Aug 262019
 


Joan Miro The farmer’s wife 1923

 

In Jackson Hole on Friday, Bank of England’s outgoing governor Mark Carney talked about a Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) that the world ‘must’ create, and I thought: that sounds as creepy as anything Halloween. Now, Carney is a central banker as well as a former Giant Squid partner, hence a certified cultist, but still.

He even mentioned Facebook’s Libra ‘currency’ as some sort of example for something that should replace the US dollar internationally. And that replacement is allegedly needed because countries are hoarding dollars. And/or “protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.” Whichever comes first, I guess?!

I’ve read quite a few comments on Carney’s speech, but far as I’ve seen they all ignore one aspect of it: the current shape and form of globalization. See, Carney can see only one thing: more centralization, more things moving more in the same direction. Remember, he’s the man who with Michael Bloomberg in 2016 wrote “How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change”. Aka things are worth doing only if they make you richer.

It’s a state of mind that works fine when you’re inside a system and an echo chamber, when you’re a central banker or a corporate banker. But there’s nothing that indicates it’s a useful state of mind when the system you’re serving must undergo change. What is as true when it comes to climate change as it is for changing the entire global economy. Carney’s got blinders on.

 

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney

Carney [..] said the problems in the financial system were encouraging protectionist and populist policies. [..] Carney warned that very low equilibrium interest rates had in the past coincided with wars, financial crises and abrupt changes in the banking system. As a first step to reorder the world’s financial system, countries could triple the resources of the IMF to $3 trillion as a better alternative to countries protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.

In other words, to reorder the world’s financial system, you must put a ton of money into a fund that has served (and failed) to uphold the old system. Really?

“While such concerted efforts can improve the functioning of the current system, ultimately a multi-polar global economy requires a new IMFS (international monetary and financial system) to realize its full potential,” Carney said. China’s yuan represented the most likely candidate to become a reserve currency to match the dollar, but it still had a long way to go before it was ready. The best solution would be a diversified multi-polar financial system, something that could be provided by technology, Carney said.

There is no doubt that the present system is a little off balance, that the USD’s role in the financial system is way bigger then America’s share of global trade. But the yuan is completely unfit as a reserve currency because it’s not freely traded. And whether “technology” could “provide a diversified multi-polar financial system” (quite the statement) is very much in question. Perhaps that is true in theory, but Carney’s claims are not only about theory -anymore-.

Facebook’s Libra was the most high-profile proposed digital currency to date but it faced a host of fundamental issues that it had yet to address. “As a consequence, it is an open question whether such a new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” Carney said.

 

The most fundamental issue about Libra would appear to be that it doesn’t exist. Then there are a whole slew of other issues, like why should Facebook and its partners play any role at all in finance. Because they’re such benign enterprises who focus on guarding your privacy? Why Carney would present it as a potential ‘solution’ is totally unclear, other than Libra is something that could fit inside his echo chamber.

I’m still nervous about crypto, too many things still go wrong, too many thefts, too many things too many people don’t understand. But I would support Bitcoin over Carney’s “network of central bank digital currencies” any day. Because that’s the creepiness of this “Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” in all its infamy.

Carney and his echo chamber banker mates seek control, we get it. But that doesn’t mean we want them to have it. Look at the present system, which they created, and the failure of which necessitates the creation of yet another system. And then they want to control that one too?

 

But that’s still all a bit of a sideshow. I’m thinking Carney is not just wearing blinders, he’s simple too late. The globalization that his proposals might serve is already past its peak. He may not be able to see beyond it, but we should.

Globalization is a process, it’s something that moves, it can’t stand still. And now that it’s fully reached China, there’s nowhere else for it to go. Sure, there are some smaller countries that might be willing to produce at even lower prices, like Vietnam or Cambodia, but they could never do it at the same scale as China has.

The same goes for Africa. Moving the entire manufacturing capacity to Africa that was transferred from the west to China starting 20-30 years ago, would be such a logistical nightmare nobody would seriously consider it, And so we have come to a standstill. Globalization can no longer move, because it has nowhere to move to. The world is as fully globalized as it ever will be. But globalization is a process.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the only thing it can really do is to move back. For a number of different reasons, I think that’s exactly what will happen. And I don’t think that’s all that bad. Trump is of course already preparing part of that move with his tariffs war. But it can, and I’m quite sure will, go much further.

If globalization only means, and is restricted to, the transfer of manufacturing anything and everything from the US and Europe to China, and that’s what it appears to mean, the drawback for the former(s) is painfully obvious. So is the one for the planet.

 

It may make sense to produce high end products, like intricate complex electronics, in one location in the world, but why on earth should China produce our underwear? Yeah, they can do it cheaper, sure, but the main effect of that is it kills our jobs. The narrative about this over the past few decades has been that we were building a ‘knowledge economy’ or a ‘service economy’, but that’s a whole lot of BS.

Not only do we now depend on China to make our underwear, all those panties and shorts and shirts have to be hauled halfway across the planet by fossil-fuel-powered behemoth container ships. While we could make them right where we live, pay people a living wage to do it, and lower pollution in the process. Not a hard choice, even if your boxers would cost a dollar more.

And whether you worry about the planet and climate and species extinction or not, enough people do to make it an ever growing factor in decision making on these topics. And there’s more. Henry Ford understood it: people must be paid enough to afford your products if your business is to be successful. The whole “globalization” towards lower wage countries has not only lowered prices in the US and Europe, but also wages.

And that in turn has opened the way towards higher pay for executives, higher stock prices and dividends etc., in other words towards more inequality. Very few people understand the mechanics that drive this, but more of them will and must as their wages become the same as those in China.

 

So anyway, Mark Carney’s grand Synthetic Hegemonic plans are too little too late. Not that that will keep him from blabbing about them, he represents the ruling classes after all, which are doing just fine and would like to be doing even finer. But even he, and they, cannot deny that globalization is like a shark that dies when it can no longer move. Scary movie title: Globalization Never Sleeps…

And Trump plays his role in this just dandy. Not that he’s the smartest guy around, far from it, but he does recognize how globalization hurts America. And that China, a third world country not long ago, is now perhaps the world’s largest economy and will have to be subject to entirely different rules and scrutiny than in, say, 1980.

China must open up its economy to US and EU products, or the latter must close theirs to what China produces. That’s what the trade war, and/or the currency war, the whole enchilada, is about. And perhaps it needed an elephant like Trump to say it, but that’s not important. The entire world economy has reached the limits of its lopsided-ness , and the imbalance must be fixed. Simple stuff.

I’ve been using underwear as an example, but we all know -or we could- how much of what we purchase daily comes from China. Well, that, too, like globalization, and because of it, has reached its peak. We will make our own underwear again. It that a bad thing? How? Henry Ford would have understood it is not, even if he might have been the first to move his production lines to Shenzhen if he would have had the option.

Ford understood the link between prices and wages, but that knowledge appears to be gone. Except perhaps in China, but their model relies exclusively on exports and that can’t last either. Ford sought to sell his cars to his own workers. Which is just about the very opposite of what today’s financial elites are after, and why Carney wants a -belated- Synthetic Hegemonic Currency.

See the point? I predict Carney and his ilk will propose a cloud-based world currency soon, ‘guaranteed’ by -probably- the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but that is totally unfit for the role they have in mind.

Because you don’t need such a currency to pay for the underwear that’s produced by your neighbors just down the road. You only need it for the underwear that comes from China.

 

 

 

 

Aug 242019
 


Frank Walton Crows on a beach 1884

 

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney (R.)
China Strikes Back At US With New Tariffs On $75 Billion In Goods (R.)
Trump Heaps Another 5% Tariff On Chinese Goods In Latest Escalation (R.)
Majority Of Americans Don’t Want Trump Impeached, Removed From Office (USAT)
CNN Hires Former FBI #2 Andy McCabe, Who Was Fired For Leaking And Lying (ZH)
Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship (Webb)
Bill Barr And Bill Clinton (Webb)
Long Before Epstein: Sex Traffickers & Spy Agencies (Vos)
Psychologist Approved Jeffrey Epstein’s Removal From Suicide Watch (R.)
France Launches Rape Inquiry in Jeffrey Epstein Case (BBC)
Lost at Sea (Kunstler)
Tulsi Gabbard Victimized by DNC’s Dubious Debate Criteria (Tracey)

 

 

“Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” sounds creepy to me.

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney (R.)

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney took aim at the U.S. dollar’s “destabilizing” role in the world economy on Friday and said central banks might need to join together to create their own replacement reserve currency. The dollar’s dominance of the global financial system increased the risks of a liquidity trap of ultra-low interest rates and weak growth, Carney told central bankers from around the world gathered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the United States. “While the world economy is being reordered, the U.S. dollar remains as important as when Bretton Woods collapsed,” Carney said, referring to the end of the dollar’s peg to gold in the early 1970s. Emerging economies had increased their share of global activity to 60% from around 45% before the financial crisis a decade ago, Carney said.

But the dollar was still used for at least half of international trade invoices – five times more than the United States’ share of world goods imports – fuelling demand for U.S. assets and exposing many countries to damaging spillovers from swings in the U.S. economy. Carney – who was considered a candidate to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund but failed to secure backing from Europe’s governments – said the problems in financial system were encouraging protectionist and populist policies. [..] Carney warned that very low equilibrium interest rates had in the past coincided with wars, financial crises and abrupt changes in the banking system. As a first step to reorder the world’s financial system, countries could triple the resources of the IMF to $3 trillion as a better alternative to countries protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.

“While such concerted efforts can improve the functioning of the current system, ultimately a multi-polar global economy requires a new IMFS (international monetary and financial system) to realize its full potential,” Carney said. China’s yuan represented the most likely candidate to become a reserve currency to match the dollar, but it still had a long way to go before it was ready. The best solution would be a diversified multi-polar financial system, something that could be provided by technology, Carney said. Facebook’s Libra was the most high-profile proposed digital currency to date but it faced a host of fundamental issues that it had yet to address. “As a consequence, it is an open question whether such a new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” Carney said.

Read more …

Globalization is dead.

China Strikes Back At US With New Tariffs On $75 Billion In Goods (R.)

China said on Friday it will impose retaliatory tariffs against about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, putting as much as an extra 10% on top of existing rates in the dispute between the world’s top two economies. The latest salvo from China comes after the United States unveiled tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, including consumer electronics, scheduled to go into effect in two stages on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. China will impose additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products originating from the United States including agricultural products such as soybeans, crude oil and small aircraft. China is also reinstituting tariffs on cars and auto parts originating from the United States.

Read more …

Dead as a doornail.

Trump Heaps Another 5% Tariff On Chinese Goods In Latest Escalation (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday lashed back at a new round of Chinese tariffs by heaping an additional 5% duty on some $550 billion in targeted Chinese goods in the latest tit-for-tat trade war escalation by the world’s two largest economies. Trump’s move, announced on Twitter, came hours after China unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods, prompting the president earlier in the day to demand U.S. companies move their operations out of China. The intensifying U.S.-China trade war stoked market fears that the global economy will tip into recession, sending U.S. stocks into a tailspin, with the Nasdaq Compositedown 3%, and the S&P 500 down 2.6%. U.S. Treasury yields also declined as investors sought safe-haven assets, and crude oil, targeted for the first time by Chinese tariffs, fell sharply.


Trump’s tariff response was announced after markets closed on Friday, leaving potentially more damage for next week. “Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer,” Trump said on Twitter. “As President, I can no longer allow this to happen!” He said the United States would raise its existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports to 30% from the current 25% beginning on Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the communist People’s Republic of China. At the same time, Trump announced an increase in planned tariffs on the remaining $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to 15% from 10%.

Read more …

Don’t take Nadler’s hobby away.

Majority Of Americans Don’t Want Trump Impeached, Removed From Office (USAT)

A majority of Americans oppose impeaching President Donald Trump, according to a new poll by Monmouth University released Thursday. The data point – with 59% of those surveyed responding that Trump should not be impeached and compelled to leave office – comes as Trump’s approval rating remains at 40% in the same poll. In the poll, there is a clear partisan divide on whether the House Judiciary Committee should pursue an impeachment inquiry. While 72% of Democrats believe such an inquiry is a good idea, only 39% of independents and 8% of Republicans share that belief. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. confirmed the launch of an impeachment inquiry by his House panel earlier this month in an interview on CNN.

Additionally, Nadler sent a letter Thursday asking four other Democratic House committee chairs currently leading investigations into Trump to share documents to aid his committee’s investigation into possible obstruction and other abuses, which could lead to potentially filing articles of impeachment against the president. Nadler wrote to Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. He asked for “documents and testimony, depositions, and/or interview transcripts that you believe may be relevant to the Judiciary Committee’s ongoing impeachment investigation relating to President Trump.”

The Monmouth University poll surveyed 800 adults in the U.S. via telephone from August 16-20, 2019. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Read more …

Neither Orwell nor Bizzarro World have anything on this: CNN just hired the FBI’s former no. 2, who was fired for lying to his own employer/agency. For which he should obviously be in jail, but he’s not. Want to guess where you would be if you lied to the FBI? Ask George Papadopoulos. His lie was superficial slash meaningless at best, but he served time. McCabe’s lies are a whole different universe.

CNN Hires Former FBI #2 Andy McCabe, Who Was Fired For Leaking And Lying (ZH)

Another Ex-Obama official has joined the ranks of anti-Trump cable news punditry, this time disgraced FBI #2 Andrew McCabe, who was fired for leaking information to the media – then lying about it at least four times, including under oath. Now, McCabe – who is suing the DOJ and FBI over what he claims was a “politically motivated” firing just days before he was set to retire with full benefits,” will join former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at CNN. Succinctly put by The Federalist’s Mollie Hemmingway: “Andrew McCabe, one of the central figures of the “Russia collusion” hoax, who was fired from the FBI for lying about his leaks to the media, has been hired by CNN, one of the media outlets that did the most to perpetuate the damaging hoax.” – Mollie (@MZHemingway) August 23, 2019

McCabe authorized an FBI spokesman to tell the Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett – just days before the 2016 US election, that the FBI hadn’t put the brakes on an investigation into the Clinton Foundation – at a time in which McCabe was coming under fire for his wife taking a $467,500 campaign contribution from Clinton associate, Terry McAuliffe. As noted above, McCabe then lied about the leak at least four times and was subsequently fired over it. McCabe claimed that his boss, also-fired former FBI Director James Comey, was well aware of the leaks. Comey shot back on ABC’s The View, calling McCabe a liar.

Comey was asked by host Megan McCain how he thought the public was supposed to have “confidence” in the FBI amid revelations that McCabe lied about the leak. “It’s not okay. The McCabe case illustrates what an organization committed to the truth looks like,” Comey said, adding “Good people lie … I still believe Andrew McCabe is a good person but the inspector general found he lied,” noting that there are “severe consequences” within the DOJ for doing so.

Read more …

Part 4 of Whitney Webb’s incredible series on sexual blackmail.

“Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity.. [..] It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion. ”

Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship (Webb)

[..] these sexual blackmail operations proliferated during the Iran-Contra affair, which involved this same dark alliance between U.S./Israeli intelligence and organized crime. Though this series has thus far largely focused on the ties of Republican officials to those operations and associated crimes, the final installment of this series will focus on Democratic politicians, namely the Clinton family, and their ties to this same network as well as Jeffrey Epstein. The Clintons’ own involvement in Iran-Contra revolved around the covert activities at Arkansas’ Mena Airport, which involved the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and occurred while Clinton was governor.

Just a few years into the Clinton presidential administration, Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein would play a major role in Southern Air Transport’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio, leading to concerns among top Ohio officials that both men were not only working with the CIA, but that Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to use the CIA-linked airline for smuggling. During that same period of time, Epstein had already forged close ties to important Clinton White House officials and prominent Clinton donors like Lynn Forester de Rothschild and made several personal visits to the official presidential residence.

Some of these ties appear related to Epstein’s shady financial activities, particularly involving currency markets and offshore tax havens — activities he began to perfect while working for prominent Iran-Contra figures in the early 1980s, several of whom were tied to the CIA-linked bank Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and had known relationships with Israeli intelligence, namely the Mossad. The nature of Epstein’s work for these individuals and other evidence strongly suggests that Epstein himself had a relationship with BCCI after leaving Bear Stearns and prior to the bank’s collapse in 1991.

Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity, a relationship still under investigation by MintPress. It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion.

Read more …

From the same Whitney Webb article. This part warrants attention.

