May 042018
 
 May 4, 2018  Posted by at 12:38 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gutzon Borglum Mount Rushmore, Repairing Lincoln’s nose 1962

 

 

Dr. D figured his last missive was a bit heavy handed. So he went for something lighter this time. A penance, a doctor’s guide: “It’s hard enough to find a candidate that will even promise to do something right so it doesn’t help that they do the opposite 90% of the time.”

 

 

Dr. D:

Who wrote “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal”? Jefferson, a slave owner.

Who was one of the most ardent Abolitionists? Alexander Hamilton.

Was he a slave owner? Yes.

Who won the election of 1824? No one, it was decided by the House of Representatives.

So which party lost? None: all four candidates were Democratic-Republicans.

In response, Andrew Jackson, a slave owner, created the Democratic Party.

Jackson created the Democratic Party as an anti-bank, anti-oligarch, states-rights platform the Tea Party would recognize.

Martin Van Buren, a Democrat, created the first concentration camp for Cherokee Indians in 1838.

Those 17,000 Cherokees owned 2,000 slaves.

Did Lincoln create the Republican Party? No, it was an amalgamation of failed parties: Lincoln was their 1st candidate.

What was the Lincoln campaign of 1860? Non-interference in state slavery.

Why? The decision of Dred Scott in 1857, a slave owned by abolitionists in a state he did not reside. Overturning 250 years of history, the case determined that no slave could ever become a citizen, i.e. freed.

Who was the best known Confederate General? Stonewall Jackson.

What did he do when he sided with the Southern cause? Freed his slaves.

Who else was a top Confederate General? William Mahone.

What did he do? He was the creator of the most successful interracial alliance in the post-war South. His name was purged first by Southern Democrats (for integration), then by modern Democrats (for being a Confederate).

 

Woodrow Wilson (D) ran an anti-collectivism, limited government, anti-monopoly, anti-bank campaign in 1912. He created the Federal Reserve and is known for founding the modern welfare state.

Wilson was re-elected on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” He immediately forced the reluctant nation into WWI.

Herbert Hoover, as Secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge during the Crash of ’21, demanded economic aid and bailouts, but Coolidge, “the great refrainer,” refused. The market immediately recovered.

Hoover was President during the Crash of ’29. He gave unprecedented bailouts to help the economy recover. It never did.

Roosevelt campaigned against Hoover for being “ the greatest spending Administration in peacetime in all our history.” He outspent Hoover tenfold.

Did Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” the greatest stimulus and spending program up to that time, end the Great Depression? No. It was going strong in 1939.

What did Roosevelt campaign on? He promised to keep us out of war in Europe.

Who was Time’s Man of the Year in 1938? Adolf Hitler.

Who was Man of the Year in 1939? Joseph Stalin.

1942? Joseph Stalin.

 

Wars under “anti-war” Democratic Party: 93 years, 46.5%. 625K deaths since 1864.

Wars under “pro-war” “Republican” Party: 107 Years 53.5%. 12K deaths since 1864.

Who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Republicans 80% vs. Democrats 69%.

Who filibustered it? Southern Democrat Strom Thurmond.

Who signed it? Lyndon Johnson, a southern Democrat.

Where did Thurmond go? The GOP, who had voted against him and against southern segregation.

What did Richard Nixon campaign on? “Law and Order” and a “secret plan” to exit Vietnam. He immediately bombed Cambodia and was later impeached for a burglary.

Who said “the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now” and “Every dollar released from taxation that is spent or invested will help create a new job and a new salary” ? John F. Kennedy.

Who gave the greatest modern tax cut? John F. Kennedy (income and capital gains, signed by Johnson).

Who most increased the postwar Federal deficit? Ronald Reagan 186%.

Who most increased taxes? Ronald Reagan, 1982 (as % of GDP, excluding Obamacare and Johnson’s one-year tax).

 

Who called young blacks “Superpredators”? Hillary Clinton, 1996.

Who put the most black men in jail? Bill Clinton, under the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act.

Who cut welfare most? Bill Clinton, 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Act.

Who was called the first “Black President”? Bill Clinton (“white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” –Toni Morrison, 1998. I swear this is true).

What was George W. Bush’s platform? Smaller, less-invasive government, lower taxes, and no foreign wars.

Who are the Neoconservatives? “Liberal hawks who became disenchanted with the pacifist foreign policy of the Democratic Party”.

Where did these Liberal Democrats finally prosper? Under G.W. Bush and on Fox News, e.g. Bill Kristol.

 

Which President won the Nobel Peace Prize? Barack Obama. (As did Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter)

What was his legacy? War every day of all eight years, with +50,000 official strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria and unofficial attacks in Ukraine, Sudan, Niger, Cameroon, Uganda, and elsewhere, as well as 3,000 drone deaths.

Wow, anything else? Due to his intervention, Obama, the first black president, caused the creation of an open-air black slave market in Libya.

Who campaigned advocating a Syrian no-fly zone expected to cause WWIII with Russia? Hillary Clinton (D).

Who campaigned for peace talks and de-escalation with Russia? Donald Trump (R).

Who sent 164 missiles into Russian ally Syria? Donald Trump (R).

Who advocated against the recent attacks? “Far-right” speakers Rand Paul and Tucker Carlson of Fox News.

Who advocated for the attacks? “Left” speakers Fareed Zakaria, and Rachel Maddow with left media Slate and Mother Jones.

What was the actual breakdown? 22% of GOP supported Syrian airstrikes in 2013 vs 86% for the same strikes in 2017.

And on and on. Got it? Know which side you’re on? History, party platforms, personal beliefs, economy, all clear?

 

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

P.S. Mark Twain never said this.

