsequent deceit. This is why he has insisted that the “whistleblower” remain anonymous, despite no such right, guarantee, privilege, or entitlement written in the law, as I explained in an earlier column. Even though the undercover informant (reportedly working for the CIA) does not qualify for whistleblower status under the law as determined by the Department of Justice, any effort by Republicans to call him as a witness will be blocked by Schiff. But Schiff’s machinations are more malevolent than masking the key witness. Those he will call to testify are already on record dishing up prodigious plates of multiple hearsay and rank speculation.

It is obvious from the released transcripts of the heretofore “super top-secret” inquisition that none of them have any firsthand knowledge of a “quid pro quo” allegedly demanded by President Trump. For example, Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine who will testify on Wednesday, told Schiff’s committee that it was his “understanding” there was a link between U.S. security assistance and an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. How did Taylor arrive at his opinion? He heard it through discussions with other diplomats, although there is no indication that any of these individuals had direct knowledge of anything. The chain of hearsay went something like this: the European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland told National Security Council official Tim Morrison who, in turn, told Taylor that there was a purported “quid pro quo.”

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… and this is the Guardian:

Trump Fumes As Dems Get Ready For ‘Sober And Rigorous’ Public Hearings (G.)

Only three times in the history of the American republic has Congress initiated public testimony that could result in the removal of the president by impeachment. The tally will rise to four on Wednesday. On the eve of public hearings, television crews moved into the halls of the Capitol in Washington, the parties distributed strategy memos and the House intelligence committee prepared to cross-examine its first two witnesses. Democrats allege that Donald Trump engaged the power of his office in an attempt to extort from Ukraine an announcement about investigations of Joe Biden, a domestic political rival, and 2016 election tampering.

Trump’s defenders argue that Trump is the victim of an attack by “unelected and anonymous bureaucrats” who disagreed with unorthodox foreign policy decisions. At the center, of course, is Trump, who has demanded Republicans defend his conduct as unimpeachable not only in the constitutional sense but as unimpeachable, period. As the first public testimony approached, Trump grew increasingly tetchy on Twitter: “A total Impeachment Scam by the Do Nothing Democrats!” Corey Brettschneider, a professor of constitutional law at Brown University, called it “maybe one of the most important moments in American history”. “This is only the fourth time that we’ve gotten this far, with a formal process happening,” Brettschneider said. “And I’d say in some ways, it’s among the most serious of alleged offenses.”

On Tuesday, both parties scrambled to coordinate strategy, pre-empt arguments by the other side and control the stagecraft. As the majority in the House, the Democrats have basic control of proceedings, including the witness list. The first two witnesses scheduled to testify on Wednesday are William Taylor, the acting ambassador in Kyiv who told investigators in closed-door hearings Trump “was adamant” about the need for a public announcement of investigations by the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy; and state department deputy assistant secretary George Kent, who said Trump “wanted nothing less than President Zelenskiy to go to a microphone and say ‘investigations’, ‘Biden’, and ‘Clinton’”.

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No I swear I kid you not. This is from John Bolton talking to “a gathering of Morgan Stanley’s largest hedge fund clients”. Who are all wondering what will happen to their Boeing shares. No 737 MAX sales, so how about some more bombs on Yemen, John? And here’s that check for your $100,000 speech fee.

Bolton: Some Of Trump Foreign Policy Guided By Personal Interest (NBC)

Bolton served as Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months. The Ukraine scandal began to unfold about a week after his contentious departure. Trump said he’d fired him, though Bolton said he had resigned. Multiple people who attended Bolton’s private speech in Miami did not recall him mentioning Ukraine but said he told attendees that he had kept a resignation letter in his desk for three months. Bolton declined to comment for this article. Bolton is a potential linchpin witness in the inquiry into Trump’s efforts to elicit help from the Ukrainian government to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, given his central role in the White House during that time. The impeachment inquiry moves to public testimony this week.

Current and former administration officials have testified about Bolton’s strong opposition to the Ukraine pressure effort, which was led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and allegedly involved withholding military aid and a presidential meeting until the Ukrainian government publicly committed to investigations, including into 2016 U.S. election interference and a business associated with Biden’s son Hunter. Bolton’s lawyer teased his client’s value last week in a letter to House Democrats that noted that the former national security adviser had been present for “many relevant meetings and conversations” on Ukraine, including some that have yet to be disclosed to investigators.

His lawyer, Charles Cooper, said Bolton is willing to testify if a federal court approves it and issues a ruling that essentially says he can defy the White House’s position that he can’t speak to Congress. Bolton, a long-time foreign policy hawk who also served in the administration of President George W. Bush, expressed support in his private remarks for Trump’s stance against China on trade, people present said. But Trump and Bolton had a litany of policy differences — on Iran, North Korea, Syria and, apparently, Ukraine.

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The S&P 500 has become a religious shrine.

Trump On Fed: Others Have Negative Rates: ‘Give Me Some Of That Money’ (CNBC)

President Donald Trump used his pulpit before the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday to bash the Federal Reserve, a marked diversion from what many on Wall Street hoped would be a positive speech on the progress of trade relations between the U.S. and China. Instead of highlighting warmer relations with Beijing, Trump criticized the central bank for what he sees as its hesitation to lower interest rates and blamed the central bank for capping gains in the U.S. economy and stock market. The president noted that since his election, the S&P 500 is up over 45%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 50% and the Nasdaq Composite is up 60%. But those numbers could be way higher, Trump claimed, if it weren’t for the reluctance of the Fed.


“And if we had a Federal Reserve that worked with us, you could have added another 25% to each of those numbers, I guarantee you that,” Trump said. “But we all make mistakes, don’t we?” the president added. “Not too often. We do make them on occasion.” It wasn’t immediately clear which “mistake” Trump was referencing: His choice to nominate Fed Chair Jerome Powell to lead the central bank or Powell’s preferred course of monetary policy. “We are actively competing with nations who openly cut interest rates so that now many are actually getting paid when they pay off their loan, known as negative interest,” he said. “Who ever heard of such a thing?” “Give me some of that,” he said. “Give me some of that money. I want some of that money.”

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Why call her a Prince Andrew accuser, USA Today? She’s an accuser and victim of Epstein, first and foremost. And Ghislaine Maxwell, whom the various intelligence services have still not been able to locate. Right! And then after that, of Andrew and Dershowitz.

Dershowitz claiming that HE is the victim here, not her, is despicable. He was one of Epstein’s best buddies for many years, and there’s no way he didn’t know what went on.

Prince Andrew Accuser Target Of Suit Questioning Her Forced Sex Claims (USAT)

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz filed a defamation claim Thursday against a woman who says she was a Jeffrey Epstein “teen sex slave” forced to have sex with powerful men, including Dershowitz and Britain’s Prince Andrew. It’s the latest development in a long-running legal struggle between former Epstein lawyer Dershowitz, 81, and Virginia Roberts Giuffre, 35, an American living in Australia, who’s claimed since 2011 that convicted sex offender Epstein and his associates groomed her as a sex slave when she was a young Florida teen. She says they trafficked her to powerful men who were Epstein’s friends, with whom she said she was compelled to have sex in planes, hotels, mansions and on private islands.

But Dershowitz’s lawsuit raises multiple questions about Giuffre’s credibility regarding him and others. She and her legal team have made it clear she’s not going to stop accusing Andrew of dark deeds, insisting he “should go to jail” and should submit to questioning by the FBI. But so far she has not gone after him in court. [..] Giuffre’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, dismissed Dershowitz’ counterclaim as just another attack on Giuffre. “Recycling the same false claims from his increasingly stale playbook, Alan Dershowitz has once again launched an attack on Virginia Giuffre and her lawyers,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Let’s call his counterclaim what it is: a failed attempt to make something old and tired look new.”

In April this year, Giuffre filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz in federal court in New York, for calling her a liar; that suit is pending. [..] Giuffre’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, dismissed Dershowitz’ counterclaim as just another attack on Giuffre. “Recycling the same false claims from his increasingly stale playbook, Alan Dershowitz has once again launched an attack on Virginia Giuffre and her lawyers,” he said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Let’s call his counterclaim what it is: a failed attempt to make something old and tired look new.” In April this year, Giuffre filed a defamation suit against Dershowitz in federal court in New York, for calling her a liar; that suit is pending.

[..] [Dershowitz] says he has travel records, credit card statements and phone records proving he was never in places when Giuffre claims to have had sex with him. Her “false claims” have led him to suffer severe emotional distress, including “cardiac conditions,” the filing says.

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“If I have committed a crime; it’s being Indigenous. If the Vice President has committed a crime; it’s implementing social programs for the humble & poorest sectors seeking social justice.”

Ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales Thanks Mexico For Saving His Life (RT)

Bolivia’s ousted socialist president, Evo Morales, has credited Mexico with saving his life, after the country offered him political asylum following his resignation from government. “I am very grateful to the president and the Mexican people, because he saved my life,” Morales said on Tuesday, after he arrived in Mexico City to claim political asylum. Unaccounted for in recent days, Morales decried the “coup” against him, and recounted how a member of his once-loyal military was offered $50,000 to turn him in to the opposition on Sunday. Morales was re-elected to the presidency in October, in an election result that opposition leaders called fraudulent.


Though he offered to hold fresh elections, protests continued and Morales stepped down on Sunday following a police and military mutiny. Nevertheless, the socialist leader – who presided over Bolivia through a period of relative stability and economic growth – vowed to remain politically active in exile. “As long as I have life, we continue in politics, the struggle continues, and we are sure that the people have every right to free themselves,” he told reporters in Mexico. Prior to his departure, Morales promised his supporters that he would “return with more strength and energy.”

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A continent being set on fire.

Morales Endures Twists And Turns During Flight To Political Asylum In Mexico (RT)

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales has landed safely in Mexico, but his journey to political asylum had twists and turns as neighboring states reacted to the ongoing turmoil back home. After landing in the North American country Morales said that Mexico saved his life and vowed to continue in politics as long as he is alive. He also told reporters that his home in Bolivia has been ransacked along with his sister’s house. The Mexican Air Force aircraft ferrying Morales to safety made a stop in Paraguay to refuel on Tuesday, after reportedly being denied permission to land in Peru. The plane had been allowed to refuel in Peru on its way to fetch Morales, suggesting that the Peruvian government had a change of heart due to the aircraft’s political cargo.

Initial reports claimed that Chile and Brazil had refused to allow Morales’ aircraft to pass over their airspace, but flight tracking enthusiasts noted that the plane was allowed to fly across Brazil on its way to Mexico. Also, Mexico’s foreign minister said that another country which denied permission for the plane to land and refuel, and also fly over its airspace was Ecuador. Despite the setbacks, Morales appears to be upbeat. One photograph shows him holding up a Mexican flag on board the plane delivering him to political asylum, while another photo is of Morales waving to the camera as he prepares to leave Paraguay for his final destination. Mexico’s foreign ministry said it had decided to take in Morales for humanitarian reasons.

According to Foreign Minister Marcelko Ebrard, Morales’ “life and physical integrity” were at risk in his home country. Bolivian opposition leaders had claimed that police and the military were looking to capture the former president – but the country’s police chief later dismissed these reports. It’s believed that several Bolivian officials, including former Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and Senate President Adriana Salvatierra, may also have traveled with Morales – but the Mexican government has declined to comment on these reports.

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Guiado 2.0

Opposition Senator Declares Herself ‘Interim President’ Of Bolivia (RT)

Opposition politician Jeanine Añez has declared herself “interim president” of Bolivia without a vote, but the party of ousted President Evo Morales said that the Senate had no quorum and the legislature’s session was not legal. Añez’s actions echo those of Juan Guaido in Venezuela, who declared himself “interim president” in January with the backing of Washington and the Organization of American States (OAS). While Guaido has repeatedly failed to oust President Nicolas Maduro, however, the opposition in Bolivia – also backed by the US and OAS – has been able to force the resignation of Morales after the military defected to their side. While opposition activists claimed that Añez’s declaration was in line with the Bolivian constitution, lawmakers from the ousted president’s Movement for Socialism called the assembly session illegal. They have refused to attend the proceedings, saying that armed groups loyal to the opposition controlled the roads and could not guarantee their safety.

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Downer’s a nasty piece of work.

Alexander Downer Says Assange Should Not Expect Australian Intervention (SMH)

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has dismissed the idea of Australian intervention to save WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from potential extradition to the US amid a political storm over leaks designed to influence the last presidential election. Mr Downer said the fate of Mr Assange, who is fighting his extradition from London to the US to face espionage charges relating to WikiLeaks’ release of classified files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, rested with a British court. Mr Downer also ducked questions over his role in the controversial events that led to an FBI investigation into political interference in the 2016 US election campaign, saying he was assisting a US inquiry and did not want to add to a “toxic” debate.

The former Australian high commissioner to the UK mocked the idea of Prime Minister Scott Morrison acting on calls from Mr Assange’s supporters to do all it could to bring him home from the UK, where he has been held since his April 11 arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had lived in asylum for almost seven years. While he made no comment on the role WikiLeaks played in the US election when it released a trove of emails from the Democrat campaign, he said Mr Assange had to face British courts in response to the US extradition request relating to the separate espionage charges.

“All people are equal before the law. Julian Assange doesn’t get some dispensation from the law of the land, in this case of the UK, because you happen to agree with him or think he did the right thing,” Mr Downer said. “If the United States wants to extradite him, and extradition proceedings are underway, Australia can’t [intervene] even if it wanted to. That is the thing about these emotional narratives – they don’t even make sense.” [..] Mr Downer met Trump aide George Papadopoulos in a London bar in May 2016 where the aide told him the Russians were willing to release dirt on Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the November election. Mr Downer reported that meeting to Australian intelligence services, who later shared it with the FBI.

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Big Ag rules.

Wisconsin’s Dairy Crisis: “We Are Losing Two Farms A Day!” (SHTF)

Wisconsin’s dairy crisis has only just begun as the state is losing two farms each day, according to Patty Edelburg, vice president of the National Farmers Union. As farm bankruptcies soar, it is possible that nearly 10% of Wisconsin dairy farmers may go out of business in 2019. “You look at the weather, you look at the crops you can’t get off the field, you look at the bills you can’t pay,” Edelburg, told Yahoo Finance. “Bankruptcies are up. Wisconsin is attributed as the number one bankruptcy in the nation right now when it comes to dairy farmers. That number is up, I think, 24% from last year already. We’re losing two farms a day.” Between 2016 and 2018, Wisconsin lost almost 1,200 dairy farms. The USDA saw a 6.8% decrease in farms across the entire country in 2018.


Wisconsin’s suicide rates have spiked over the last few years and according to the Wisconsin State Journal, experts are attributing many of those deaths to farmers facing economic challenges. “Farming is such a stressful occupation by itself,” Edelburg said. “When you start adding financial stress on top of it, it’s just going to add more stress. Farmers can’t pay their bills, they have no extra money, they have people honing down their neck looking to pay bills. They’re going to banks and they can’t get loans. They’re literally being denied loans.” She explained that the USDA farm agency trains its farm loan officers on how to look for warning signs as part of suicide prevention. “The bankers are the first and the forefront to see a lot of these things,” Edelburg said. “They’re delivering the bad news, and these farmers are dealing with it on that level.”

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Stop laughing! We can hear you all the way from here. Russians interfering in New Zealand popular bird contests is a very serious thing. Stop laughing!

Russians Interfere In New Zealand ‘Bird Of The Year’ Contest (RT)

New Zealand is home to over 200 bird species and most of them are unique to the north and south islands where they have lived for millions of years. But while the Dodo might be dead, modern day drama and meddling certainly isn’t. With many of New Zealand’s native birds in crisis, leading independent conservation organization Forest & Bird started up a yearly ‘Bird of the Year’ competition in order to raise awareness of native bird life. But instead of an increase in bird-watching or perhaps more money towards conservation – political turmoil unraveled. The reason? Suspicious votes from abroad, and a fair few from that sinister country RUSSIA!

Megan Hubscher, a spokesperson for Forest & Bird, is concerned: “People are coming up with all kinds of theories about Russian involvement in New Zealand elections. But we can assure everyone that everything seems above board this time around.” But this seemingly innocent competition attracts controversy. Over the past 14 years, various voting scandals have caused a flap. Last year, a large black-and-white cormorant bird gained hundreds of suspicious votes – perhaps because of its common name: ‘the shag’! (Yes you laughed) In 2017, vote-fixing claims came flooding in after 112 new email accounts had been set up to cast votes for a certain bird, and two years previously, two teenagers were caught setting up fake accounts to vote for the delightful kokako. Whoever thought political bird-fighting was such a thing?

Fast forward to 2019, and Forest & Bird is responding with Pentagon-level protection in response to hacking and fake voting. Results this week saw ballots from almost 100 countries, with hundreds of votes from nearby Australia (684), America (563), the UK (682) and, of course… Russia (with 335 votes, obviously from Kremlin spies. Thank you very much, and spasibo).

