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


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

The Deep State’s Deep State Department (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Ha ha ha!

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

States for sale.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Obama Left An Ambassador to Die (PJMedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The FAA is getting into trouble.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Nov 152019
 


Pablo Picasso Coffee maker 1943

 

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)
‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing
US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)
Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)
Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)
Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)
Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)
Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)
Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)
Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)
Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

 

 

I saw yesterday that she had used the word “Bribery” and kept wondering why she all of a sudden switched to it. CNN of all places gives the answer: it’s right there in the Constitution, while Quid Pro Quo is not. Her legal team must have been frantically deliberating. And free beers for the genius who found this.

And today we’re back to closed door sessions? Huh?

Pelosi Adds A New Element – Bribery – (CNN)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s actions in the Ukraine scandal constitute “bribery” and that Trump has admitted to it himself. She’s the latest and most high-profile Democrat to use that word when describing Trump’s conduct on the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Trump has called “perfect.” “What the President has admitted to and says it’s perfect, I’ve said it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Why is it bribery?
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” she said.

What does the Constitution say?
Getting technical, bribery is just an example of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” But it’s one of only two specific examples the Constitution lays out.

Article II, Section 4:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, BRIBERY, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

[..] Coming up Friday
Public hearing #2 — Marie Yovanovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine.
Private hearing — The committee will also take closed-door testimony from David Holmes, the State Department employee who overheard Trump’s call with Sondland on July 26.
Private hearing — The committee will work Saturday to depose OMB official Mark Sandy behind closed doors. He’s the first official offering testimony from the agency, which was responsible for releasing the security aid for Ukraine.

Read more …

Pelosi also thinks Americans don’t know what quid pro quo means.

‘Evidence Of Bribery’: Pelosi Comments On Impeachment Hearing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the testimony presented by two career U.S. diplomats at the first House impeachment hearing a day earlier had presented evidence of bribery committed by President Donald Trump. “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,” Pelosi told reporters. Pelosi’s comments come amid a Democratic shift in the language used to describe Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine that lie at the heart of the current impeachment inquiry.


Lawmakers had called the president’s moves a “quid pro quo,” but have recently appeared to shift to a focus on more widely used terms that Democrats believe may resonate more deeply with voters. Asked to further elaborate on her statement regarding bribery, Pelosi said, “Well, you know we’re talking Latin around here — e pluribus unum, from anyone, quid pro quo, bribery, and that is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceeding.” “The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections — that’s bribery,” she said. Pelosi continued to assert that Democrats still have not made a decision about whether to pursue articles of impeachment against the president.

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So that’s the ennd of that one?

US Envoy Sondland Did Not Link Biden Probe To Aid: Ukraine Minister (R.)

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Thursday that U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland did not explicitly link military aid to Kiev with opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Interfax Ukraine reported. Trump and his allies are accused by Democrat opponents of freezing nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine to pressure President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Biden, Trump’s main rival for the 2020 presidential race. “Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him,” Prystaiko said about Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Prystaiko’s comments came a day after William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified in the first televised hearing of the impeachment inquiry.

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Obviously, they will call/subpoena Joe and Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff and The Whistleblower

Adam Schiff Will Be Called as Witness in Senate Impeachment Trial: Graham (ET)

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be called as a witness in a Senate impeachment trial if the House votes to impeach President Donald Trump. During an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Nov. 13, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’d call Schiff to testify. Graham also said he wouldn’t let the impeachment trial be based on hearsay alone. A trial also wouldn’t be held if the whistleblower doesn’t testify, he said. “Let’s say they get 218 votes. Here’s what I promise the country. We’re not going to try the president of the United States based on hearsay. So any resolution setting up a trial in the Senate, I’m going to make sure that hearsay cannot be the basis of an impeachment allegation,” Graham told host Sean Hannity.


“If you invoke the hearsay rule, what would be left? “A trial in the Senate, to me, should not legitimize what’s going on in the House. No American is denied the right to call witnesses on their behalf, except for Donald Trump. No American is accused of wrongdoing anonymously, except Donald Trump. What they’re doing in the House is a danger to the presidency itself. “So any trial in the Senate needs to make sure that you can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, because that’s a danger to the presidency itself. And secondly, any trial in the Senate must expose the whistleblower so the president can confront his accuser. I will not accept a trial in the Senate until I know who the whistleblower is.”

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When one propagada tool fact-checks another.

Fox Prime Time Stars Tell Trump Impeachment Hearings Disaster For Dems (CNN)

I wanted to know what President Trump was hearing about day one of the televised impeachment hearings. So I decided to mute all my other TVs and just watch Fox News on Wednesday night. I heard White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham say that “today was a joke.” I heard Donald Trump Jr. say “it’s insanity.” I heard Jeff Sessions ask, “Where’s the beef?” Here’s how I would sum up everything I heard from Fox’s prime time hosts: Wednesday’s hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a “disaster” for the Democrats and a “great day” for the Republicans. Impeachment is “stupid.” Impeachment is “fake.” There’s nothing impeachable here. There’s no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.