Bill Barr And Bill Clinton (Webb)

After Clinton’s half-brother Roger was busted for cocaine smuggling (Clinton would later pardon him while president) the CIA sought to move Contra operations out of Arkansas, hoping to put a damper on the increasingly public and sloppy Arkansas-based operation. According to Terry Reed in his book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, co-written with John Cummings, a hushed meeting was held in a bunker at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During the meeting, William Barr, who represented himself as the emissary of then-CIA Director Bill Casey told Clinton: “The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business but what we didn’t plan on was you and your n****r here start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry.”

Barr chastised Clinton for his sloppy handling of the delicate operation and his half-brother’s very public fall from grace. He would later tell Clinton, according to Reed, “Bill, you are Mr. Casey’s fair-haired boy … You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you’re No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you’ve always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.” Attempts to investigate Clinton’s role in the Mena operations and more broadly in the Iran-Contra affair were allegedly axed by Clinton’s own confidantes, who consistently denied he played a role in the scandal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, former IRS investigator William Duncan teamed with Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch in what became a decade-long battle to bring the matter to light. In fact, of the nine separate state and federal probes into the affair, all failed. Duncan would later say of the investigations, “[They] were interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was subverted,” and a 1992 memo from Duncan to high-ranking members of the attorney general’s staff notes that Duncan was instructed “to remove all files concerning the Mena investigation from the attorney general’s office.” The attorney general, serving under George H. W. Bush, at that time was William Barr, who is currently attorney general under Trump.

Read more …

This stuff is so institutionalized, so deeply engrained in our societies, that is will be very hard to get rid of.

Long Before Epstein: Sex Traffickers & Spy Agencies (Vos)

In the U.S., the New York State Select Committee On Crime in 1982 investigated nationwide networks of trafficking underage sex workers and producing child pornography. Dale Smith, a committee investigator, noted that call services using minors also profited from “sidelines,” besides the income from peddling prostitution. Smith said they sold information “on the sexual proclivities of the clients to agents of foreign intelligence.” Presumably, this information could be used to blackmail those in positions of power. Smith added that one call service sold information to “British and Israeli intelligence.”

Another U.K. scandal included allegations that Sir Peter Hayman, a British diplomat and deputy director of MI6, was a member of the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE). Police discovered that two of the roughly dozen pedophiles in his circle had been writing to each other about their interest in “the extreme sexual torture and murder of children,” according to the The Daily Mail. In 2015, The Guardian reported that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been “adamant that officials should not publicly name” Hayman, “even after she had been fully briefed on his activities….formerly secret papers released to the National Archives shows.”

Still, Hayman was unmasked as a subscriber to PIE in 1981 by M.P. Geoffrey Dickens, who also reportedly raised the national security risk of Hayman’s proclivities, implying they were a potential source of blackmail sought by intelligence agencies. The British tabloid The Mirror reported that intelligence agencies, including the KGB and CIA, kept their own dossiers on U.K. establishment figures involved with PIE and the abuse of minors, to blackmail the targets in exchange for information.

Read more …

Makes very little sense. Suicide watch is a serious thing, and all it takes is one psychologist?

Psychologist Approved Jeffrey Epstein’s Removal From Suicide Watch (R.)

A psychologist at the federal detention center in New York City where financier Jeffrey Epstein was jailed on sex-trafficking charges had approved his removal from suicide watch before he killed himself, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday. The disclosure came in a letter dated on Thursday from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd and addressed to the leaders of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, seeking details about the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death earlier this month. Epstein, who was 66, was found dead Aug. 10 in his cell inside a segregated housing unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. An autopsy concluded that he hanged himself.


His death triggered investigations by the FBI, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which runs the detention facility. The Boyd letter, provided to Reuters on Friday, confirmed that Epstein had been placed on suicide watch in July, a status under which the designated prisoner is held in a special cell under constant observation by staff or “inmate companions.” Epstein was “later removed from suicide watch after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist who determined that a suicide watch was no longer warranted,” Boyd wrote in the three-page letter. The letter did not state precisely why a suicide watch had been ordered for Epstein. But Epstein in July had been found unconscious on the floor of his cell with marks on his neck, and officials had been investigating that incident as a possible suicide attempt or assault.

Read more …

Maybe it takes the French to dig deep enough. Certainly wouldn’t bet on Bill Barr doing the job.

France Launches Rape Inquiry in Jeffrey Epstein Case (BBC)

French prosecutors have opened an inquiry into rape allegations against the late US financier Jeffrey Epstein. [..] He had an apartment in Paris, and French gender equality minister Marlène Schiappa had called for an inquiry into any abuses committed on French soil. On Friday Paris prosecutors launched a probe for “rape” and “sexual assault”. [..] Epstein spent plenty of time in Paris and owned a luxury apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. Investigations “will focus on potential crimes committed against French victims… and on suspects who are French citizens”, Paris Prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement.


A French advocacy group for child sex abuse victims, Innocence En Danger (Innocence at Risk), said this week it had received 10 witness statements involving Epstein regarding alleged sex crimes committed against minors on French soil. Epstein was also friends with French modelling tycoon Jean-Luc Brunel, who was accused in US court documents of procuring young girls for Epstein, along with allegations of rape. Mr Brunel has denied the accusations.

Read more …

“The Democratic contest may be peaking way too early. And Joe Biden hasn’t even had a chance to claim he is the out-of-wedlock grandson of W.C. Handy.”

Lost at Sea (Kunstler)

Elizabeth Warren set the stage for anointing herself America’s Race Hustler-in-Chief by addressing the niggling matter of her former claim to be a Cherokee Indian, since disproven by a DNA test. There was loose talk, you see, that she used the Cherokee ruse to bamboozle her overseers on the Harvard Plantation, where she got to work in the Big House known as the Harvard Law School based on her “diversity” bona fides — a “minority hire!” The claim was so transparently idiotic and dishonest that she was desperate to walk it back as delicately as possible, in order to keep up with the race hustling of her fellow pols chasing the nomination. A rain dance was arranged in the aptly-named heartland town of Sioux City.

“Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” said Ms. Warren, who was met with a standing ovation when she took the stage [The Times reported]. “I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.” Was a more disingenuous political statement ever contrived? A bundle of devious platitudinous promises of the sort that white people always offered the indigenous folk at a thousand crooked treaty councils? It would have been a little more satisfying, perhaps, if Ms. Warren had specified the mistakes made, e.g. I was falsely claiming a racial identity for career advancement. Now that’s an apology!

“Listening and learning?” I dunno… sounds a little like groveling and pandering. Anyone can choke down a few bites of humble pie but please don’t make me eat that shit sandwich! The Democratic contest may be peaking way too early. And Joe Biden hasn’t even had a chance to claim he is the out-of-wedlock grandson of W.C. Handy. There are indications that the political center is already a little tired of the Everything-Is-Racist trope that the party ran up the flagpole this summer. For The New York Times, it became the publicly acknowledged official editorial slant when newsroom chief Dean Baquet announced that the paper needed a replacement for the shredded gonfalon of RussiaGate.

Read more …

Is the DNC secretly working for Trump?

Gabbard torpedoed Kamala Harris’s shot at the job. That won’t be forgiven.

Tulsi Gabbard Victimized by DNC’s Dubious Debate Criteria (Tracey)

Tulsi Gabbard is on the verge of being excluded from the next Democratic presidential debate on the basis of criteria that appear increasingly absurd. Take, for instance, her poll standing in New Hampshire, which currently places Gabbard at 3.3% support, according to the RealClearPolitics average as of Aug. 20. One might suspect that such a figure would merit inclusion in the upcoming debates — especially considering she’s ahead of several candidates who have already been granted entry, including Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang. But the Democratic National Committee has decreed that the polls constituting this average are not sufficiently “qualifying.”

What makes a poll “qualifying” in the eyes of the DNC? The answer is conspicuously inscrutable. Months ago, party chieftains issued a list of “approved sponsoring organizations/institutions” for polls that satisfy their criteria for debate admittance. Not appearing on that list is the Boston Globe, which sponsored a Suffolk University poll published Aug. 6 that placed Gabbard at 3%. The DNC had proclaimed that for admittance to the September and October debates, candidates must secure polling results of 2% or more in four separate “approved” polls – but a poll sponsored by the newspaper with the largest circulation in New Hampshire (the Globe recently surpassed the New Hampshire Union Leader there) does not count, per this cockamamie criteria.

There has not been an officially qualifying poll in New Hampshire, Gabbard’s best state, in over a month. The absurdity mounts. A South Carolina poll published Aug. 14 by the Post and Courier placed Gabbard at 2%. One might have again vainly assumed that the newspaper with the largest circulation in a critical early primary state would be an “approved” sponsor per the dictates of the DNC, but it is not. Curious.

Read more …

 

Cerberus, the early days.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 012019
 
 August 1, 2019  Posted by at 9:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Trees by the Gein at Moonrise 1908

 

Jerome Powell Finds Another Way To Please Nobody (R.)
The Fed’s Massive Debt for Equity Swap (RIA)
Mario Draghi Lays Out Plan For A Dangerous Round Of Stimulus (Sinn)
PBOC Keeps Powder Dry After Fed Rate Cut, But More Easing Expected (R.)
Bank of England To Lean Against Market Rate Cut Bets As Brexit Nears (R.)
Capitalism Is Part Of Solution To Climate Crisis, Says Mark Carney (G.)
UK’s Biggest Financial Scandal Bites Its Biggest Bank – Again (Coppola)
Jeffrey Epstein Could Spend At Least A Year In Jail Before Trial (F.)
James Comey’s Next Reckoning Is Imminent — This Time For Leaking (Solomon)
Judge’s Ruling Throws Huge Spanner Into Assange Extradition Proceedings (Can.)
Beijing Orders Arabic, Muslim Symbols Taken Down (R.)

 

 

A lot of seemingly serious people are commenting on the bad theater the Democratic debate has become. Nothing better to do with your lives?! It doesn’t matter what any of the ‘candidates’ says or does, the DNC will pull another Bernie 2016. It’s bad theater, it’s cheap, you’re being had, and everyone who watches it should watch themselves instead.

Yeah, just like the central banks. To clean up the US economy, you have to take -most of- the Fed’s powers away. To clean up US politics, you have to burn down the DNC. Or Trump will win forever.

Jerome Powell Finds Another Way To Please Nobody (R.)

The Federal Reserve has turned. The U.S. central bank on Wednesday cut its target overnight interest cost by a quarter percentage point, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. For some, like U.S. President Donald Trump, that’s surely not enough. For others – and going by most economic statistics – it’s too much. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has found another way to please nobody. The last federal-funds rate reduction was in 2008, as the financial crisis cut deep. It then bounced along near zero for seven years before Powell’s predecessor, Janet Yellen, oversaw the start of a period of gradual rate hikes in late 2015. Since a quarter-point hike last December, the Fed had held steady at 2.25%-2.5%, until now.

The proximate causes of the move are external – mainly the threat to economic activity from Trump’s confrontational stance on trade. It’s a telling irony that a president who claims the Fed is damping the benefits of his policies by holding rates too high is providing one of the few reasons for the U.S. central bank to cut them. Wednesday’s modest move by the Federal Open Market Committee surely won’t satisfy him. Yet seen through the lens of the Fed’s dual mandate – full employment and stable prices – everything is still humming as the longest expansion in U.S. history enters its second decade, with economic growth steady, unemployment at historic lows and inflation tame. Prices increased just 1.4% in the year to June by the personal consumption expenditures measure, released on Tuesday.

The Fed would prefer inflation nearer its 2% target but that’s a somewhat flimsy rationale for lower rates given the backdrop. A significant minority of traders, meanwhile, expected a half-point cut, according to CME data, so they’ll be disappointed, too – even though buoyant stock and credit markets are hardly crying for help. Two of Powell’s colleagues also dissented, preferring not to cut rates, so they’re unhappy for a different reason.

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As everyone is staring at a 25 bps cut, here’s where the action is. An economy distorted beyond recognition.

The Fed’s Massive Debt for Equity Swap (RIA)

Since QE began, nearly 30% of the new corporate debt issued was used for stock buybacks. Putting the pieces of the mosaic together, it is fair to say the most intense corporate debt-for-equity swap in recorded history was enabled by the Fed via monetary policy and the federal government through tax-cuts. This is symptomatic of a variety of issues that have been created by prolonged extraordinary monetary policy. In the same way that corporate behavior has been seriously altered as described above, every central bank in the developed world has undertaken even more extreme measures to foster growth, dictating that the behavior of market participants transform in some manner.


The chart below is a stark reminder of how the Fed has changed the natural order of the corporate debt market. Over the past 25 years, when corporate debt loads became onerous, investors required higher yields and wider spreads to compensate them for the added risks. Today, despite the extreme amount of corporate leverage and the low quality of corporate credit, junk spreads remain near all-time lows. As shown below and highlighted by the red arrow, the long-standing correlation between leverage and high yield spreads is broken.

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Making sure Lagarde must stick with the program. Draghi is the craziest of them all.

Mario Draghi Lays Out Plan For A Dangerous Round Of Stimulus (Sinn)

Expectations – and, for many economists, rather bad ones – have been confirmed: the European Central Bank has decided to inflate the eurozone. Following the ECB’s latest policy meeting on 25 July, the outgoing president Mario Draghi made it clear that the bank’s seemingly harmless inflation target of 1.9% will in fact be the basis for a new phase of expansionary monetary policy over the next few years. This will go well beyond the ECB’s stimulus measures to date and is likely to pose further risks to the European economy. We should remember that the Maastricht treaty assigned the ECB the single, non-negotiable goal of maintaining stable prices, which, if taken literally, would mean an inflation rate of zero.

This is very different from the mandate given to other central banks. The introduction of the euro, however, caused interest rates in southern Europe to fall, leading to an inflationary bubble that raised annual price growth to well over 2% in some countries. The ECB’s governing council then argued that the goal of price stability could not be achieved exactly and also pointed to several measurement errors that complicate policymaking. So, the authorities said, they would tolerate average inflation of up to 2% for the eurozone as a whole. The governing council did not fancy a restrictive monetary policy aimed at reducing inflation, as it gave only little weight to the risk of reducing competitiveness in some countries and did not want to slow down countries in stagnation such as Germany.

Then came the euro crisis. With inflation plummeting, the ECB turned the still-tolerable upper limit for the inflation rate into its target. Suddenly, it was argued, the bank would seek to achieve inflation of “close to, but below 2%”. Draghi even went before the television cameras to claim in all seriousness that this was the ECB’s mandate. And now, at the end of his term of office, Draghi is seeking to bind his successor, Christine Lagarde, to a council decision that will force her to aim for 1.9% inflation with a symmetrical concern about potential deviations. In plain language, this means the ECB will try to achieve this figure on average over time, netting out future above-average inflation rates with below-average inflation in recent years.

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Xi demands total control. Trump wants Powell to make him look good, Xi demands that tripled and cubed. And he gets no dissent.

PBOC Keeps Powder Dry After Fed Rate Cut, But More Easing Expected (R.)

China’s central bank kept its main policy rates on hold on Thursday, opting not to follow an overnight benchmark rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve as policymakers wait to see if earlier support measures start to stabilize the economy. But market watchers say continued support is still needed, and expect more modest forms of policy easing from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) in coming months if pressure on the economy persists. Amid mounting worries about risks to global growth, the Fed lowered its benchmark rate by a quarter-point on Wednesday, as expected, but the head of the U.S. central bank ruled out a long series of cuts.


Though China’s central bank does not always follow the Fed’s moves in lockstep, some analysts had thought a token PBOC cut, likely in one of its short-term rates, was a possibility. However, no move was apparent by midday on Thursday. The PBOC refrained from daily open market operations (OMOs) early in the session, saying banking system liquidity was “reasonably ample”. “The PBOC skipped OMOs and hence there was no rate adjustment,” said Frances Cheung, head of Asia macro strategy at Westpac in Singapore. “The market may need to wait until mid-August when the next tranche of medium term lending facility (MLF) matures to see if there is any action. Arguably they can adjust policy parameters anytime, and are not constrained by any meeting schedule, but we see no pressure on OMO rates.”

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No-deal Brexit is a big headache for Carney. He still has a full three months to go after Halloween. It will be messy.

Bank of England To Lean Against Market Rate Cut Bets As Brexit Nears (R.)