Read more …

 

JFK to James Tobin: “Is there any economic limit to the size of the debt in relation to national income? There isn’t, is there? … That’s right, isn’t it? The deficit can be any size, the debt can be any size, provided they don’t cause inflation. Everything else is just talk”

 

 

 

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Sep 122019
 


Joan Miro Montroig, la iglesia y el pueblo 1918

 

 

Ok, the mailing lists still don’t work, and now the site layout is skewed too after a WordPress update. Lovely. Apologies. Working on it.

 

 

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)
The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)
No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)
£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)
ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)
Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)
Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)
Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)
Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)
The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

 

 

Excellent from Declassified on how and why the Guardian started setting up vicious smear campaigns of Assange, Jeremy Corbyn and others.

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)

On 20 July 2013, GCHQ officials entered The Guardian’s offices at King’s Cross in London, six weeks after the first Snowden-related article had been published. At the request of the government and security services, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson, along with two others, spent three hours destroying the laptops containing the Snowden documents. The Guardian staffers, according to one of the newspaper’s reporters, brought “angle-grinders, dremels – drills with revolving bits – and masks”. The reporter added, “The spy agency provided one piece of hi-tech equipment, a ‘degausser’, which destroys magnetic fields and erases data.”

Johnson claims that the destruction of the computers was “purely a symbolic act”, adding that “the government and GCHQ knew, because we had told them, that the material had been taken to the US to be shared with the New York Times. The reporting would go on. The episode hadn’t changed anything.”

Yet the episode did change something. As the D-Notice Committee minutes for November 2013 outlined: “Towards the end of July [as the computers were being destroyed], The Guardian had begun to seek and accept D-Notice advice not to publish certain highly sensitive details and since then the dialogue [with the committee] had been reasonable and improving.” The British security services had carried out more than a “symbolic act”. It was both a show of strength and a clear threat. The Guardian was then the only major newspaper that could be relied upon by whistleblowers in the US and British security bodies to receive and cover their exposures, a situation which posed a challenge to security agencies.

[..] In 2018, however, The Guardian’s attempted vilification of Assange was significantly stepped up. A new string of articles began on 18 May 2018 with one alleging Assange’s “long-standing relationship with RT”, the Russian state broadcaster. The series, which has been closely documented elsewhere, lasted for several months, consistently alleging with little or the most minimal circumstantial evidence that Assange had ties to Russia or the Kremlin. [..] The string of Guardian articles, along with the vilification and smear stories about Assange elsewhere in the British media, helped create the conditions for a deal between Ecuador, the UK and the US to expel Assange from the embassy in April.

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Security Services rule the world.

The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)

A judge last week ruled the federal government’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which secretly categorized more than 1 million people as “known or suspected terrorists,” is unconstitutional. Like a number of “War on Terror” reforms instituted in the Bush years, the TSDB’s unconstitutionality was obvious from its inception. Indeed, the very idea that we needed to “take the gloves off” in our post-9/11 “State of Exception” was an original selling point of some of these programs.

The TSDB is cousin to the No-Fly List (a different and more restrictive list ruled unconstitutional in 2014), the Distribution Matrix (the drone assassination program also known as the “Kill List”), the STELLAR WIND warrantless surveillance program, multiple expansions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the broadened use of National Security Letters to obtain private data without warrant, the “Enhanced Interrogation” program the rest of the world calls torture, and countless other War on Terror initiatives that were and are clear violations of the spirit of the constitution.

[..] The Kill List, the TSDB, and all the secret surveillance programs pose the same problem: they exist more or less completely apart from meaningful public oversight. They’re bureaucratic states within states. For instance, part of the PATRIOT Act governing the issue of National Security Letters (NSLs) – by which the FBI can demand that private companies turn over subscriber information, billing records, and other private data – allows the government to place gag orders on recipients of such letters. Because of this, we only have a faint idea of what NSLs look like. In one rare case, a man named Nicholas Merrill balked and sued when his company was issued a National Security Letter. In that case, the government argued that even releasing the existence of the letter would compromise national security.

This is frightening given that a) no courts need to approve the issuance of such letters, and b) the quantity of such demands is massive. Over a ten-year period, the government reportedly issued over 300,000 NSLs, at one point reaching a pace of 60,000 issued per year. The Merrill case in 2015 represented the first time a gag order was lifted on one of these operations. The recent watchlist lawsuit should remind us we’re assassinating, torturing, snooping on, and blacklisting people all over the world, by means of a continually expanding federal bureaucracy that exists outside of any specific mission, and refuses to recognize the oversight authority of courts or congress.

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They’re ignoring Parliament. Risky strategy. Especially since a first court has now declared prorogation is unlawful. Before Supreme Court next week.

No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)

Riots on the streets, food price rises and reduced medical supplies are real risks of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a government document has said. Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, after MPs voted to force its release. It outlines a series of “reasonable worst case assumptions” for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the paper confirmed the PM “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it”.


Michael Gove, one of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet colleagues who has been given responsibility for no-deal planning, said “revised assumptions” will be published “in due course alongside a document outlining the mitigations the government has put in place and intends to put in place”. However, ministers have blocked the release of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension. Mr Gove said MPs’ request to see e-mails, texts and WhatsApp messages from Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief aide, and eight other advisers in Downing Street were “unreasonable and disproportionate”. Publishing the information, he added, would “contravene the law” and “offend against basic principles of fairness”.

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“Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”.

£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)

From the financial data publicly available, Byline Times can reveal that currently £4,563,350,000 (£4.6 billion) of aggregate short positions on a ‘no deal’ Brexit have been taken out by hedge funds that directly or indirectly bankrolled Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign. Most of these firms also donated to Vote Leave and took out short positions on the EU Referendum result. The ones which didn’t typically didn’t exist at that time but are invariably connected via directorships to companies that did. Another £3,711,000,000 (£3.7 billion) of these short positions have been taken out by firms that donated to the Vote Leave campaign, but did not donate directly to the Johnson leadership campaign.


Currently, £8,274,350,000 (£8.3 billion) of aggregate short positions has been taken out by hedge funds connected to the Prime Minister and his Vote Leave campaign, run by his advisor Dominic Cummings, on a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Does this £8 billion bet explain why the Prime Minister has said that he would rather “die in a ditch” before asking the EU for an extension? Is it the reason why Johnson is willing to defy the Benn Act that stops a ‘no deal’ Brexit? Is the £8 billion any kind of motivation to prorogue Parliament? Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”. But what could be a bigger conflict of interest than those bankrolling the Prime Minister also having a vast financial interest in a catastrophe for Britain?

Read more …

How big will Draghi be?

ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)

The European Central Bank is set to unveil fresh stimulus measures on Thursday to prop up the ailing euro zone economy, but its exact moves are far from certain and a decision that underwhelms markets risks pushing up borrowing costs. With other major central banks easing monetary policy, Germany at risk of falling into recession and inflation expectations sliding, ECB President Mario Draghi has all but promised more support, putting all of the bank’s remaining tools in play. However Draghi, who hands over the leadership of the central bank to Christine Lagarde at the end of October, will face push back from more conservative members of his Governing Council.


Some policymakers have voiced concerted, public opposition to more radical stimulus measures, particularly the restarting of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing. Also, Draghi’s dovish talk has raised investors’ expectations so high that it will be difficult to fully deliver on them, leaving the ECB at risk of disappointing. This could see market interest rates increase, rather than fall. While the ECB has a wide range of policy instruments at its disposal, each comes with complications, from questionable efficacy and big side effects.

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No, seriously, they have a “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life”

Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)

Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled her new team of EU Commissioners. Their job descriptions and responsibilities are nebulous, oddly overlapping and bound to cause confusion. This is European bureaucracy at its worst.
Most Europeans pay scant attention to the detailed inner workings of Brussels politics, precisely because of the bewildering nature of its bloated bureaucracy. Von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, has gone and made it worse. The former German defense minister has steered away from traditional ministerial titles and opted for more Orwellian-sounding names – the kind you need to google to decipher what they actually mean.


Instead of getting a commissioner for dealing with defense or foreign policy, for instance, we are getting a “Commissioner for a Stronger Europe in the World.” There will also be a “Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight” who will apparently deal with policy-making and regulation and a “Commissioner for an Economy that Works for People.” It’s all very ‘Ministry of Truth’-esque. One particular title has backfired spectacularly. The “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life” will be dealing, partially, with immigration policy. The name has already been slammed as “fascist,” “grotesque” and, my favorite, an “infelicitous semantic choice” due to the alleged implication that Europeans need to be “protected” from immigrants.

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Riddance. Good.

Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)

President Trump blasted his former national security adviser John Bolton from the White House on Wednesday, saying he had been fired after making “some very big mistakes” and that he did not get along with others in the administration. In a public rebuke of a top aide that would have been extraordinary before the Trump White House, Trump said Bolton had “set us back” and that the adviser had disagreed with the president on various national security issues. He slammed a mistake Bolton made early in his tenure at the White House when he discussed a “Libyan model” in the context of North Korea — which that country took as a sign that its leadership could meet the fate of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.


While he insisted he had gotten along with the adviser, he also ridiculed Bolton for getting the United States involved in the Iraq War. “So, John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said a day after his abrupt ousting of Bolton. He said the “Libyan model” remark had set back talks with North Korea and was “not a good statement to make.” “And it set us back, and frankly he wanted to do things — not necessarily tougher than me — You know John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq … but he’s actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.”


Bolton to spend more time with his family

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What kind of job is that anyway?

Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)

Three aides to national security adviser John Bolton are resigning from the White House a day after news broke of Bolton’s high-profile departure from the Trump administration, Reuters reported. According to the news agency, the White House received resignations on Wednesday from the trio of staffers, who have reportedly worked with Bolton for years: Bolton’s former spokesman, Garrett Marquis; his former communications director, Sarah Tinsley; and Christine Samuelian, who served as Bolton’s scheduler. Marquis said in a statement obtained by Reuters Wednesday that “it was an honor to serve my country, and I wish the president and the administration success moving forward.”


The Hill has not yet confirmed the departures with the White House. The departures came a day after Trump announced that he had fired Bolton via Twitter, citing disagreements they had over “many of his suggestions.” “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Trump said in a pair of tweets on Tuesday morning.

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If you can’t get your money out, why invest?

Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)

China’s biggest investment fair was intended to project the image that the country is fully open for business, but instead it has been dominated by foreign firms complaining that local governments are still making it a difficult place to operate. Delegates in Xiamen this week suggested that local governments are ignoring advice from Beijing as it aims to increase market access and level the playing field with domestic companies, meaning that the implementation of reforms to make it easier for foreign firms to operate in China still have not gone far enough. As it undergoes pressures caused in the most part by the trade war with the United States, Beijing is redoubling its efforts to woo investment by lavishing promises of fair treatment on foreign investors and giving VIP treatment to the likes of Telsa CEO Elon Musk.

But capital controls that restrict the flow of money into and out of the country, as well as lack of transparency in the bidding processes involving local governments, were among specific concerns raised during a panel discussion at the annual China International Fair for Investment and Trade. “In the past, when it comes to tenders and bidding, everyone would immediately turn to the company identity. This happened very often. This is a foreign company, that is a state company and this is a private company,” said Wang Jie, vice-president of Schneider Electric China, which manufactures and distributes electrical components. “Sometimes it’s not explicit, but it would be like, ‘This is an important project, maybe it isn’t appropriate for a foreign company.’”

[..] Zhou Bing, vice-president for Dell Greater China, said that it is important to have more flexibility in cross-border capital flows to boost trade, with China currently maintaining strict controls that can effectively shut off outflows. This can prove to be a major disadvantage for overseas investors who want to know that they can transfer their money out of China after it has been invested. “We are a typical company in the processing trade business here,” said Zhou, referring to a company that imports components into China to assemble them into finished goods before being exported. “So, it means there’s massive amount of capital flowing in and out [of China]. Right now, it’s still relatively smooth, but in the long term, do we want to keep our capital in China, do we keep our profit in China? It depends on how open the policy is.”

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It’s not just America, the whole world should think this over. Inequality doesn’t last.

The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, at the age of twenty-five, was sent by France’s Ministry of Justice to study the American penal system. He spent ten months in the United States, dutifully visiting prisons and meeting hundreds of people, including President Andrew Jackson and his predecessor, John Quincy Adams. On his return to France, he wrote a book about his observations, “Democracy in America,” the first volume of which was published in 1835. Many of the observations have weathered well (he noted, for instance, how American individualism coexisted with conformism). Others have not. For example, Tocqueville, who was the youngest son of a count, was deeply impressed by how equal the economic conditions in the United States were. It was, at the time, an accurate assessment.


The United States was the world’s most egalitarian society. Wages in the young nation were higher than in Europe, and land in the West was abundant and cheap. There were rich people, but they weren’t super-rich, like European aristocrats. According to “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700,” by the economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of the population was more than twenty per cent in Britain but below ten per cent in America. The prevailing ideology of the country favored equality (though, to be sure, only for whites); Americans were proud that there was a relatively small gap between rich and poor. “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Thomas Jefferson bragged to a friend.

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Sep 112019
 
 September 11, 2019  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Robert Frank White Tower, New York 1948 (Frank died yesterday, aged 94)

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton (Ind.)
‘You’re Fired!’ Trump Cuts Loose Of His Dog Of War (George Galloway)
In A Fracturing World, Central Banks Still Stuck Together (R.)
European Banks Paid ECB €23 Billion Since 2014… And Now Face Disaster (ZH)
Brexit’s Puppet Master Has More Strings To Pull (R.)
Ireland, Boris Johnson Both Eye Return To EU’s Original Brexit Backstop (Ind.)
Johnson Can’t Escape The Clutches Of May’s Zombie Brexit Deal (Behr)
Israel PM Netanyahu Vows To Annex Occupied Jordan Valley (BBC)
Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley Annexation Pledge Is a PR Stunt (RT)
California Passes Landmark Gig Economy Rights Bill (BBC)
‘One America News’ Claims Defamation In $10 Million Suit vs Rachel Maddow (ZH)

 

 

There are still people who are sad to see him go.

Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton (Ind.)

Donald Trump said he fired John Bolton, writing in a tweet he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions” and adding he would announce a replacement for his hawkish national security adviser sometime next week. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” the president wrote on Tuesday. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.” “I thank John very much for his service,” he added. “I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” Mr Bolton then tweeted a statement of his own shortly after the president’s announcement, writing: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”


Mr Bolton also reportedly told CNN’s Robert Costa shortly after his dismissal: “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night.” The reason for Mr Bolton’s departure was not immediately clear, although it has been suggested that he disagreed with the president’s aborted plan to hold peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David this week, days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Mr Bolton was also an outspoken advocate of regime change in Iran. Although Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama signed with Tehran, he is known to oppose military action in the Middle East.

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“So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.”

‘You’re Fired!’ Trump Cuts Loose Of His Dog Of War (George Galloway)

The blowing up of Donald Trump’s attempt to end the 18-year Afghan War was the straw which broke the camel’s back for the US president, who on Tuesday fired his national security adviser John Bolton.
Trump’s attempt to bring to a close the longest war in US history – longer, in fact, than their direct involvement in WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War put together – was to be his own “Camp David moment.” It would have mimicked both Carter and Clinton’s “triumphs” there with Arafat and Begin and Arafat and Rabin (neither of which have in fact turned out to be triumphs but were wonderful photo-ops).

Bolton’s rearguard action and the Taliban’s killing of a single US soldier there in the week of the summit brought the Camp David caper crashing down, much to the president’s fury, and prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to boast that the US had killed a thousand Taliban in the previous 10 days. But it was not one damn thing, but one damned thing after another, which has caused the final forking of the “bureaucratic tape-worm” John Bolton, who has slithered through every right-wing administration in living memory.

[..] John Bolton, like so many others, was a “chicken-hawk,” always ready to fight to the last drop of somebody else’s blood. He evaded the draft during the Vietnam War because as he said himself “I didn’t want to die face down in a South East Asian rice paddy.” Nothing wrong with that, if he hadn’t continued to “support” the war and wave off to the paddy-fields the 58,000 Americans who did die, face-down, in the war he dodged. So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.


Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

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But what if they start competing?

In A Fracturing World, Central Banks Still Stuck Together (R.)

The last time major central banks shifted gears together, it was a cooperative move to keep the financial crisis of a decade ago from becoming a full-bore, worldwide depression. Now, a new round of global ratecutting risks taking on a competitive edge as policymakers try to stay ahead of rising trade tensions, a volatile investment climate, and a shift in the political mood from shared support for globalization to a more zero-sum battle over a slower-growing world economy.