The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I’m sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That’s one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much – because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump. I decided to write it all down because of something that CNN’s Oliver Darcy wrote earlier in the day. “Don’t expect viewers, listeners, and readers of right-wing media to walk away from Wednesday’s impeachment hearings with a different opinion of President Trump’s behavior,” Darcy said. “In fact, it’s possible they might be more convinced than ever that Trump did nothing wrong. Why? Because right-wing media has largely – and unsurprisingly – focused on the moments in the hearing favorable to its preferred narrative.”

On the OTHER cable news channels, 8 p.m. host Tucker Carlson said, “it was like Christmas and New Year’s and the Super Bowl all put together.” Carlson seemed reluctant to cover Wednesday’s news, calling the hearings “stupid” and the importance of the impeachment inquiry “questionable.” Grisham called it a “joke” while others made jokes — Christian Whiton said witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent, both veteran public servants with impressive resumes, “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.” mIt didn’t end there. The witnesses were insulted all evening long. And Grisham said foreign service officials who are resisting Trump’s policies should resign.

Later in the hour, Carlson mocked news outlets for taking this once-in-a-generation impeachment inquiry seriously. “The media went completely bonkers today,” he said, while the on-screen graphic alleged a “MEDIA MELTDOWN.” He agreed with his guest Larry O’Connor, who said America doesn’t have a free press because the press is made up of “political activists.”

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5 days old but relevant because of Lacalle’s claim that China has only 0.25% worth of its money supply in gold. China also has a dire thirst for dollars. What’s going to back that crypto?

Will China Disrupt The Monetary System With A Cryptocurrency? (Lacalle)

A state-owned cryptocurrency is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. The main reason why citizens want to use cryptocurrencies or gold is precisely to avoid the government or central bank monopoly of money. For a currency to be a world reserve of value, widespread means of exchange and unit of measure, there are many things that need to happen, but the first pillar of a world reserve currency is stability and transparency. China cannot disrupt the global monetary system and dethrone the US dollar when it has one of the world’s tightest capital control systems, a lack of separation of powers and weak transparency in its own financial system. The U.S. dollar is the most traded currency in the world, and growing according to the Bank of International Settlement. The Yuan is 4% of the currency trade.


This is because the financial balance of the US is the strongest, legal and investor security is one of the strongest in the world, and the currency and capital markets are open and transparent. Unfortunately for China, the idea of a gold-backed cryptocurrency starts from the wrong premise. China’s own currency, the Yuan, is not backed by either global use nor gold. At all. China’s total gold reserves are less than 0.25% of its money supply. Many say that we do not know the real extent of China’s gold reserves. However, this goes back to my previous point. What confidence is the world going to have on a currency where the real level of gold reserves is simply a guess? Furthermore, why would any serious government under-report its gold reserves if it wants to be a safe haven, reserve status currency? It makes no sense.

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The smear has worked wonders.

Public Figures: Antisemitism Means We Can’t Vote For Labour Under Corbyn (G.)

The authors John Le Carré and William Boyd are among a string of public figures declaring they refuse to vote Labour because of its association with antisemitism. In a letter to the Guardian, they said: “To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government.” Both Le Carré, whose real name is David Cornwell, and Boyd have previously expressed strongly anti-Brexit views. They joined others including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who has previously been sympathetic to Labour, the actor Simon Callow , and the historians Antony Beevor, Tom Holland and Dan Snow. Trevor Phillips, a former Labour politician and ex-chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the Tell Mama group fighting Islamophobia, also said they could not vote Labour.

The letter said: “The coming election is momentous for every voter, but for British Jews it contains a particular anguish: the prospect of a prime minister steeped in association with antisemitism. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has come under formal investigation by the EHRC for institutional racism against Jews. Two Jewish MPs have been bullied out of the party. Mr Corbyn has a long record of embracing antisemites as comrades. “We listen to our Jewish friends and see how their pain has been relegated as an issue, pushed aside by arguments about Britain’s European future. For those who insist that Labour are the only alternative to Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, now, it seems, is not the time for Jewish anxiety.

“But antisemitism is central to a wider debate about the kind of country we want to be. To ignore it because Brexit looms larger is to declare that anti-Jewish prejudice is a price worth paying for a Labour government. Which other community’s concerns are disposable in this way? Who would be next? “Opposition to racism cannot include surrender in the fight against antisemitism. Yet that is what it would mean to back Labour and endorse Mr Corbyn for Downing Street.”