The Bank of England is likely to push back on Thursday against investors who bet that it will follow other central banks and cut rates in the coming months, even as the risk of a messy Brexit darkens growth prospects. Economists polled by Reuters are almost certain that the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee will vote 9-0 to keep rates on hold at 0.75%. But it is less clear how Governor Mark Carney will tackle the challenge posed by a possible no-deal Brexit. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a transition deal if Brussels does not rewrite the deal it hammered out with his predecessor Theresa May.


The risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit that could push Britain into a recession means interest rate futures now price in an almost 90% chance of a 25 basis point rate cut before Carney steps down at the end of January. The U.S. Federal Reserve reduced its main interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, and the European Central Bank is expected to take similar action next month, as both battle a slowdown driven by the U.S.-China trade conflict. But the BoE says Britain is a special case. Chief economist Andy Haldane highlighted last week how British rates had not risen to anything like the extent they had in the United States, while Britain’s job market and inflation were much more buoyant than in the euro zone.

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Carney wrote that article with Michael Bloomberg talking about how to make a profit off of disaster. And here again: ..there will be great fortunes made along this path aligned with what society wants.” Dangerous.

Capitalism Is Part Of Solution To Climate Crisis, Says Mark Carney (G.)

Capitalism is “very much part of the solution” to tackling the climate crisis, according to the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. Challenged in an interview by the Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow over whether capitalism itself was fuelling the climate emergency, Carney gave a strident defence of the economic system predicated on private ownership and growth but said companies that ignored climate change would “go bankrupt without question”. “Capitalism is part of the solution and part of what we need to do,” he said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday.

The economist, who previously worked for Goldman Sachs, said he recognised the costs of ignoring climate change were rising, but stressed there were increasing opportunities for “doing something about it”, and that capital would shift in this direction. “Now there is $120tn of capital behind that framework that is saying to companies: ‘Tell us how you are going to manage these risks’ – that’s the first thing,” Carney said.

“The second thing the capitalist system needs to do is to manage the risks around climate change, be ready for the different speeds of the adjustment. And then the most important thing is to move capital from where it is today to where it needs to be tomorrow. The system is very much part of the solution.” He added: “Companies that don’t adapt – including companies in the financial system – will go bankrupt without question. [But] there will be great fortunes made along this path aligned with what society wants.”

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Corrupt to the core.

UK’s Biggest Financial Scandal Bites Its Biggest Bank – Again (Coppola)

To the surprise of markets and the chagrin of shareholders, the U.K.’s largest lender, Lloyds Banking Group, has reported disappointing profits for the second quarter of 2019. And no, it’s not because of Boris Johnson’s antics or the prospect of no-deal Brexit. It’s the final flourish of a much older issue – the U.K.’s long-running PPI scandal. Lloyds has had to take an additional provision of £550m ($670m) to cover a flurry of new PPI claims. This reduced its half-year profit to a paltry £2.2bn ($2.7bn). The share price dropped 5% on the news. Mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) is by far the U.K.’s biggest financial scandal.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says that since January 2011, British banks and financial institutions have paid out £37.5bn ($45.73bn) in compensation to customers who were wrongly sold PPI insurance. Lloyds Banking Group alone accounts for more than half of this total. The origins of the scandal date back to the 1990s, when financial institutions in the U.K. started selling PPI on lending products including mortgages, car loans and credit cards. PPI was meant to cover loan interest and repayments if the customer became unable to pay, for example due to illness or unemployment. As it was highly profitable for lenders and insurance companies, it was, unsurprisingly, heavily promoted. By 2005, there were an estimated 20 million PPI contracts in existence with annual gross premiums of over £5bn ($6.1bn).

PPI was expensive: premiums could raise the cost of a loan by up to 50%. And it mostly didn’t work. In 2005, the U.K.’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) complained that there were so many exclusion clauses in the contracts and administrative barriers to claiming that many people couldn’t make successful claims. Furthermore, the CAB reported, people were being sold policies that they did not need or were unsuitable for them.

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Over a million pages of evidence. Ghislaine Maxwell must have bought an industrial scale shredder.

Jeffrey Epstein Could Spend At Least A Year In Jail Before Trial (F.)

A Wednesday court hearing determined that Jeffrey Epstein’s trial for two federal counts of sex trafficking and conspiracy will begin no sooner than June 8, 2020, while his lawyers requested more time to prepare “a case of this magnitude.” Prosecutors said in the hearing that bringing the case to trial quickly is in the public’s interest. Epstein’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, said they expect to review more than one million pages of evidence while preparing his case. Given the large amount of evidence, Epstein’s team asked for his trial to begin in September 2020, after Labor Day.


Wednesday’s hearing was Epstein’s first court appearance after a possible suicide attempt, and a day after he was reportedly served a new lawsuit from a woman claiming he raped her as a 15-year-old. He showed no signs of injuries, specifically bruising on his neck, from the potential suicide attempt. Epstein is being held in a Manhattan jail without bail, and will likely remain there until his trial begins next year. If convicted, he could spend up to 45 years in prison.

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Horowitz was ready to go. Barr said too soon.

James Comey’s Next Reckoning Is Imminent — This Time For Leaking (Solomon)

The Justice Department’s chief watchdog is preparing a damning report on James Comey’s conduct in his final days as FBI director that likely will conclude he leaked classified information and showed a lack of candor after his own agency began looking into his feud with President Trump over the Russia probe. Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s team referred Comey for possible prosecution under the classified information protection laws, but Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors working for Attorney General William Barr reportedly have decided to decline prosecution — a decision that’s likely to upset Comey’s conservative critics.

Prosecutors found the IG’s findings compelling but decided not to bring charges because they did not believe they had enough evidence of Comey’s intent to violate the law, according to multiple sources. The concerns stem from the fact that one memo that Comey leaked to a friend specifically to be published by the media — as he admitted in congressional testimony — contained information classified at the lowest level of “confidential,” and that classification was made by the FBI after Comey had transmitted the information, the sources said. Although a technical violation, the DOJ did not want to “make its first case against the Russia investigators with such thin margins and look petty and vindictive,” a source told me, explaining the DOJ’s rationale.

But Comey and others inside the FBI and the DOJ during his tenure still face legal jeopardy in ongoing probes by the IG and Barr-appointed special prosecutor John Durham. Those investigations are focused on the origins of the Russia investigation that included a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting the Trump campaign at the end of the 2016 election, the source said.

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It all hinges on Julian helping -and failing- Chelsea (Bradley) find an identity to hide behind.

Judge’s Ruling Throws Huge Spanner Into Assange Extradition Proceedings (Can.)

A US judge has ruled that WikiLeaks was fully entitled to publish the Democratic National Congress (DNC) emails, which means no law was broken. The ruling is highly significant as it could impact upon the US extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as well as the ongoing imprisonment of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. On 30 July, federal judge John G. Koeltl ruled on a case brought against WikiLeaks and other parties in regard to the alleged hacking of DNC emails and concluded that: “If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet.”

In other words, if WikiLeaks is subject to prosecution, then every media outlet in the world would be. The judge argued that: “[T]he First Amendment prevents such liability in the same way it would preclude liability for press outlets that publish materials of public interest despite defects in the way the materials were obtained so long as the disseminator did not participate in any wrongdoing in obtaining the materials in the first place.” Significantly, the judge added that it’s not criminal to solicit or “welcome” stolen documents, and how: “A person is entitled to publish stolen documents that the publisher requested from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft.”

[..] Greg Barns, a barrister and longtime adviser to the Assange campaign, told The Canary: “The Court, in dismissing the case, found that the First Amendment protected WikiLeaks’ right to publish illegally secured private or classified documents of public interest, applying the same First Amendment standard as was used in justifying the The New York Times publication of the Pentagon Papers. That right exists, so long as a publisher does not join in any illegal acts that the source may have committed to obtain that information. But that doesn’t include common journalistic practices, such as requesting or soliciting documents or actively collaborating with a source. So this case is important in restating what is and is not protected under the First Amendment. But does it have implications for the extradition hearing? Well it certainly helps to remind the courts in the UK that the First Amendment protection is very broad.”

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Moving backward.

Beijing Orders Arabic, Muslim Symbols Taken Down (R.)

Authorities in the Chinese capital have ordered halal restaurants and food stalls to remove Arabic script and symbols associated with Islam from their signs, part of an expanding national effort to “Sinicize” its Muslim population. Employees at 11 restaurants and shops in Beijing selling halal products and visited by Reuters in recent days said officials had told them to remove images associated with Islam, such as the crescent moon and the word “halal” written in Arabic, from signs. Government workers from various offices told one manager of a Beijing noodle shop to cover up the “halal” in Arabic on his shop’s sign, and then watched him do it.


“They said this is foreign culture and you should use more Chinese culture,” said the manager, who, like all restaurant owners and employees who spoke to Reuters, declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue. The campaign against Arabic script and Islamic images marks a new phase of a drive that has gained momentum since 2016, aimed at ensuring religions conform with mainstream Chinese culture. The campaign has included the removal of Middle Eastern-style domes on many mosques around the country in favor of Chinese-style pagodas. China, home to 20 million Muslims, officially guarantees freedom of religion, but the government has campaigned to bring the faithful into line with Communist Party ideology.

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Jun 222019
 


Pablo Picasso Composition (Minotaur And Woman) 1 1936

 

The Dow Is On Pace For Its Best June Return In 80 Years (MW)
US Banks Clear First Hurdle Of Federal Reserve’s Annual Stress Test (R.)
Carney Rejects Boris Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit Trade Claim (G.)
Just One Week Left To Save British Steel (G.)
Crude Steel Production: China Knocks the Socks off Rest of the World (WS)
China State Media Urges US To Drop Win-At-All-Costs Trade Stance (R.)
Crazyland (Kunstler)
Hong Kong Protesters ‘Besiege’ Police HQ (AFP)
Bernie Sanders Faces Mounting Opposition From Moderate Democrats (G.)
UN Rights Chief Says Venezuela Should Release Jailed Opponents (AFP)
Lethal Plastic Trash Now Common In Greece’s Whales (AP)

 

 

As three quarters of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. The Dow is virtual reality.

The Dow Is On Pace For Its Best June Return In 80 Years (MW)

U.S. stock benchmarks enjoyed a nearly unfettered run-up toward records on the week — with the rally pausing briefly Friday — on the back of the Federal Reserve’s easier monetary-policy stance. Recent gains have put the Dow Jones Industrial Average in position to ring up its best June gain of 7.7% since 1938 when the blue-chip benchmark surged an eye-popping 24.3% on the month, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The S&P 500 index is on track for its best June return, with a gain of about 7.2%, since 1955 when the broad-market benchmark rose 8.2%, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was on track for a 7.8% return in June, which would represent its best June since a 16.6% gain back in 2000.


The S&P 500 notched its first record close since April 30 on Friday, while the Dow is off less than 1% short of its Oct. 3 all-time closing peak. The rally for equities has been partly supported by the Fed, which concluded its Wednesday rate-setting meeting by signaling a willingness too trim rates as soon as the end of the July 30-31 gathering to curb the effects of tariff clashes between the U.S. and international trade partners, notably China, that have roiled global economies and threaten to disrupt global supply chains.

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US banks, too, are virtual reality.

US Banks Clear First Hurdle Of Federal Reserve’s Annual Stress Test (R.)

The 18 largest banks operating in the United States took the first step toward doling out capital on dividends, share buybacks and other investments on Friday, after clearing the first stage of their yearly health checks with the U.S. Federal Reserve that assess their ability to weather a major economic downturn. The central bank said lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Corp, would face losses of $410 billion under its most severe recession scenario ever, but levels of high-quality capital would still be well above regulatory minimums. “The nation’s largest banks are significantly stronger than before the crisis and would be well-positioned to support the economy even after a severe shock,” Fed Vice Chairman Randal Quarles said in a statement.


The Fed said hypothetical losses were broadly comparable to results from prior years, with the most significant loan losses seen in credit cards, followed by commercial and industrial loans. Friday’s results, the first of the two-part annual “stress test,” showed the country’s biggest lenders could meet minimum Fed standards based on information they submitted to the regulator. But banks could still stumble next Thursday, when the Fed announces whether it will permit banks to dish out dividends and buy back shares. That second test is more rigorous, assessing whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans. It also reviews operational controls and risk management. All eyes are on Deutsche Bank, which is bracing for potentially its fourth flunking in five years amid ongoing turmoil in its U.S. operations. Last year, the Fed failed the bank, citing “material weaknesses” in its data capabilities and capital planning.

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He’s saying Boris is lying.

Carney Rejects Boris Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit Trade Claim (G.)

The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has said that the UK would be hit automatically by tariffs on exports to the EU in a no-deal Brexit, rejecting a claim made by Boris Johnson that this could be avoided. Tory leadership candidate Johnson said this week that tariffs would not necessarily have to be paid if the UK left the EU without a deal because the UK could rely on article 24 of the general agreement on tariffs and trade (Gatt). Some Brexit supporters have claimed that the Gatt, a treaty under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), would allow a “standstill” in which tariffs are avoided, even in the absence of any agreement on trade.


Many trade experts say this is not the case without agreement from both sides. Carney cited the head of the WTO and Liam Fox, the minister for international trade who backed the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, to contradict Johnson. Talking to the BBC, Carney said: “Gatt 24 applies if you have an agreement, not if you’ve decided not to have an agreement or have been unable to come to an agreement. “Not having an agreement with the EU means that there are tariffs automatically because the Europeans have to apply the same rules to us as they apply to everyone else. If they were to decide not to put in place tariffs they also have to lower their tariffs with the United States, with the rest of the world. And the same would hold for us.”

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Should a government spend hundreds of millions to save its steel industry?

Just One Week Left To Save British Steel (G.)

A frontrunner to buy British Steel has been deterred by the government’s refusal to provide backing for investment in the Scunthorpe steelworks, amid concern there is just a week left to save the company. The government’s Insolvency Service, which is funding British Steel’s operations while seeking a buyer, has given bidders until 30 June to make an offer for the company, whose financial failure last month put 4,500 jobs at risk. About a dozen firms are thought to have made tentative approaches and the deadline could be extended if any ask for more time to draft a takeover plan. But the Guardian understands that Liberty House, previously considered among the most likely to buy British Steel, has cooled its interest after failing to secure government support, including loan guarantees to fund investment.


Liberty wants to convert Scunthorpe’s blast furnaces, which make steel from scratch, into more cost-effective electric arc furnaces that can use recycled steel to make similar products. But the plan would require a major outlay, which according to a person with knowledge of the situation would be in the “low hundreds of millions”. The source said there was a “lack of enthusiasm” in government for the steps that would be required to convert the steelworks. Government officials are understood to be unwilling to provide loan guarantees or help retrain staff who might lose their jobs, although such measures are thought to fall within state aid rules.

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Depending solely on China for steel may not be the way to go either.

Crude Steel Production: China Knocks the Socks off Rest of the World (WS)

In the year 2018, China alone produced 928 Mt of crude steel, up 6.6% up from 2017. This represented 51.3% of annual global production. In the first four months of 2019, China’s crude steel production jumped 10.3% year-over-year to 315 million metric tonnes, bringing its share to 52.5% of global production. For April alone, China’s production soared 12.8% year-over-year to 85 Mt, and its share of global production reached 54.2%. That’s the new record. The US, by comparison, the fourth largest crude steel producer, maintained its minuscule 4.7% share of global production over the 12-month period.


Vietnam, which in April moved up to 15th place, from 17th place for the year 2018, booked a huge jump of 42% in crude steel production in the first four months this year compared to 2018. For now, it’s still only a small producer with a share of less than 1% of global production. In the rest of the world without China, production over the first four months in 2019 declined by 0.6% year-over-year. The chart shows the monthly production of China (red) and the rest of the world (black), including the US in 2018 and 2019; in addition as a memo entry, just to see where we are, I added US production (green):

China’s steel production began surging out of near-nowhere in the late 1990s to end up outproducing the entire rest of the world, according to the data by the World Steel Association.

China’s mostly state-owned steel giants just kept on producing during the Financial Crisis, whether there was demand or not, causing prices to dive. Its market share jumped from 38% in 2008 to 47% in 2009. And its share has continued to grow. The chart below shows the global share of production in China and in North American (US, Canada, and Mexico):

No country comes even close to China’s crude steel production. For example, its production is 11 times the amount produced in the US. But second and third place are just a hair apart. In 2017 India was in third place. In 2018, it moved into second place with 106.5 Mt., having outproduced Japan (104.3 Mt). The US is in fourth place (86.6 Mt). Canada is in 18th place:

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Preparing for a meeting the Chinese way.