 

 

Nov 262016
 
 November 26, 2016  Posted by at 9:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Fidel Castro and Che Guevara ca. 1957

Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro Dies At 90 (AFP)
Wisconsin Agrees To Statewide Recount In Presidential Race (R.)
Bid To Challenge Brexit Gathers Pace Among Pro-Remain Politicians (G.)
Houses Have Never Been More Expensive To Buyers Who Need A Mortgage (Hanson)
Black Friday: The Death of Department Stores (WS)
US Payday Lenders Seek Emergency Court Help Against Regulators (R.)
When Money Dies (Bhandari)
Here’s What Happened When Ancient Romans Tried To ‘Drain The Swamp’ (Black)
Innovation Is Overvalued. Maintenance Matters More (Aeon)
Australia Eases Limits On Foreign Buyers As Apartment Glut Looms (AFR)
Australia Ceases Multimillion-Dollar Donations To Clinton Foundation (News)
Australia Joins Norway, Cuts Clinton Foundation Donations To $0 (ZH)
New Zealand Media Merger Risks Growth Of ‘Glib, Click-Bait’ Coverage (G.)
Greek Debt Relief Plan Said to Entail $35 Billion Bank Bond Swap (BBG)

 

 

How many people remember it was the US that drove Castro into Russian arms? He visited the US shortly after becoming president. Eisenhower refused to talk. Everything after that is propaganda and fake news.

Cuban Revolutionary Fidel Castro Dies At 90 (AFP)

Guerrilla revolutionary and communist idol, Fidel Castro was a holdout against history who turned tiny Cuba into a thorn in the paw of the mighty capitalist United States. The former Cuban president, who died aged 90 on Friday, said he would never retire from politics. But emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006 drove him to hand power to Raul Castro, who ended his brother’s antagonistic approach to Washington, shocking the world in December 2014 in announcing a rapprochement with US President Barack Obama. Famed for his rumpled olive fatigues, straggly beard and the cigars he reluctantly gave up for health reasons, Fidel Castro kept a tight clamp on dissent at home while defining himself abroad with his defiance of Washington.

In the end, he essentially won the political staring game, even if the Cuban people do continue to live in poverty and the once-touted revolution he led has lost its shine. As he renewed diplomatic ties, Obama acknowledged that decades of US sanctions had failed to bring down the regime – a drive designed to introduce democracy and foster western-style economic reforms – and it was time to try another way to help the Cuban people. A great survivor and a firebrand, if windy orator, Castro dodged all his enemies could throw at him in nearly half a century in power, including assassination plots, a US-backed invasion bid, and tough US economic sanctions.

Born August 13, 1926 to a prosperous Spanish immigrant landowner and a Cuban mother who was the family housekeeper, young Castro was a quick study and a baseball fanatic who dreamed of a golden future playing in the US big leagues. But his young man’s dreams evolved not in sports but politics. He went on to form the guerrilla opposition to the US-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, who seized power in a 1952 coup. That involvement netted the young Fidel Castro two years in jail, and he subsequently went into exile to sow the seeds of a revolt, launched in earnest on December 2, 1956 when he and his band of followers landed in southeastern Cuba on the ship Granma. Twenty-five months later, against great odds, they ousted Batista and Castro was named prime minister.

Once in undisputed power, Castro, a Jesuit-schooled lawyer, aligned himself with the Soviet Union. And the Cold War Eastern Bloc bankrolled his tropi-communism until the Soviet bloc’s own collapse in 1989. Fidel Castro held onto power as 11 US presidents took office and each after the other sought to pressure his regime over the decades following his 1959 revolution, which closed a long era of Washington’s dominance over Cuba dating to the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Read more …

How much of the $5 million so far was furnished by Soros?

Wisconsin Agrees To Statewide Recount In Presidential Race (R.)

Wisconsin’s election board agreed on Friday to conduct a statewide recount of votes cast in the presidential race, as requested by a Green Party candidate seeking similar reviews in two other states where Donald Trump scored narrow wins. The recount process, including an examination by hand of the nearly 3 million ballots tabulated in Wisconsin, is expected to begin late next week after Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has paid the required fee, the Elections Commission said. The state faces a Dec. 13 federal deadline to complete the recount, which may require canvassers in Wisconsin’s 72 counties to work evenings and weekends to finish the job in time, according to the commission. The recount fee has yet to be determined, the agency said in a statement on its website.

Stein said in a Facebook message on Friday that the sum was expected to run to about $1.1 million. She said she has raised at least $5 million from donors since launching her drive on Wednesday for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania – three battleground states where Republican Trump edged out Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by relatively thin margins. Stein has said her goal is to raise $7 million to cover all fees and legal costs. Her effort may have given a ray of hope to dispirited Clinton supporters, but the chance of overturning the overall result of the Nov. 8 election is considered very slim, even if all three states go along with the recount. The Green Party candidate, who garnered little more than 1 percent of the nationwide popular vote herself, said on Friday that she was seeking to verify the integrity of the U.S. voting system, not to undo Trump’s victory.

Read more …

In the same way that life imitates art, UK and US imitate each other.

Bid To Challenge Brexit Gathers Pace Among Pro-Remain Politicians (G.)

A series of informal but concerted efforts by pro-remain politicians to reshape or even derail the Brexit process is under way and gaining momentum, according to people involved. MPs from across the parties had discussed how to push the government into revealing its Brexit plans and to ensure continued single market access, sources said, as a series of senior political figures made public interventions suggesting the result of the EU referendum could be reversed. Tony Blair and John Major both suggested this week that the public should be allowed to vote on or even veto any deal for leaving the EU. However, those connected to efforts by serving pro-remain MPs say the former prime ministers’ views had little support in the Commons.

More significant, they argued, were strategy discussions involving MPs from all parties “caught between their own views and those expressed at the ballot box” in the referendum. “It’s a long process of gradually bringing people round to our way of thinking, on all sides,” said someone who works closely with pro-remain figures. “A lot of people are a bit unsure what to do – they’re caught between their own views and those expressed at the ballot box, often by their own constituents. “There’s a growing realisation that this is a long game. There’s actually very little information out there, and very little substance to get into. It’s hard to coalesce people around particular policy positions when the government has no policy to speak of. That’s quite a challenge.”