[..] If the Fed and ECB do as expected at their upcoming meetings, BOJ officials will be torn between how a stressed financial system may respond to ever lower rates, and how Japanese exporters may be damaged if the yen rises in value as a result of the actions of those other central banks. European officials, disappointed that elected leaders haven’t spent aggressively to boost economic growth, are sparring over how much lower already negative rates can go without causing problems, how expansive other ECB programs should become, and what good any of it might do. At the Fed, policymakers are split over whether to cut a lot, a little or not at all.

In each case, officials are reckoning with the fact that their economies and financial systems have become so tied together that fully independent policymaking, insofar as it ever was possible, may be a thing of the past. “We really thought monetary policy had things under control,” and would be able to offset whatever programs elected leaders chose to pursue, even a trade war, said Tara Sinclair, an economics professor at George Washington University. “Does that work in a super low interest rate world and in a very integrated world?” when central banks may have lost much of their traditional influence over the domestic economy.

Read more …

What purpose does the ECB serve?

European Banks Paid ECB €23 Billion Since 2014… And Now Face Disaster (ZH)

Earlier this morning, there was an added wobble in European bond prices after an unconfirmed MNI report said the ECB could delay the launch of QE on Thursday and make it data dependent. While skeptics quickly slammed the story, saying it was just a clickbait by MarketNews … it does highlight just how sensitive the bond market is to an announcement of aggressive easing by the ECB when it meets on Thursday, Sept 12, where consensus generally expects a significant easing package, including a -20bp rate cut (followed by -10bp cut later on), coupled with roughly €30 billion in sovereign debt QE for 9-12 months, coupled with enhanced forward guidance.

There is just one problem: while it is unclear if any further easing by the ECB will do anything to stimulate the Eurozone economy, one thing is certain – further easing will only cripple Europe’s banks. In fact, as Goldman writes in its ECB preview, “further rate cuts are a very uncomfortable prospect for the [banking] sector” and estimates that a -20bp cut could lead to an aggregate €5.6bn (-6%) profit cut for 32 €-banks under the bank’s coverage; worse, a further -10bp cut, as per GS macro forecasts, increases the hit to -10% (-€8.3 bn). Overall, 19 banks in Goldman’s coverage face a >10% EPS cut, and 8 banks face as much as a 20% EPS hit.

Then there is Europe’s head on collision with a recession: the weakening rate outlook has been accompanied by >20% fall in €-bank shares (SX7E) since 2H18 and -4% cuts to their consensus Net Interest Incomes (for 2020E). According to Goldman, so far ~40% of the share price decline could be explained by NII cuts; the rest falls into the ‘other’ domain, “where political risk features notably.” Here is the problem in one sentence, and chart: since negative rates were introduced in 2014, European Banks have paid €23BN to the ECB!

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“He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”

Brexit’s Puppet Master Has More Strings To Pull (R.)

Cummings, who alongside fellow campaigner Matthew Elliott, drove Vote Leave to victory in the 2016 referendum is cast by allies as a ruthless strategist who cares little for the conventions of traditional British politics. He provoked a row inside Westminster when he sacked a 27-year-old adviser to finance minister Sajid Javid. The adviser, Sonia Khan, was escorted by armed police from Downing Street without Javid’s knowledge. Former Prime Minister John Major cast Cummings as an overmighty “political anarchist” who should be sacked as Johnson’s de-facto chief of staff before he poisoned British politics beyond repair.

Cummings’s response? “Trust the people” – a slogan used by government advisers to cast Johnson’s Brexit-supporting team as the true servants of the people fighting a London political and financial elite that wants to thwart their will. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the United Kingdom was in dangerous territory as voters were concluding that parliament was hindering Brexit. He said the government would respect the law but that interpretations of the law can sometimes be complex. “At this point, our view is that resignation is the most likely,” U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said. “In our view, neither seeking to defy the law, nor encouraging the EU not to grant an extension, are likely to succeed.”

The Cabinet Manual, which sets out the laws, rules and conventions on the operation of government, says if the prime minister resigns on behalf of the government then Queen Elizabeth will invite the person who appears most likely to be able to command the confidence of lawmakers to serve as prime minister and form a government. A Conservative Party lawmaker said he thought Johnson would resign soon after the EU summit, ensuring that he is not blamed for any delay to Brexit. “The question is: what has Cummings got up his sleeve?” said a former Conservative adviser. “He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”

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“..the Northern Ireland-only backstop..”

Ireland, Boris Johnson Both Eye Return To EU’s Original Brexit Backstop (Ind.)

The British and Irish governments are both eyeing a return to the EU’s original Brexit backstop plan, rejected by Theresa May, as a way of breaking the deadlock, reports suggest. The so-called “Northern Ireland-only” backstop was rejected by the former prime minister during talks because it put a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea – a move strongly opposed by the DUP and many Tories. It was replaced in the withdrawal agreement by the current UK-wide backstop – which was rejected by Brexiteers for another reason: because it could tie the whole UK to the EU customs union indefinitely.

[..] In an interview with the Irish Times, Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan – who is set to be put in charge of trade talks with the UK – said the direction of travel was towards the old backstop. “Yes,” he replied when asked whether it was back on the agenda. “The taoiseach has indicated in the last 24 hours that the Northern Ireland-only backstop is quite an interesting idea to revisit.” He added: “I remain hopeful that the penny is finally dropping with the UK that there are pragmatic and practical solutions can actually be introduced into the debate at this stage – albeit at the eleventh hour – that may find some common ground between the EU and the UK.” British officials in Brussels flatly deny that there is any intention to return to the original backstop. A UK spokesperson said that “any deal must involve the abolition of the anti-democratic backstop”.

[..] A return to something resembling the Northern Ireland-only backstop could ultimately make sense politically for Mr Johnson, given he may no longer have to rely on DUP votes for a majority after a general election – if he wins a majority, as polls suggest is possible. The DUP’s opposition to a border in the Irish sea would no longer be as much of an issue. The change would also technically allow Mr Johnson to claim he had ditched the current backstop, which he has put down as a red line. Whether moving back to a Northern Ireland-only situation would be accepted by Tory Brexiteers as satisfactory is another matter.

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Affable Boris vs Bullying Boris.

Johnson Can’t Escape The Clutches Of May’s Zombie Brexit Deal (Behr)

One reason to suppose that Johnson is malleable on the detail is that on 29 March he voted for May’s deal – the same one he denounces as an affront to democracy. The hypocrisy is not surprising, but it does illuminate that tension in Johnson’s self-image, between the wannabe statesman and the Trump tribute act. One enjoys the hobnobbing with world leaders at global summits, the other is an accomplice in vandalising the architecture of a rules-based international order.

The same tension is expressed in domestic politics. There is affable Boris who thought he could charm his way to an elegant Brexit solution, unify his party and woo the country with a healing message. He was barged aside by bullying Boris who purges dissent from his party and stokes division in the country. One belongs to the old Tory party that venerated stability and reached out to liberal voters. The other leads a new revolutionary leaver party, recruiting admirers of Nigel Farage for a nationalist insurgency.

The Downing Street calculation appears to be that a majority is most easily won by stripping the Conservative party down and reassembling it as something unconservative. Johnson will run as a populist tribune, the man who would rather be “dead in a ditch” than surrender to tricky continentals and their Westminster collaborators. It might work. Current polling doesn’t offer much of a guide when the vital choices have been punted to the end of October. That doesn’t leave much time for the prime minister to tweak May’s Brexit deal and, in defiance of all the odds, persuade a hostile parliament to vote for it. But that doesn’t mean he has given up on the idea.

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Election time.

Israel PM Netanyahu Vows To Annex Occupied Jordan Valley (BBC)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex part of the occupied West Bank if he is returned to office next week. He would apply “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea”, a policy certain to be backed by the right-wing parties whose support he would need for a coalition. Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said such annexation moves would “bury any chance of peace”. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 but stopped short of annexation. Mr Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud party, is campaigning ahead of general elections next Tuesday. Polls suggest Likud is neck-and-neck with the opposition centrist Blue and White party and may struggle to form a governing coalition.


Palestinians claim the whole of the West Bank for a future independent state. Mr Netanyahu has previously insisted that Israel would always retain a presence in the Jordan Valley for security purposes. In a televised speech the PM said: “There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections. “If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so… today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” Mr Netanyahu also said he would annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but this would need to wait until the publication of US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

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“..he could be indicted as early as mid-October..”

Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley Annexation Pledge Is a PR Stunt (RT)

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been desperate to drum up voter support across various sections of the Israeli population as the September 17 election inches closer, and his most recent pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, a part of the occupied West Bank, is no more than yet another empty campaign promise, political and defense commentator Amir Oren told RT. “He cannot annex any inch of the occupied territories… the most important [reason] is that peace with Egypt and with Jordan is based upon the UN Security Council resolution 242 from November of 1967 forbidding the acquisition of territories by force.”


Netanyahu knows that risking the collapse of the entire regional security system is a “non-starter,” and his grand announcement is merely a “way to focus attention on himself,” Oren argued. The PR stunt is also aimed at helping Netanyahu to rebrand himself as a strong leader able to deal with the Iran ‘menace’ and the Palestinian issue, as most recently he has been making headlines for the allegations of corruption he faces. “He is trying to shift attention from his corruption scandals, he could be indicted as early as mid-October, he wants people to talk about himself as a world-class leader in league with Putin and Trump.”

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The gig economy is an even hollower term than the service economy.

California Passes Landmark Gig Economy Rights Bill (BBC)

Lawmakers in California have passed a law that paves the way for gig economy workers to get holiday and sick pay. Assembly Bill 5, as its known, will affect companies such as Uber and Lyft, which depend on those working in the gig economy. Some estimates suggest costs for those firms would increase by 30% if they have to treat workers as employees. But opponents of the bill say it will hurt those that want to work flexible hours. The business models of gig economy companies are already under strain – Uber lost more than $5bn in the last quarter alone.


Some estimates suggest that having to treat workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, could increase costs by as much as 30%. Uber and rival ridesharing service Lyft joined forces to push back again the bill. They suggested a guaranteed minimum wage of $21 per hour instead of the sweeping changes the bill would bring. But that pledge wasn’t enough to sway California’s Senate, and the state’s governor Gavin Newsom is expected to soon sign the bill into law.

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High time someone takes Maddow to court, but Sputnik is not a strong point.

‘One America News’ Claims Defamation In $10 Million Suit vs Rachel Maddow (ZH)

Conservative television network One America News (OAN) is suing Rachel Maddow for $10 million after she referred to the network as “paid Russian propaganda”. OAN filed the defamation suit in federal court in San Diego, according to AP. OAN is a small, family owned conservative network that is based in San Diego and has received favorable Tweets from the President. It is seen as a competitor to Fox News. OAN’s lawsuit claims that Maddow’s comments were retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused Comcast of censorship. The suit said that Comcast refuses to carry its channel because “counters the liberal politics of Comcast’s own news channel, MSNBC.”

It was about a week after Herring e-mailed a Comcast executive when Maddow opened her show by referring to a Daily Beast report that claimed an OAN employee also worked for Sputnik News, which has ties to the Russian government. Maddow said: “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda. Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Except Maddow, likely still upset from spending 3 years trying to promulgate a Russian hoax that didn’t exist, didn’t quite get her facts straight. Big surprise.

OAN said in its lawsuit that while reporter Kristian Rouz was associated with Sputnik News, he worked solely as a freelancer for them and was not a staff employee of OAN. And the lawsuit includes a statement from Rouz stating that while he has written some 1,300 articles over the past 4 and a half years for Sputnik, he has “…never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information.

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Jul 212019
 
 July 21, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong, who’s reflected in his visor

 

 

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)
Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)
The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)
Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)
British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)
Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)
UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)
Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)
Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)
Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)
War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)
Final Voyage (Kunstler)

 

 

A lot about Britain today, with a new PM being announced on Tuesday and taking over from Theresa May on Wednesday. And that at a point in time when the country has committed its biggest international blunder in years (though competition’s stiff) with the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker two weeks ago.

The Ham of Fate (Fintan O’Toole)

The Leave campaign that Johnson led to a stunning victory in the Brexit referendum of June 2016 owed much of its success to its carefully calibrated slogan “Take Back Control.” Akrasia, which is discussed in depth by Socrates, Plato, and especially Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, is the contrary of control. It means literally “not being in command of oneself” and is translated variously as “weakness of will,” “incontinence,” and “loss of self-control.” To Aristotle, an akratic is a person who knows the right thing to do but can’t help doing the opposite. This is not just, as he himself seems to have intuited, Boris Johnson to a tee. It is also the reason why he embodies more than anyone else a Brexit project in which the very people who promised to take back control are utterly incapable of exercising it, even over themselves.

To grasp how Johnson’s akratic character has brought his country to a state approaching anarchy, it is necessary to return to the days immediately before February 21, 2016, when he announced to an expectant throng of journalists that he would support the Leave campaign. This was a crucial moment—polls have since shown that, in what turned out to be a very close-run referendum, Boris, as the mayor of London had branded himself, had a greater influence on voters than anyone else. “Character is destiny, said the Greeks, and I agree,” writes Johnson in The Churchill Factor, his 2014 book about Winston Churchill, which carries the telling subtitle “How One Man Made History.”

While the book shows Johnson to be a true believer in the Great Man theory of history, his own moment of destiny plays it out as farce, the fate of a nation turning not on Churchillian resolution but on Johnsonian indecision. For Johnson was, in his own words, “veering all over the place like a shopping trolley.” On Saturday, February 20, he texted Prime Minister David Cameron to say he was going to advocate for Brexit. A few hours later, he texted again to say that he might change his mind and back Remain. Sometime between then and the following day, he wrote at least two different columns for the Daily Telegraph—his deadline was looming, so he wrote one passionately arguing for Leave and one arguing that the cost of Brexit would be too high. (Asked once if he had any convictions, Johnson replied, “Only one—for speeding…”)

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Nothing wrong with leaving the EU, but everything wrong with how it’s been executed.

Brexit, or Project Fear (Lis)

If, during the 2016 referendum campaign, you had told voters that MPs would be scrambling to stop the prime minister shutting down the legislature in order to force through food shortages, mass job losses and a crash in the pound, someone might have needed to change the slogan on the side of that bus. What is happening right now in Britain goes beyond any previously conceivable limits of responsible or accountable governance. Viewed against the country which seemed to exist just a few years ago, it is quite literally unbelievable. It’s not just that Brexit is a case of “I told you so”: the harm to our national political fabric has been more catastrophic than even the most pessimistic Remainer could have contemplated.

Britain is now heading into immediate, unabated crisis, but the consequences could last for years or even decades. Even the most conservative estimates suggest damage to our economy in all circumstances if we leave, contrary to everything campaigners promised. The neutral Office for Budget Responsibility this week forecast a significant recession in the event of no-deal. But the economic damage will almost certainly take less time to repair than the damage to our politics and society. What was billed as a way for people to take back control of democracy has become a systematic attack on every institution which underpins it.

First the Brexiters came for political opponents. Any prominent Remainer who dared question the legitimacy of the referendum or, heaven forbid, suggested a new one in the light of changed circumstances, was branded a traitor, an enemy of democracy, an elitist, a Remoaner, someone who wanted to subvert the will of the people, someone who knew best, someone who hated Britain. It was devastatingly effective. Brexit’s leaders rapidly and comprehensively refigured democratic opposition as opposition to democracy. All potential opponents, particularly in parliament itself, were cowed into affirming “respect for the result.” It became a standard vow of allegiance to a movement they knew to be disastrous, and they had little choice but to make it.

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“The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

The Story Began With UK’s Seizure Of Iranian-Flagged Ship In Gibraltar (O.)

The morning after a group of 30 Royal Marines helped seize the Iranian-flagged Grace 1 in Gibraltar, tired Foreign Office officials did not look exactly jubilant. There was not exactly a sense of foreboding, but diplomats were aware of the wider bilateral consequences for British-Iranian relations. Now, with the capture of a British-owned oil tanker in the Gulf, some of their worst fears have been realised. The Stena Impero and its crew of more than 20 are now in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – and the UK has been shown to be unable to protect British shipping going through the waterways of the strait of Hormuz.

The British insist that they only impounded Grace 1 due its suspected destination – a port in Syria – not due to the fact that the ship was carrying Iranian oil. European Union sanctions against the regime of Bashir al Assad regime were there to be enforced and international law upheld, the British argued. There seemed little doubt, given its circuitous route, that the ship was bound for Syria. Yet there were some oddities to the British decision. Few previous shipments of oil to Syria have been impounded. The Spanish claim that the British acted under the instruction of the Americans. The Trump administration is trying to freeze all Iranian oil exports as part of its policy of maximum economic sanctions designed to force the Iranians to reopen talks on the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

But Britain opposes that US policy, arguing that it is counterproductive and only likely to strengthen the hands of hardliners in Tehran. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European council on foreign relations, pinpointed the ambiguities of the British action in Gibraltar: “The legality of the UK seizure of a tanker heading for Syria with oil from Iran intrigues me. One refers to EU sanctions against Syria, but Iran is not a member of the EU. And the EU as a principle doesn’t impose its sanctions on others. That’s what the US does.”