China State Media Urges US To Drop Win-At-All-Costs Trade Stance (R.)

Instead of waging a trade war with China, the United States should drop its win-at-all-costs mentality and consider the interests of its own people as well as the global community, the official People’s Daily said an editorial on Saturday. The Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper urged the United States to cancel all tariffs on Chinese goods, saying the only way to resolve trade issues was through “equal dialogue”. Hopes that the two sides can rekindle negotiations were raised in the run-up to a meeting next week between President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Donald Trump in Japan, where they will both attend a Group of 20 summit.


The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is holding seven days of hearings from manufacturers and other businesses likely to be affected by a new round of tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump. The People’s Daily said all previous hearings had shown “overwhelming” opposition to tariff increases from all walks of life, but it had made no difference. “It seems that some people in the United States are waving the tariff stick in order to strengthen their so-called ‘industrial competitive advantage’,” it said. “They do not consider public opinion, do not consider national conditions, and do not take the international economic order into account. They just want the renown as ‘winners’ but cannot understand the fact that they basically cannot win.”

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Tucker Carlson now appears to be Trump’s main foreign adviser. And he’s ripping into Bolton.

Crazyland (Kunstler)

Surfing the cable channels the evening before my Friday a.m. blog duties, I came upon Sean Hannity at Fox News completely losing his shit in a colloquy with Geraldo Rivera about the Iran drone incident. “Bomb the crap out of them!” Mr. Hannity ranted, several times, the veins in his neck throbbing visibly on the high-def screen. I thought I was having an acid flashback to Doctor Strangelove. Geraldo himself seemed a bit nonplussed and embarrassed by Mr. Hannity’s tantrum, but his attempts to calm down the raving anchorman only ramped up the hysteria. One wondered: are there any adult producers off-screen on that network?


Perhaps the Golden Golem of Greatness, our president, who is also known to follow the Cable TV news, witnessed the cringeworthy incident and realized that every other head-of-state on this nervous planet would also see it, and might infer he was doing the bidding of a crazed boob-tube performer if he actually went forward with an air strike. Earlier, he’d told reporters, “You’ll soon find out,” what the USA’s response to the drone shoot-down would be. He should have just kept his mouth shut. Planes and ships were on their way to the bottleneck in the Persian Gulf known as the Straits of Hormuz. Before they could deliver any payloads, Mr. Trump called the whole thing off suggesting that maybe some “loose and stupid” Colonel Borat type on Iran’s side had gone rogue in the incident.

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Doesn’t look as if they will go away before getting what they demand.

Hong Kong Protesters ‘Besiege’ Police HQ (AFP)

Hong Kong police on Saturday slammed anti-government protesters for besieging their headquarters, calling the demonstration “illegal and irrational” as they vowed to pursue the ringleaders. “Police have shown the greatest tolerance of protesters who assembled outside PHQ (police headquarters) but their means of expressing views has become illegal, irrational and unreasonable,” the city’s police said in a statement. “Police will stringently follow up on these illegal activities.” Thousands of protesters blockaded the police headquarters throughout Friday and into the small hours of Saturday morning, the latest manifestation of angry demonstrations sweeping the city.


The international finance hub has been rocked by the worst political unrest since its 1997 handover to China. Millions have marched this month to oppose a proposed law that would have allowed extraditions to the Chinese mainland. Officers had used tear gas and rubber bullets last week to clear protesters during a massive demonstration outside the city’s parliament, sparking widespread anger against the police force. [..] During Friday’s demonstrations outside their headquarters, large crowds of protesters blockaded entrances, taped over CCTV cameras and shouted at police. Many chanted “release the righteous” and “shame on police thugs” — references to those detained during violence last week between demonstrators and the police. Officers remained inside their fortified building throughout.

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“The corporate wing of the Democratic party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie’.”

Bernie Sanders Faces Mounting Opposition From Moderate Democrats (G.)

Moderate Democrats have stepped up their opposition to Bernie Sanders as part of a concerted effort to isolate him from the sprawling field of otherwise “mainstream” and “electable” presidential candidates running for their party’s nomination in 2020. Last week, Sanders delivered a searing defense of democratic socialism that set himself apart from the rest of the Democratic party, whose opposition he said he not only anticipated but welcomed. Days later, at a gathering of nearly 250 political moderates convened by the centrist thinktank Third Way in South Carolina, some of the party’s most prominent center-left voices took the bait.

“I believe a gay midwestern mayor can beat [Donald] Trump. I believe an African American senator can beat Trump. I believe a western governor, a female senator, a member of Congress, a Latino Texan or a former vice-president can beat Trump,” said Jon Cowan, president of Third Way, hours before Donald Trump formally launched his re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday. “But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win.” In speeches and on panels over the course of two sticky days in Charleston earlier this week, moderate lawmakers, strategists and donors inveighed against the Vermont senator’s populist economic vision.

The approach elevated a conversation that has largely taken place behind closed doors about how to thwart Sanders, who moderates believe would alienate crucial voting blocs in a general election. “He has made it his mission to either get the nomination or to remake the party in his image as a democratic socialist,” Cowan told the Guardian. “That is an existential threat to the future of the Democratic party for the next generation.” [..] “The cat is out of the bag,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday, sharing a Politico story about how mainstream Democrats are warming to Elizabeth Warren, his closest ideological ally. “The corporate wing of the Democratic party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie’.”

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Free the coup plotters so they can do it again?!

UN Rights Chief Says Venezuela Should Release Jailed Opponents (AFP)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Venezuela to release jailed dissidents Friday and said the crisis-wracked country faced a “serious” humanitarian situation. Her comments came at the end of a three-day visit to the country on the invitation of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, who has faced allegations of cracking down on political opponents amid rampant hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods. “I call on the authorities to release all those who are detained or deprived of their liberty for exercising their civil rights in a peaceful manner,” said Bachelet, referring to the hundreds of Maduro government opponents who are currently incarcerated.

The UN rights chief met relatives of these detainees, many of whom are accused of “conspiracy” to overthrow the government. She also spoke with relatives of people who died during the anti-Maduro protests of 2017. Rights groups had pushed Bachelet to raise the issue of 715 people they say have been jailed for political reasons, a claim Maduro’s government rejects. [..] Bachelet has previously criticized the government’s response to the crisis and called for Caracas to respect “everyone’s fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

Yet it was the Maduro government who invited her to Venezuela, saying the visit would be an opportunity to show its adherence to human rights and the “negative repercussions” of sanctions that prevent it from selling its oil to the United States. Bachelet has also been critical of US sanctions against Maduro imposed by President Donald Trump, raising concerns that restrictions on trade with Venezuela could have negative repercussions for the general population in a country where 96 percent of the budget is based on oil. During her visit, Bachelet also met with opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by some 50 countries, including the United States.

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“..an 8-meter (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale was found dead off Sardinia in March with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its stomach..”

Lethal Plastic Trash Now Common In Greece’s Whales (AP)

A study of whales and dolphins that have washed up dead in Greece over a 20-year period has found alarmingly high levels of plastic trash — mostly bags — in the animals’ stomachs, which can condemn them to a slow and painful death. In the worst case, a researcher said Friday, a 5.3-meter (17-foot) young sperm whale beached on the Aegean island of Mykonos had swallowed 135 plastic items weighing a total of 3.2 kilograms (7 pounds). This blocked its stomach, grossly distending it, while the animal itself was emaciated and had starved to death. Sperm whales are an endangered species already at high risk in the Mediterranean from deadly collisions with ships, entanglement in drift fishing nets and noise pollution from oil and gas exploration.


The study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, which organizers say was the first on such a scale in the Mediterranean, found that sperm whales were also the species worst affected by plastic ingestion. Six out of ten specimens were found to have consumed plastics according to Alexandros Frantzis, scientific director of the Athens-based Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute that conducted the research. “The amount of (debris) we found is very high, and should set off an alarm,” he told The Associated Press. “It is now something common. … It’s not just that some random animal swallowed plastic.” Frantzis is a prominent whale and dolphin expert known for first linking fatal whale beachings to the use of military sonar by warships. In a separate incident outside the scope of the Greek study, an 8-meter (26-foot) pregnant sperm whale was found dead off Sardinia in March with 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) of plastic in its stomach.


Researchers Alexandros Frantzis and Voula Alexiadou lie on a tennis court next to the plastic that was in the stomach of a dead sperm whale found on the Aegean Sea island of Mykonos. The collection includes a Greek souvlaki restaurant bag, Turkish trash bags and biscuit packaging. (Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute via AP)

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Apr 172019
 


Jacques-Louis David Coronation of Napoleon in 1804 in Nôtre-Dame Cathedral 1805-7 (10 metres wide, 6 metres tall)

 

World Trade Suffers Biggest Collapse Since Financial Crisis (ZH)
Iran Parliament Declares US Central Command A ‘Terrorist Organization’ (RT)
CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump (MoA)
Affidavit Tries To Put WikiLeaks In Cahoots With The Taliban (ZH)
Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Mistreatment (Unity4J)
Jesus Christ, Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies Of The State (JW)
First They Came For Assange (Varoufakis)
Macron Commits To Rebuilding Notre Dame Within Five Years (Ind.)
May Has ‘No Chance’ Of Avoiding EU Elections (Ind.)
Tory Deregulation Agenda Is Stalling Brexit Talks – Corbyn (G.)
Not In It To Win It: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Democrats’ 2020 Battle (G.)
Six-Decade Plankton Study Charts Rise Of Ocean Plastic Waste (G.)
Mark Carney Tells Global Banks They Cannot Ignore Climate Change (G.)
The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough (Spiegel)

 

 

The financial crisis is 11-12 years old. But the deception is brilliant: everybody thinks it’s over.

World Trade Suffers Biggest Collapse Since Financial Crisis (ZH)

The recent collapse in world trade volume is the worst since the financial crisis and as dangerous as during the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s, according to The Telegraph. Data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis revealed that world trade volume dropped 1.8% in the three months to January compared to the preceding three months as a synchronized global downturn gained momentum. “An industrial slump has been triggered by a perfect storm of factors, including China’s slowdown, the car industry downturn, Brexit paralysis and Donald Trump’s attempt to upend the international trade system with tariffs on European and Chinese goods,” explained The Telegraph.

A further escalation of the trade war between the U.S. and China could spark a world trade recession. Already, Washington has imposed steep tariffs on Chinese imports worth $250bn in a tit-for-tat battle with industrial centers in Asia and Germany experiencing sharp drops in trade in recent months. The Telegraph describes the sudden loss in trade momentum is equivalent to the months after the dot com bubble imploded in 2001 when trade volumes sank as much as 2.2%. Today’s current move is the biggest fall since the financial crisis of 2007–2008 when global trade plummeted, diving as much as 12.7%. The IMF warned last week that this is a “delicate moment” for the global economy as many countries are in the midst of a severe slowdown.

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“We” are losing to Iran all over again.

Iran Parliament Declares US Central Command A ‘Terrorist Organization’ (RT)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has been designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Iranian parliament, in a mirror response to Washington’s blacklisting of Tehran’s Revolutionary Guard. All organizations, institutions and forces under CENTCOM command were acknowledged to be “terrorists” by the overwhelming majority of the Iranian MPs, who approved the contents of the bill, which also condemns the US move to blacklist the IRGC, an official military branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces. “The Islamic Republic of Iran’s government and Armed Forces are required to adopt preventive actions and preemptive defensive measures whenever necessary, to deter any hostile US forces’ use of any possibilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s interests,” the bill states, according to Fars news.


Anyone offering military, intelligence, financial, or any other support to CENTCOM and its affiliate forces will be considered supporters of terrorism. The 13-article legislation also mandates the general staff to begin gathering intelligence about CENTCOM activities so that the material can be used in Iranian courts to prosecute specific individuals. The bill, however, does not mention the exact mechanisms through which Americans are expected to be brought to justice under Iranian laws. Last week the US, for the first time ever, designated an official foreign military institution –the IRGC– as a terrorist organization, as tensions between the states were pushed to the limit following President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the reintroduction of sanctions that followed.

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Ducks and babies. We kid you not.

CIA Director Used Fake Skripal Incident Photos To Manipulate Trump (MoA)

An ass kissing portrait of Gina Haspel, torture queen and director of the CIA, reveals that she lied to Trump to push for more aggression against Russia. In March 2018 the British government asserted, without providing any evidence, that the alleged ‘Novichok’ poisoning of Sergej and Yulia Skripal was the fault of Russia. It urged its allies to expel Russian officials from their countries. The U.S. alone expelled 60 Russian officials. Trump was furious when he learned that EU countries expelled less than 60 in total. The expulsion marked a turn in the Trump administration’s relation with Russia: “The incident reflects a tension at the core of the Trump administration s increasingly hard-nosed stance on Russia: The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “

Today the New York Times portraits Gina Haspel’s relation with Trump. The writers seem sympathetic to her and the CIA’s position. They include an anecdote of the Skripal expulsion decision that is supposed to let her shine in a good light. But it only proves that the CIA manipulated the president for its own purpose: “Last March, top national security officials gathered inside the White House to discuss with Mr. Trump how to respond to the nerve agent attack in Britain on Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian intelligence agent. London was pushing for the White House to expel dozens of suspected Russian operatives, but Mr. Trump was skeptical. …

[..] During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the strong option was to expel 60 diplomats. Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives. Ms Haspel was not the first to use emotional images to appeal to the president, but pairing it with her hard-nosed realism proved effective: Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option.

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Can we throw in Pol Pot next? I’ll see your Bin Laden and raise you a Stalin.

Affidavit Tries To Put WikiLeaks In Cahoots With The Taliban (ZH)

The document uses maximal and hyped language to describe “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” yet struggles to ascertain whether “illegal agreement that Assange and Manning reached” specifically led to the release of the document trove (obviously crucial for charges against Assange to hold up). Concerning a potential extradition to the US, “probable cause” is cited to be the hundreds of messages sent between Manning and Assange on the Jabber platform. The argument is that Assange and Manning understood that it “would cause injury to the United States,” especially with US forces active on the ground in Afghanistan.

But on this point of whether the leaks did actual harm and damage to US efforts, the document is left reaching, trying to spin and insinuate a narrative that puts WikiLeaks and terrorist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda in cahoots. It starts by claiming that “after the release of the Afghanistan War Reports, a member of the Taliban contacted the New York Times.” The supposed Taliban member said, “We are studying the report… If they are US spies, then we will know how to punish them.” This strange and somewhat comical example is meant to support the notion that Assange ultimately aided America’s enemies with the leaks. [..] Worse, the affidavit makes Osama bin Laden — killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy Seals while living comfortably in an Abbottabad, Pakistan compound — out to be a WikiLeaks fan, given letters had been found instructing an al-Qaeda member to “gather” the publicly available material leaked by Manning.

Somehow this is meant to imply WikiLeaks in a round-about way assisted al-Qaeda’s mission. The FBI is perhaps left grasping with this “bin Laden benefited” theory given the relative flimsiness of evidence to support the original “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” aspect on which the case originated.

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Brilliant argument: “The question is not whether Julian is a journalist, the question is whether THEY are journalists.”

Suzie Dawson on Julian Assange’s Mistreatment (Unity4J)

Suzie Dawson powerfully expresses her feelings of righteous indignation on witnessing Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy, and reflects on his mistreatment by the establishment and their propaganda arm, the complicit corporate media.

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So let that Pope of yours stand up for Julian. Do something useful with the $600 million already donated for the Notre Dame. THAT is what your Jesus would have done.

Jesus Christ, Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies Of The State (JW)

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for civil disobedience that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him. Indeed, it is fitting that we remember that Jesus Christ—the religious figure worshipped by Christians for his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection—paid the ultimate price for speaking out against the police state of his day. A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus was a far cry from the watered-down, corporatized, simplified, gentrified, sissified vision of a meek creature holding a lamb that most modern churches peddle.


In fact, he spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, and pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire. Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day had all of the characteristics of a police state: secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state. For all the accolades poured out upon Jesus, little is said about the harsh realities of the police state in which he lived and its similarities to modern-day America, and yet they are striking.

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Yanis has this completely upside down, like so many other well-meaning people:

“Let’s join forces to block #Assange’s extradition from any European country to the #US so that he can travel to Stockholm & give his accusers an opportunity to be heard”.