Major told a private dinner that there was a “perfectly credible case” for holding a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal. He said the views of the 48% of people who voted to remain should be taken into account and warned against the “tyranny of the majority”. Blair, in particular, is known to be sounding out opinion on Brexit as part of his re-emergence into political life. The former Labour prime minister’s office said he had discussed the issue with the former chancellor George Osborne, among “many people”.

Read more …

Be careful out there.

Houses Have Never Been More Expensive To Buyers Who Need A Mortgage (Hanson)

Houses have NEVER BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE to end-user, mortgage-needing shelter buyers. The recent rate surge crushed what little affordability remained in US housing. It now it requires 45% more income to buy the average-priced house than just four years ago, as incomes have not kept pace it goes without saying. The spike in rates has taken “UNAFFORDABILITY” to such extremes that prices, rates, and/or credit are now radically out of scope. At these interest rate levels house prices are simply not sustainable even in the lower-end price bands, which were far more stable than the middle-to-higher end bands (have been under significant pressure since spring). [..] The Data (note, for simplicity my models assume best-case 20% down and A-grade credit, which is the “minority” of lower-to-middle end buyers).

1) The average $361k builder house requires nearly $65k in income assuming a 4.5% rate, 20% down, and A-grade credit. Problem is, 20% + A-credit are hard to come by. For buyers with less down or worse credit, far more than $65k is needed. For the past 30-YEARS income required to buy the average priced house has remained relatively consistent, as mortgage rate credit manipulation made houses cheaper. Bottom line: Reversion to the mean will occur through house price declines, credit easing, a mortgage rate plunge to the high 2%’s, or a combination of all three. However, because rates are still historically low and mortgage guidelines historically easy, the path of least resistance is lower house prices.

2) The average $274k builder house requires nearly $53k in income assuming a 4.5% rate, 20% down, and A-grade credit. Problem is, 20% + A-credit are hard to come by. For buyers with less down or worse credit, far more than $53k is needed. For the past 30-YEARS income required to buy the average priced house has remained relatively consistent, as mortgage rate credit manipulation made houses cheaper. Bottom line: Reversion to the mean will occur through house price declines, credit easing, a mortgage rate plunge to the high 2%s, or a combination of all three. However, because rates are still historically low and mortgage guidelines historically easy, the path of least resistance is lower house prices.

3) Bonus Chart … Case-Shiller Coast-to-Coast Bubbles Bottom line: IT’S NEVER DIFFERENT THIS TIME. Easy/cheap/deep credit & liquidity has found its way to real estate yet again. Bubbles are bubbles are bubbles. And as these core housing markets hit a wall they will take the rest of the nation with them; bubbles and busts don’t happen in “isolation.”

Read more …

What does this mean for the future of human interaction?

Black Friday: The Death of Department Stores (WS)

There are still four weeks left to pull out the year. And hopes persists that this year will be decent. But online sales are hot, according to Adobe Digital Index, cited by Reuters. Online shoppers blew $1.15 billion on Thanksgiving Day, between midnight and 5 pm ET, according to Adobe Digital Index, up nearly 14% from a year ago. Sales by ecommerce retailers have been sizzling for years, growing consistently between 14% and 16% year-over-year and eating with voracious appetite the stale lunch of brick-and-mortar stores, particularly department stores. The lunch-eating process began in 2001. The chart below shows monthly department store sales, seasonally adjusted, since 1992. Note the surge in sales in the 1990s, driven by population growth, an improving economy, and inflation (retail sales are mercifully not adjusted for inflation). But sales began to flatten out in 1999. The spike in January 2001 (on a seasonally adjusted basis!) marked the end of the great American department store boom.

Even as the US fell into a recession in March 2001, ecommerce took off. But department store sales began their long decline, from nearly $20 billion in January 2001 to just $12.7 billion in October 2016, despite 14% population growth and 36% inflation! The decline of department stores is finding no respite during the holiday season. Not-seasonally-adjusted data spikes in October, November, and December. But these spikes have been shrinking, from their peak in December 2000 of $34.3 billion to $23.4 billion in December 2015, a 32% plunge, despite, once again, 14% population growth and 36% inflation!

In other words: the brick-and-mortar operations of department stores are becoming irrelevant. Ecommerce sales include all kinds of merchandise, not just the merchandise available in department stores. So it’s a broader measure. They have skyrocketed from $4.5 billion in Q4 1999 ($1.5 billion a month on average) to $101 billion in Q3 2016 ($33.7 billion a month on average).

Read more …

From the “It’s Just Not Fair!” department.

US Payday Lenders Seek Emergency Court Help Against Regulators (R.)

Payday lenders asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., for emergency relief to stop what they called a coordinated effort by U.S. regulators to stop banks from doing business with them, threatening their survival. In Wednesday night filings, the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) and payday lender Advance America, Cash Advance Centers Inc said a preliminary injunction was needed to end the “back-room campaign” of coercion by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Advance America said its own situation became dire after five banks decided in the last month to cut ties, including a 14-year relationship with U.S. Bancorp, putting it “on the verge” of being unable even to hold a bank account.

Payday lenders make small short-term loans that can help tide over cash-strapped borrowers. But critics say fees can drive effective interest rates well into three digits, and trap borrowers into an endless debt cycle in which they use new payday loans to repay older loans. The CFSA said other payday lenders are also losing banking relationships as a result of “Operation Choke Point,” a 2013 Department of Justice initiative meant to block access to payment systems by companies deemed at greater risk of fraud. “Protecting consumers from credit fraud is, of course, a commendable goal,” Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the CFSA, wrote. “But the manner in which the defendant agencies have chosen to pursue that ostensible goal betrays that their true intent has always been to eradicate a disfavored industry.”