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He didn’t lure Britain, but a handful of intellectually challenged posh kids. And anyway it’s far too easy to blame this on Bolton. They did it themselves, May and Hunt et al.

Bolton Lured Britain Into A Dangerous Trap To Punish Iran (G.)

John Bolton, White House national security adviser and notorious Iraq-era hawk, is a man on a mission. Given broad latitude over policy by Donald Trump, he is widely held to be driving the US confrontation with Iran. And in his passionate bid to tame Tehran, Bolton cares little who gets hurt – even if collateral damage includes a close ally such as Britain. So when Bolton heard British Royal Marines had seized an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar on America’s Independence Day, his joy was unconfined. “Excellent news: UK has detained the supertanker Grace I laden with Iranian oil bound for Syria in violation of EU sanctions,” he exulted on Twitter. Bolton’s delighted reaction suggested the seizure was a surprise.


But accumulating evidence suggests the opposite is true, and that Bolton’s national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident. The suspicion is that Conservative politicians, distracted by picking a new prime minister, jockeying for power, and preoccupied with Brexit, stumbled into an American trap. In short, it seems, Britain was set up. The consequences of the Gibraltar affair are only now becoming clear. The seizure of Grace I led directly to Friday’s capture by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of a British tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although it has not made an explicit link, Iran had previously vowed to retaliate for Britain’s Gibraltar “piracy”. Now it has its revenge.

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I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but it doesn’t matter. Moreover, Spain says Gibraltar is not British either.

British Letter to UN Says Iran Approached Tanker In Omani Waters (R.)

Britain told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday that a British-flagged tanker seized by Iran was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters and the action “constitutes illegal interference.” “The ship was exercising the lawful right of transit passage in an international strait as provided for under international law,” Britain’s U.N. mission wrote to the Security Council. “International law requires that the right of transit passage shall not be impeded, and therefore the Iranian action constitutes illegal interference.” The letter, seen by Reuters, was also sent to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.


Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war. It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria. “Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter read. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.” Britain called on Iran to release the Stena Impero tanker and told the Security Council it was working to resolve the issue through diplomatic means.

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Ha ha. You mean there are sanctions that haven’t been applied yet?

Britain Mulls Sanctions In Response To Iran Tanker Seizure (R.)

British ministers are making plans aimed at targeting Iran with sanctions in the aftermath of the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce on Sunday diplomatic and economic measures, including potential asset freezes, as a response to the incident, according to the report. Britain could push for United Nations and European Union sanctions to be reimposed on Iran after they had been lifted in 2016 following a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Telegraph reported.

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This is about weaponry, but I’d suggest the UK is mentally too weak.

UK Too Weak To Address Strategic Threats, Warns MP Committee (O.)

The government has repeatedly failed to invest in defence and security, leaving the UK struggling to cope with emerging threats, an influential parliamentary committee was due to warn on Sunday in a report thrown into sharp relief by the developing crisis in the Persian Gulf. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy says the next prime minister will have to tackle major challenges – from growing strains on the UK’s relationship with the US and the EU, to the rise of China – if the UK is to meet its defence ambitions.

“If the Government wants to turn the ‘Global Britain’ concept into a meaningful strategy for a positive and self-assured role for the UK after its departure from the EU, then it needs to be more honest about how it proposes to address these challenges,” said the committee chair, Margaret Beckett MP. “It must also back this up with the necessary funding and resources, especially for defence and diplomacy.”

The report’s publication comes after the former chief of defence staff, Lord Richards, warned that the Royal Navy was “just too small to have a significant effect without being with allies”. Speaking in response to the seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iranian authorities, Richards told BBC radio’s Today programme: “The fact is, for whatever reason, our government has invested relatively little against the threat and the risks that we face, particularly more and more in the longer term.” The former first sea lord, Lord West of Spithead, told Sky News that the navy had “too few ships” to escort merchant vessels in dangerous waters.

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@Jack has gone into politics. Bad move.

Twitter Blocks Accounts Of Iranian State Media Outlets (AFP)

A day after Twitter suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, the social networking service said Saturday it acted after harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith. Amid soaring tensions in the region, heightened by Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British-flagged tanker, some of the affected media outlets had speculated that the suspensions were related to their coverage of the seizure. But Twitter cited what it said was the coordinated and targeted harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran. It did not name the suspended accounts, and said it was continuing to investigate the matter.


“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules,” read English-language messages on each of the Iranian media outlets’ accounts. Mehr news agency, which is close to moderate conservatives in Iran, said its Farsi-language account appeared to have been blocked late Friday following its reports on the seizure of the tanker Stena Impero in the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it seized the Swedish-owned tanker for breaking “international maritime rules” in the strait, a chokepoint for around a third of the world’s sea-borne oil. Mehr’s Farsi-language Twitter page was inaccessible on Saturday, along with those of the official IRNA news agency and the agency of the Young Journalists’ Club.

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Wednesday July 24, big day: Boris becomes British PM and Bob Mueller’s circus comes to town.

Mueller Should Be Arrested For Conspiracy To Overthrow Trump (PCR)

The Mueller report, which had no choice as there was no evidence, but to clear Donald Trump of conspiring with Russian President Putin to steal the last US presidential election from Hillary Clinton, nevertheless managed to keep an aspect of the manufactured hoax known as “Russiagate” alive by indicting some Russian intelligence officers and a Russian Internet clickbait operation for attempting to discredit Hillary with Internet postings. At the time I noticed that Muller’s indictments were based only on his assertion and not on any evidence. As there was no prospect whatsoever of the fake indictments coming to trial, I did not comment on them. I focused instead on Mueller’s statement that Trump might have obstructed justice although he lacked evidence to support the charge.


I noted how corrupt American law has become when it is possible to obstruct justice in the absence of a crime. Democrats and presstitutes were determined to get Trump by any means and remain uninterested in how justice is obstructed when there is no crime. In retrospect, not picking up on Mueller’s indictment-by-hearsay of Russians was a mistake. Not only have the Democrats continued their Russiagate campaign on the basis of the unsubstantiated indictments, but, more importantly, the indictments-by-assertion-alone show Mueller’s total lack of moral character. A prosecutor, indeed a former Director of the FBI, who confuses his unsubstantiated allegation with evidence, is not only a person devoid of any respect for law, but also an extremely dangerous person to have been vetted for the high government positions that he has held.

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Or is that the Liberals?

Are Libertarians the New Neocons? (Daniel McAdams)

There is a disturbing trend in some libertarian circles and among some libertarian organizations to be increasingly enamored with foreign interventionism and US government backed regime change overseas. For those focused on foreign affairs, this is particularly troubling as it is abandoning a key tenet of libertarianism: non-interventionism. Not “your government 6,000 miles away must be changed… but I don’t support the US military doing it.” That is not non-interventionism. Non-interventionism is accepting that others may wish to live in a way you may not approve of. Non-interventionism in your neighbor’s affairs – whether he enjoys reading the Bible or lighting up a marijuana cigarette (or maybe both) – is really the sine qua non of the libertarian mindset: “aint nobody’s business if you do.”

You do not aggress against your neighbor just because you disagree with his life choices that do not infringe on your person or property and you extrapolate that dynamic to where you demand that to the highest extent possible your local, state, and federal governments treat you as you would treat your neighbor. The idea that this critical impulse somehow becomes null and void when it comes to international affairs is truly bizarre. In fact many self-described libertarians full-throatedly cheer when people are in the streets thousands of miles away trying to overthrow their governments. Somehow from this far distant vantage point they are just convinced that the mythical “free state” is about to break out somewhere.

And when someone points out that the semi-hidden hand behind these uprisings is the US government, which seeks to create overseas governments of subservient elites to prop up the (anti-libertarian) US empire, they accuse that person of being an extremist or a conspiracy theorist…or they get really lazy and stupid and just claim you are a “supporter” of the dictator of the day. So, many US libertarians (who knew next to nothing about Venezuela) demanded our support for that great “libertarian” liberator of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, who turned out to be just another crook with zero support from Venezuelans (but a lot of support from the CIA!).

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Dmitry, from a Russian perspective, shining his light on what I’ve repeatedly said: the US makes weapons for profit, Russia makes them to defend itself (from US weapons).

War Profiteers and the Demise of the US Military-Industrial Complex (Orlov)

Within the vast bureaucratic sprawl of the Pentagon there is a group in charge of monitoring the general state of the military-industrial complex and its continued ability to fulfill the requirements of the national defense strategy. Office for acquisition and sustainment and office for industrial policy spends some $100,000 a year producing an Annual Report to Congress. It is available to the general public. It is even available to the general public in Russia, and Russian experts had a really good time poring over it. In fact, it filled them with optimism. You see, Russia wants peace but the US seems to want war and keeps making threatening gestures against a longish list of countries that refuse to do its bidding or simply don’t share its “universal values.”

But now it turns out that threats (and the increasingly toothless economic sanctions) are pretty much all that the US is still capable of dishing out—this in spite of absolutely astronomical levels of defense spending. Let’s see what the US military-industrial complex looks like through a Russian lens. It is important to note that the report’s authors were not aiming to force legislators to finance some specific project. This makes it more valuable than numerous other sources, whose authors’ main objective was to belly up to the federal feeding trough, and which therefore tend to be light on facts and heavy on hype. No doubt, politics still played a part in how various details are portrayed, but there seems to be a limit to the number of problems its authors can airbrush out of the picture and still do a reasonable job in analyzing the situation and in formulating their recommendations.

What knocked Russian analysis over with a feather is the fact that these INDPOL experts (who, like the rest of the US DOD, love acronyms) evaluate the US military-industrial complex from a… market-based perspective! You see, the Russian military-industrial complex is fully owned by the Russian government and works exclusively in its interests; anything else would be considered treason. But the US military-industrial complex is evaluated based on its… profitability! According to INDPOL, it must not only produce products for the military but also acquire market share in the global weapons trade and, perhaps most importantly, maximize profitability for private investors. By this standard, it is doing well: for 2017 the gross margin (EBITDA) for US defense contractors ranged from 15 to 17%, and some subcontractors—Transdigm, for example—managed to deliver no less than 42-45%. “Ah!” cry the Russian experts, “We’ve found the problem! The Americans have legalized war profiteering!”

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“I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat.”

Final Voyage (Kunstler)

[..] the party’s pathetic attempt to revive the walking dead narrative of RussiaGate is not working too well down on Jerold Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee. The chairman apparently discovered that his star witness, Robert Mueller, might have to answer some embarrassing questions about the conduct of his investigation — like, why did it go on for two years when his chief deputy, Mr. Weissmann, was informed from the get-go that the main predicate document was a fraud? So, Mr. Mueller’s turn in the witness chair keeps getting postponed clear into the August recess. I doubt the former Special Counsel will ever sit in that hot-seat. If I was him, I sure wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Oh, did anyone notice the House staged an impeachment vote on Wednesday? It flopped too.


Finally, there is the walking time-bomb known as Jeffrey Epstein, Democratic Party poohbah and impresario of an underage sex racket featuring the “Lolita Express” airplane service to his private “Orgy Island” in the Caribbean, with auxiliary party shacks in New York City and the New Mexico Desert. Rogue reports have been styling Epstein’s doings as an international blackmailing operation associated with the CIA and other Intel outfits, including the UK’s MI6 and Israel’s Mossad, for the purpose of keeping international bigshots on a short leash. Who knows? At the center of it all is former President Bill Clinton, listed twenty-six times on the Lolita Express’s flight manifest — though the ex-Prez said last week in a statement that it was only four times. (Consider the source.) A raft of unsealed documents in the matter has been court-ordered to drop any day, and power-players all over the world — especially in our nation’s capital and on Wall Street — are rumored to be chewing their fingernails down to the nubbins as they wait for it.

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Jul 042019
 


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.

 

 

 

 

Jun 212019
 
 June 21, 2019  Posted by at 8:24 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Femme aux bras leves- Tête de Dora Maar- 1936

 

As a nation, you’re certifiedly (is that a word?!) in deep trouble if and when Donald Trump is your most peaceloving man. But nevertheless, that is America today. It all harks back to the days when Trump was first -grudgingly and painstakingly- recognized as an actual presidential candidate.

He campaigned as a man who would end the costly and neverending decades-old and counting US wars far away from American shores and territory. He hasn’t lived up to those campaign goals at all, far from it, and he hired doofuses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to show everyone that he didn’t, but in the early hours of June 21 2019 he apparently decided at the last minute that it just didn’t add up.

You don’t kill 150 people because someone destroyed a piece of machinery, he got that right. I vividly remember writing a hundred times that a country of 320 million people that can’t come up with a better president than Trump has a behemoth problem. I also remember saying that Trump himself is not that problem, it’s the system that gave rise to him and his popularity. A war-hungry-system, that is, which has pervaded Washington DC.

And there is absolutely nothing that tells me anything has changed in that system. There are hearings and investigations all over the place, right now from Hope Hicks to Jerry Nadler, but none of them are geared towards trying to make peace with Iran or Russia or China, or anyone else. None.

 

Trump’s domestic opponents don’t appear to want peace, not those in the Democratic party, and not those in the MSM, or at least not anyone I’ve seen, other than Tulsi Gabbard. I haven’t seen a word from Nadler or Pelosi trying to coax Trump away from bomb bombing Iran, and diddly squat from the NYT or WashPo either. But sure, tell me what you’ve seen that contradicts that.

Which means he’s on his own, fighting off not only Bolton and Pompeo, but the entire opposition as well. So far he’s done just that. But how much longer can he, when both sides of the aisle continue to call for blood? I find that a hard call to make. I don’t think Trump wants his presidency to be about starting WWIII, but there are so many others calling on him to make it just that.

I said a while ago to a friend that the US invading Iran would be the end of the US, not in 2 days or week, or even 2 years, but in 20 years surely. Because doing so would change the entire power structure in the Middle East so much it would become unrecognizable.

The terribly odd couple of Benjamin Netanyahu and MBS may think they can conquer the region if only Trump sends Americans kids to die there, but they’re as wrong as they are about anything else. Iran is where it is, and it won’t move or budge. It’s just 40 years ago the country rid itself from the US-installed Shah and his SS-like Savak secret services.

Iranians, Persians, have a very deep-seated aversion and -to put it exceedingly mildly- hatred of the US, and they have good reason to. The Shah unleashed pure terror upon “his” entire people, at the benefit of US Big Oil.

 

The only constructive thing the US can do at this point in time is to go talk to Iran, in open and honest discussions. The US will want to do that because Iran is the heart of the Middle East. Just ask Russia and China, they understand that point. Very well even.

Bombing Iran won’t lead to anything at all, other than the demise of the US, down the road. These people will not succumb, and Russia and China will make sure they won’t have to. And Trump’s declaration of US military capabilities being “superior” is just words (or as they say stateside “hogwash”).

The US military ceased being “superior” a long time ago, simply because Raytheon and Boeing et al develop weapons for profit, whereas Russia and China develop them for defense purposes, and at 10% of the price. That single “little” difference will do the US in. Promise.

America needs to start talking. About trade, about weapons, about everything. Maybe Trump can do that. Maybe not. But he won’t be able to do anything by threatening countries like iran who already have nothing left but their backs to a wall.

Trump appears to have some good points vis-a-vis China and trade talks. He has some very bad points vs Russia and the sanctions. He MUST retreat when it comes to Iran, because it would become a much deeper swamp than Washington could ever be.

And it would end any idea of a positive legacy of his presidency. And his grand kids would be far worse off. And and and. But if he would do it regardless, it would only be an extension of US presidential politics as it has has been going on for many decades. So what’s to win, and what’s to lose? You trust a 73-year old burger flipper with that assessment?

 

 

 

 

May 262019
 


Joseph Mallord William Turner Teasing the Donkey 1827

 

So we’re going to do this all over again? Well, not if I can help it. Not that I have much hope that I can, mind you. As the bastions of war chime on, my voice, like so many others, will be drowned out. The military industrial complex knows how to do propaganda, better than anyone. But I’ll try.

Vietnam gave the US its biggest ever defeat, both militarily and morally, and yet mere years after its deeply humiliating withdrawal was put into action, the country was back at sending its promising young boys and girls not to its school systems, but to far away battle fields to be crippled, traumatized and slaughtered.

I know, I know, the UK and France do that too, but few other places do. Russia today uses its troops to defend its territory, China has yet to reveal its intentions. But the intentions of the US have been known ever since WWII ended.

In 1956, president Eisenhower, himself a longtime military man, warned the country upon taking leave of office, of the military-industrial complex that was threatening to take over its government. Less than 10 years later, that’s exactly what the complex did, and it’s never looked back.