The accusers, if they are real, which is by no means clear, have been silenced by the Swedish government for a reason. And to say now that you can’t speak on the allegations because you too are a man, only reinforces that reason.

Assange has offered for years to talk, and for his accusers to be heard. That never needed to take place in Stockholm, and it does not now. It wouldn’t help anyone.

First They Came For Assange (Varoufakis)

My meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange all took place in the same small room. As the intelligence services of a variety of countries know, I visited Assange in Ecuador’s London embassy many times between the fall of 2015 and December 2018. What these snoops do not know is the relief I felt every time I left. I wanted to meet Assange because of my deep appreciation of the original WikiLeaks concept. As a teenager reading George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, I, too, was troubled by the prospect of a high-tech surveillance state and its likely effect on human relations. Assange’s early writings – particularly his idea of using states’ own technology to create a huge digital mirror that could show everyone what they were up to – filled me with hope that we might collectively defeat Big Brother.

By the time I met Assange, that early hope had faded. Surrounded by bookcases featuring Ecuadorian literature and government publications, we would sit and chat late into the night. A device on top of a bookshelf emitted mind-numbing white noise to counter listening devices. As time passed, the claustrophobic living room, the badly hidden ceiling-mounted camera pointing at me, the white noise, and the stale air made me want to run out into the street. Assange’s detractors have been saying for years that his confinement was self-inflicted: he hid in Ecuador’s embassy because he jumped bail in the United Kingdom to avoid answering sexual assault allegations in Sweden. As a man, I feel I have no right to express an opinion regarding those allegations. Women must be heard when reporting assault.

Only the violence that men have inflicted upon women for millennia is viler than the disrespect and denigration to which women are subjected when they speak up. I recall saying to Julian that, had it been me, I would want to confront my accusers, and listen to them carefully and respectfully, regardless of whether official charges had been brought. He replied that he, too, wanted that. “But, Yanis,” he said, “if I were to go to Stockholm, they would throw me in solitary and, before I got a chance to answer any allegations, I would be bundled into a plane heading for a US supermax prison.” To drive the point home, he showed me his lawyers’ offer to Swedish authorities to go to Stockholm if they guaranteed that he would not be extradited to the United States on espionage charges. Sweden never considered the proposal.

During Assange’s years in Ecuador’s embassy, in circumstances that the United Nations deemed “arbitrary detention,” many friends and colleagues mocked his fear – and lambasted me for believing him. Last September, the historian and feminist intellectual Germaine Greer summed up that belief on Australian public radio: “He won’t be extradited to the United States,” she said derisively, blaming Julian’s lawyers for misleading him into fearing such an extradition while collecting his book’s royalties.

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Make that 50. Jesus himself would have to help. Alternatively, we can see this as a sign that Macron doesn’t expect to last as president for 5 years.

Macron Commits To Rebuilding Notre Dame Within Five Years (Ind.)

French president Emmanuel Macron promised that Notre Dame will be renovated within five years and will be “even better than before” after the devastating fire that ravaged much of the building. Investigators have already begun assessing the damage and questioning people to try to establish what started the blaze that consumed the roof and spire of the 850-year-old Gothic masterpiece. More then €600m has already been raised for rebuilding and restoration and the UK has said it stands ready to help. Firefighters battled for 14 hours to extinguish the flames, as onlookers feared the entire structure would be wrecked. But Parisians breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear the twin medieval bell towers had been spared and later when fire investigators revealed that “most precious” treasures have been saved.


They included the Crown of Thorns, a relic venerated by Christians and believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ, as well as the cathedral’s 18th-century organ and a number of artworks. European Council president Donald Tusk called on the European Union’s member countries to help, saying the site in central Paris is a symbol of what binds Europe together. The fire, which began on Monday evening, is thought to have been caused by an accident rather than arson, the Paris public prosecutor said. Architects warned repairs could take decades but in a televised address to the nation Mr Macron said: “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully, and I want it to be completed in five years, we can do it.”

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“..experts have concluded..”

May Has ‘No Chance’ Of Avoiding EU Elections (Ind.)

Theresa May has “no chance” of passing her Brexit deal in time to pull the UK out of the European parliament elections and avoid a likely devastating defeat, experts have concluded. Time has already effectively run out on attempts to ratify the agreement by 22 May, they say – despite the prime minister insisting talks with Labour can still deliver a compromise before the deadline. The verdict puts the Conservatives on course to lose most of their MEPs, polls suggest, as Leave voters protest at the failure to deliver Brexit, a disastrous result that would trigger huge pressure on Ms May to resign. The staging of the elections will also be a personal humiliation for the prime minister, who repeatedly told MPs they should not take place, three years after the Brexit referendum.


More talks with Labour are planned, as No 10 claims the complex (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – required to ratify EU withdrawal – can clear parliament before voters go to the polls on 23 May. But two respected think tanks have told The Independent the timetable is a fantasy, with one suggesting it will take “several months” to approve the legislation, which could involve up to 100 votes. Unlike the simple meaningful vote, the full legislation will trigger lengthy and gruelling parliamentary trench warfare, with echoes of the bitter battles over the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties. Approval of Maastricht took 41 days in 1993, while Lisbon required 25 days in 2008 – but there are only 17 sitting days planned before 22 May.

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There is no way they could ever agree.

Tory Deregulation Agenda Is Stalling Brexit Talks – Corbyn (G.)

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Tory desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal. Corbyn said Labour had been putting forward a robust case for a customs union during the talks over the past week but suggested he feared the two sides would not find common ground. “There has to be access to European markets and above all there has to be a dynamic relationship to protect the conditions and rights that we’ve got for environment and consumer workplace rights,” he said. “We’ve put those cases very robustly to the government and there’s no agreement as yet.”


Meetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights, which Corbyn described as “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”. However, there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum. Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU. “The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that,” he said.

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The Delusional Party.

Not In It To Win It: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Democrats’ 2020 Battle (G.)

Political scientists are quick to point out two reasons why a record number of candidates is running for president on the Democratic side in 2020. One: the Republican president, Donald Trump, is vulnerable with a low-40s approval rating, so the Democratic nominee has a good shot at winning the White House. Two: there’s no bigfoot candidate this time around – no incumbent, no Hillary Clinton – to dissuade other potential candidates from running. Those conditions have lured 15 major candidates so far into the race for the Democratic nomination, with as many as half a dozen more potentially getting in, including former vice-president Joe Biden, who has yet to officially declare. The previous record for major candidates in a presidential primary field was 17, on the Republican side in 2016.


But analysts also nod to a third factor inflating the gigantic 2020 Democratic field, a not-quite-dirty little secret about presidential politics. The fact is, not all of the people running for president are actually running for president. “There is almost always at least a few candidates in these kinds of fields that are either there to push an issue agenda, or these are candidates who are interested in building their name recognition, building their stature and status within the party,” said John Sides, professor of political science at George Washington University and editor-in-chief of The Monkey Cage politics analysis site.

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How much plastic is inside of you?

Six-Decade Plankton Study Charts Rise Of Ocean Plastic Waste (G.)

A trove of data showing when the Atlantic began choking with plastic has been uncovered in the handwritten logbooks of a little-known but doggedly persistent plankton study dating back to the middle of the last century. From fishing twine found in the ocean in the 50s, then a first carrier bag in 1965, it reflects how the marine refuse problem grew from small, largely ignored incidents to become a matter of global concern. The unique dataset, published in Nature Communications, is based on records from the continuous plankton recorder, a torpedo-shaped marine sampling device that has been towed across more than 6.5m nautical miles of ocean over the past 60 years.


Bryozoans, nudibranchs, crabs, and barnacles live on a clear plastic bottle in the ocean. Photograph: Justin Hofman/Greenpeace/PA

Based firstly in Hull, then Edinburgh and Plymouth, the long-running programme was initially designed to collect pelagic plankton, which are an indicator of water quality and also a source of food for whales and other marine life. But the operators have also kept a chart-and-counter track of entanglements that disrupted their work: what snared the equipment, where it happened and when. This has proved a valuable source of data on plastic waste, according to contemporary researchers. “This consistent time series provides some of the earliest records of plastic entanglement, and is the first to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades,” the paper notes.

The start of the problem was so slow it was barely noticed. The log shows strands of fishing twine found off the east coast of Iceland in 1957, then a carrier bag in waters to the north-west of Ireland eight years later. The paper states this was a couple of years before the first reports of turtles and seabirds becoming ensnared in plastic. Over the following decades the problem grew steadily. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, fewer than 1% of tows were disrupted by entanglements with synthetic materials. By the 90s it was almost 2%, and in the first decade of this century the increase “was of an order of magnitude”, according to the paper. The figure is now hovering somewhere between 3% and 4%.

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Note: if you find yourself agreeing with Carney, and you fail to see the absurdity in this, seek treatment. Carney is a full-time douche. He’s saying going green is a profit opportunity.

Mark Carney Tells Global Banks They Cannot Ignore Climate Change (G.)

The global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and must take urgent steps to reform, the governors of the Bank of England and France’s central bank have warned, writing in the Guardian. In an article published in the Guardian on Wednesday aimed at the international financial community, Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, and Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France, said financial regulators, banks and insurers around the world had to “raise the bar” to avoid catastrophe. They said: “As financial policymakers and prudential supervisors we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes. Climate change is a global problem, which requires global solutions, in which the whole financial sector has a central role to play.”


The warning comes as concern over the impact of climate change and the lack of urgent action is increasing, reflected in the Extinction Rebellion protests and schoolchildren’s strikes across the world. The heads of two of the world’s most influential central banks urged other financial regulators around the world to carry out climate change stress tests to spot any risks in the system, while also calling for more collaboration between nations on the issue. They warned that a “massive reallocation of capital” was necessary to prevent global warming above the 2°C maximum target set by the Paris climate agreement, with the banking system required to play a pivotal role. “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist,” Carney and De Galhau said.

Read more …

Oct 092018
 


Pieter Bruegel the Elder Two monkeys 1562

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sep 052018
 


Henri Matisse Luxury, calm and pleasure 1904

 

JP Morgan Warns Next Crisis To Have Flash Crashes And Social Unrest (CNBC)
Share Buybacks Boost Earnings (Roberts)
Mueller To Accept Written Answers From Trump In Russia Probe (Ind.)
Senior Diplomat Exposes US Meddling In Russian Election (ZH)
Google Bosses Expected To Snub Senate (BBC)
Mervyn King Attacks ‘Incompetent’ Brexit Approach (BBC)
Angela Merkel Admits Collapse Of Brexit Talks Cannot Be Ruled Out (G.)
Mark Carney Willing To Stay On As BoE Governor To Help ‘Smooth’ Brexit (Ind.)
US ‘Could Have Forced A Greek Debt Haircut’ – Ashoka Mody (K.)
Eight Bird Species Are First Confirmed Avian Extinctions This Decade (G.)

 

 

Yeah, I know, the Woodward book. No objective views available. Lots of sensational quotes subject to interpretation. Tons of voices saying for instance that Trump wanted Mattis to kill Assad, even ordered him to. But Woodward writes that Trump said: “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them..”. That doesn’t sound like an order. That’s a first reaction from someone who’s been fooled by his own staff into believing Assad was responsible. Normal first reaction. Not an order. We’ll get some more balance, but it won’t come from the MSM.

 

Liquidity, volatility, fighting in the streets.

JP Morgan Warns Next Crisis To Have Flash Crashes And Social Unrest (CNBC)

Sudden, severe stock sell-offs sparked by lightning-fast machines. Unprecedented actions by central banks to shore up asset prices. Social unrest not seen in the U.S. in half a century. That’s how J.P. Morgan Chase’s head quant, Marko Kolanovic, envisions the next financial crisis. The forces that have transformed markets in the last decade, namely the rise of computerized trading and passive investing, are setting up conditions for potentially violent moves once the current bull market ends, according to a report from Kolanovic sent to the bank’s clients on Tuesday. His note is part of a 168-page mega-report, written for the 10th anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis, with perspectives from 48 of the bank’s analysts and economists.

Kolanovic, a 43-year-old analyst with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, has risen in prominence for explaining, and occasionally predicting, how the new, algorithm-dominated stock market will behave. The current bull rally, the longest in modern history by some measures, has been characterized by extended periods of calm punctuated with spasms of selling known as flash crashes. Recent examples include a nearly 1,600 point intraday drop in February and a 1,100 point decline in August 2015. “They are very rapid, sharp declines in asset values with sharp increases in market volatility,” Kolanovic, the bank’s global head of macro quantitative and derivatives research, said in a recent interview. But those flash crashes occurred during a backdrop of a U.S. economic expansion; the new market hasn’t been tested in the throes of a recession, he said.

“If you have these liquidity-driven sharp sell-offs that come at the end of the cycle, or maybe even causes the end of the cycle, then I think you can have a much more significant asset price correction and even more significant increase in market volatility,” Kolanovic said. [..] Kolanovic closes his report on an ominous note: “The next crisis is also likely to result in social tensions similar to those witnessed 50 years ago in 1968.”

Read more …

Tyler labeled it the graph of the decade. That may be a bit much, but it’s good to point out that earnings rise ONLY because there are so many fewer outstanding shares. Buybacks don’t only raise share prices, they raise earnings numbers too.

Share Buybacks Boost Earnings (Roberts)

[..] while top line SALES fell, bottom line revenue expanded as share buybacks and accounting gimmickry escalated for the quarter. The question is whether sales dramatically expanded in Q2? Given some of the recent economic data, we have our doubts and expect a smaller increase. (I will update this chart when S&P updates the sales/share figure for Q2) As shown in the chart below, the biggest support for earnings expansion in Q2 continues to be the dramatic decline in shares outstanding.

Of course, such should not be a surprise. Since the recessionary lows, much of the rise in “profitability” have come from a variety of cost-cutting measures and accounting gimmicks rather than actual increases in top-line revenue. While tax cuts certainly provided the capital for a surge in buybacks, revenue growth, which is directly connected to a consumption-based economy, has remained muted. Since 2009, the reported earnings per share of corporations has increased by a total of 353%. This is the sharpest post-recession rise in reported EPS in history. However, the increase in earnings did not come from a commensurate increase in revenue which has only grown by a marginal 44% during the same period and declined from 49% in Q1.

The reality is that stock buybacks create an illusion of profitability. If a company earns $0.90 per share and has one million shares outstanding – reducing those shares to 900,000 will increase earnings per share to $1.00. No additional revenue was created, no more product was sold, it is simply accounting magic. Such activities do not spur economic growth or generate real wealth for shareholders. However, it does provide the basis for with which to keep Wall Street satisfied and stock option compensated executives happy.

Read more …

if Mueller does anything in the public eye before the mid terms are over, expect chaos.

Mueller To Accept Written Answers From Trump In Russia Probe (Ind.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller will accept written answers from President Donald Trump on whether his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 US election, but Mr Mueller is not ruling out a follow-up interview on that issue, Mr Mueller’s offer to accept written responses from the president on questions about possible collusion was contained in a letter that Mr Trump’s lawyers received on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Mr Trump’s legal team and Mr Mueller’s investigators have been negotiating for months over whether the president will be formally interviewed in the probe.

The president’s team have not yet answered the letter. After receiving the written responses, Mr Mueller’s investigators would decide on a next step, which could include an interview with Mr Trump, the person said. The letter was first reported by the New York Times. It was not immediately clear what those conditions mean for other avenues Mr Mueller is exploring, including whether the president sought to obstruct the Russia investigation through actions such as the firing last year of former FBI Director James Comey.

Read more …

And there is Google.

Senior Diplomat Exposes US Meddling In Russian Election (ZH)

As Russian citizens prepare to head to the polls on Sunday to vote in regional elections, a senior Russian diplomat has revealed that Moscow has uncovered a US interference effort involving a Silicon Valley tech giant and activists opposed to the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following a briefing on the matter, senior Russian diplomat Andrey Nesterenko told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the US “certainly does” meddle in the Russian electoral processes, as RT reported. The revelation followed reports that Russia has resumed a major airstrike of a reputed terrorist stronghold in Idlib province over the objections of President Trump, who warned that such a strike would be a humanitarian disaster.

“Our collective opinion is that electoral sovereignty is a principle that all civilized nations should respect” the diplomat said, adding that Moscow will notify “our American partners that the actions of their media outlets allow us to state that they are close to breaking Russian law.” Specifically, Nesterenko was referring to a possible violation of Russian election laws by Google parent Alphabet, which hosted advertisements for an illegal campaign rally organized by Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. Navalny is calling for protests to denounce the vote, which he believes is biased. To help spread the word, Navalny’s public movement is using paid ads on Google services like YouTube. However, holding an event dedicated to an election campaign on the same day as the vote goes against Russian law.