Read more …

I don’t know to what extent Modi is the psychopath he’s made out to be here, but I do like the decentralization described (fits in with my end of centralization themes). “What a crazy idea it is to have a State monopoly on money..” [..] “In a tribalistic and irrational society, decentralization makes life much safer and makes the market more free, as complex decisions will be taken on the local level, where they belong”

When Money Dies (Bhandari)

Most people — particularly the salaried middle class – still seem to have a favorable opinion of Mr. Modi. They have been indoctrinated – in India’s extremely irrational and superstitious society – to believe that this demonetization will somehow alleviate corruption and that anything but support of Modi’s actions is anti-national and unpatriotic. This gives me pause to reflect. What a crazy idea it is to have a State monopoly on money, particularly a money that carries no inherent value and depends on regulatory edicts. On a deeper level, it makes me reflect on why for the culture of India – which is tribalistic, nativistic, superstitious and irrational – “India” is actually an unnatural entity. Such a society should consist of hundreds of tribes and countries, which is what “India” was before the British consolidated it.

In a tribalistic and irrational society, decentralization makes life much safer and makes the market more free, as complex decisions will be taken on the local level, where they belong . India’s institutions – not just organizations, but larger socio-political beliefs – have begun to decay and crumble after the British left, losing their underlying essence, the reason for which they had been institutionalized in the first place. This degradation is now picking up pace. They must eventually fall apart – including the nation-state of India – to adjust to the underlying culture. Let us consider some of these institutions. Western education implanted in India has mutated. It is making individuals cogs in a big machine, all for the service of one great leader. Public education and the mass-media have become instruments of propaganda.

Complexity and the diversity of options that technology brings make an irrational thinker extremely confused, forcing him to seek sanity in ritualistic religion —hence the increase in religiosity in India and elsewhere in the region. This has happened despite the explosion in information technology. The concept of the nation-state, when it took hold in Europe, was about the values the emergent rational and enlightened societies of Europe shared and had collectively come to believe in, at least among their elites. In India, the idea of the nation-state has morphed into a valueless thread, which binds people together through nothing but a flag and an anthem, symbols completely devoid of any values. It has collectivized tribalistic and irrational people (an irrationality that is amply epitomized by the negative force Islam has become in the last two decades).

In India and many similarly constituted countries, institutions that are not natural to their culture – the nation state, education, monetary system, etc. must eventually face entropy, slowly at first, and then rapidly. India has now entered the rapid phase. The death of money – amid a lack of respect for property rights (which again are a purely European concept that emerged from the intellectual revolutions of the last 800 years) – has been sudden and will very likely be catastrophic. It is a man-made disaster of gargantuan proportions. It will fundamentally change India in a very negative way, particularly if the demonetization effort succeeds, as it will have created the foundations enabling the rapid emergence of a police state.

Read more …

Yeah, expecting peaceful transitions is perhaps a bit much.

Here’s What Happened When Ancient Romans Tried To ‘Drain The Swamp’ (Black)

In late January of the year 98 AD, after decades of turmoil, instability, inflation, and war, Romans welcomed a prominent solider named Trajan as their new Emperor. Prior to Trajan, Romans had suffered immeasurably, from the madness of Nero to the ruthless autocracy of Domitian, to the chaos of 68-69 AD when, in the span of twelve months, Rome saw four separate emperors. Trajan was welcome relief and was generally considered by his contemporaries to be among the finest emperors in Roman history. Trajan’s successors included Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, both of whom were also were also reputed as highly effective rulers.

But that was pretty much the end of Rome’s good luck. The Roman Empire’s enlightened rulers may have been able to make some positive changes and delay the inevitable, but they could not prevent it. Rome still had far too many systemic problems. The cost of administering such a vast empire was simply too great. There were so many different layers of governments—imperial, provincial, local—and the upkeep was debilitating. Rome had also installed costly infrastructure and created expensive social welfare programs like the alimenta, which provided free grain to the poor. Not to mention, endless wars had taken their toll on public finances. Romans were no longer fighting conventional enemies like Carthage, and its famed General Hannibal bringing elephants across the Alps.

Instead, Rome’s greatest threat had become the Germanic barbarian tribes, peoples viewed as violent and uncivilized who would stop at nothing to destroy Roman way of life. Corruption and destructive bureaucracy were increasingly rampant. And the worse imperial finances became, the more the government tried to “fix” everything by passing debilitating regulation and debasing the currency. In his seminal work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon wrote: “The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long.”

Read more …

Progress as a blind faith. “Critics wondered if Nixon was wise to point to modern appliances such as blenders and dishwashers as the emblems of American superiority.”

Innovation Is Overvalued. Maintenance Matters More (Aeon)

Innovation is a dominant ideology of our era, embraced in America by Silicon Valley, Wall Street, and the Washington DC political elite. As the pursuit of innovation has inspired technologists and capitalists, it has also provoked critics who suspect that the peddlers of innovation radically overvalue innovation. What happens after innovation, they argue, is more important. Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations. The fates of nations on opposing sides of the Iron Curtain illustrate good reasons that led to the rise of innovation as a buzzword and organising concept.

Over the course of the 20th century, open societies that celebrated diversity, novelty, and progress performed better than closed societies that defended uniformity and order. In the late 1960s in the face of the Vietnam War, environmental degradation, the Kennedy and King assassinations, and other social and technological disappointments, it grew more difficult for many to have faith in moral and social progress. To take the place of progress, ‘innovation’, a smaller, and morally neutral, concept arose. Innovation provided a way to celebrate the accomplishments of a high-tech age without expecting too much from them in the way of moral and social improvement.

Before the dreams of the New Left had been dashed by massacres at My Lai and Altamont, economists had already turned to technology to explain the economic growth and high standards of living in capitalist democracies. Beginning in the late 1950s, the prominent economists Robert Solow and Kenneth Arrow found that traditional explanations – changes in education and capital, for example – could not account for significant portions of growth. They hypothesised that technological change was the hidden X factor. Their finding fit hand-in-glove with all of the technical marvels that had come out of the Second World War, the Cold War, the post-Sputnik craze for science and technology, and the post-war vision of a material abundance.