And I’m thinking: you never learned anything at all? Not from Ike, not from Vietnam, not from the non-existent Iraqi WMD, and not from Libya or Syria? How is that even possible? Oh wait, I know, because the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN et al is where you get your so-called news. That’s why. Gotcha.

 

Today, May 26 2019, and I’m deeply ashamed to say it, I have two stories, one concerning a speech by VP Mike Pence at West Point, the other from Caitlin Johnstone about a Twitter thread initiated by the US military itself. Pence’s speech is heart breaking in its ignorance of US history, Caitlin’s is heart wrenching in its acknowledgment of that same history, and what it does to young Americans.

Now, I think this is not about Trump, as many will undoubtedly claim, it’s about Trump and Pelosi and Pence and McCain and Bolton and Hillary and Pompeo and Obama and all of the people hanging around both administrations. Let’s see what YOU think.

Pence To West Point Grads: You Will Fight On a Battlefield for America at Some Point in Your Life

Vice President Mike Pence told the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy on Saturday that the world is “a dangerous place” and they should expect to see combat. “Men and women of West Point, no matter where you’re deployed, you will be the vanguard of freedom, and you know that the “soldier does not bear the sword in vain.” The work you do has never been more important. America will always seek peace, but peace comes through strength. And you are now that strength. It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.


Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less.”

Mike Pence is a very dangerous person. He’s planning to send American children into endless wars once again, 45-odd years after Vietnam and 20-odd years after Iraq. And there’s no-one left to stop him, other than Trump, Not exactly a solid guarantee. The Democrats will cheer this on, and their media will too. They always have.

Now, I’m not old enough to remember the whole story of the US involvement in Vietnam, but I do recall this 1985 video from Paul Hardcastle, which stated that the average age of the US soldier in Vietnam -towards the end- was 19. I have also seen Coppola’s movie “Apocalypse Now”, and many others, and yes, I’m wondering where today’s versions of these movies are.

 

 

Because, you know, when I read the Twitter thread picked up by Caitlin Johnstone listing what was supposed to be a promo thing from the army, my heart sinks and hurts and in the end is downright defeated. It’s like reading the accounts from Vietnam, and nothing has changed in 50+ years. How can that be? Says innocent me.

But religious nut Mike Pence has the guts to present this as some sort of heroic thing. For young Americans to go die in a desert for nothing at all other than Exxon’s access to oil and the profits of Boeing and Raytheon. And of course they’ve been setting this up for decades, that young kids -certainly blacks- who have no shot at a proper education, can get one only if they agree to become cannon fodder.

That’s ‘Nam, guys, that’s the 1960’s, history. And just look at how terribly that failed. Well, Mike Pence would like to repeat that failure.

The US Army Asked Twitter How Service Has Impacted People. The Answers Were Gut-Wrenching.

After posting a video of a young recruit talking to the camera about how service allows him to better himself “as a man and a warrior”, the US Army tweeted, “How has serving impacted you?” As of this writing, the post has over 5,300 responses. Most of them are heartbreaking. “My daughter was raped while in the army,” said one responder. “They took her to the hospital where an all male staff tried to convince her to give the guy a break because it would ruin his life. She persisted. Wouldn’t back down. Did a tour in Iraq. Now suffers from PTSD.”

“I’ve had the same nightmare almost every night for the past 15 years,” said another. Tweet after tweet after tweet, people used the opportunity that the Army had inadvertently given them to describe how they or their loved one had been chewed up and spit out by a war machine that never cared about them. This article exists solely to document a few of the things that have been posted in that space, partly to help spread public awareness and partly in case the thread gets deleted in the interests of “national security”.

 

“my grandpa served in vietnam from when he was 18–25. he’s 70 now and every night he still has nightmares where he stands up tugging at the curtains or banging on the walls screaming at the top of his lungs for someone to help him. he refuses to talk about his time and when you mention anything about the war to him his face goes white and he has a panic attack. he cries almost every day and night and had to spend 10 years in a psychiatric facility for suicidal ideations from what he saw there.”

 

“My best friend joined the Army straight out of high school because his family was poor & he wanted a college education. He served his time & then some. Just as he was ready to retire he was sent to Iraq. You guys sent him back in a box. It destroyed his children.”

 

“My best friend from high school was denied his mental health treatment and forced to return to a third tour in Iraq, despite having such deep trauma that he could barely function. He took a handful of sleeping pills and shot himself in the head two weeks before deploying.”

If you got the stomach for it, guys, do read it. But I got to tell you, I find it hard.

The US killed millions of people and maimed ten times that in Vietnam, and that very much includes its own young and promising American citizens, and they did it again in Iraq. Mike Pence wants to repeat that in Iran and other theaters. Supported by Pelosi, Pompeo, Schumer, Bolton etc. Shame for them John McCain passed.

There’s only one US presidential candidate who’s explicitly spoken out against this mad repeat of Vietnam, and that’s Tulsi Gabbard, who actually “served” in Iraq. So she will be pushed aside by the DNC. Who are funded by the military industrial complex, don’t you know. Must serve the machine. We have a long way to go.

I always thought that Springsteen talking about Vietnam from Born In The USA is sort of like a haiku, encompassing the essence in just a few words, even if he doesn’t catch all the misery and bloodshed and mental anguish and broken lives and all of it (but how could you?):

 

I had a brother at Khe San;

Fighting off the Viet Cong

They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon

I got a picture of him in her arms now

 

I know people older than me have many more examples of this and from the time when the ‘war’ was actually ongoing. Eve of Destruction? Creedence? Please send suggestions.

But also, please recognize the similarities in the madness then and now.

And let’s try and make it stop.

Let’s try and stop history from even rhyming, let alone repeating.

Nassim Taleb likes to point out that in olden days those who declared wars would also be first in line to fight them. By design. The fair thing to do.

Let’s send Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer and Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and all of their families into Iran first. And then we can talk.

 

 

 

 

 

May 122019
 
 May 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Robert Campin Portrait of a woman 1430-35

 

Brexit Party May Get More EU Election Votes Than Tories, Labour Combined (G.)
Fight To Replace PM May Complicating Brexit Talks – Labour’s McDonnell (R.)
Labour Would Trial Universal Basic Income If Elected – McDonnell (G.)
QE Party Over, Bank of Japan Stealth-Tapers Further (WS)
The World’s Dictatress (Hornberger)
Is America Ready for John Bolton’s War With Iran? (Ritter)
Iran’s Rouhani Warns Of Greater Hardship Than War Years Of 1980s (R.)
Guaido Seeks Pentagon Cooperation In Attempt To Take Power (AP)
Boeing Altered Key Switches In 737 MAX Cockpit (ST)
Assange’s Prison Conditions (Press Project)
American Mom Today 50% More Likely To Die In Childbirth Than Her Own Mother (AP)

 

 

“Poll surge for Farage sparks panic among Tories and Labour..”

Brexit Party May Get More EU Election Votes Than Tories, Labour Combined (G.)

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is on course to secure more support at the European elections than the Tories and Labour combined, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer. In the most striking sign to date of surging support for Farage, the poll suggests more than a third of voters will back him on 23 May. It puts his party on 34% of the vote, with less than a fortnight before the election takes place. The poll suggests support for the Conservatives has collapsed amid the Brexit uncertainty, with Theresa May’s party on just 11%. Labour is a distant second, on 21%. The Lib Dems perform the best of any of the openly anti-Brexit parties, one point ahead of the Tories on 12% of the vote.

With the Brexit party securing more than three times the level of support for the Tories, the poll confirms the concerns of senior Conservatives that it is haemorrhaging support as Brexit remains unresolved. Just a fortnight ago, the Brexit party was neck-and-neck with Labour on 28%. Now it has a 13-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s party. The Conservatives are now only narrowly ahead of the Brexit party when voters are asked who they would vote for at a general election. The Tories are on 22% support, down 4% on a fortnight ago, with the Brexit party on 21% backing. Labour leads on 28%, but is down five points on the last poll.

Read more …

“The problem they have is that literally in front of us they will fall out,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “So the exercise here is holding themselves together. And that is proving impossible. The administration is falling apart.”

Fight To Replace PM May Complicating Brexit Talks – Labour’s McDonnell (R.)

The battle among leading Conservatives to replace Theresa May as prime minister threatens to derail talks with the Labour Party and the bid to find a Brexit compromise, Labour’s John McDonnell said. May, who has offered to quit if MPs accept her Brexit deal, opened cross-party talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party more than a month ago after parliament rejected her European Union withdrawal deal three times. The talks with Labour are a last resort for May, whose party’s deep divisions over Brexit have so far stopped her getting approval for an exit agreement and left the world’s fifth largest economy in prolonged political limbo.


McDonnell, Labour’s financial spokesman and a member of the party’s negotiating team, said the situation was precarious. “The problem they have is that literally in front of us they will fall out,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “So the exercise here is holding themselves together. And that is proving impossible. The administration is falling apart.” In terms of progress, the second most powerful man in the Labour Party said nothing new had been put on the table, and in some cases the talks had gone backwards. “It’s so precarious. We’re dealing with an institution that might not be there in three weeks.” He said the talks had been made more difficult by May’s offer to resign because a new leader could rip up anything agreed by the current administration.

Read more …

Universal in Sheffield?

Labour Would Trial Universal Basic Income If Elected – McDonnell (G.)

Labour would trial universal basic income if it wins power, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has revealed. Pilot schemes would be held in Liverpool, Sheffield and the Midlands, McDonnell told the Mirror. The plan would do away with the need for welfare as every citizen would be given a fixed sum to cover the basics whether they are rich or poor, in work or unemployed. McDonnell said people can spend the money how they like, but it is intended for study, to set up a business or leave work to care for a loved one. “I’d like to see a northern and Midlands town in the pilot so we have a spread,” he said.

“I would like Liverpool – of course I would, I’m a Scouser – but Sheffield have really worked hard. I’ve been involved in their anti-poverty campaign and they’ve done a lot round the real living wage. I think those two cities would be ideal and somewhere in the Midlands.” Trials have been held elsewhere in the world, including Kenya, Finland and the US, as well as potentially being explored in four Scottish cities. The shadow chancellor was this week handed a feasibility report for different universal basic income (UBI) models for low-income areas, including one in which a whole community gets basic incomes.

All the means-tested benefits – apart from housing benefit – would be taken away and every adult would get a fixed amount per week, plus an additional amount for each child they have. “Of course it’s a radical idea,” McDonnell said. “But I can remember, when I was at the trade unions – campaigning for child benefit and that’s almost like UBI – you get a universal amount of money just based on having a child. “UBI shares that concept. It’s about winning the argument and getting the design right.” The concept has been around since at least the 1960s and was raised in the 1972 US presidential election, followed by the introduction of a UBI scheme called the Manitoba Basic Income Experiment in Canada in 1975.

[..] McDonnell is convinced of the benefits. “The reason we’re doing it is because the social security system has collapsed. We need a radical alternative and we’re going to examine that. “We’ll look at options, run the pilots and see if we can roll it out. If you look at the Finland pilot it says it didn’t do much in terms of employment but did in terms of wellbeing – things like health. It was quite remarkable. “The other thing it did was increase trust in politicians, which can’t be a bad thing.”

Read more …

But the central banks has become the whole economy..

QE Party Over, Bank of Japan Stealth-Tapers Further (WS)

Total assets on the balance sheet of the Bank of Japan at the end of April ticked up from March but were flat with the record in February: ¥562 trillion ($5.1 trillion). This amounts to a gigantic 102.2% of nominal GDP. But the BOJ has been tapering its asset purchases since peak QE at the end of 2016, and the growth has slowed to a snail’s pace, by Abenomics QE standards. Despite the BOJs repeated promises of adding ¥85 trillion to its balance sheet every year, the BOJ hasn’t done that since peak QE in 2016 when it added ¥93 trillion. The additions have consistently decreased since then. Over the 12 months through April, it has added merely €27 trillion, the lowest 12-month increase since early days of ramping up Abenomics in March 2013. This amounts to a stealth taper:

Meanwhile, the government of Japan has been borrowing and issuing new debt with reckless abandon, and the gross national debt outstanding has ballooned to ¥1.12 quadrillion, or 203% of nominal GDP (measured in yen). But no problem: the BOJ started buying every Japanese government security that wasn’t nailed down, with the government selling new securities to the banks, and the banks selling them to the BOJ for a small profit. In addition the BOJ mopped up what was coming on the market. The BOJ now holds 43% of all outstanding Japanese government securities, up from 25% in January 2015. These massive purchases of Japanese government securities, and to a lesser extent, the purchases of corporate bonds, equity ETFs, and Japan REITS, have created this enormous balance sheet, but note the flattening spot at the top, a result of the stealth taper:

The stealth taper has reached a level to where the assets added to the balance sheet are small enough that every third month, as long-term securities mature and roll off the balance sheet, the balance sheet shrinks. Then the next two months, the balance sheet gains:

To smoothen out this volatility of the balance sheet and delineate the trend of the stealth taper more clearly, I converted that above data of month-to-month change into a rolling three-month average. The addition in assets over the past six months was ¥1.7 trillion a month on average:

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John Quincy Adams. A bit wiser than Mike Pompeo.

The World’s Dictatress (Hornberger)

In his Fourth of July address to Congress in 1821, U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams stated that if America were ever to abandon its founding foreign policy of non-interventionism, she would inevitably become the world’s “dictatress” and begin behaving accordingly. No can can deny that Adams’ prediction has come true. America has truly become the world’s dictatress — an arrogant, ruthless, brutal dictatress that brooks no dissent from anyone in the world. Now, I use the term “America” because that’s the term Adams used. In actuality, however, it’s not America that has become the world’s dictatress. It is the U.S. government that has become the world’s dictatress.

A good example of this phenomenon involves Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese citizen who serves as chief financial officer of the giant Chinese technology firm Huawei. Having been arrested by Canadian authorities and placed under house arrest, Meng is suffering the wrath of the world’s dictatress. What is her purported crime? That she violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. What do U.S. sanctions on Iran have to do with her? Exactly! She’s a Chinese citizen, not an American citizen. So, why is she being prosecuted by the U.S. government? Sanctions have become a standard tool of U.S. foreign policy. With the exception of libertarians, hardly anyone raises an eyebrow over their imposition and enforcement.

Their objective is to target foreign citizens with death, suffering, and economic privation as a way to bend their regime to the will of the U.S. dictratress and her brutal and ruthless agents. After all, what could be more brutal and ruthless than to target innocent people with death and impoverishment as a way to get to their government? Most foreign citizens have as little control over the actions of their government as individual American citizens have over the actions of their government. Where is the morality in targeting innocent people, especially as a way to achieve a political goal? Isn’t that why people condemn terrorism?

Read more …

“.. it is John Bolton, not Iran, who poses the greatest threat to American national security today.”

Is America Ready for John Bolton’s War With Iran? (Ritter)

The threat being promulgated by Bolton, CENTCOM, Pompeo, and the media ignores the reality that Iran has been preparing to strike American military forces in the Middle East for years as part of its efforts towards self-defense. Iran’s short-range ballistic missile capability is part of a larger missile threat that could, at a moment’s notice, blanket U.S. bases in the region with high explosives. Dispatching the Abraham Lincoln battle group and a B-52 task force to the Middle East is an act of theatrical bravado that will do nothing to change that. Iran’s missile force is, for the most part, mobile. The American experience in the Gulf War, and Saudi Arabia’s experience in Yemen, should underscore the reality that mobile relocatable targets such as Iran’s missile arsenal are virtually impossible to interdict through airpower.


By purposefully escalating tensions with Iran using manufactured intelligence about an all too real threat, Bolton is setting the country up for a war it is not prepared to fight and most likely cannot win. This point is driven home by the fact that Mike Pompeo has been recalled from his trip to participate in a National Security Council meeting where the Pentagon will lay out in stark detail the realities of a military conflict with Iran, including the high costs. (Hopefully, they’ll emphasize that Iran would win such a war simply by not losing—all they’d have to do is ride out any American attack.) That Israel is behind the scenes supplying the intelligence and motivation makes Bolton’s actions even more questionable. It shows that it is John Bolton, not Iran, who poses the greatest threat to American national security today.

Read more …

The US must still be smart enough to understand it can only lose.

Iran’s Rouhani Warns Of Greater Hardship Than War Years Of 1980s (R.)

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has called for unity among political factions to overcome conditions that he said may be harder than those during the 1980s war with Iraq, state media reported, as the country faces tightening US sanctions. Donald Trump on Thursday urged Iran’s leaders to talk with him about giving up their nuclear programme and said he could not rule out a military confrontation. The president increased economic and military pressure on Iran, moving to cut off all Iranian oil exports while beefing up the US navy and air force presence in the Gulf. Washington also approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a US official said on Friday.