The Russian Central Election Commission, media watchdog Roskomnadzor, and the Russian Anti-monopoly Service have reportedly informed Google about these illegal activities being carried out on its platform. “Living in a proper law-abiding nation, we expect every actor to play by the rules. Especially an informed player. If the opposite happens, I believe we have tools at our disposal [to address that],” Andrey Kashevarov, the deputy head of FAS, said.

Read more …

It’s like an all-out power game.

Google Bosses Expected To Snub Senate (BBC)

When Silicon Valley companies once again appear in front of the US Senate on Wednesday, there will be one major absentee: Google. The Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to hear from Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, or his boss Larry Page, the chief executive of Google’s parent firm, Alphabet. Barring a dramatic, last-minute change of plan, the BBC understands neither will attend. It would mark the first time a technology firm has refused to comply with the wishes of Congress since the wide-reaching inquiries into misinformation and meddling began in the wake of the 2016 election. Google had instead hoped to send Kent Walker, one of its top lawyers. The offer was abruptly shut down by the committee.

Its vice chairman, the Democratic Senator Mark Warner, said an empty chair would be left out to represent Google’s non-appearance. Eventually, senators may issue a subpoena, forcing an appearance under the threat of prosecution. “If Google thinks we’re just going to go away, they’re sadly mistaken,” said Senator Warner, speaking to Wired magazine. The hearing, scheduled to begin at 09:30 (13:30 GMT), is entitled “Foreign Influence Operations’ Use of Social Media Platforms”. As well as Google, Twitter and Facebook have been called to appear. Twitter will be represented by its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, while Facebook is sending its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. It will be the first time either executive has faced a congressional committee.

[..] The affair risks becoming a public relations crisis for Google, which just last week was doing its best to bat back claims from President Donald Trump that it was censoring conservative news outlets in its search results. The White House did not provide any evidence to support the president’s complaints, but the topic may well come up at Wednesday’s hearing. “I don’t know if it’s because [Page] wants to avoid being asked about those things or because they think they’re so important and so powerful that they don’t need to provide congressional testimony,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, speaking to the Washington Post. He also told the newspaper: “They should be careful with that. When a company gets too big to become accountable, they become a monopoly.”

Read more …

No kidding.

Mervyn King Attacks ‘Incompetent’ Brexit Approach (BBC)

Former Bank of England governor Lord King has blasted Brexit preparations as “incompetent”. The Brexit supporter said it “beggared belief” that the world’s sixth-biggest economy should be talking of stockpiling food and medicines. This left the government without a credible bargaining position, he said. “A government that cannot take action to prevent some of these catastrophic outcomes illustrates a whole lack of preparation,” he said. “It doesn’t tell us anything about whether the policy of staying in the EU is good or bad, it tells us everything about the incompetence of the preparation for it.” Lord King said the 11th-hour preparation for a no-deal Brexit had undermined the government’s negotiating position.

He added: “We haven’t had a credible bargaining position, because we hadn’t put in place measures where we could say to our colleagues in Europe, ‘Look, we’d like a free-trade deal, we think that you would probably like one too, but if we can’t agree, don’t be under any misapprehension, we have put in place the measures that would enable us to leave without one.'” He predicts that we will find ourselves with what’s been dubbed as Brino – Brexit in name only – which he said was the worst of all worlds. It’s also a state of affairs that he fears could drag on for years. “I think the biggest risk to the UK, and this is what worries me most, is that this issue isn’t going to go away, you know the referendum hasn’t decided it, because both camps feel that they haven’t got what they wanted.”

Lord King expressed regret and surprise that it was more difficult for a single country to present a united front than the other 27 EU members. He said: “They must have been really worried that they had 27 countries to try to corral, how could they have a united negotiating position, they were dealing with a country that was one country, made a clear decision, voted to leave, it knew what it wanted to do, how on earth could the EU manage to negotiate against this one decisive group on the other side of the Channel? “Well, the reality’s been completely the opposite. The EU has been united, has been clear, has been patient and it’s the UK that’s been divided without any clear strategy at all for how to get to where we want to go.”

Read more …

Maybe at this point Merkel should be more outspoken?

Angela Merkel Admits Collapse Of Brexit Talks Cannot Be Ruled Out (G.)

Angela Merkel has warned her country’s business leaders that the Brexit negotiations are in danger of collapse. With talks in Brussels at an impasse with just months to go before a deal needs to be agreed, the German chancellor made a rare intervention at a conference in Frankfurt. She told major players in the world of German finance on Tuesday: “We don’t want the discussions to break down. We will use all our force and creativity to make sure a deal happens. We don’t want these negotiations to collapse. But we also can’t fully rule that out because we still have no result.” The EU says it needs a deal to be struck on the withdrawal agreement covering citizens’ rights, the £39bn divorce bill and the Irish border, along with the political declaration on the future deal, by November at the latest.

The German chancellor has generally played a backseat role in the talks, preferring to intervene only at crunch points at EU summits. EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels in October, but an emergency summit is being pencilled in for 13 November in case the negotiations require an extra few weeks for agreement to be made. The leaders will be gathering at a summit in Salzburg later this month where the EU27 are planning a “carrot and stick” approach to Brexit, offering Theresa May warm words on the Chequers proposals to take to the Conservative conference alongside a sharp warning that they need a plan for Northern Ireland within weeks.

Read more …

Using the words ‘Brexit’ and ‘smooth’ in one sentence is just comedy. Wonder what they had to promise him. Knighthood?

Mark Carney Willing To Stay On As BoE Governor To Help ‘Smooth’ Brexit (Ind.)

Mark Carney told MPs on Tuesday that he was willing to stay on as governor of the Bank of England beyond his planned departure date in order to “smooth” the Brexit process. Mr Carney had planned to step down in June 2019 after six years in Threadneedle Street’s top job, two years fewer than BoE governors normally serve. But, asked by MPs on the Treasury Committee whether he would stay, Mr Carney said: “Even though I have already agreed to extend my time to support a smooth Brexit, I am willing to do whatever else I can in order to promote both a smooth Brexit and effective transition at the Bank of England.”

“The chancellor and I have discussed this. I would expect an announcement to be made in due course.” The comments come after mounting speculation in recent days that the Treasury would like Mr Carney to stay on in his role, providing more continuity during uncertain economic times. There are fears that few candidates will put themselves forward for the job as the Brexit negotiations reach a critical stage.

Read more …

“What was the basic demand of SYRIZA? To tie debt repayments to GDP and so reduce the level of austerity. Any good economist will tell you that was a very reasonable starting point for the negotiation.”

US ‘Could Have Forced A Greek Debt Haircut’ – Ashoka Mody (K.)

“The fundamental reason why the Greek crisis lasted so long was the extreme level of austerity that was imposed.” That is the verdict of Ashoka Mody, visiting professor in International Economic Policy at Princeton University, a former deputy director of the IMF’s European Department and one of the most eloquent critics of the policies of the troika in Greece and elsewhere. Mody, who recently published a long-form version of these critiques in his book “EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts”, spoke to Kathimerini about the Greek crisis and those to blame for it. We began by discussing what many consider the original sin of the bailout period: the decision not to restructure Greece’s debt in May 2010. What should the IMF have done?

“It should have insisted, it should have made the restructuring a condition of its participation,” the Indian-born economist said, mentioning that the staff report all but admitted the debt was unsustainable and that Dominique Strauss-Kahn later said he was in favor of debt relief. “The reason it didn’t happen was the ideological opposition of the European Central Bank – in this case supported by the US Treasury. Strauss-Kahn did not want to offend either the Americans or the Europeans. The stance of the US Treasury was critical – if its representative on the Executive Board had come out in favor of a restructuring, it would have happened. Instead, it sided completely with the European viewpoint – the Treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, believed that there should never be a restructuring in the midst of a crisis.”

Regarding the argument that the problem in Greece (compared with other bailout countries) was there was no ownership of reforms, Mody said: “It is indeed the case that IMF programs only succeed when there is ownership. The question is what were Greeks asked to own. The arithmetic of austerity was relentless, cruel. Whatever the Greeks did, with austerity on such a scale they could not have escaped the collapse in gross domestic product. And then things became even worse, because the recession led to targets being missed, which led to more measures! The IMF published studies at the time showing what a terrible idea it was to impose further austerity in a recession, how it worsens the debt-to-GDP ratio. Yet the IMF kept doing it in Greece, ignoring all its internal studies!”

[..] The conversation turned to 2015. How does he think the creditors should have handled SYRIZA differently? “Look, even before SYRIZA came to power, Wolfgang Schaeuble said that elections do not matter. On January 31, 2015, six days after the election, Erkki Liikanen, the head of the Finnish central bank, says that if the new government does not accept the program, the ECB will cut liquidity support for Greek banks. Four days later, the ECB withdraws the waiver [which allowed the banks to borrow cheaply from it, using Greek government bonds as collateral]. And in June, the Europeans close down the banks. What was the basic demand of SYRIZA? To tie debt repayments to GDP and so reduce the level of austerity. Any good economist will tell you that was a very reasonable starting point for the negotiation.”

Read more …

More of my friends are leaving every day. Some don’t even say goodbye.

Eight Bird Species Are First Confirmed Avian Extinctions This Decade (G.)

Spix’s macaw, a brilliant blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation Rio, has become extinct this century, according to a new assessment of endangered birds. The macaw is one of eight species, including the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, that can be added to the growing list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions, according to a new statistical analysis by BirdLife International. Historically, most bird extinctions have been small-island species vulnerable to hunting or invasive species but five of these new extinctions have occurred in South America and are attributed by scientists to deforestation.

Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International’s chief scientist, said the new study highlighted that an extinction crisis was now unfolding on large continents, driven by human habitat destruction. “People think of extinctions and think of the dodo but our analysis shows that extinctions are continuing and accelerating today,” he said. “Historically 90% of bird extinctions have been small populations on remote islands. Our evidence shows there is a growing wave of extinctions washing over the continent driven by habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, drainage and logging.” More than 26,000 of the world’s species are now threatened, according to the latest “red list” assessment, with scientists warning that humans are driving a sixth great extinction event.


The Brazilian Spix’s macaw, as seen in the children’s movie Rio, is one of the eight birds to become extinct Photograph: Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation

Read more …

Oct 182017
 
 October 18, 2017  Posted by at 2:26 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Salvator Rosa Heroic battle 1652

 

A point BOE Governor Mark Carney made recently may be the biggest cog in the European Union’s wheel (or is it second biggest? Read on). That is, derivatives clearing. It’s one of the few areas where Brussels stands to lose much more than London, but it’s a big one. And Carney puts a giant question mark behind the EU’s preparedness.

Carney Reveals Europe’s Potential Achilles Heel in Brexit Talks

Carney explained why Europe’s financial sector is more at risk than the UK from a “hard” or “no-deal” Brexit. [..] When asked does the European Council “get it” in terms of potential shocks to financial stability, Carney diplomatically commented that “a learning process is underway.” Having sounded alarm bells about clearing in his last Mansion House speech, he noted “These costs of fragmenting clearing, particularly clearing of interest rate swaps, would be born principally by the European real economy and they are considerable.”

Calling into question the continuity of tens of thousands of derivative contracts , he stated that it was “pretty clear they will no longer be valid”, that this “could only be solved by both sides” and has been “underappreciated” by Europe . Carney had a snipe at Europe for its lack of preparation “We are prepared as we should be for the possibility of a hard exit without any transition…there has been much less of that done in the European Union.”

In Carneys view “It’s in the interest of the EU 27 to have a transition agreement. Also, in my judgement given the scale of the issues as they affect the EU 27, that there will ultimately be a transition agreement. There is a very limited amount of time between now and the end of March 2019 to transition large, complex institutions and activities…

If one thinks about the implementation of Basel III, we are alone in the current members of the EU in having extensive experience of managing the transition for individual firms of various derivative and risk activities from one jurisdiction back into the UK. That tends to take 2-4 years. Depending on the agreement, we are talking about a substantial amount of activity.” [..] “I wouldn’t want to use financial stability issues as leverage. I wouldn’t want them to be addressed in a bloodless technocratic way in the interests of all the citizens.”

Sounds like Carney knows a thing or two that Juncker et al haven’t sufficiently thought through. The EU plans to move all – or most- derivatives clearing to the continent, but such a thing is anything but easy. That’s another very tangled web, and an expensive one to boot. Brussels probably wants to use the issue to put pressure on London in some way, but a hard Brexit might make that unlikely if not worse. Bloomberg from June this year:

EU Targets Derivative-Clearing Giants With Relocation Threat

“Today, a significant amount of financial instruments denominated in the currencies of the member states are cleared by recognized third-country CCPs,” according to the proposal. “For example, the notional amount outstanding at Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the U.S. is €1.8 trillion for euro-denominated interest-rate derivatives,” the commission said. “This also raises a series of concerns.”

The financial industry has lobbied hard against a location policy. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association said requiring euro-denominated interest-rate derivatives to be cleared by an EU-based clearinghouse would boost initial margin requirements by as much as 20% . The FIA, a trade organization for the futures, options and centrally cleared derivatives markets, has said forced relocation “could nearly double margin requirements from $83 billion to $160 billion.”

According to that Bloomberg piece, the notional amount outstanding of euro-denominated OTC interest-rate derivatives is some $90 trillion, 97% of which goes through the London Clearing House (LCH) based in .. well, you guessed it. Wikipedia:

LCH is a European-based independent clearing house that serves major international exchanges, as well as a range of OTC markets. Based on 2012 figures LCH cleared approximately 50% of the global interest rate swap market, and is the second largest clearer of bonds and repos in the world , providing services across 13 government debt markets.

In addition, LCH clears a broad range of asset classes including: commodities, securities, exchange traded derivatives, credit default swaps, energy contracts, freight derivatives, interest rate swaps, foreign exchange and Euro and Sterling denominated bonds and repos. LCH’s members comprise a large number of the major financial groups including almost all of the major investment banks, broker dealers and international commodity houses.

More details from Reuters, also in June:

Derivatives Body Warns EU Against Moving Euro Clearing From London

Shifting clearing of euro-denominated derivatives from London to the European continent would require banks to set aside far more cash to insure trades against defaults, a cost that would be passed on to companies, a global derivatives industry body says. [..]The London Stock Exchange’s subsidiary LCH currently clears the bulk of euro-denominated swaps, a derivative contract that helps companies guard against unexpected moves in interest rates or currencies.

Britain, however, is due to leave the bloc in 2019, putting it out of the EU’s regulatory reach. The International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), one of the world’s top derivatives industry bodies, said on Monday that a “relocation” in euro clearing to continental Europe would split liquidity in markets and reduce the ability of banks to save on margin by offsetting positions in the same liquidity pool.

Deutsche Bank has the world’s largest derivatives portfolio. Not all of it will be euro-denominated, but still. And I know it’s just notional amounts, but derivatives are not things one plays fast and loose with, lest the clearing becomes opaque and trouble starts.

Juncker better solve this thing. Oh, and this one too (yes, it’s quite fun to report on this):

Money Will Divide Europe After Brexit

As part of the transition period of around two years that she called for in her emollient Florence speech last month, Britain would continue to pay in to the EU budget to ensure that none of the member states was out of pocket owing to the decision to leave. These net payments of around €10 billion a year would fix the immediate problem facing the EU, the hole that would otherwise open up in its finances during the final two years of its current budgetary framework, which runs from 2014 to 2020.

[..] through its accounting procedures, the EU can and does commit it to spending that will be paid for by future receipts from the member states. What this means is that even after 2020 there will still be payments due on commitments made under the current seven-year spending plan. That pile of unpaid bills, eloquently called the “reste à liquider” (the amount yet to be settled), is forecast to be €254 billion at the end of 2020.

Estimates of what Britain might owe towards this vary, but taking into account what might have been spent on British projects it could be around €20 billion. On top of that – and the second main reason why the EU is holding out for more – the EU has liabilities, notably arising from the unfunded retirement benefits of European staff estimated at €67 billion at the end of 2016, which it is expecting Britain to share. Even taking into account some potential offsets from its share of assets, Britain may face a bill of between €30 billion and €40 billion on top of the €20 billion paid during the transition period.