Robert Gordon’s important new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, offers the most comprehensive history of this golden age in the US economy. As Gordon explains, between 1870 and 1940, the United States experienced an unprecedented – and probably unrepeatable – period of economic growth. That century saw a host of new technologies and new industries produced, including the electrical, chemical, telephone, automobile, radio, television, petroleum, gas and electronics. Demand for a wealth of new home equipment and kitchen appliances, that typically made life easier and more bearable, drove the growth. After the Second World War, Americans treated new consumer technologies as proxies for societal progress – most famously, in the ‘Kitchen Debate’ of 1959 between the US vice-president Richard Nixon and the Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev. Critics wondered if Nixon was wise to point to modern appliances such as blenders and dishwashers as the emblems of American superiority.

Read more …

Just wow. No lessons learned from Vancouver, keep digging while in that hole.

Australia Eases Limits On Foreign Buyers As Apartment Glut Looms (AFR)

The federal government has announced it will make it easier for foreigners to buy new apartments amid concerns of a looming glut that will drive down prices. Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government will make changes to the foreign investment framework to allow foreign buyers to buy an off-the-plan dwelling that another foreign buyer has failed to settle as a new dwelling. Previously, on-sale of a purchased off the plan apartment was regarded as a second hand sale, which is not open to foreign buyers. Foreign buyers can only buy new dwellings. The move effectively opens up the pool of buyers who can soak a potential flood of apartments hitting the residential markets due to failed settlements.

“This change addresses industry concerns, and means property developers won’t be left in the lurch when a foreign buyer pulls out of an off-the-plan purchase,” Mr Morrison said in an announcement. “It is common sense that an apartment or house that has just been built, or is still under construction and for which the title has never changed hands, is not considered an established dwelling.” The policy change comes after Mirvac said it experienced a rise in the default rate for the settlement of off-the-plan residential sales, above its historic average of 1%. The changes will apply immediately and regulation change will be made soon to enable developers to acquire “New Dwelling Exemption Certificates” for foreign buyers of these recycled off-the-plan homes.

On top of defaults, the Australian apartment markets – which boomed in the last four years – are facing other fresh risks. On Friday, HSBC said an oversupply of apartments in Melbourne and Brisbane could send unit prices down by as much as 6% in 2017. The apartment building boom, an ongoing concern for the Reserve Bank of Australia, especially in inner city Melbourne is likely to “start showing through” in price drops of between 2% and 6% in that city next year, HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said in a note. It’s a similar story in Brisbane where apartment prices are forecast to fall by as much as 4%. “A national apartment building boom, which has been part of the rebalancing act, is likely to deliver some oversupply in the Melbourne and Brisbane apartment markets, which is expected to see apartment price falls in these markets,” Mr Bloxham said.

Read more …

No play no pay.

Australia Ceases Multimillion-Dollar Donations To Clinton Foundation (News)

The Clinton Foundation has a rocky past. It was described as “a slush fund”, is still at the centre of an FBI investigation and was revealed to have spent more than $50 million on travel. Despite that, the official website for the charity shows contributions from both AUSAID and the Commonwealth of Australia, each worth between $10 million and $25 million. News.com.au approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment about how much was donated and why the Clinton Foundation was chosen as a recipient. A DFAT spokeswoman said all funding is used “solely for agreed development projects” and Clinton charities have “a proven track record” in helping developing countries. Australia jumping ship is part of a post-US election trend away from the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate’s fundraising ventures.

Norway, one of the Clinton Foundation’s most prolific donors, is reducing its contribution from $20 million annually to almost a quarter of that, Observer reported. One reason for the drop-off could be increased scrutiny on international donors. The International Business Times reported in 2015 on curious links between donors and State Department approval. IBT wrote that the State Department approved massive commercial arms sales for countries which had donated to the Clinton charity. More than $165 billion worth of arms sales were approved by the State Department to 20 nations whose governments gave money to the Clinton Foundation, data shows. The countries buying weapons from the US were the same countries previously condemned for human rights abuses. They included Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

But what does Australia gain from topping up the Clinton coffers? The Australian reported in February that Australia was “the single biggest foreign government source of funds for the Clinton Foundation” but questions remain unanswered about the agreement between the two parties. “It’s not clear why Canberra had to go through an American foundation to deliver aid to Asian countries (including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam). There is now every chance the payments will become embroiled in presidential politics.” The Daily Telegraph wrote in October that “Lo and behold, (Julia Gillard) became chairman (of the Clinton-affiliated Global Partnership for Education) in 2014”, one year after being defeated in a leadership ballot by Kevin Rudd.

Read more …

“After contributing $88mm to the Clinton Foundation over the past 10 years, making them one of the Foundation’s largest contributors, Australia has decided to pull all future donations.

But why would they stop funding now that Hillary has so much more free time to focus on her charity work?

Australia Joins Norway, Cuts Clinton Foundation Donations To $0 (ZH)

For months we’ve been told that the Clinton Foundation, and it’s various subsidiaries, were simple, innocent “charitable” organizations, despite the mountain of WikiLeaks evidence suggesting rampant pay-to-play scandals surrounding a uranium deal with Russia and earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, among others. Well, if that is, in fact, true perhaps the Clintons could explain why wealthy foreign governments, like Australia and Norway, are suddenly slashing their contributions just as Hillary’s schedule has been freed up to focus exclusively on her charity work. Surely, these foreign governments weren’t just contributing to the Clinton Foundation in hopes of currying favor with the future President of the United States, were they? Can’t be, only an useless, “alt-right,” Putin-progranda-pushing, fake news source could possibly draw such a conclusion.