“Today, it cannot be said whether conditions are better or worse than the (1980-88) war period,” Rouhani said, according to the state news agency IRNA. “But during the war we did not have a problem with our banks, oil sales or imports and exports, and there were only sanctions on arms purchases. “The pressures by enemies is a war unprecedented in the history of our Islamic revolution … but I do not despair and have great hope for the future and believe that we can move past these difficult conditions provided that we are united,” Rouhani told activists from various factions.

Read more …

“.. he reserves the right to invite foreign military actions in the way independence hero Simon Bolivar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. “:

Guaido Seeks Pentagon Cooperation In Attempt To Take Power (AP)

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Saturday said he has instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the US military, in an attempt to put more pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to resign. Guiado said he had asked Carlos Vecchio, who the US recognizes as ambassador, to open “direct communications” toward possible military “coordination”. The remarks, at the end of a rally, were Guaido’s strongest public plea yet for greater US involvement in the country’s fast-escalating crisis. While Guaido has repeatedly echoed comments from the Trump administration that “all options” for removing Maduro are on the table, few in the US or Venezuelan opposition view military action as likely. Nor has the White House indicated it is seriously considering such a move.


[Guaido] announced on Saturday a forthcoming meeting with US military officials and said new actions will seek to “achieve the necessary pressure” to put an end to the Bolivarian revolution launched 20 years ago by the late socialist president Hugo Chávez. Guaido has said that as Venezuela’s rightful leader he reserves the right to invite foreign military actions in the way independence hero Simon Bolivar hired 5,000 British mercenaries to liberate South America from Spain. He says any such help should be considered “cooperation” instead of intervention, something he has accused Maduro of allowing in the form of military and intelligence support from Cuba and Russia. [..] Noticeably diminished crowds at opposition protests reflect demoralization that has permeated Guaido’s supporters after he led a failed military uprising on 30 April. In previous months, thousands heeded his calls to protest. On Saturday, a modest crowd of several hundred gathered in Caracas.

Read more …

Lock ’em up.

Boeing Altered Key Switches In 737 MAX Cockpit (ST)

In the middle of Boeing 737 cockpits, sitting between the pilot seats, are two toggle switches that can immediately shut off power to the systems that control the angle of the plane’s horizontal tail. Those switches are critical in the event a malfunction causes movements that the pilots don’t want. And Boeing sees the toggles as a vital backstop to a new safety system on the 737 MAX – the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) – which is suspected of repeatedly moving the horizontal tails on the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights that crashed and killed a total of 346 people. But as Boeing was transitioning from its 737 NG model to the 737 MAX, the company altered the labeling and the purpose of those two switches.

The functionality of the switches became more restrictive on the MAX than on previous models, closing out an option that could conceivably have helped the pilots in the Ethiopian Airlines flight regain control. Boeing declined to detail the specific functionality of the two switches. But after obtaining and reviewing flight manual documents, The Seattle Times found that the left switch on the 737 NG model is capable of deactivating the buttons on the yoke that pilots regularly press with their thumb to control the horizontal stabilizer. The right switch on the 737 NG was labeled “AUTO PILOT” and is capable of deactivating just the automated controls of the stabilizer. On the newer 737 MAX, according to documents reviewed by The Times, those two switches were changed to perform the same function – flipping either one of them would turn off all electric controls of the stabilizer.

That means there is no longer an option to turn off automated functions – such as MCAS – without also turning off the thumb buttons the pilots would normally use to control the stabilizer. Peter Lemme, a former Boeing flight-controls engineer who has been closely scrutinizing the MAX design and first raised questions about the switches on his blog, said he doesn’t understand why Boeing abandoned the old setup. He said if the company had maintained the switch design from the 737 NG, Boeing could have instructed pilots after the Lion Air crash last year to simply flip the “AUTO PILOT” switch to deactivate MCAS and continue flying with the normal trim buttons on the control wheel.

He said that would have saved the Ethiopian Airlines plane and the 157 people on board. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they would have been fine,” Lemme said.

Read more …

“..authorities have made clear to his visitors that, if they speak with the media about the conditions of Assange’s imprisonment, those conditions will only worsen.”

Assange’s Prison Conditions (Press Project)

ThePressProject has obtained exclusive information about Julian Assange’s prison conditions. According to that information, Assange appeared in court without having been granted prior counsel from an attorney. He has access to one book, the Bible, and is not permitted access to writing materials. He is being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and his visitors have been made aware that conditions will worsen if they are publicized. Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison, a Category A (i.e. high security) facility since April 11.

Both Assange’s imprisonment at Belmarsh and his 50-week sentence have been condemned in a statement issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which denounced the “disproportionate treatment imposed on Mr. Assange” and claimed that his “treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.” Following a visit to Assange in Belmarsh earlier this week, UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer also expressed concerns that his rights were being violated. Assange is permitted one hour a day outside of solitary confinement, during which he is allowed to bathe, walk, and use a telephone. At this moment the attention of the international community is upon him, with calls being issued by the United Nations and expressions of support coming from all over the world.

Nevertheless, Assange was permitted to appear in court without prior counsel from an attorney; currently, his meetings with a lawyer are limited to three hours per week. Not only is he cut off from communication with the outside world, he is also not allowed access to books other than the Bible. Because he is not granted access to writing materials, he keeps notes in the margins of that Bible. Again, authorities have made clear to his visitors that, if they speak with the media about the conditions of Assange’s imprisonment, those conditions will only worsen. It is clear that, in this case of such an intense struggle against so unequal an opponent and with extradition to the United States a real possibility, the provision of a fair trial and access to adequate legal defense are a matter of life and death for the imprisoned Assange.

Read more …

I see a headline like this, I immediately think: obesity. But there’s more tragedy behind this.

American Mom Today 50% More Likely To Die In Childbirth Than Her Own Mother (AP)

Pregnancy-related deaths are rising in the United States and the main risk factor is being black, according to new reports that highlight racial disparities in care during and after childbirth. Black women, along with Native Americans and Alaska natives, are three times more likely to die before, during or after having a baby, and more than half of these deaths are preventable, Tuesday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes. Although these deaths are rare — about 700 a year — they have been rising for decades. “An American mom today is 50% more likely to die in childbirth than her own mother was,” said Dr. Neel Shah, a Harvard Medical School obstetrician.


Separately, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released new guidelines saying being black is the greatest risk factor for these deaths. The guidelines say women should have a comprehensive heart-risk evaluation 12 weeks after delivery, but up to 40% of women don’t return for that visit and payment issues may be one reason. Bleeding and infections used to cause most pregnancy-related deaths, but heart-related problems do now. The CDC report found that about one third of maternal deaths happened during pregnancy, a third were during or within a week of birth, and the rest were up to a year later. Globally, maternal mortality fell about 44% between 1990 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. But the U.S. is out of step: Moms die in about 17 out of every 100,000 U.S. births each year, up from 12 per 100,000 a quarter century ago.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

May 102019
 


James McNeill Whistler Symphony in White, No. 3 1867

 

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)
Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)
The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)
From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)
FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)
Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)
Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)
The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)
Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)
The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)
Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)
UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)
America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)
Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)
Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

 

 

Keep talking!

US Hikes Tariffs On Chinese Goods, China Says To Strike Back (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff increase to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods took effect on Friday, and Beijing said it would strike back, ratcheting up tensions as the two sides pursue last-ditch talks to try salvaging a trade deal. China’s Commerce Ministry said it “deeply regrets” the U.S. decision, adding that it would take necessary countermeasures, without elaborating. The hike comes in the midst of two days of talks between top U.S. and Chinese negotiators to try to rescue a faltering deal aimed at ending a 10-month trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talked for 90 minutes on Thursday and were expected to resume talks on Friday.


The Commerce Ministry said that negotiations were continuing, and that it “hopes the United States can meet China halfway, make joint efforts, and resolve the issue through cooperation and consultation”. With no action from the Trump administration to reverse the increase as negotiations moved into a second day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposed the new 25% duty on affected U.S.-bound cargoes leaving China after 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT) on Friday. Goods in the more than 5,700 affected product categories that left Chinese ports and airports before midnight will be subject to the original 10% duty rate, a CBP spokeswoman said.

Read more …

Don’t worry, Fed to the rescue.

Historic Lawsuit Could “Wreak Havoc” On The Leveraged Loan Market (ZH)

Ask any banker (or analyst) what the difference is between a junk bond and a loan, and you’ll most likely get a blank start in response: starting with the size of the loan market, which is now virtually identical to that of the high yield bond market, continuing through the standardization of loan terms, the growth of secondary trading, and all the way through to “protections” granted to loan investors, which in an age of exclusively covenant-lite issuance, no longer exist, and one can argue that at least superficially, a loan is effectively the same as a junk bond. And yet, there is one critical difference between the two: junk bonds are securities, while loans aren’t. That difference, however, may not be true for much longer.

As Bloomberg reports, a group suing JPMorgan Chase and other banks over a loan that went sour four years ago is alleging the underwriters engaged in securities fraud. If successful, the article contends correctly, the lawsuit will “radically transform the $1.2 trillion leveraged lending market” because should the plaintiff ultimately prevail in arguing that loans are de facto securities, it would dramatically alter how American companies raise debt, according to two industry groups that filed a brief supporting the defendants’ argument last week. “There are absolutely enormous market consequences if a court determines that leveraged loans are securities,” J. Paul Forrester, a partner at Mayer Brown told Bloomberg. “Leveraged loans and lenders would be potentially subject to the same offering and disclosure requirements as securities and would face the same regulatory oversight and enforcement consequences.”

Read more …

Well, whaddaya know, there are people who agree with me… The VIPS, Assange, it’s all I’ve been talking about. I said Mueller is a coward and a liar, Murray calls him deeply corrupt. Same difference.

The Real Muellergate Scandal (Craig Murray)

Robert Mueller is either a fool, or deeply corrupt. I do not think he is a fool. I did not comment instantly on the Mueller Report as I was so shocked by it, I have been waiting to see if any other facts come to light in justification. Nothing has. I limit myself here to that area of which I have personal knowledge – the leak of DNC and Podesta emails to Wikileaks. On the wider question of the corrupt Russian 1% having business dealings with the corrupt Western 1%, all I have to say is that if you believe that is limited in the USA by party political boundaries, you are a fool. On the DNC leak, Mueller started with the prejudice that it was “the Russians” and he deliberately and systematically excluded from evidence anything that contradicted that view.

Mueller, as a matter of determined policy, omitted key steps which any honest investigator would undertake. He did not commission any forensic examination of the DNC servers. He did not interview Bill Binney. He did not interview Julian Assange. His failure to do any of those obvious things renders his report worthless. There has never been, by any US law enforcement or security service body, a forensic examination of the DNC servers, despite the fact that the claim those servers were hacked is the very heart of the entire investigation. Instead, the security services simply accepted the “evidence” provided by the DNC’s own IT security consultants, Crowdstrike, a company which is politically aligned to the Clintons.

That is precisely the equivalent of the police receiving a phone call saying: “Hello? My husband has just been murdered. He had a knife in his back with the initials of the Russian man who lives next door engraved on it in Cyrillic script. I have employed a private detective who will send you photos of the body and the knife. No, you don’t need to see either of them.” There is no honest policeman in the world who would agree to that proposition, and neither would Mueller were he remotely an honest man.

[..] Mueller’s failure to examine the servers or take Binney’s evidence pales into insignificance compared to his attack on Julian Assange. Based on no conclusive evidence, Mueller accuses Assange of receiving the emails from Russia. Most crucially, he did not give Assange any opportunity to answer his accusations. For somebody with Mueller’s background in law enforcement, declaring somebody in effect guilty, without giving them any opportunity to tell their side of the story, is plain evidence of malice. Inexplicably, for example, the Mueller Report quotes a media report of Assange stating he had “physical proof” the material did not come from Russia, but Mueller simply dismisses this without having made any attempt at all to ask Assange himself.

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Where would US media be without Russia?

From Russiagate to Gunboat Diplomacy (Jacobin)

One of the things Russiagate skeptics found unsettling about the frenzy over supposed “collusion” was that it made war more likely. Not only did the now-debunked conspiracy theories and resulting political climate push officials into a more aggressive posture toward Russia, but once the Kremlin was returned to its status as the foreign policy elite’s Big Bad, it was easy to imagine a situation where the threat of a Russian bogeyman could be used to justify any number of unrelated foreign adventures. This appears to be exactly what’s happening with Venezuela right now. First there was Fareed Zakaria, who two months ago tried to goad Trump into attacking Venezuela by pointing to Russia’s support for Maduro.

“Putin’s efforts seem designed to taunt the United States,” he said (it might also have something to do with the billions of dollars Russia sank into the country), making reference to the Monroe Doctrine. He asked if Washington would “allow Moscow to make a mockery of another American red line,” warning that “if Washington does not back its words with deeds” the country could become another Syria. Zakaria concluded: “will Venezuela finally be the moment when Trump finally ends his appeasement?” More recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged that Russia had “invaded” Venezuela before claiming the Kremlin had dissuaded Maduro from fleeing the country at the last moment, something Pompeo has provided no evidence for but much of the media has treated as fact since.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has said that “this is our hemisphere” and “not where the Russians ought to be interfering.” Democratic Sen. Doug Jones echoed this sentiment on CNN, praising the Trump administration for saying “all options are on the table” to deal with Venezuela, something he suggested may have to be acted on “if there is some more intervention [by] Russia.” The national press, taking a break from warning about Trump being a dangerous authoritarian, has been demanding to know why he hasn’t been more aggressive toward the country over this. Particularly shameless was Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who went on Tucker Carlson’s show to peddle half-baked innuendo as brazen as anything claimed in the lead up to the Iraq War. If Maduro’s government survived, he claimed, it would be “a green light, an open door for the Russians and for the Chinese and for others to increase their activity against our national security interest right here in our hemisphere.”

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John Solomon digs on. “She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami..” [..] “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

FBI’s Steele Story Falls Apart (Solomon)

The FBI’s sworn story to a federal court about its asset, Christopher Steele, is fraying faster than a $5 souvenir T-shirt bought at a tourist trap. Newly unearthed memos show a high-ranking government official who met with Steele in October 2016 determined some of the Donald Trump dirt that Steele was simultaneously digging up for the FBI and for Hillary Clinton’s campaign was inaccurate, and likely leaked to the media. The concerns were flagged in a typed memo and in handwritten notes taken by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec on Oct. 11, 2016. Her observations were recorded exactly 10 days before the FBI used Steele and his infamous dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s contacts with Russia in search of a now debunked collusion theory.

It is important to note that the FBI swore on Oct. 21, 2016, to the FISA judges that Steele’s “reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings” and the FBI has determined him to be “reliable” and was “unaware of any derogatory information pertaining” to their informant, who simultaneously worked for Fusion GPS, the firm paid by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign to find Russian dirt on Trump. That’s a pretty remarkable declaration in Footnote 5 on Page 15 of the FISA application, since Kavalec apparently needed just a single encounter with Steele at State to find one of his key claims about Trump-Russia collusion was blatantly false.

In her typed summary, Kavalec wrote that Steele told her the Russians had constructed a “technical/human operation run out of Moscow targeting the election” that recruited emigres in the United States to “do hacking and recruiting.” She quoted Steele as saying, “Payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami,” according to a copy of her summary memo obtained under open records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec bluntly debunked that assertion in a bracketed comment: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”

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What if the relevant sections did get redacted?

Roger Stone Wins Right To Receive Unredacted Parts of Mueller Report (SC)

A federal judge in Washington ordered the Department of Justice to turn over any unredacted sections of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian activities during the 2016 presidential campaign that relate to Roger Stone. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson gave the prosecutors until Monday to “submit unredacted versions of those portions of the report that relate to defendant Stone and/or ‘the dissemination of hacked materials.” Judge Jackson would review the material in private to see if it is relevant to the case and to decide whether Stone and his defense team will have access to the material.

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Is this a game?

Chelsea Manning Released After 2 Months, Might Be Back In Jail In 6 Days (RT)

Whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been released from a Virginia prison where she spent the last 62 days for refusing to testify on her 2010 leak of classified military files before a grand jury. Manning was released from William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday after the term of the grand jury before which she was supposed to testify expired, her legal team said in a statement reported by the Sparrow Project. However, the WikiLeaks whistleblower and activist might soon be locked up again and has already been served with another subpoena, requesting that she testifies before a different set of jurors. “Unfortunately, even prior to her release, Chelsea was served with another subpoena.


This means she is expected to appear before a different grand jury, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, just one week from her release today,” her lawyers said. Despite having spent over two months behind bars, Manning has no intention to cave in to the demand and make herself available to a secret grand jury’s questioning, according to the statement. “Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony.” Manning insists that she already gave an “exhaustive testimony” on all the matters concerning her disclosure of military documents at a 2013 court martial. In an 8-page declaration filed to the Virginia court on May 6, Manning accused the US government of using the “corrupt and abusive tool” of grand jury to “harass and disrupt political opponents and activists.”