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Of course it is. 20 million dead. Never forget. Show respect. Without those 20 million lives lost we would all be goose-stepping.

Trump V-Day Moscow Visit Right Thing To Do Even In Election Season – Putin (RT)

As Russia prepares to celebrate the May 2020 anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, President Vladimir Putin said that a visit from Donald Trump would be “the right thing to do,” even during an election campaign. Trump’s re-election campaign will be in full swing next May, when Russia marks the 75th anniversary of the Soviet and allied victory over the Nazi Germany. While the US president’s opponents will likely still be hammering him on his “friendliness” with Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader told reporters on Thursday that a visit from Trump would be fitting. Even as part of the election campaign, that [visit] would be the right thing to do. But it is not for us to decide. The American president will make this decision.


However, Putin added that at the moment, no formal meeting with Trump is on the agenda. While Soviet Russia and the United States shared the burden of defeating Nazism, cooperation with Moscow is anathema to Washington seven decades later. Trump’s announcement last week that he “would love to go” to the commemoration was met with howls of derision from Democrats and to a media still clinging to the fictional idea of “Russian collusion.” Though Trump noted that the celebration falls “right in the middle of campaign season,” he said “it’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war.”

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“..the estate should start by committing ALL of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund.”

Jeffrey Epstein: Fund Proposed To Compensate Financier’s Victims (G.)

The executors of the estate of Jeffrey Epstein said on Thursday they had asked a judge to approve the creation of a proposed fund to compensate women the financier was accused of having sexually abused. The executors, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, said in a statement that the fund would create a “voluntary, confidential, non-adversarial alternative to litigation”. Epstein, 66, died by hanging himself in his Manhattan jail cell on 10 August, two days after signing a will and putting his estimated $577m estate into a trust. He had been arrested in July on federal sex trafficking charges, to which he pleaded not guilty. His estate is facing about a dozen lawsuits from women who say Epstein sexually abused them, many while they were underage.

The proposed compensation fund, which must be approved by a US Virgin Islands court, would be overseen by administrators including Jordana Feldman and Kenneth Feinberg, who have worked on compensation funds for victims affected by 9/11. Women who choose not to take part in the program would still be allowed to pursue their claims against the estate in court, according to Thursday’s statement. It was not immediately clear how much money would be available for the victim compensation fund. The attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represents one of the women suing the estate, expressed skepticism of the plan.

“Given that this latest fund was launched without our input or consent, we will keep an open mind because we are supportive of attempts to fairly compensate these survivors, but both the estate and the new administrators have a lot to prove,” she said in a press release. Another lawyer, Brad Edwards, said the estate should start by committing all of Epstein’s assets to the compensation fund. “If the estate is placing all estate assets into the claims program for victims, then it is a step in the right direction,” said Edwards, who represents multiple alleged victims. “In the meantime, we intend to get the filed cases to trial quickly. Either way, justice for our clients, without delay, is our goal.“

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Wonder what that MH17 “trial” is going to look like next year.

Ukraine Ex-Minister Says Bellingcat Infiltrated By… Kremlin Agents? (RT)

A website obsessed with blaming Russia for everything – using Google Earth to support its airtight theories – has been infiltrated by Russian agents, according to a Ukrainian MP and former minister. But does it even make sense? Our strange saga begins with a very level-headed Facebook post penned by Ukraine’s former minister of veteran affairs and current member of parliament, Iryna Friz, who expressed deep displeasure with a recent Bellingcat ‘investigation’ revealing that Ukraine’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs had ties to far-right figures (oh no, who could have guessed?). In her post, Friz accused Bellingcat of regurgitating an “exclusively Russian narrative” that there are “fascists in Ukraine.” This can mean only one thing, according to the Ukrainian lawmaker.


“There are all signs that people from the Russian FSB have infiltrated [Bellingcat]. I otherwise cannot explain for myself the fact that they coordinate their work with Russian outlet the Insider, which is controlled by Lubyanka,” she wrote, referring to the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service. Friz even went so far as to suggest that Bellingcat should probe staff with “Russian names.” In an open letter responding to the damning allegations, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins politely pointed out that it employs no Russians – only two Ukrainian-Americans. Higgins further contested the notion that reports of Ukraine’s dangerous far-right were manufactured by the Kremlin, citing a 2018 report from the US State Department and an investigation by US-backed Freedom House.

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Steve is still chasing Nordhaus. Don’t think I’ve seen a reply from the man.

“..we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.”