Alas, no matter the cause, according to news.com.au, the fact is that after contributing $88mm to the Clinton Foundation, and its various affiliates, over the past 10 years the country of Australia has decided to cease future donations to the foundation just weeks after Hillary’s stunning loss on November 4th. And just like that, 2 out of the 3 largest foreign contributors to the Clinton Foundation are gone with Saudia Arabia being the last remaining $10-$25mm donor that hasn’t explicitly cut ties or massively scaled by contributions. [..]
News.com.au confirmed Australia’s decision to cut future donations to the Clinton Foundation earlier today. When asked why donations were being cut off now, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official simply said that the Clinton Foundation has “a proven track record” in helping developing countries. While that sounds nice, doesn’t it seem counterintuitive that these countries would pull their funding just as Hillary has been freed up to spend 100% of her time helping people in developing countries?

“Australia has finally ceased pouring millions of dollars into accounts linked to Hillary Clinton’s charities. Which begs the question: Why were we donating to them in the first place? The federal government confirmed to news.com.au it has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million. News.com.au approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment about how much was donated and why the Clinton Foundation was chosen as a recipient. A DFAT spokeswoman said all funding is used “solely for agreed development projects” and Clinton charities have “a proven track record” in helping developing countries.”

Read more …

Fake News Inc.

New Zealand Media Merger Risks Growth Of ‘Glib, Click-Bait’ Coverage (G.)

A group of distinguished former newspaper editors has launched a scathing attack on plans for New Zealand’s largest print media companies to merge, calling it a threat to democracy which could see a concentration of power exceeded “only in China”. The merger of NZME and Fairfax Media, which was proposed in May, would not be healthy in a country that “already suffers from a dearth of serious content and analysis”, the editors say in a submission to the commerce commission. The group, which includes Suzanne Chetwin, former Dominion chief Richard Long and ex-New Zealand Herald editor Gavin Ellis, also criticise the trend towards “click-bait stories” at a time when television has “all but abandoned current affairs and our public discourse is increasingly glib”.

“The merger would see one organisation controlling nearly 90% of the country’s print media market (and associated websites), the greatest level of concentration in the OECD and one that is exceeded only by China. “That cannot be healthy, particularly in a society like New Zealand’s that has so few checks and balances in its constitutional arrangements.” The submission went on to state the greatest threat to New Zealand media came from off-shore publishers who had “no feel for New Zealand’s social fabric”, and urged the commerce commission to decline the merger. The merger was sold as an attempt by both companies to stem revenue losses and drastic staff and budget cuts, particularly to rural and regional newsrooms.

Dunedin’s The Otago Daily Times would be the only newspaper in the country to remain independent, although it too could be affected as they have content sharing agreements with NZME’s The New Zealand Herald. Radio stations and magazines owned by both companies would also be affected.

Read more …

That’s not debt relief, it’s Schauble-friendly creative accounting.

Greek Debt Relief Plan Said to Entail $35 Billion Bank Bond Swap (BBG)

Greece’s battered banks are being asked to swap about 33 billion ($35 billion) euros in floating-rate bonds for 30-year, fixed-rate securities under a euro-area plan to shield Athens from future interest rate increases, three people with knowledge of the matter said. The swap is part of a package of debt-relief proposals for Greece to be presented at a Dec. 5 meeting of euro-area finance ministers, according to the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter. The notes were issued by the European Financial Stability Facility, the region’s crisis-fighting fund, to re-capitalize Greek lenders in 2013.

While the current EFSF holdings of Greek banks fall due between 2034 and 2046, the fixed-rate notes will expire in 2047, the people said. That will reduce Greece’s interest rate risk, but it may come at a cost for its four systemically important lenders, which could be left with securities that are more difficult to trade. The technical aspects of the operation are still being hashed out. “There are discussions going on as to proposals which will improve the sustainability of the Greek debt,” Piraeus Bank Chairman George Handjinicolaou said in an interview Thursday. “Part of this proposal is a change in the EFSF bonds for something else, some form of fixed-rate debt, which would improve the predictability of the sustainability of the Greek debt profile.”

Read more …

Nov 122016
 
 November 12, 2016  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Harris&Ewing National Press Club Building newssstand, Washington DC 1940

Escaping the Soulless Machine (Steen Jakobsen)
Moving Past Never Trump (NR)
Donald Trump Appears To Soften Stance On Range Of Pledges (G.)
The Clintons And Soros Launch America’s Purple Revolution (Madsen)
A Visit to Trump’s America (Speed)
Supporters To Trump: Break Campaign Promises At Your Peril (R.)
Trump Spells End of Normality for Europe (Spiegel)
Trump’s Rise Comes As No Surprise On England’s Disaffected East Coast (G.)
Oil Tankers Used to Store Millions of Barrels as Land Sites Fill (BBG)
Rupee Rage Grows In India as Property Prices Collapse Overnight (R.)
White House Gives Up On Passing TPP (Hill)
Obama To Speak In Favour Of Debt Relief During Nov 15 Visit to Greece (Amna)
President Obama Goes to Greece (TEI)
Financial Crisis Takes Huge Toll On Greeks’ Dental Hygiene (Kath.)
Greek Hospitals Scrounging For Cash (Kath.)

 

 

Excellent by the Danish banker, h/t Mish.

Escaping the Soulless Machine (Steen Jakobsen)

Like Brexit, the US vote was never about personalities or issues. Had the “issues” meant anything to US voters, neither Clinton nor Trump would have made it on to the ticket in November. The very fact that someone like Donald Trump could lead the Republican party into a presidential election is testament to how it had nothing to do with the person, nothing to do with policy, but everything to do with Americans’ perceived need to escape what one strategist called “a soulless political machine”. In the end, Hillary Clinton was simply unelectable. She ran a $1 billion campaign designed to cater to all manner of special interest groups, be they ethnically based, gender-specific, or concerned with very specific policy areas.