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Taking us back to Aaron Schwartz.

The Law Being Used to Prosecute Julian Assange Is Broken (Ekeland)

[..] the UK courts will evaluate the US’s request to send Assange to Virginia to stand trial in federal court for a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a government computer, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After Assange’s arrest, many reached out to ask me about the CFAA. For years, I’ve represented hackers in federal criminal cases nationally involving the CFAA, including Lauri Love, whom the US unsuccessfully tried to extradite from the UK. The US indicted Love in three separate federal courts in New York, New Jersey, and Virginia, for hacking of a number of government sites including NASA, the FBI, the United States Sentencing Commission, and the Bureau of Prisons.

This was part of #OpLastResort, in protest of the CFAA prosecution and death of computer science pioneer Aaron Swartz, whose suicide in 2013 was widely viewed as resulting from a draconian CFAA prosecution. Whether intended or not, the CFAA makes it easy for a prosecutor to bring felony computer crime charges even when there’s little or no harm. [..] The core problem with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is that it doesn’t clearly define one of the central things it prohibits: unauthorized access to a computer. The courts across the country aren’t any help on this front, issuing conflicting decisions both with other jurisdictions and often within their own. Under the CFAA, what is a felony in one jurisdiction is legal in another.

This lack of definitional clarity allows prosecutors to charge felonies even when the harms are minimal, questionable, or just political views that DOJ doesn’t like. This is a serious problem, given that much political speech and protest these days is done with computers. And DOJ has previously used the CFAA in a politically charged prosecution. In 2011, DOJ charged the politically outspoken Aaron Swartz under the CFAA for going into an open server closet at MIT, a mecca of modern American hacking, and downloading academic articles—many of which were publicly funded—for public distribution. Even though the extent of any harm was questionable—this was a mere copying of articles—DOJ charged him with felony unauthorized access to a computer, unauthorized damage to a protected computer, felony aiding and abetting of both, and wire fraud.

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All Swedes need to be deeply ashamed. Is it too much to ask of you to let your voices be heard? All I hear is silence.

Swedish Prosecutor To Give Decision On Assange Rape Inquiry (G.)

Sweden’s state prosecutor will announce on Monday whether she will reopen a preliminary investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder is in prison in Britain after he was arrested last month after seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The US wants to extradite him in a case relating to WikiLeaks’ massive release of sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Sweden’s legal tussle with the Australian Assange has dragged on for nearly a decade after he was accused by two Swedish women of sexual assault and rape in 2010.


The statute of limitations ran out on the sexual assault allegations in 2015 and the prosecutor dropped the investigation into the rape allegation in 2017 because Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he had taken refuge to avoid extradition. The prosecutor said at the time the investigation could be reopened if the situation changed. After Assange’s arrest last month, the lawyer representing the woman who accused Assange of rape asked for the investigation to be reopened. “At [a] press conference, the prosecutor will announce her decision, which will formally be made immediately before the press conference,” the Swedish prosecution authority said in a statement.

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Elizabeth Lea Vos is compiling a history of all WikiLeaks files.

The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 (Vos)

Three months after it published the “Collateral Murder” video, WikiLeaks on July 25, 2010 released a cache of secret U.S. documents on the war in Afghanistan. It revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict, among other revelations. The publication of the Afghan War Diaries helped set the U.S. government on a collision course with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that ultimately led to his arrest last month. The war diaries were leaked by then-Army-intelligence-analyst Chelsea Manning, who had legal access to the logs via her Top Secret clearance.

Manning only approached WikiLeaks, after studying the organization, following unsuccessful attempts to leak the files to The New York Times and The Washington Post. A major controversy surrounding the Diaries’ release were allegations that operational details were made public to the Taliban’s battlefield advantage and that U.S. coalition informants’ lives were put at risk by publishing their names. Despite a widely-held belief that WikiLeaks carelessly publishes un-redacted documents, only 75,000 from a total of more than 92,201 internal U.S. military files related to the Afghan War (between 2004 and 2010) were ultimately published.

WikiLeaks explained that it held back so many documents because Manning had insisted on it: “We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source.” Manning testified at her 2013 court-martial that the files were not “very sensitive” and did not report active military operations.

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Facebook: We’re Not A Monopoly, We’re “A Successful American Company”

Chris Hughes, Zuck’s former roommate, said in a NYT op-ed that Facebook should be split up. The reaction: no, we’re just successful, but we do need new laws, and Zuck himself has some great ideas for that.

Facebook Co-Founder Calls For Breakup Of The Company (ZH)

[..] would-be rivals can’t raise the money to take on Facebook. Nobody would finance them knowing that if they get too powerful, Facebook will run them out of business. Hughes doesn’t blame Zuckerberg for this; after all, he’s simply demonstrating the “virtuous hustle of a talented entrepreneur.” But this is exactly why the government should feel obligated to step in and “break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people.” Specifically, Hughes believes the FTC should work with the DoJ to undo the Instagram and Whatsapp acquisitions. There is some precedent for this, he says.

How would a breakup work? Facebook would have a brief period to spin off the Instagram and WhatsApp businesses, and the three would become distinct companies, most likely publicly traded. Facebook shareholders would initially hold stock in the new companies, although Mark and other executives would probably be required to divest their management shares. Until recently, WhatsApp and Instagram were administered as independent platforms inside the parent company, so that should make the process easier. But time is of the essence: Facebook is working quickly to integrate the three, which would make it harder for the F.T.C. to split them up. For what it’s worth, Hughes acknowledges his complicity in creating Facebook, and the fact that he didn’t speak out – or even question the company’s monopoly power – until after Cambridge Analytica.

But that’s the past: Already, support for breaking up big-tech monopolies is gaining traction among Democrats and Republicans alike. The fact that Hughes has decided to criticized his former co-founder (and one-time college buddy) in such a public forum might seem galling to some: After all, Hughes was transformed into a millionaire 500 times over largely because he had the good fortune of being assigned to the same dorm room as Zuckerberg at Harvard. But regardless, now that Hughes has broken the seal, will he inspire more of Facebook’s co-founders and former top employees speak out. It’s worth noting that in March, Chris Cox, one of Zuckerberg’s top deputies and a longtime FB executive, left the company. Cox’s decision to leave was reportedly due to ‘disagreement’s’ that were alluded to in a blog post.

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Torn between multiple lovers. The UK governed by a fringe party.

UK Tories Could Come Sixth In European Elections (G.)

Conservative officials fear the party could come sixth in the European elections, with their support plummeting to single digits. Candidates running in the election said the party was “almost in denial” that the poll was happening and continued to insist they would not need to take up their seats in the European parliament, despite fading prospects for a cross-party deal with Labour that would enable Brexit to happen before 2 July. The fears of a dismal performance have been stoked by the fact that the party plans to spend no money on candidate campaigning, will not publish a manifesto and is refusing to hold a launch.


One MEP said candidates were funding their campaigns out of their own pockets, unlike previous years when there was a central pot of funding available. They have been told they are allowed to have their own regional manifestos, but many are not bothering, and there will be no central party manifesto. “The thinking is that if we make no effort then we will have an excuse for having done so badly. But it is seriously embarrassing,” said one MEP. Another Conservative source said internal data showed the party could do worse than the Brexit party, Labour, the Lib Dems, Change UK and even potentially the Greens, with support at less than 10%. That would translate to only a handful of seats, down from the current 22.

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Nuclear is set to make a come back, because it is the only option to maintain our complex societies. He may have a point there. The ultimate desperation.

America, You Are Fired! (Dmitry Orlov)

Some ironies are just too precious to pass by. The 2016 US presidential elections gave us Donald Trump, a reality TV star whose famous tag line from his show “The Apprentice” was “You are fired!” Focus on this tag line; it is all that is important to this story. Some Trump Derangement Disorder sufferers might disagree. This is because they are laboring under certain misapprehensions: that the US is a democracy; or that it matters who is president. It isn’t and it doesn’t. By this point, the choice of president matters as much as the choice of conductor for the band that plays aboard a ship as it vanishes beneath the waves. I have made these points continuously since before Trump got into office. Whether or not you think that Trump was actually elected, he did get in somehow, and there are reasons to believe that this had something to do with his wonderfully refreshing “You are fired!” tag line.

[..] Financially ruinous and generally nonsensical schemes such as tar sands, shale oil and industrial-scale photovoltaics, wind generation and electric cars will only accelerate the process of sorting nations into energy haves and energy have-nots, with the have-nots wiping themselves out sooner rather than later. Leaving aside various fictional and notional schemes (nuclear fusion, space mirrors, etc.) and focusing just on the technologies that already exist, there is only one way to maintain industrial civilization, and that is nuclear, based on Uranium 235 (which is scarce) and Plutonium 239 produced from Uranium 238 (of which there is enough to last for thousands of years) using fast neutron reactors. If you don’t like this choice, then your other choice is to go completely agrarian, with significantly reduced population densities and no urban centers of any size.

And if you do like this choice, then you have few alternatives other than to go with the world’s main purveyor of nuclear technology (VVER-series light water reactors, BN-series fast neutron breeder reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle technology) which happens to be Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rosatom. It owns over a third of the world nuclear energy market and has a portfolio of international projects stretching far into the future that includes as much as 80% of the reactors that are going to be built. The US hasn’t been able to complete a nuclear reactor in decades, the Europeans managed to get just one new reactor on line (in China) while Japan’s nuclear program has been in disarray ever since Fukushima and Toshiba’s financially disastrous acquisition of Westinghouse. The only other contenders are South Korea and China. Again, if you don’t like nuclear—for whatever reason—then you can always just buy yourself some pasture and some hayfields and start breeding donkeys.

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Nuclear anyone?

Chernobyl Has Become A Refuge For Wildlife 33 Years Later (Conv.)

About 30 researchers from the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Belgium, Norway, Spain and Ukraine presented the latest results of our work. These studies included work on big mammals, nesting birds, amphibians, fish, bumblebees, earthworms, bacteria and leaf litter decomposition. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity. In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. These studies showed that at present the area hosts great biodiversity.

In addition, they confirmed the general lack of big negative effects of current radiation levels on the animal and plant populations living in Chernobyl. All the studied groups maintain stable and viable populations inside the exclusion zone. A clear example of the diversity of wildlife in the area is given by the TREE project (TRansfer-Exposure-Effects, led by Nick Beresford of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology). As part of this project, motion detection cameras were installed for several years in different areas of the exclusion zone. The photos recorded by these cameras reveal the presence of abundant fauna at all levels of radiation. These cameras recorded the first observation of brown bears and European bison inside the Ukrainian side of the zone, as well as the increase in the number of wolves and Przewalski horses.

Our own work with the amphibians of Chernobyl has also detected abundant populations across the exclusion zone, even on the more contaminated areas. Furthermore, we have also found signs that could represent adaptive responses to life with radiation. For instance, frogs within the exclusion zone are darker than frogs living outside it, which is a possible defence against radiation. Studies have also detected some negative effects of radiation at an individual level. For example, some insects seem to have a shorter lifespan and are more affected by parasites in areas of high radiation. Some birds also have higher levels of albinism, as well as physiological and genetic alterations when living in highly contaminated localities. But these effects don’t seem to affect the maintenance of wildlife population in the area.


European bison (Bison bonasus), boreal lynx (Lynx lynx), moose (Alces alces) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Ukraine). Proyecto TREE/Sergey Gaschack

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Wondering what practical measures they have in mind. Renewables?

Ireland Second Country To Declare Climate, Biodiversity Emergency (RTE)

Ireland has become only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. The development came after a Fianna Fáil amendment to the Oireachtas report on Climate Action was accepted by both the Government and Opposition parties without a vote. Chair of the Climate Action Committee, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, welcomed the outcome as “an important statement” but added “now we need action.” She said Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton would speedily return to the Dáil with new proposals, and she looked forward to working “with all parties and none” to scrutinise them.


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also welcomed the development, but warned that “declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up. That means the Government having to do things they don’t want to do”. Deputy Bríd Smith, of Solidarity/People Before Profit, said she was “delighted” with the declaration, but added it will be “interesting to see” if the Government will support her Climate Emergency Measures Bill next month, which seeks to to limit oil and gas exploration.

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May 092019
 


James Ensor The frightful musicians 1891

 

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)
Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)
China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)
Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)
Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)
Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)
Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)
Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)
Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)
James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)
Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)
Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)
The Fight to Save Wild Salmon- Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)
Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)
Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

 

 

The entire media left Assange to rot in hell. This is from a longer interview with Maurizi. It captures the essence.

How Julian Assange Changed Journalism (Stefania Maurizi)

For me it has been really shocking to witness how Julian Assange has declined in the last nine years. I have been able to see changes in Julian’s health and psychology. It was so sad, and no one could do anything. I could report on it and expose it but the other media and public opinion did absolutely nothing to make the government understand how terrible his treatment was. And all this is happening not in Russia, not in North Korea, this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. I now realize how little we can do in our democracy.


If you look at what has happened to high-profile whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and an important publisher like Assange, who had the courage to publish these important revelations, what did your democracy do to save them, to treat them in a human way? Chelsea Manning was put in prison for seven years, where she tried to commit suicide twice. Now she is back in prison. Edward Snowden was forced to leave the U.S. Julian Assange has spent nine years in detainment and no one did anything. We were reporting, we were denouncing, we were exposing how seriously his health was declining. Nothing happened.

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A great example of how it’s done. I stumbled upon this in the Guardian, “Ask Hadley” by one Hadley Freemen. Yes the kind of thing men won’t read, it’s directed at women. Who in this way get told what to think of Assange. The rape smear against him from MI6 et al has been more successful than anything else in turning especially women against him. This is how. It’s vile and it’s very dirty. And this Hadley person has no qualms about throwing another woman, Pamela Anderson, under the bus to do it. Because, you know, of her reputation.

Pamela Anderson’s Assange Blanket Conceals The Truth Of His Detention (G.)

Anderson made a long comment to the handily assembled press ranks outside the jail after her visit. She talked about how horrifically unjust it was that Assange was “really cut off from everybody”, to which you can only answer: “Well then, he should be delighted, given he chose to do exactly that for the past seven years when he holed himself up in the Ecuadorean embassy.” Anderson continued: “He does not deserve to be in a supermax prison. He has never committed a violent act. He is an innocent person.”


‘Nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison.’ Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

And again, Ms Anderson, one must beg to remind you that, while that may all be true, no one knows that for certain because – and apologies for bringing up this inconvenient truth yet again – he avoided extradition to Sweden to answer to crimes he is accused of by hiding out in an embassy in Knightsbridge for seven flipping years. You remember that, right? You visited him there. That place where your warrior for truth would – according to Ecuador’s UK ambassador, Jaime Marchán – leave half-eaten meals in the sink. As Andrew O’Hagan explained way back in 2014 when describing what it was like spending time with Assange: “If you asked him to do the dishes, he would say he was trying to free economic slaves in China and had no time to wash up.”


Anderson added: “He is a good man, he is an incredible person. I love him.” She clearly rather fancies herself and Assange as the 21st century’s Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller (as opposed to what they actually are, which is a real-life Harley Quinn and Joker from Batman: The Animated Series). Still, good for you, Pamela! Love is a wondrous thing. This column sincerely hopes you have many happy years of washing his dishes ahead of you. Anyway, just in case Anderson’s word salad was not sufficiently persuasive, she also wore a blanket emblazoned with writing that included the words “free speech”, “gagged” and “Cromwell”. Because, honestly, nothing makes a woman look more credible than writing “Cromwell” on a blanket and then standing outside a prison. Anderson is just the latest in a long and not especially noble line of people who have decided that the best way to express themselves is by writing words on their clothing.

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“The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.”

China Backtracked On Nearly All Aspects Of US Trade Deal (R.)

The diplomatic cable from Beijing arrived in Washington late on Friday night, with systematic edits to a nearly 150-page draft trade agreement that would blow up months of negotiations between the world’s two largest economies, according to three U.S. government sources and three private sector sources briefed on the talks. The document was riddled with reversals by China that undermined core U.S. demands, the sources told Reuters. In each of the seven chapters of the draft trade deal, China had deleted its commitments to change laws to resolve core complaints that caused the United States to launch a trade war: theft of U.S. intellectual property and trade secrets; forced technology transfers; competition policy; access to financial services; and currency manipulation.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded in a tweet on Sunday vowing to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent on Friday – timed to land in the middle of a scheduled visit by China’s Vice Premier Liu He to Washington to continue trade talks. The stripping of binding legal language from the draft struck directly at the highest priority of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer – who views changes to Chinese laws as essential to verifying compliance after years of what U.S. officials have called empty reform promises. Lighthizer has pushed hard for an enforcement regime more like those used for punitive economic sanctions – such as those imposed on North Korea or Iran – than a typical trade deal.