Even Nobel Prize Winners Get Things Catastrophically Wrong (Steve Keen)

William Nordhaus was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economics for “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis”. This implies that he worked out what global heating means for our economy, given what climate scientists say will happen to our planet. But Nordhaus’s predictions of what global heating will cost the earth are dangerously at odds with the science. In his Nobel Prize lecture, Nordhaus described a 4°C increase in global average temperature as “optimal” — that is, the point at which the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change are balanced. In a subsequent academic paper based on this lecture, he stated that “damages are estimated to be 2 percent of output at a 3°C global warming and 8 percent of output with 6°C warming”.

This is a trivial level of damage, equivalent for the 6°C warming case to a fall in the rate of economic growth over the next century of less than 0.1% per year. Nordhaus’s conclusions are based in part on the simple but wayward assumption that the weak relationship between temperature and GDP within the US today can be used to assume how future global temperature rises will affect the economy. For example, the coldest state in the US is North Dakota, with an average temperature of 4.9°C and a high GDP per head – US$67,000 in 2018. Slightly warmer states such as New York (9.0°C, US$73,000) tend to have higher GDPs, while the hottest state – Florida, at 22.1°C – has a lower GDP (US$43,000). This implies that past a certain point, higher temperatures reduce GDP, but the relationship is very weak: huge changes in temperature result in relatively small changes in income.

If it were true that this weak relationship could be applied to global temperature change, then global warming would indeed be nothing to worry about. However, the relationship between temperature and GDP within one country today tells you absolutely nothing about how the world will change if global temperatures rise by 10°C. This can be hard to grasp, since we’re talking about the truly unknown – humanity has never experienced global temperatures that high. But we can assess how unrealistic Nordhaus’s work is because it predicts exactly the same damages for a fall in global temperature as it does for a rise. It predicts, for example, that both a 4°C rise and a 4°C fall in temperature would reduce global GDP by 3.6%.

The average global temperature during the last Ice Age was 4°C cooler than today. There’s no way we can accurately predict what GDP would be in such a cool world today, but we know that most of Europe north of Berlin, and of America north of New York, would be under a kilometre of ice. To argue that this would cut GDP by just 3.6% is simply absurd.

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Feb 102018
 


Frank Larson Times Square, New York 1950s

 

Worst Week in 2 Years for Stocks Ends on High Note (BBG)
By Betting On Calm, Did Investors Worsen The Stock Market Fall? (G.)
The Scariest Chart For The Market (ZH)
‘Bond Vigilantes’ Are Saddled Up And Ready To Push Rates Higher (CNBC)
The Worst Of The Bond Rout Is Yet To Come, Says Piper Jaffray (CNBC)
US GDP Growth Is Not As Rosy As It Seems (Lebowitz)
2018 Won’t Kill The Speculators. But It Will Teach Them A Lesson Or Two (Xie)
Minimum Wage Awkward Pillar Of Emerging Social Europe (AFP)
Relations Between Britain And The EU Sink To A New Low (Ind.)
UK Has More Than 750,000 Property Millionaires (G.)
Brexit Plan To Keep Northern Ireland In Customs Union Triggers Row (G.)
Greek PM Steps In To Police Exploding Novartis Bribery Investigation (FPh)
EU’s Moscovici Says Greece Will Be ‘Sovereign Country’ After Bailout (K.)

 

 

The one thing that really matters now is volatility, and all the outstanding bets for or against it.

Worst Week in 2 Years for Stocks Ends on High Note (BBG)

U.S. equities ended their worst week in two years on a positive note, but rate-hike fears that pushed markets into a correction remain as investors await American inflation figures on Feb. 14. The S&P 500 tumbled 5.2% in the week, its steepest slide since January 2016, jolting equity markets from an unprecedented stretch of calm. At one point, stocks fell 12% from the latest highs, before a furious rally Friday left the equity benchmark 1.5% higher on the day. Still, the selloff has wiped out gains for the year. Signs mounted that jitters spread to other assets, with measures of market unrest pushing higher in junk bonds, emerging-market equities and Treasuries. The Cboe Volatility Index ended at 29, almost three times higher than its level Jan. 26.

The VIX’s bond-market cousin reached its highest since April during the week, and a measure of currency volatility spiked to levels last seen almost a year ago. Pressure on equities came from the Treasury market, where yields spiked to a four-year high, raising concern the Federal Reserve would accelerate its rate-hike schedule. Yields ended the week at 2.85%, near where they started, as Treasuries moved higher when equity selling reached its most frantic levels. Commodities including oil, gold and industrial metals moved lower Friday. The dollar, euro and sterling all declined. “Sometimes making a bottom can take time,” Ernie Cecilia, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust Co., said by phone. “Investors should be at least aware, cognizant, and expect a little more volatility after we go through this period of more cathartic volatility.”

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In more detail: volatility. Or in other words: how the Fed killed the market.

By Betting On Calm, Did Investors Worsen The Stock Market Fall? (G.)