Trump’s campaign, conversely, consisted mainly of his Twitter account (and its many followers)! That’s right: his Twitter account. Conclusion number one, then, is very uplifting: spending more money does not buy you more votes, nor can it purchase integrity. It seems that Trump, despite his often inflammatory persona, managed to transform himself into a candidate who believed in America as a whole rather than in specific groups. Several newspapers, including the New York Times, ran page after page of facts detailing how Trump degraded, disparaged, and broadly ignored the norms of political correctness, yet he kept rising in the polls. If that won’t get the media and political strategists to think twice, what will?

Is the positive conclusion, then, that in future the “map to becoming president” has more to do with the desire, both spoken and implied, to be a president for all of America? A real person rather than a focus group-approved construct? Does it require concentrating on what makes America strong, and a decreased emphasis on the needs and grievances of specific sub-groups? If that indeed is the case, then US politics appear ready to rise from the ashes of destruction. If this is in turn the case, then it means that Americans need to be American first and a member of whatever minority or special interest group second, but for decades it has been the other way around.

Read more …

Too many are too emotionally invested to make that move.

Moving Past Never Trump (NR)

There were different reasons for being Never Trump. On the left, the meme that Trump supporters are all the deplorable “–ists” has taken hold. The idea is that this is all this election represents: a triumph of angry, racist misogynists lashing back at a black president and a potential female one. One has to conclude they haven’t actually met any Trump voters; otherwise, the inanity of their analysis is hard to sustain. In the middle and in the GOP “establishment,” when Trump was doing badly, some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”) because they like to back a winner and flinch from association with a loser. Their support ebbed and flowed with the changing consensus that Trump might or couldn’t win, and so a number ended on the wrong side of the trade and even if nominally supporting Trump, they didn’t expect success.

Finally, on the right, there were many wonderful, dedicated, principled conservatives who were repelled by Trump personally and saw him as protectionist, isolationist, nativist, and possibly racist. They were concerned that he would do long-term harm to the brand of both their philosophy and their party, and they traveled in circles where everyone they knew and cared about felt similarly. The conviction that Trump not only should not but could not win was one in which they were deeply invested. Why so invested in that idea? Possibly because if they admitted that he could win (however awful they believed a Trump presidency would be), they would have to explain why a Trump presidency would be worse overall than a Clinton presidency. If Trump wasn’t going to win anyway, they didn’t need to justify not voting for Trump.

Why was voting for Trump a problem? Because they asked the question “What does my vote say about me?” And their answer was that voting for Trump was tantamount to endorsing his beliefs and behavior, which put them on the wrong side of how they wanted to see themselves, and wanted their friends and colleagues to see them, too. But those who voted for Trump answered that question differently: How they voted was not about endorsing the worst of Trump but about the future of the country. Indeed, in focus groups we did this year, as well as anecdotally, Trump voters were better versed and more keenly aware of Trump’s warts than repelled and consequently undecided voters were.

And while most had not favored Trump at the beginning of the election season, they were convinced that the gravity of this turning point for our country superseded their concerns about Trump’s flaws. Now that Trump is in fact the president-elect, most Never Trumpers will complete the last of the stages of grief — acceptance — that many of their compatriots traveled through just a little faster. They are coming to terms, many with relief and even some exhilaration, that Hillary won’t be president, that the Senate majority has been retained, that we might in fact start to undo the damage of the last eight-plus years.

Read more …

Of course he does.

Donald Trump Appears To Soften Stance On Range Of Pledges (G.)

Donald Trump has appeared to soften his stance on a range of sweeping campaign pledges, saying in his first interview since being elected US president that he might not repeal Obamacare and admitting the prosecution of Hillary Clinton over confidential emails was not a priority. The president-elect, who said he would “immediately repeal and replace” Obamacare after taking office, told the Wall Street Journal he might instead seek to reform the policy, keeping the ban on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. He said he would also look to retain the provision that allowed young adults to be insured on their parents’ policies, adding that he had been convinced of the virtues of the two points in his meeting with outgoing president, Barack Obama, on Thursday.

Trump and his family also filmed an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes to be broadcast on Sunday. The president-elect said he would amend or repeal and replace Obamacare without any gaps in healthcare provision. “It will be just fine. It’s what I do: I do a good job and I know how to do this stuff,” he told Lesley Stahl. Having called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” and “crooked” during the campaign, Trump struck a conciliatory tone towards his former opponent in both interviews. The Wall Street Journal asked about campaign promises to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against his Democratic rival over her use of a private email server to conduct official business as secretary of state. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve healthcare, jobs, border control, tax reform,” Trump said.

The statement is likely to anger the president-elect’s core supporters, many of whom chanted: “Lock her up, lock her up,” at rallies during the campaign. He told 60 Minutes the call in which Clinton conceded the election was “lovely”, adding: “It was a tough call for her, I can imagine… She couldn’t have been nicer. She just said, congratulations Donald, well done.” He praised his former opponent: “She’s very strong and very smart.” Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, had also called. “He couldn’t have been more gracious. He said it was an amazing run – one of the most amazing he had ever seen,” Trump said.

Read more …

Trump should kick out the Soros NGOs the same way Putin did.

The Clintons And Soros Launch America’s Purple Revolution (Madsen)

Defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is not about to «go quietly into that good night». On the morning after her surprising and unanticipated defeat at the hands of Republican Party upstart Donald Trump, Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, entered the ball room of the art-deco New Yorker hotel in midtown Manhattan and were both adorned in purple attire. The press immediately noticed the color and asked what it represented. Clinton spokespeople claimed it was to represent the coming together of Democratic «Blue America» and Republican «Red America» into a united purple blend.

This statement was a complete ruse as is known by citizens of countries targeted in the past by the vile political operations of international hedge fund tycoon George Soros. The Clintons, who both have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions and Clinton Foundation donations from Soros, were, in fact, helping to launch Soros’s «Purple Revolution» in America. The Purple Revolution will resist all efforts by the Trump administration to push back against the globalist policies of the Clintons and soon-to-be ex-President Barack Obama. The Purple Revolution will also seek to make the Trump administration a short one through Soros-style street protests and political disruption.