The EU finances itself on the fly. It’ll have a €254 pile of unpaid bills in 3 years time. That is scary. Not for Brussels, but for its member countries. A hard Brexit, in which Britain may refuse to pay, is perhaps even scarier.

Anyway, once Juncker’s done with all that, he’ll have to move on to the next problem. Derivatives is a big cloud hanging over Europe, but this one is potentially shattering.

Ray Dalio, manager of the world’s biggest hedge fund, is shorting, placing large bets against, anything Italian, and given Italy’s size and hence importance to the EU, his bets are effectively bets against Brussels.

Dalio’s Fund Opens $300 Million Bet Against Italian Energy Firm

Bridgewater Associates is adding to its billion-dollar short against the Italian economy. The world’s largest hedge fund disclosed a $300 million bet against Eni SpA, Italy’s oil and gas giant, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Bloomberg previously reported that Ray Dalio’s firm had wagered more than $1.1 billion against shares of six Italian financial institutions and two other companies.

This latest bet is the hedge fund’s second-largest against an Italian company, trailing only the $310 million against Enel SpA, the country’s largest utility. Eni’s majority holder is the Italian government via state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA and the Ministry of Economy. The public involvement also is reflected in the government’s role in appointing the chief executive officer. Current CEO Claudio Descalzi has been at the helm since 2014 and was reconfirmed this year.

$1.1 billion against the banking system, $310 million against the main utility, $140 million vs pan-European insurer Generali and now $300 million vs the national oil and gas company, That adds up to quite a bit more than the Bloomberg graph says, but I’ll include it anyway.

 

 

Dalio doesn’t call the bluff of Italy, and this is not just like George Soros’ shorting the British pound in 1992, he’s calling out the entire EU and its financial system. He’s saying I don’t believe you can keep up the charade. He’s making a mockery of Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes”.

So what are Rome, Brussels and Frankfurt going to do? They can’t ignore the no. 1 hedge fund forever. They will have to pump money into Italy, in large amounts. Merkel won’t like that, neither will her new coalition partner FDP, and the Bundesbank may start legal action.

Dalio’s located the Union’s achilles heel, which is not just that Italy’s insolvent (it’s not alone in that), but that there’s a gigantic theater production being performed to give everyone the impression that things are going just swimmingly, thank you. So Dalio’s said: how much for a ticket to the show?, and paid it. And now he’s inside.

Bridgewater didn’t enter that theater for nothing. $1.85 billion is not chump change for them. Intesa Sanpaolo CEO Carlo Messina may have said that Dalio will lose his bets, but according to the IMF Italy’s non-performing loans levels were €356 billion at the end of June 2016, which is 18% of total loans for Italian banks, 20% of Italy’s GDP and one-third of total Eurozone NPLs. Intesa Sanpaolo holds a nice chunk of that.

‘Whatever it takes’ may well be too much to take for the EU, and Draghi looks outsmarted, as do Juncker and Merkel. How many billions will it take for Dalio to go away? And then, who’s next, which hedge fund, which politician, which ECB chief? Coming soon to a theater near you.

 

 

Aug 272017
 
 August 27, 2017  Posted by at 12:27 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Henri Cartier-Bresson Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI 1937

 

The Jackson Hole gathering of central bankers and other economics big shots is on again. They all still like themselves very much. Apart from a pesky inflation problem that none of them can get a grip on, they publicly maintain that they’re doing great, and they’re saving the planet (doing God’s work is already taken).

But the inflation problem lies in the fact that they don’t know what inflation is, and they’re just as knowledgeable when it comes to all other issues. They get sent tons of numbers and stats, and then compare these to their economic models. They don’t understand economics, and they’re not interested in trying to understand it. All they want is for the numbers to fit the models, and if they don’t, get different numbers.

Meanwhile they continue to make the most outrageous claims. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said in early July that “We have fixed the issues that caused the last crisis.” What do you say to that? Do you take him on a tour of Britain? Or do you just let him rot?

Fed head Janet Yellen a few days earlier had proclaimed that “[US] Banks are ‘very much stronger’, and another financial crisis is not likely ‘in our lifetime’. “ While we wish her a long and healthy life for many years to come, we must realize that we have to pick one: it has to be either a long life, or no crisis in her lifetime.

Just a few days ago, ECB President Mario Draghi somehow managed to squeeze through his windpipe that “QE has made economies more resilient”. Even though everybody -well, everybody who’s not in Jackson Hole- knows that QE has blown huge bubbles in lots of asset classes and caused severe damage to savings and pensions, problems that will reverberate through economies for a long time and rip entire societies apart.

But they really seem to believe what they say, all of them. Which is perhaps the biggest problem of all. That is, either they know better and lie straight-faced or they are blind to what they’re doing. Which might be caused by the fact that they are completely blind to what goes on in their countries and societies, and focus exclusively on banking systems. But that’s not where financial crises reside, or at least not only there.

How do we know? Easy. Try this on for size.

78% of Americans Live Paycheck To Paycheck

No matter how much you earn, getting by is still a struggle for most people these days. 78% of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75% last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Overall, 71% of all U.S. workers said they’re now in debt, up from 68% a year ago, CareerBuilder said. While 46% said their debt is manageable, 56% said they were in over their heads. About 56% also save $100 or less each month, according to CareerBuilder.

Haven’t seen anything as ironic in a long time as having a company called CareerBuilder report on this. But more importantly, when almost 4 out of 5 people live paycheck to paycheck, that is a financial crisis right there. Just perhaps not according to the models popular in Jackson Hole. What do they know about that kind of life, anyway? So why would they care to model it?

Yellen’s Fed proudly report almost full employment -even if they felt forced to abandon their own models of it. But what does full employment constitute, what does it mean, when all those jobs don’t allow for people to live without fear of the next repair bill, the next hospital visit, their children’s education?

What does it mean when banks are profitable again and pay out huge bonuses while at the same time millions work two jobs and still can’t make ends meet? How is that not a -financial- crisis? In the economists’ models, all those jobs must lead to scarcity in the labor market, and thus rising wages. And then inflation, by which they mean rising prices. But the models fail, time and time again.

Moreover, talking about inflation without consumer spending, i.e. velocity of money, is empty rhetoric. 78% of Americans will not be able to raise their spending levels, they’re already maxed out at the end of each week, and 71% have debts on top of that. So where will the inflation, rising wages, etc., come from? When nobody has money to spend? Nobody can put that Humpty Dumpty together again.

An actual -as opposed to theoretical- recovery of wages and inflation will certainly not come from QE for banks, that much should be clear after a decade. And that is exactly where the problem is. That is why so many people work such shitty jobs. The banks may be more resilient (and that comes with a big question mark), but it has come at the cost of the economies. And no, banks are not the same as economies. Moreover, ‘saving’ the banks through asset purchases and ultra low rates has made ‘real economies’ much more prone to the next downturn.

The asset purchases serve to keep zombie firms -including banks- alive, which will come back to haunt economies -and central banks- when things start falling. The ultra low rates have driven individuals and institutions into ‘investments’ for which there has been no price discovery for a decade or more. Homes, stocks, you name it. Everyone and their pet hamster overborrowed and overpaid thanks to Bernanke, Yellen and Draghi, and their ‘policies’.

QE for banks didn’t just not work as advertized, it has dug a mile deep hole in real economies. No economy can properly function unless most people can afford to spend money. It’s lifeblood. QE for banks is not, if anything it’s the opposite.

 

Another -joined at the hip- example of what’s really happening in -and to- America, long term and deep down, and which will not be a discussion topic in Jackson Hole, is the following from the Atlantic on marriage in America. And I can hear the disagreements coming already, but bear with me.

Both the above 78% paycheck to paycheck number and the Atlantic piece on marriage make me think back of Joe Bageant. Because that is the world he came from and returned to, and described in Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. The Appalachians. I don’t believe for a moment that Joe, if he were still with us, would have been one bit surprised about Trump. And reading this stuff, neither should you.

This is not something that is new, or that can be easily turned around anymore. This is the proverbial oceanliner which requires a huge distance to change course. Victor Tan Chen’s piece is a worthwhile read; here are a few bits:

America, Home of the Transactional Marriage

Over the last several decades, the proportion of Americans who get married has greatly diminished—a development known as well to those who lament marriage’s decline as those who take issue with it as an institution. But a development that’s much newer is that the demographic now leading the shift away from tradition is Americans without college degrees—who just a few decades ago were much more likely to be married by the age of 30 than college graduates were.

Today, though, just over half of women in their early 40s with a high-school degree or less education are married, compared to three-quarters of women with a bachelor’s degree; in the 1970s, there was barely a difference. [..] Fewer than one in 10 mothers with a bachelor’s degree are unmarried at the time of their child’s birth, compared to six out of 10 mothers with a high-school degree.

The share of such births has risen dramatically in recent decades among less educated mothers, even as it has barely budged for those who finished college. (There are noticeable differences between races, but among those with less education, out-of-wedlock births have become much more common among white and nonwhite people alike.)

And then you make education so expensive it’s out of reach for a growing number of people… Insult and injury.

Plummeting rates of marriage and rising rates of out-of-wedlock births among the less educated have been linked to growing levels of income inequality. [..] Why are those with less education—the working class—entering into, and staying in, traditional family arrangements in smaller and smaller numbers? Some tend to stress that the cultural values of the less educated have changed, and there is some truth to that.

But what’s at the core of those changes is a larger shift: The disappearance of good jobs for people with less education has made it harder for them to start, and sustain, relationships. What’s more, the U.S.’s relatively meager safety net makes the cost of being unemployed even steeper than it is in other industrialized countries—which prompts many Americans to view the decision to stay married with a jobless partner in more transactional, economic terms.

And this isn’t only because of the financial ramifications of losing a job, but, in a country that puts such a premium on individual achievement, the emotional and psychological consequences as well. Even when it comes to private matters of love and lifestyle, the broader social structure—the state of the economy, the availability of good jobs, and so on—matters a great deal.

This is the erosion of social cohesion. And there is nothing there to fill that void.

Earlier this year, the economists David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson analyzed labor markets during the 1990s and 2000s—a period when America’s manufacturing sector was losing jobs, as companies steadily moved production overseas or automated it with computers and robots. Because the manufacturing sector has historically paid high wages to people with little education, the disappearance of these sorts of jobs has been devastating to working-class families, especially the men among them, who still outnumber women on assembly lines.

Autor, Dorn, and Hanson found that in places where the number of factory jobs shrank, women were less likely to get married. They also tended to have fewer children, though the share of children born to unmarried parents, and living in poverty, grew. What was producing these trends, the researchers argue, was the rising number of men who could no longer provide in the ways they once did, making them less attractive as partners.

The perks of globalization. Opioids, anyone?

[..] In doing research for a book about workers’ experiences of being unemployed for long periods, I saw how people who once had good jobs became, over time, “unmarriageable.” I talked to many people without jobs, men in particular, who said that dating, much less marrying or moving in with someone, was no longer a viable option: Who would take a chance on them if they couldn’t provide anything?

It’s not only Joe Bageant. These are also the people Bruce Springsteen talked about when he was still the Boss.

[..] The theory that a lack of job opportunities makes marriageable men harder to find was first posed by the sociologist William Julius Wilson in regard to a specific population: poor, city-dwelling African Americans. [..] In later decades of the last century, rates of crime, joblessness, poverty, and single parenthood soared in cities across the country.

[..] In a 1987 book, Wilson put forward a compelling alternative explanation: Low-income black men were not marrying because they could no longer find good jobs. Manufacturers had fled cities, taking with them the jobs that workers with less in the way of education—disproportionately, in this case, African Americans—had relied on to support their families. The result was predictable. When work disappeared, people coped as best they could, but many families and communities frayed.

By now it’s all Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town. That album is some 40 years old. That’s -at least- how long this has been going on. And why it’ll be so hard to correct.

Decades later, the same storyline is playing out across the country, in both white and nonwhite communities, the research of Autor, Dorn, and Hanson (as well as others) suggests. The factory jobs that retreated from American cities, moving to suburbs and then the even lower-cost South, have now left the country altogether or been automated away.

[..] “The kinds of jobs a man could hold for a career have diminished,” the sociologists wrote, “and more of the remaining jobs have a temporary ‘stopgap’ character—casual, short-term, and not part of a career strategy.” The result: As many men’s jobs have disappeared or worsened in quality, women see those men as a riskier investment.

This next bit is painful: life ain’t gonna get any better, so we might as well have kids.

At the same time, they are not necessarily postponing when they have kids. As the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas have found in interviews with low-income mothers, many see having children as an essential part of life, and one that they aren’t willing to put off until they’re older, when the probability of complications in pregnancy can increase.

For mothers-to-be from more financially stable backgrounds, the calculation is different: They often wait longer to have children, since their career prospects and earnings are likely to improve during the period when they might otherwise have been raising a child. For less-educated women, such an improvement is much rarer.

Tan Chen follows up with a comparison of European and American safety nets, and suggests that “It’s not a matter of destiny, but policy”, but I don’t find that too relevant to why I found his piece so touching.

It describes a dying society. America is slowly dying, and not all that slowly for that matter. The Fed is comfortably holed up in Jackson Hole after having handed out trillions to bankers and lured millions of Americans into buying -or increasingly renting- properties that have become grossly overpriced due to its ZIRP policies, and congratulating itself on achieving “full employment”.

Why that ever became part of its mandate, g-d knows. I know, ML King et al. But. Thing is, when full employment means 78% of people have such a hard time making ends meet that they can’t afford to keep each other in a job by spending their money in stores etc., you’re effectively looking at a dying economy. Maybe we should not call it ‘full’, but ’empty employment’ instead.

Yeah, I know, trickle down. But instead of wealth miraculously trickling down, it’s debt that miraculously trickles up. How many Americans have mortgages or rents to pay every month that gobble up 40-50% or more from their incomes? That’d be a useful stat. Model that, Janet!

The article on marriage makes clear that by now this is no longer about money. The 40+ year crisis has ‘transcended’ all that. If and when money becomes too scarce, it starts to erode quality of life, first in individuals and then also in societies. It erodes the fabric of society. And you don’t simply replace that once it’s gone, not even if there were a real economic recovery.

But there will be no such recovery. As bad as things are for Americans today, they will get a whole lot worse. That is an inevitable consequence of the market distortion that QE has wrought: a gigantic financial crisis is coming. And the crowd gathered at Jackson Hole will be calling the shots once more, and bail out banks, not people. What’s that definition of insanity again?

 

 

Jul 052017
 
 July 5, 2017  Posted by at 11:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Fred Lyon Golden Gate Bridge painter 1947

We Have Fixed Issues That Caused Financial Crisis, Says Mark Carney (G.)
David Cameron Says People Who Oppose Austerity Are ‘Selfish’ (Ind.)
Judge To Review Ban On Prosecuting Tony Blair For Iraq War (G.)
The Grenfell Inquiry Will Be A Stitch-Up. Here’s Why (Monbiot)
Foreigners Account for Just 4.7% of Home Sales in Toronto Region (BBG)
China’s $162 Billion of Dealmaker Debt Raises Alarm
China’s Shadow Banking Lacks Sufficient Regulation: Central Bank (R.)
Arab States To Deliver Verdict On Qatar As Compromise Elusive (R.)
Why Do We Think Poor People Are Poor Because Of Their Own Bad Choices? (G.)
Austrian Troops To Control Migrants On Italy Border (R.)

 

 

Oh come on, get real. Heard that a million times before. This is insulting. Are people really stupid enough to believe Carney? Is he? Hell yeah. Well, here’s what Carney’s predecessor at the BOE, Mervyn King, said in 2007.

We Have Fixed Issues That Caused Financial Crisis, Says Mark Carney (G.)

Fundamental reforms undertaken since the US sub-prime mortgage market triggered the deepest global recession since the second world war have created a safer, simpler and fairer financial system, Mark Carney has said. With the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis next month, Carney said the world’s biggest banks were stronger, misconduct was being tackled, and the toxic forms of shadow banking were no longer a threat. Carney, as well as being governor of the Bank of England, is chairman of the Financial Stability Board, a body created by the G20 group of developed and developing nations in 2009 to recommend ways of remedying the flaws in the system highlighted by the crash.