Back in 2008, the non-financial world had to digest a lot of jargon in a hurry – collateralised debt obligations (CDOs), asset-backed securities (ABSs) and the rest of the alphabet soup of derivative products that contributed to the great banking crash. This week’s diet has felt similar. As the Dow Jones industrial average twice fell 1,000 points in a day, we have had to swallow tales about the VIX, the inverse VIX, the XIV, and ETPs. Did this overdose of three-letter acronyms really cause the stock markets to swoon? Have those geniuses in the back offices of investment banks really baffled themselves – and a lot of investors – with complexity again? The short answer to the second question is: yes. The chart shows one of the most spectacular blow-ups you could hope to see.

This is the XIV – it is actually the snappier name for the Credit Suisse VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term exchange traded note – since the start of 2016. It was a beautiful investment until, suddenly, it was a disaster. What is the XIV? It was a way to bet that the S&P 500, the main US stock index, would be tranquil – in other words suffer few outbreaks of volatility. The measure of volatility is called the VIX and it is compiled and published by the Chicago Board Options Exchange by noting the prices of various option contracts in the market and then applying a mathematical formula. The VIX is more famously known as the “fear index”. In itself, the VIX is just a number – its long-term average is about 20, more than 30 is a worry, and more than 40 could herald a crisis.

For much of last year it was between 10 and 12 but on Tuesday it hit 50, before recoiling back to around 30 currently. The fun starts when products are invented to trade and speculate on how the VIX will perform. Conventional futures contracts came first. Then ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, a low-cost product that has taken the financial world by storm in the last couple of decades, followed. The XIV is slightly different (it’s a note, rather than a fund) but it comes from the same school. By trading S&P 500 options, or contracts to buy and sell the S&P at points in the future, it was structured to do the exact opposite of the VIX. If volatility in the stock market was low – as it was throughout 2016 and 2017 – owners of the XIV would do well. In the jargon, they were “short vol”. But, if volatility exploded, then the XIV would fall.

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Posted a different version of this chart (from Arbeter) yesterday, coming from Market Watch.

The Scariest Chart For The Market (ZH)

Interest-rates going up “for the right reason” is bullish, right? Each time interest rates have surged up to their long-term trendline, a ‘crisis’ has occurred…

But this time is different right? Because rates are “going up for the right reason.” Hhmm, the reaction in markets each time the yield on the 10-Year Treasury yield reaches its trendline is ominous…

So the question is – have interest rates ‘ever’ gone up for the right reason? Or is this narrative just one more bullshit line from a desperate industry of asset-gatherers and commission-takers? It does make one wonder what the relationship between US government ‘interest costs’ and global money flow really is. Does an engineered equity tumble spark safe-haven-buying and ease the pain as deficits and debt loads soar. It would certainly help as $300bn additional budget deals are passed, The Fed has left the game, and China is threatening to be a seller not a buyer…

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If everyone’s on the same side of the boat, somebody must be on the other.

‘Bond Vigilantes’ Are Saddled Up And Ready To Push Rates Higher (CNBC)

There’s reason to be concerned about bond vigilantes, who are no longer under “lock and key” and are free to push yields higher, Wall Street veteran Ed Yardeni told CNBC on Friday. Yardeni, a market historian, coined the term bond vigilantes in the 1980s to refer to investors who sell their holdings in an effort to enforce fiscal discipline. Having fewer buyers drives prices down — and drives yields up — in the fixed-income market. That, in turn, makes it more expensive for the government to borrow and spend. “They had been sort of put under lock and key by the central banks. The Fed had lowered interest rates down to zero in terms of short-term rates and that pushed bond yields down. And then they bought up a lot of these bond yields,” said Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research.

Now the Fed is slowly raising interest rates and starting to unwind its balance sheet. On top of that, new tax cuts were passed and a massive spending deal was just signed into law. “Now people are looking more at the domestic situation and saying, ‘You know what, maybe we need a higher bond yield,'” Yardeni said in an interview with “Power Lunch.” “They’ve saddled up, and they’re riding high. The posse is getting ready. They’re getting the message out.” Bond vigilantes last made their mark during the Clinton administration, when a bond market sell-off forced President Bill Clinton to tone down his spending agenda. Yardeni said while Clinton got the message back then, he doesn’t think the Trump administration has this time around.

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Sub: Rising rates slam stocks as market volatility rages on.

The Worst Of The Bond Rout Is Yet To Come, Says Piper Jaffray (CNBC)

It all started with bond yields. Spiking yields spilled over onto the stock market in the past week, first triggering a nearly 666-point drop on the Dow last Friday and then sparking two declines of more than 1,000 points within just 4 days. The bond rout will continue with yields on the 10-year possibly reaching 3% in the near term, according to Craig Johnson, senior technical strategist at Piper Jaffray. That is a level it has not reached since January 2014. “This is a 36-year reversal in rates,” Johnson told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Thursday. Bond yields, which move inversely to prices, have generally been in decline over the past 3 decades, indicating a long-term bull market for bond prices.