“This undermines the core architecture of the deal,” said a Washington-based source with knowledge of the talks. [..] Liu last week told Lighthizer and Mnuchin that they needed to trust China to fulfil its pledges through administrative and regulatory changes, two of the sources said. Both Mnuchin and Lighthizer considered that unacceptable, given China’s history of failing to fulfil reform pledges. One private-sector source briefed on the talks said the last round of negotiations had gone very poorly because “China got greedy”. “China reneged on a dozen things, if not more … The talks were so bad that the real surprise is that it took Trump until Sunday to blow up,” the source said.

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If we could get rid of Bolton and Pompeo this way, great! For now though, Trump doesn’t want to start wars, but he won’t fire the warmongers either.

Trump Blames Bolton For Embroiling Him In Potential Venezuelan Quagmire (Week)

President Trump is having second thoughts about “his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela,” complaining to aides and advisers that “he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman,” President Nicolas Maduro, with opposition leader Juan Guadió, The Washington Post reports. “The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around National Security Adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires.”


Officially, U.S. policy in Venezuela is the same, and last week’s failed effort to oust Maduro has “effectively shelved serious discussion of a heavy U.S. military response,” and “Trump is now not inclined to order any sort of military intervention in Venezuela,” the Post reports, citing current and former officials and outside advisers. Instead, the U.S. is settling in to wait out Maduro on the expectation he will fall on his own, with the help of U.S. sanctions. Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela,” Trump said last week, after a 90-minute phone call with Putin. “And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.” U.S. officials say Russia is deeply involved in backing Maduro.

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A constitutional crisis?

Trump Predicts Dem Investigation Will Drive Him To 2020 Win (Hill)

President Trump, speaking at a rally hours after the White House invoked executive privilege to block the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report, predicted congressional Democrats’ investigations would propel him to a reelection victory in 2020. Trump did not directly address his administration’s decision to defy a subpoena from House Democrats, a move that raised the specter of a constitutional crisis, but he said the party’s desire to probe his administration, campaign and businesses would backfire politically. “They want to do investigations instead of investments,” the president told a crowd of supporters at an outdoor amphitheater just steps from the Gulf of Mexico. “I think it drives us on to victory in 2020.”


Trump said Democrats’ focus on investigations is a “disgrace” and that they should instead work with him on infrastructure, lowering drug prices and improving veterans’ health care. [..] Trump mentioned Barr only in passing during the Wednesday rally but did not address the proceedings. “Now the Democrats — we have a great attorney general — now the Democrats are saying, ‘We want more.’ You know, it was going to be like, ‘We want the Mueller report.’ Now they say, ‘Mueller report? No, we want to start all over again.’”

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This will go far. This is very damning.

Steele’s Stunning Pre-FISA Confession (Solomon)

If ever there were an admission that taints the FBI’s secret warrant to surveil Donald Trump’s campaign, it sat buried for more than 2 1/2 years in the files of a high-ranking State Department official. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec’s written account of her Oct. 11, 2016, meeting with FBI informant Christopher Steele shows the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded British intelligence operative admitted that his research was political and facing an Election Day deadline. And that confession occurred 10 days before the FBI used Steele’s now-discredited dossier to justify securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the campaign’s ties to Russia.

Steele’s client “is keen to see this information come to light prior to November 8,” the date of the 2016 election, Kavalec wrote in a typed summary of her meeting with Steele and Tatyana Duran, a colleague from Steele’s Orbis Security firm. The memos were unearthed a few days ago through open-records litigation by the conservative group Citizens United. Kavalec’s notes do not appear to have been provided to the House Intelligence Committee during its Russia probe, according to former Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). “They tried to hide a lot of documents from us during our investigation, and it usually turns out there’s a reason for it,” Nunes told me. Senate and House Judiciary investigators told me they did not know about them, even though they investigated Steele’s behavior in 2017-18.


One member of Congress transmitted the memos this week to the Department of Justice’s inspector general, fearing its investigation of FISA abuses may not have had access to them. Nonetheless, the FBI is doing its best to keep much of Kavalec’s information secret by retroactively claiming it is classified, even though it was originally marked unclassified in 2016. The apparent effort to hide Kavalec’s notes from her contact with Steele has persisted for some time. State officials acknowledged a year ago they received a copy of the Steele dossier in July 2016, and got a more detailed briefing in October 2016 and referred the information to the FBI.

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From what I can see, this is quite weak. Jonathan Turley explains why in the next article: “..the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt ..”

Democrats Vote To Hold Attorney General Barr In Contempt Of Congress (G.)

House Democrats voted on Wednesday to hold the US attorney general, William Barr, in contempt of Congress, citing his failure to hand over the full, unredacted version of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The decision came on a day of escalating tensions between Congress and the White House. Earlier on Wednesday, the White House invoked executive privilege to block the House judiciary committee’s request for the full Mueller report and underlying evidence. Later in the day, the House intelligence committee chair, Adam Schiff, subpoenaed Barr for “documents and materials related Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including all counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials produced during the Special Counsel’s investigation, the full unredacted report, and the underlying evidence”.


According to a statement from Schiff’s office, the justice department must produce the documents by 15 May. The Senate intelligence committee, meanwhile, has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The panel is calling in the president’s son to answer questions about his 2017 testimony to the panel as part of its investigation into Russian election interference. It is the first known subpoena of a member of Donald Trump‘s immediate family, and a new sign that the Senate panel is continuing with its own Russia investigation even after the release of Mueller’s report on the same subject.

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Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and represented the House of Representatives in its successful challenge to executive actions under the Affordable Care Act..

Democrats Showing Contempt By Holding William Barr In Contempt (Turley)

The House Judiciary Committee is voting to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress and to secure a vote of the entire House of Representatives in order to send the matter to federal court. The problem is that the contempt action against Barr is long on action and short on contempt. Indeed, with a superficial charge, the House could seriously undermine its credibility in the ongoing conflicts with the White House. Congress is right on a number of complaints against the White House, including possible cases of contempt, but this is not one of them. As someone who has represented the House of Representatives, my concern is that this one violates a legal version of the Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm.”


This could do great harm, not to Barr, but to the House. It is the weakest possible case to bring against the administration, and likely to be an example of a bad case making bad law for the House. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler laid out the case for contempt. He raised three often repeated complaints against Barr in that he failed to release an unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller, allegedly lied twice to Congress, and refused to appear before the committee. Yet, notably, the only claim the committee seeks to put before a federal court is the redaction of the report. That seems rather curious since, if Barr lied or refused a subpoena as House leaders claim, it normally would be an easy case of contempt. The reason for this move is that House Democrats know both claims would not withstand even a cursory judicial review.

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David Schoen is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer.

Democrats Know Mueller Can’t Discuss His Report (Schoen)

When Mueller accepted his appointment as special counsel, he did so fully aware of the federal regulations governing his office. The regulations make it absolutely clear that the special counsel is prohibited from discussing his report publicly. Leading members of Congress now demanding that Mueller testify know he is barred from doing so. The current special counsel regulations were passed while they were members of Congress. In 1978, Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act. It created a process for appointing special prosecutors. This is a different position from special counsels like Mueller. Under the 1978 law, Congress could mandate the appointment of a special prosecutor. Congress could remove the special prosecutor, and the special prosecutor was required to report to Congress. The executive and legislative branches were both a direct part of the process.


However, the law on special prosecutors expired and it was not renewed. In 1999, the special counsel regulations under which Mueller was appointed became law and remain in effect today. These regulations were written and heavily promoted by President Bill Clinton’s administration. They changed the 1978 law in several important ways. Under the current regulations, the special counsel does not report to Congress. Congress cannot require the appointment or removal of a special counsel. These powers and duties lie exclusively with the attorney general. Section 600.9 of the special counsel regulations backed by the Clinton administration places very limited requirements on the attorney general in regard to what he needs to provide to Congress, and he has already exceeded these requirements.

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“A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.”

James Comey Is In Trouble And He Knows It (Hill)

James Comey’s planet is getting noticeably warmer. Attorney General William Barr’s emissions are the suspected cause. Barr has made plain that he intends to examine carefully how and why Comey, as FBI director, decided that the bureau should investigate two presidential campaigns and if, in so doing, any rules or laws were broken. In light of this, the fired former FBI director apparently has decided that photos of him on Twitter standing amid tall trees and in the middle of empty country roads, acting all metaphysical, is no longer a sufficient strategy. No, Comey has realized, probably too late, that he has to try to counter, more directly, the narrative being set by the unsparing attorney general whose words in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week landed in the Trump-opposition world like holy water on Linda Blair. Shrieking heads haven’t stopped spinning since.


And so we’ve seen Comey get real busy lately. First he penned a curious op-ed in The New York Times. Then a Times reporter, with whom Comey has cooperated in the past, wrote a news article exposing an early, controversial investigative technique against the Trump campaign in an attempt to get out front and excuse it. Next, Comey is scheduled to be encouraged on a friendly cable news “town hall.” In the op-ed, Comey trotted out his now-familiar St. James schtick, freely pronouncing on the morality of others. He sees himself as a kind of Pontiff-of-the-Potomac working his beads, but comes across more like an unraveling Captain Queeg working his ball bearings. Comey adjudged the president as “amoral.” He declared the attorney general to be “formidable” but “lacking inner strength” unlike — the inference is clear — Comey himself. A strategy of insulting the executioner right before he swings his ax is an odd one but, then, Comey has a long record of odd decisions and questionable judgment.

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[From 2008 to 2016] “the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451..”

Time to Start Worrying About Global Corporate Debt – Bank of England (DQ)

By 2016, emerging market corporations were issuing ten times more money ($711 billion) than before, much of it in hard foreign currencies (mainly euros, dollars and yen) that will prove much harder to pay back if their local currency slides, as is happening in Turkey and Argentina right now. Although bond issuance by emerging market companies declined by 29% in 2017 and remained around the same level in 2018, it is still approximately 7.5 times higher than the pre-crisis level. Much of the increase has been driven by China as it transitioned from a negligible level of issuance of corporate debt prior to the 2008 crisis to a record issuance amount of $590 billion in 2016.


During that time the number of Chinese companies issuing bonds soared from just 68 to a peak of 1,451 and the total amount of corporate debt in China exploded from $4 trillion to almost $17 trillion, according to BIS data. By late 2018 it had reached $19.7 trillion. “There has been a persistent buildup of private debt to record levels in China,” Cunliffe said. Much of this increase took place in the direct aftermath of the financial crisis. The largest increases have been in the corporate sector, mainly in state-owned enterprises. At last count, China’s corporate debt-to-GDP ratio was 153%, enough to earn it seventh place on WOLF STREET’s leaderboard of countries with the most monstrous corporate debt pileups (as a proportion of GDP), 18 places above the US. This chart compares the rise of non-financial corporate debt in China and the US:

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“Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible.”

Greek Bonds Yield Less Than Treasurys – As Irrational As In 2007 (Ashoka Mody)

Yields on five-year Greek government bonds are lower than those of U.S. Treasurys — and have been this way for the past month. Yes, on 3- and 5-year bonds, Greece, with its rating deep in junk territory, pays investors less than the double-A-plus-rated U.S. government does. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French government bonds — also lower-rated than the U.S. — offer lower, indeed considerably lower, yields than the U.S. government does, even for 10-year maturities. Even if we stipulate that Greece’s government is, in fact, as creditworthy as the U.S. government, why would investors accept a lower yield on the Greek bond? And why are they willing to accept the even lower yields on the bonds of other eurozone governments?

One possible reason is that they expect the euro to appreciate. Despite the low eurozone bond yields, investors may expect eventually to boost their returns by selling the expensive euros and buying cheaper dollars and other currencies. Indeed, there is some basis for such a strategy. As of late April, the consensus among analysts was that the euro will appreciate significantly over the next couple of years, and more modestly thereafter; forward markets (where buyers and sellers settle the price of a future transaction in advance) support this consensus view.


But if expectations of an appreciating euro solve the low-bond-yield puzzle, they raise another, deeper puzzle. Why would investors expect the euro to appreciate? [..] such a scenario is highly implausible. Current growth forecasts point worryingly in the opposite direction. The IMF projects world economic growth to slow more markedly than it already did a year ago. Crucially, of all major economies, those in the eurozone appear to be decelerating particularly quickly.

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Fish farms kill.

Have We Reached The End Of Wild? (G.)

In salmon’s case, we have interrupted one of the most dramatic cycles of nature, the wild fish’s journey from the rivers where they spawn to the oceans where they grow and back again. The result is that fish have died, species that eat them have died, communities that depend on them have faded, the food supply has been polluted and a lot of tax dollars have been wasted. [..] In an inspired gambit, Artifishal takes a swerve into the metaphyscial, framing the salmon emergency as a question about the human soul, about what it needs – about what we need – to survive.


The contention of the film-makers is that while it may be human nature to seek dominion and control over the rest of nature, the very thing we need to survive is precisely that which defies our control, that thing which, when we seek to subjugate it, instead either slips through our nets, or is caught and dies. If we drive the wild to extinction, the film suggests, we will bring our own that much closer. “I really hope the film leaves the viewer with this disquieting question, which is, have we reached the end of wild?” said Murphy in a phone conversation near the end of a tour to promote the movie, which debuted at the Tribeca film festival after a tour of screenings in Patagonia stores. “At the outset we kept wondering if we would find a bad guy. And we didn’t. In fact, I kept feeling that the force of antagonism was us – we’re the bad guy. Because humans just are always looking out for themselves.”

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More damage from renewables. There’s no free lunch. The sooner we get that straight, the better.

Only A Third Of World’s Great Rivers Remain Free Flowing (G.)

Only a third of the world’s great rivers remain free flowing, due to the impact of dams that are drastically reducing the benefits healthy rivers provide people and nature, according to a global analysis. Billions of people rely on rivers for water, food and irrigation, but from the Danube to the Yangtze most large rivers are fragmented and degraded. Untouched rivers are largely confined to remote places such as the Arctic and Amazonia. The assessment, the first to tackle the subject on a worldwide level, examined 12m kilometres of rivers and found that just 90 of the 246 rivers more than 1,000km (621 miles) long flowed without interruption.


The scientists, whose research, published in the journal Nature, was led by Günther Grill, at McGill University in Canada, were particularly concerned to discover that only a quarter of long rivers that once flowed freely to the sea, rather than to an inland lake or other river, still had such a course. Separate research in Britain, which included the effects of smaller infrastructure such as weirs, fords and culverts, suggests that 97% of the nation’s river network has been interrupted by human-built structures. Thriving wildlife in rivers is crucial to keeping water clean but freshwater habitats were found to be the hardest hit of all the ecosystems, with wildlife populations having plunged by an average of 83% since 1970 due to dams, overuse of water and pollution.

Great rivers that flow freely are now rare in populated areas. Heavily fragmented rivers include the Danube, Nile, and Euphrates, the Paraná and Missouri in the Americas, the Yangtze and Brahmaputra in Asia, and the Darling in Australia. The Congo and Amazon were found to be among the least affected. The biggest impact comes from physical barriers created by dams, but reservoirs also seriously affect the natural seasonal flow of rivers. “It can be really freaky sometimes, when the electricity is produced one hour on, one hour off, and the river goes up and down by a metre, which is very stressful to the ecosystems downstream,” said Grill. The study estimates that there are about 60,000 large dams worldwide and 3,700 in planning or construction, in addition to millions of smaller dams.

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A cheap way to get young votes. Don’t fall for it. Thes countries fail even their Paris commitments.

Proposal To Spend 25% Of EU Budget On Climate Change (BBC)

Eight European countries have called for an ambitious strategy to tackle climate change – and to spend a quarter of the entire EU budget on fighting it. The joint statement says the EU should have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 “at the latest”. It was signed by France, Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The group says their plan can “go hand in hand with prosperity” and “set an example for other countries to follow.” The position paper comes ahead of a major summit of European leaders in the Romanian city of Sibiu, beginning on Thursday, which will discuss the future of Europe and the EU’s strategy for the next five years. But not everyone is on board – there are 28 countries in the EU, and several of those absent from the joint position statement are significant players – including Germany.


The position of the eight countries is that climate change has “profound implications for the future of humanity” and that its impacts are already apparent – citing “the heat waves and scorching fires of last summer”. [..] “The EU budget currently under negotiation will be an important tool in this respect: at least 25% of the spending should go to projects aimed at fighting against climate change,” the paper said. Annual EU budgets have spending limits set by what is known as the multiannual financial framework (MFF). The current one allowed the EU to spend more than €900bn between 2014-2020. The eight-nation group is eyeing the next framework, which is set to cover 2021-2027. [..] At the moment, EU countries are required to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from their 1990 levels by 2020, with the aim of raising that to a 40% reduction by 2030. But many are set to miss these targets – some by a wide margin.

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