In a letter to G20 leaders before their meeting in Hamburg later this week, Carney said: “A decade after the start of the global financial crisis, G20 reforms are building a safer, simpler and fairer financial system. The largest banks are considerably stronger, more liquid and more focused.” The FSB chairman said there were still issues to be addressed, such as the risks posed by developments in financial technology (fintech) and the increased vulnerability of digital systems to cyber-attack. But at a press conference in London on Monday, Carney said: “We have fixed the issues that caused the last crisis. They were fundamental and deep-seated, which is why it was such a major job.” The financial crisis of 2007 began in the US mortgage market but rapidly went global as it emerged that banks and unregulated shadow banks were massively exposed in the market for derivatives and did not have enough capital when losses started to mount.

Public anger towards the financial system grew when the biggest banks were bailed out by taxpayers because they were deemed “too big to fail”. Carney said in his letter: “The largest banks are required to have as much as 10 times more of the highest quality capital than before the crisis and are subject to greater market discipline as a consequence of globally agreed standards to resolve too-big-to-fail entities. “A decade ago, many large banks were woefully undercapitalised, with complex business models that relied on the goodwill of markets and, ultimately, taxpayers. A decade on, the largest banks have raised more than $1.5tn of capital, and all major internationally active banks meet minimum risk-based capital and leverage ratio requirements well in advance of the deadline.”

Read more …

Austerity is not about money, that has nothing to do with it. It’s about power, pure and simple.

David Cameron Says People Who Oppose Austerity Are ‘Selfish’ (Ind.)

David Cameron has intervened in the Cabinet row over easing up on austerity by attacking “selfish” politicians demanding higher spending. The former Prime Minister sided with Chancellor Philip Hammond by arguing it would be wrong to bow to growing public pressure and “let spending and borrowing rip”. A string of senior Tories, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, have called for the lifting of the one per cent pay cap on awards to millions of public sector workers. But Mr Cameron, speaking to a business conference in South Korea, said: “The opponents of so-called austerity couch their arguments in a way that make them sound generous and compassionate. “They seek to paint the supporters of sound finances as selfish or uncaring. The exact reverse is true. “Giving up on sound finances isn’t being generous, it’s being selfish: spending money today that you may need tomorrow.”

In addition to the row over the pay cap, Education Secretary Justine Greening is pushing for a £1bn cash injection to end school funding cuts. New demands for higher spending added to the pressures on Mr Hammond today, as councils warned they faced a £5.8bn funding gap by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, the Chancellor used a speech to business leaders last night to urge his colleagues to join a “grown-up debate” about how to pay for higher spending. Mr Hammond acknowledged the public was “weary” of austerity, but insisted “we must hold our nerve” and not simply borrow more. Paul Johnson, director of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, said “political discipline seems to have fallen apart” in the Cabinet. Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor, said the sight of Cabinet ministers publicly criticising the Chancellor over public sector pay made the Government appear “shambolic”.

Read more …

Don’t get your hopes up.

Judge To Review Ban On Prosecuting Tony Blair For Iraq War (G.)

The most senior judge in England and Wales will hear a case attempting to overturn a ban on prosecuting Tony Blair over the Iraq war, the Guardian has learned. A private criminal prosecution against the former Labour prime minister was blocked in 2016 by Westminster magistrates court when it was ruled Blair would have immunity from any criminal charges. But that ruling by the district judge, Michael Snow, will be reviewed on Wednesday before the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Mr Justice Ouseley. The current attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, wants the block on proceedings upheld. He will have a barrister in court to try to stop the attempted private prosecution. The hearing follows a decision by the high court in May, which has not previously been reported.

Then a high court judge said those wanting to prosecute Blair could have a hearing to seek permission for a court order allowing their case to go to the next stage. The judge in that case also said the attorney general could formally join in the case. Blair caused controversy when prime minister in deciding to take Britain into the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was led by the US and sparked huge opposition. The private prosecution seeks a war crimes trial in a British court of Blair, the foreign secretary in 2003, Jack Straw, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general at the time the government was deciding to join the invasion of Iraq. The case seeks their prosecution for the crime of aggression. The attorney general in written submissions for Wednesday’s hearing says such an offence does not exist in English law, a claim which is disputed.

The private prosecution attempt is based on the findings of last year’s Chilcot report into the decision by Blair to join the invasion of Iraq, which is criticised, under the false pretext that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction. After the Chilcot report was released some families of British service personnel who lost their lives in Iraq said they wanted Blair prosecuted in the courts. This attempt at a private prosecution is brought by Gen Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, former chief of staff of the Iraqi army who is now living in exile. His lawyers are Michael Mansfield QC and Imran Khan, who acted for the family of Stephen Lawrence. In November 2016, a British court ruled against an application to bring a private prosecution. A district judge at Westminster magistrates court ruled Blair had immunity from prosecution over the Iraq war and that any case could also “involve details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act”.

At the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, lawyers for the attorney general will argue that the crime of aggression, while existing in international law, has never been included into English law by parliament. But the government’s stance appears to be undermined by Goldsmith. In his 2003 memo on the legality of the Iraq war, Goldsmith appeared to concede the key point of those now seeking his prosecution. “Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law,” he wrote.

Read more …

Britain is one scary place. I’m reminded of Travis Bickle: “Someday a real rain will come and wipe this scum off the streets.”

The Grenfell Inquiry Will Be A Stitch-Up. Here’s Why (Monbiot)

We don’t allow defendants in court cases to select the charges on which they will be tried. So why should the government set the terms of a public inquiry into its own failings? We don’t allow criminal suspects to vet the trial judge. Why should the government approve the inquiry’s chair? Even before the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster has begun, it looks like a stitch-up, its initial terms of reference set so narrowly that government policy remains outside the frame. An inquiry that honours the dead would investigate the wider causes of this crime. It would examine a governing ideology that sees torching public protections as a sacred duty. Let me give you an example. On the morning of 14 June, as the tower blazed, an organisation called the Red Tape Initiative convened for its prearranged discussion about building regulations.

One of the organisation’s tasks was to consider whether rules determining the fire resistance of cladding materials should be removed for the sake of construction industry profits. Please bear with me while I explain what this initiative is and who runs it, as it’s a perfect cameo of British politics. It’s a government-backed body, established “to grasp the opportunities” that Brexit offers to cut “red tape” – a disparaging term for public protections. It’s chaired by the Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who has claimed that “the call to minimise risk is a call for a cowardly society”. It is a forum in which exceedingly wealthy people help decide which protections should be stripped away from lesser beings.

Among the members of its advisory panel are Charles Moore, who was editor of the Daily Telegraph and the chair of an organisation called Policy Exchange. He was also best man at Letwin’s wedding. Sitting beside him is Archie Norman, the former chief executive of Asda and the founder of Policy Exchange. He was once Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells – and was succeeded in that seat by Greg Clark, the minister who now provides government support for the Red Tape Initiative. Until he became environment secretary, Michael Gove was also a member of the Red Tape Initiative panel. Oh, and he was appointed by Norman as the first chairman of Policy Exchange. (He was replaced by Moore.) Policy Exchange also supplied two of Letwin’s staff in the Conservative policy unit that he used to run.

Policy Exchange is a neoliberal lobby group funded by dark money, that seeks to tear down regulations. The Red Tape Initiative’s management board consists of Letwin, Baroness Rock and Lord Marland. Baroness Rock is a childhood friend of the former Tory chancellor George Osborne, and is married to the wealthy financier Caspar Rock. Marland is a multimillionaire businessman who owns a house and four flats in London, “various properties in Salisbury”, three apartments in France and two apartments in Switzerland. In other words, the Red Tape Initiative is a representative cross-section of the British public. In no sense is it a self-serving clique of old chums, insulated from hazard by their extreme wealth, whose role is to decide whether other people (colloquially known as “cowards”) should be exposed to risk.

Read more …

“Ontario’s strong housing market is a reflection of our growing economy,” Charles Sousa, the province’s minister of finance, said..

Foreigners Account for Just 4.7% of Home Sales in Toronto Region (BBG)

The Ontario government said overseas buyers accounted for just 4.7% of home purchases in the Toronto area over a recent one-month period. The new data is in line with other surveys, signaling that foreigners haven’t been major drivers of real estate prices in one of Canada’s most expensive markets. Non-residents bought about 860 properties between April 24 to May 26 in the so-called greater golden horseshoe region of Ontario which includes Toronto, Hamilton and Peterborough, the province said in a statement Tuesday. The finance and housing ministries began compiling the figures as part of a new housing plan announced in April meant to make homes more affordable and accessible for Canadian residents. One of the measures included a 15% levy as of April 21 on foreign investors buying residential property in Toronto and nearby cities.

“Ontario’s strong housing market is a reflection of our growing economy,” Charles Sousa, the province’s minister of finance, said in a statement. “While this is great news for the province, the resulting increase in speculative purchases and a spike in home prices created affordability challenges for many and posed a risk to the market.” Toronto is the latest Canadian city to target non-resident buyers, who are often accused of driving up the price of homes by using them as an investments. Prices and sales in the city had been on a tear until early this year, prompting some to point to non-resident factors as a source of the heat. Vancouver last year imposed a 15% foreign buyer tax that preceded a slowdown of sales and price growth, though it was short-lived as the market picks up speed again. Both cities followed the lead by Australia, which forces offshore buyers to purchase through a separate buying program.

Read more …

Buying the world with monopoly money.

China’s $162 Billion of Dealmaker Debt Raises Alarm

China struck deal after deal to acquire companies abroad over the last few years. Now the bill is coming due. The nation’s top corporate dealmakers, including HNA and Fosun International, must pay off the equivalent of at least $11.5 billion in bonds and loans by the end of 2018 – a feat now complicated by government efforts to rein in their aggressive rush overseas. That figure represents just a fraction of the total debt of 1.1 trillion yuan ($162 billion) that the Chinese companies have reported as they projected their money and influence around the world with a record number of acquisitions. The size of their obligations – and whether they will be able to shoulder them – has begun to worry global banks and investors now that Beijing has pressed companies to dial back their ambitions abroad.

“Those companies the banking regulator is checking on have very high financing demand for M&A activities,” said Xia Le, chief Asia economist at BBVA in Hong Kong. “But banks will heighten their risk control when lending to them going forward, which could increase their funding costs and hurt the pace of their expansion.” The moves threaten to end an era of easy access to money for the firms. People familiar with the matter said last month that China Banking Regulatory Commission asked some banks to provide information on overseas loans to HNA, Fosun, Anbang Insurance and Dalian Wanda. Yields on some bonds issued by the firms jumped. The CBRC is examining examples of acquisitions gone awry to assess potential risks to the financial sector, people familiar also said. To be sure, the companies, which are among the biggest private-sector firms in China, are sitting on a cash pile that they can tap to meet upcoming debt deadlines. They have more than 400 billion yuan of cash and cash equivalents…

Read more …

Too late now, boys.

China’s Shadow Banking Lacks Sufficient Regulation: Central Bank (R.)

China’s central bank said on Tuesday the shadow banking sector lacks sufficient regulation and the bank would give more prominence to financial risk controls. Compared with traditional bank lending, the opaque nature of shadow banking products make it easier for them to bypass regulatory requirements and provide credit to restricted areas, the People’s Bank of China said in its annual China Financial Stability Report released online. The central bank will increase supervision over the rapidly growing asset management industry to curb shadow banking risks, it said. Since the first quarter, the PBOC has included banks’ off-the-balance-sheet wealth management products in its examination of broad credit in its Macro Prudential Assessment (MPA) risk-tool.

The world’s second-largest economy faces major challenges, including excess industrial capacity, sluggish growth, high corporate leverage, mounting local government debt, property bubbles in some regions, and the deterioration of banking assets, the PBOC said in its report. As the economy still faces relatively big downward pressures, the bank pledged to create a favourable monetary and financial environment for the development of the real economy this year. The central bank also said it would strengthen coordination with other financial regulators to fend off systemic financial risks.

Read more …

Still can’t help wondering about the timing of this. Why now? What changed?

Arab States To Deliver Verdict On Qatar As Compromise Elusive (R.)

Arab states that have imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of links to terrorism, were due to meet in Cairo on Wednesday to consider Doha’s response to a stiff ultimatum, but settlement of the dispute seemed far off. The editor of the Abu Dhabi government linked al-Ittihad newspaper wrote in an editorial that Qatar was “walking alone in its dreams and illusions, far away from its Gulf Arab brothers”. Foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain will consider whether to escalate, or less likely abandon, the boycott imposed on Qatar last month that has rattled a key oil-producing region and unnerved strategic Western allies. Qatar faces further isolation and possible expulsion from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) if its response to a list of demands made nearly two weeks ago is not deemed satisfactory.

The Arab countries have demanded Qatar curtail its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shut down the pan-Arab al Jazeera TV channel, close down a Turkish base and downgrade its ties with regional arch-rival Iran. They view Qatar’s independent diplomatic stances and support for 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings as support for terrorism and a dangerous breaking of ranks – charges Doha vigorously denies. Qatar has countered that the Arab countries want to curb free speech and take over its foreign policy, saying their 13 demands are so harsh they were made to be rejected. The gas-rich state had raised its international profile dramatically in recent years, drawing on huge gas revenues, and developed its economy with ambitious infrastructure projects. It is due to host the soccer world cup in 2022.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said at a joint news conference with his German counterpart on Tuesday that its response was “given in goodwill and good initiative for a constructive solution”, but insisted that Doha would not compromise on its sovereignty. Gulf officials have said the demands are not negotiable, signaling more sanctions are possible, including “parting ways” with Doha – a suggestion it may be ejected from the GCC, a regional economic and security cooperation body founded in 1981. “A Gulf national may be obliged to prepare psychologically for his Gulf to be without Qatar,” the editor of the Abu Dhabi al-Ittihad newspaper said.

Read more …

The topic deserves better treatment than this.

Why Do We Think Poor People Are Poor Because Of Their Own Bad Choices? (G.)

Cecilia Mo thought she knew all about growing up poor when she began teaching at Thomas Jefferson senior high school in south Los Angeles. As a child, she remembered standing in line, holding a free lunch ticket. But it turned out that Mo could still be shocked by poverty and violence – especially after a 13-year-old student called her in obvious panic. He had just seen his cousin get shot in his front yard. For Mo, hard work and a good education took her to Harvard and Stanford. But when she saw just how much chaos and violence her LA students faced, she recognized how lucky she had been growing up with educated parents and a safe, if financially stretched, home. Now, as an assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, Mo studies how to get upper-class Americans to recognize the advantages they have.

She is among a group of scholars trying to understand how rich and poor alike justify inequality. What these academics are finding is that the American dream is being used to rationalize a national nightmare. It all starts with the psychology concept known as the “fundamental attribution error”. This is a natural tendency to see the behavior of others as being determined by their character – while excusing our own behavior based on circumstances. For example, if an unexpected medical emergency bankrupts you, you view yourself as a victim of bad fortune – while seeing other bankruptcy court clients as spendthrifts who carelessly had too many lattes. Or, if you’re unemployed, you recognize the hard effort you put into seeking work – but view others in the same situation as useless slackers. Their history and circumstances are invisible from your perspective.

Here’s what has gone wrong: hard work and a good education used to be a sure bet for upward mobility in the US – at least among some groups of people. Americans born in the 1940s had a 90% chance of doing better economically than their parents did – but those born in the 1980s have only 50/50 odds of doing so.

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Oh yes, the EU will fail yet.

A comment on Twitter: “The last time Austria had tanks on the Italian border it lost Trent and Trieste.”

Austrian Troops To Control Migrants On Italy Border (R.)

Austria is planning to impose border controls and possibly deploy troops to cut the number of migrants crossing from Italy, defense officials said, drawing a warning from Rome and reigniting a row over Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis. Tensions between European Union countries over how to share the burden of migrants flared in 2015 when hundreds of thousands, many fleeing wars in Africa and the Middle East, began arriving in EU territory, mainly via Greece, and headed for Germany, Austria and other nearby affluent states. Austria took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers at the time, which helped increase support for the far-right Freedom Party. Keen to avoid another influx, it said it would introduce controls at the busy Brenner Pass border crossing with Italy if one materialized there.

That has not yet happened but Italy recently asked other EU countries to help it cope with a surge in migrants reaching its southern Mediterranean shores from Africa, raising concern in Austria that many will soon show up at its border with Italy. That is a political hot potato in Austria, where a parliamentary election is scheduled in October with immigration shaping up as a central issue. Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil told the mass-circulation Kronen Zeitung in an interview published on Tuesday that he expected restrictions would be introduced along the Alpine boundary with Italy “very soon”. Other Austrian officials, including Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka, who oversees crossings like Brenner, said there was currently no reason to introduce controls and Austria remained vigilant, a stance Vienna has repeated for the past year.

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