“When you reverse that downtrend from down to up you typically get a momentum response and a quick move up. That’s exactly what you’re seeing in the bond market right now,” added Johnson. “You’ve got to be careful in here right now.” The yield on 10-year Treasurys has risen at a fast clip since the U.S. election in November 2016. Bond yields held at around 1.8% prior to the election and have since moved up 100 basis points to hit a 4-year high of 2.86% this week. The uncertainty of a Trump presidency initially sent bond prices lower and yields higher at the end of 2016. Now, worries over the effect an accelerating economy and rising inflation might have on Federal Reserve policy this year have taken over. Historically, bond prices fall when interest rates rise.

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No savings and huge debt means less consumer spending. Which is what 70% of US GDP is made of.

US GDP Growth Is Not As Rosy As It Seems (Lebowitz)

Last Friday, GDP for the fourth quarter of 2017 was released. Despite being 0.3% short of expectations at 2.6% annual growth, it nonetheless produced enthusiasm as witnessed by the S&P 500 which jumped 25 points. One of the reasons for the optimism following the release was a strong showing of the consumer which notched 2.80% growth in real personal consumption. The consumer, representing about 70% of GDP, is the single most important factor driving economic growth and therefore we owe it to ourselves to better understand what drove that growth. This knowledge, in turn, allows us to better assess its durability. There are three core means which govern the ability of individuals to spend. The most obvious is income and wages earned.

To help gauge the effect of changes in income we rely on disposable income, or the amount of money left to spend after accounting for required expenses. Real disposable personal income in the fourth quarter, the same quarter for which GDP growth data was released, grew at a 1.80% year over year rate. While other indicators of wage growth are slightly higher, we must consider that payroll gains are not evenly distributed throughout the economy. In fact as shown below 80% of workers continue to see flat to declining growth in their wages. While this may have accounted for some of the growth in consumption we need to consider the two other means of spending over which consumers have control, savings and credit card debt.

Savings: Last month the savings rate in the United States registered one of the lowest levels ever recorded in the past 70 years. In fact, the only time it was lower was in a brief period occurring right before the 2008/09 recession. At a rate of 2.6%, consumers are spending 97.4% of disposable income. The graph below shows how this compares historically. [..] the savings rate is less than half of that which occurred since the 2008/09 recession and well below prior periods.

Credit Card Debt: In addition to reducing savings to meet basic needs or even splurge for extra goods, one can also use credit card debt. Confirming our suspicion about savings, a recent sharp increase in revolving credit (credit card debt) is likely another sign consumers are having trouble maintaining their standard of living. Over the last four quarters revolving credit growth has increased at just under 6% annually which is almost twice as fast as disposable income. Further, the 6% credit card growth rate is about three times faster than that of the years following the recession of 2008/09.

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The liquidity super machine is stalling.

2018 Won’t Kill The Speculators. But It Will Teach Them A Lesson Or Two (Xie)

A decade of massive, synchronised monetary and fiscal stimulus has led to the greatest asset bubble in history, to the tune of about $100 trillion, nearly 1.5 times the world’s GDP. Compared to 2-3% of GDP growth in the global economy, we should be mindful of the potential and huge cost associated with it. Even though the US stock market is more expensive than in 1929 or 2000, and China’s property valuation is higher than Japan’s a quarter-of-a-century ago, fear-driven selloffs have been rare and brief, leading to the belief that high asset prices are the new normal. Massive amounts of financial and business activities, especially in technology, are predicated on high asset prices going higher. The unusual longevity and resilience of high asset prices are largely because government actions — not herd behaviour in the market — are force-feeding the bubble.

Government actions will lose their grip only when growth expectations crash or inflation flares up. Neither is a major risk for 2018. Hence, 2018 won’t kill the speculators of the world. But 2018 will teach them a lesson or two. High-risk assets such as internet stocks and high-end properties will struggle like never before in the past decade. US interest rates will rise above inflation for the first time in a decade. And China is tightening, especially in the property sector, out of fear of a life-threatening financial crisis. China accounts for about half of global credit growth. The interaction between the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing and China’s credit targeting has been the liquidity super machine. It is stalling in 2018. The asset bubble demands that the excess liquidity-money supply rises faster than GDP to sustain it.

This year may see global money supply line up with GDP. The Fed is likely to raise interest rates from the current 1-1.25% and take the level to 2.5%. This is still low compared with the 4.5-5% nominal GDP growth rate. But the US stock market is more expensive than it was in 1929 or 2000. When the interest rate surpasses inflation, it will become wobbly. Policymakers are caught between a rock and a hard place. The structural problems that led to the 2008 crisis are still here. The global economy grows ever more dependent on asset bubbles. If the global asset bubble bursts, the economy will slide into recession. Hence, when a market wobbles — as it probably will in 2018 — policymakers will come out to soothe market sentiment and may even temporarily reverse the tightening.

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The EU is a feudal neo-liberal machine. There is no such thing as Soical Europe anywhere but in words. It’s about keeping the poor down, and dependent on your money.

Minimum Wage Awkward Pillar Of Emerging Social Europe (AFP)

Twenty-two out of 28 EU states have introduced a minimum wage, trumpeted as a key pillar in the construction of a social Europe. But huge disparities from one country to the next are fuelling resistance from opponents who see the policy as dragging down competitiveness, sovereignty as well as levelling down salaries. Brexit, as an expression of eurosceptic populism, has jolted the European Commission into going on the offensive as it looks to show the European Union is not just a common market but a bloc with a social dimension. A November 17 Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth last year set the ball rolling as all 28 EU members signed up to a Europe-wide charter on social rights, laying down 20 basic principles including statutory minimum wages as a mainstay of a policy framework to boost convergence.

“Adequate minimum wages shall be ensured, in a way that provide for the satisfaction of the needs of the worker and his/her family in the light of national economic and social conditions, whilst safeguarding access to employment and incentives to seek work,” according to the guidelines. But the non-binding declaration is, as such, merely symbolic, not least because “European treaties stipulate clearly that salaries come under the national purview,” notes Claire Dheret, head of employment and social Europe at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre (EPC). To date, the Gothenburg charter is being respected only partially, even if all but six EU states have a legal minimum wage, as witnessed by Eurostat data highlighting starkly varying levels from Bulgaria’s 460 leva (€235; $270) a month gross to €1,999 in Luxembourg, that is, nine times as much.

Even so, the discrepancy does shrink to around a factor of three when the cost of living in each state is taken into account. But the Eurostat data shows up major discrepancies between eastern and western states. Ten of the former pay a minimum of less than €500, whereas seven western EU members have set rates surpassing €1,300 euros. Five southern states pay between €650 and €850. The six without an official minimum, which have their own arrangements to cover the basic needs of low earners are Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden.

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We can repeat this every day: the mess gets messier.

Relations Between Britain And The EU Sink To A New Low (Ind.)

David Davis has been dragged into renewed war of words with Brussels over the Brexit transition period, accusing the EU of having a “fundamental contradiction” in its approach and wanting to “have it both ways” after a week of fruitless talks. Relations between Britain and the European Commission sank to a new low on Friday after Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, casually claimed at a press conference the UK had cancelled an important meeting due to a “diary clash”. UK officials behind the scenes took offence to the claim and said the meeting had not been cancelled at all and instead took place in the afternoon. Mr Barnier sealed the state of mutual incomprehension, telling reporters in Brussels that he had “problems understanding the UK’s position” on the transition period.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon after Mr Barnier’s press conference – a solo affair in contrast to previous joint outings – Mr Davis said the EU could not “have it both ways” on the transition period. “Given the intense work that has taken place this week it is surprising to hear that Michel Barnier is unclear on the UK’s position in relation to the implementation period,” he said. “As I set out in a speech two weeks ago, we are seeking a time-limited period that maintains access to each other’s markets on existing terms. “However for any such period to work both sides will need a way to resolve disputes in the unlikely event that they occur.

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And collapsing social services, health care etc. It’s a choice, not a flaw.

UK Has More Than 750,000 Property Millionaires (G.)

There are now more than 750,000 property millionaires in Britain, and in some towns in the south of England half of all homes cost more than £1m, according to analysis by website Zoopla. Despite a slowing property market, Zoopla estimated that the number of property millionaires has climbed to 768,553, a rise of 23% since August 2016. The figures underscore the hugely lopsided nature of the UK property market. Yorkshire and Humberside has 4,103 property millionaires, and Wales 2,223, while in London the figure is 430,720. The figures suggest that while one in 20 people in the capital are paper property millionaires, the same can be said for only one in every 1,400 people in Wales. Zoopla did not take into account the mortgage debt attaching to properties, just the number of properties valued at over £1m.

Outside London, Guildford in Surrey is the town with the most property millionaires, estimated at 5,889, followed by Cambridge and Reading. But Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire emerges as having the greatest concentration of property wealth in just one town. Zoopla found that 49% of all the houses in the town of 12,000 people nestled below the Chiltern Hills are valued at more than £1m. Agents in the town – dubbed Mayfair in the Chilterns – are currently marketing an opulent six-bed home in Beaconsfield’s “golden triangle” for £6m, boasting a cinema, wine-tasting room and its own six-person smoke-mirrored passenger lift opening on to a galleried balcony with a “Sexy Crystals” chandelier. There is a separate annexe for staff.

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The EU plays the ultimate card: Scotland. The UK has no rebuttal. None. Nada.

Brexit Plan To Keep Northern Ireland In Customs Union Triggers Row (G.)

Officials from the UK and EU are drawing up a plan to in effect keep Northern Ireland in the customs union and the single market after Brexit in order to avoid a hard border. The opening of technical talks followed a warning from Brussels that keeping the region under EU laws was currently the only viable option for inclusion in its draft withdrawal agreement. The development, first reported by the Guardian on Friday and later confirmed by the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, triggered an immediate row. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted: “If NI stays in single market, the case for Scotland also doing so is not just an academic ‘us too’ argument – it becomes a practical necessity. Otherwise we will be at a massive relative disadvantage when it comes to attracting jobs and investment.”

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a Tory MP and officer in the European Research Group of Brexit-supporting Conservatives, accused Barnier of “playing hardball”. “I am surprised that the media are reporting his comments as if they are the only voice and hard fact,” she said. “Perhaps Mr Barnier could remember that the UK is in negotiations, which is a two-way discussion.” “It is important to tell the truth,” Barnier said. “The UK decision to leave the single market and to leave the customs unions would make border checks unavoidable. Second, the UK has committed to proposing specific solutions to the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. And we are waiting for such solutions. “The third option is to maintain full regulatory alignment with those rules of the single market and the customs union, current or future, that support north-south cooperation, the all-island economy and the Good Friday agreement. “It is our responsibility to include the third option in the text of the withdrawal agreement to guarantee there will be no hard border whatever the circumstances.”

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The present European commissioner for migration and home affairs is reported to have taken €40 million in bribes. He should lose his job, today.

Greek PM Steps In To Police Exploding Novartis Bribery Investigation (FPh)

Just days after 10 former ministers in Greece were implicated in bribery allegations against Novartis, the country’s prime minister is calling for a special parliamentary committee to investigate the charges, which have been pegged as slanderous by some politicians pulled into the widening scandal. Meanwhile, three former Novartis executives believed to have provided the meat of the allegations have come under fire, even as their lawyer fights to shield their identities. The investigation targeting Novartis’s Greece offices has been going on since last January, but it blew up earlier this week when news emerged that the case would be submitted to the Greek parliament, which would then decide whether to prosecute the 10 politicians. Novartis is the target of allegations that it bribed doctors and government officials to help boost sales of its drugs.

Now Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants the special committee to look into allegations that the 10 politicians received millions of euros in exchange for fixing drug prices and granting other favors to Novartis, according to local press reports. A spokesman for Novartis told FiercePharma that the company continues “to cooperate with requests from local and foreign authorities.” Novartis has not received an indictment related to the investigation in Greece, he added. According to press accounts of the prosecutors’ report, the allegations of bribery stemmed from testimony from three witnesses who worked for Novartis. The witnesses spoke to the FBI, which joined in the investigation in Greece. The employees reported that Greece’s health minister from 2006 to 2009 took €40 million ($49 million) in exchange for ordering “a huge amount” of Novartis products, according to The Greek Reporter.

The health minister working between 2009 and 2010 allegedly accepted €120,000 ($147,000) from the company and laundered it through a computer hardware firm, the news organization added. At least one of the politicians named in the report wants the identities of the three Novartis witnesses to be revealed. Dimitris Avramopoulos, who was the health minister from 2006 to 2009 and now serves as European commissioner for migration and home affairs, held a press conference Friday during which he said he will file a lawsuit demanding the names of the witnesses be made public, according to Politico.

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How dare he use the word sovereign in this context? Greece, like all other EU nations, was and is always sovereign. Demand his resignation.

EU’s Moscovici Says Greece Will Be ‘Sovereign Country’ After Bailout (K.)

On exiting its third international bailout in August, Greece will be an “absolutely sovereign country,” European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici told a conference on Friday organized by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur and Kathimerini in Athens. “There should be no precautionary credit line,” Moscovici said. “There should be an end to the programs.” The commissioner said that Greece “did what it had to do” but that economic and structural reforms must continue. He also drew attention to an “issue of administrative competence,” without elaborating. In addition, Moscovici expressed his confidence in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who he described as “smart and flexible,” adding that their relationship was “perfect.” Tsipras and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos decided to “play ball,” Moscovici said. He further said Tsakalotos’s predecessor Yanis Varoufakis wreaked major political and financial damage on Greece.

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