[..] President-elect Trump is facing a two-pronged attack by his opponents. One, led by entrenched neo-con bureaucrats, including former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, and Bush family loyalists are seeking to call the shots on who Trump appoints to senior national security, intelligence, foreign policy, and defense positions in his administration. These neo-Cold Warriors are trying to convince Trump that he must maintain the Obama aggressiveness and militancy toward Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and other countries. The second front arrayed against Trump is from Soros-funded political groups and media. This second line of attack is a propaganda war, utilizing hundreds of anti-Trump newspapers, web sites, and broadcasters, that will seek to undermine public confidence in the Trump administration from its outset.

One of Trump’s political advertisements, released just prior to Election Day, stated that George Soros, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs chief executive officer Lloyd Blankfein, are all part of «a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities». Soros and his minions immediately and ridiculously attacked the ad as «anti-Semitic». President Trump should be on guard against those who his campaign called out in the ad and their colleagues. Soros’s son, Alexander Soros, called on Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner, to publicly disavow Trump. Soros’s tactics not only seek to split apart nations but also families. Trump must be on guard against the current and future machinations of George Soros, including his Purple Revolution.

Read more …

More like: a visit to the America everyone else ignored. It became Trump’s be default.

A Visit to Trump’s America (Speed)

Two months ago, when I was in Ohio visiting my daughter, I was given an insight into the early indicators of a Trump victory. The clues were there, but I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing. At that time, I had no inkling of the depth and breadth of rural dissatisfaction that would elect a Donald Trump as President. I’m a photographer and the coordinator of The Texas Farm and Ranch Photography Project, photographing the daily lives of farm and ranch families, their work, meals, worship, and family life. In September, I drove almost 300 miles up and down the rural roads east of Dayton and south of Columbus, Ohio, to add some farm images to my portfolio. Mile after mile, farm after farm, town after town, ag business after ag business, I saw only Trump signs.

It was obvious that if Ohio was going to block Trump, it would have to be in the cities because agricultural Ohio was overwhelmingly Trump country. This mirrored the same Trump support that I saw in the agricultural communities I have been photographing across Texas for the past year. As I engaged in countless conversations in both rural Ohio and Texas, I tried to understand how any farming or ranching family could even remotely identify with a brash, thrice-married, womanizing, bankruptcy-declaring, New York billionaire. What I learned is that agricultural America felt not only ignored and forgotten, it felt rejected and despised by America’s political elite, and that any candidate who could hurt that elite was worth their vote.

No story brought this home to me more powerfully than a grandfather who spoke of national news stories about what he described as the whining and crying on elite college campuses by those who demanded “safe places” and “safe zones” where they will be sheltered from anything that remotely offends them. He spoke of ingrates wanting special “only me” safe places where they do not have to do anything, hear anything, see anything, or be around anyone or anything they don’t like. In that farmer’s mind, while the safe-space crowd whined about its “offendedness” and demanded entitlements, children of agricultural families were up early in the morning working on their chores and projects, followed by a full day at school, coming home to more work – all while being part of a family, a community, and a nation.

He described watching youngsters at county fairs and livestock shows hauling feed, cleaning stalls, washing and grooming livestock, shoveling manure, unloading and loading their family trucks and trailers, and trying to sleep in uncomfortable chairs – all while ungrateful elite college students failed to appreciate their pampered lives. In this gentleman’s world view, it was not black versus white, rich versus poor, feminism versus patriarchy, illegal versus citizen; rather, it was those who produce nothing believing themselves entitled, without appreciation, to the goods produced by others versus those who actually produce. Although this grandfather did not use the exact words, he pretty much described a political elite and liberal establishment as thinking of American agriculture families as nothing more than serfs in a self-protecting, self-serving feudal system.

Read more …

A balancing act alright, but he’s not bad at that.

Supporters To Trump: Break Campaign Promises At Your Peril (R.)

Mark Morris, a leader of the Colorado-based Three% United Patriots militia group, said he understood Trump would need time on some issues, but he expected quick movement on repealing Obamacare and appointing a conservative Supreme Court justice to fill the seat of the late Antonin Scalia. He said he hoped Trump would stand with ranchers in their disputes with the federal government over fees charged for cattle grazing on public land – a call to arms for many in the patriot and militia movement. Morris warned Trump should not count on his followers to stay with him if he did not produce results. “People voted with a lot of faith that he will come through,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to work out very well if he doesn’t get the things done and he comes back at the end of four years and says I need four more years to accomplish what I need to accomplish.”

Trump had to take strong action on immigration given his rhetoric, said Roy Beck, head of Numbers USA, a group that favors reduced immigration levels. He said Numbers USA and other grassroots groups would pressure Trump to keep his promises to bolster enforcement and cut back on legal immigration and foreign workers, including eliminating immigration by low-skill and non-extraordinary-skilled workers. “There’s no way he would have been elected president if he had not so boldly made immigration his top issue,” Beck said. “You have to come through on your top issue. The question is in the details.” He said many Trump supporters understood his talk about the border wall was “shorthand” for restoring the rule of law in immigration, although it was a promise by which he would be judged. “We’re in the best position we’ve ever been in since the 1950s to get control of this issue, but we still have big challenges,” Beck said.

Read more …

Nothing to do with Trump, it’s been coming for a long time.

Trump Spells End of Normality for Europe (Spiegel)

Angela Merkel has no lack of experience in dealing with egocentric men. The chancellor has known Russian President Vladimir Putin for years and she speaks regularly with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the phone. After the surprising victory of self-made politician Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, another member of this species will now be added to the group. No wonder, then, that the German chancellor wanted to call the new US president-elect as quickly as possible on Wednesday. The only problem was that no one in the German government had a number to call. It was only after the Chancellery in Berlin requested assistance from the German Embassy in Washington that they were able to reach a contact close to Trump.

The election victory of Trump, literally the embodiment of the new wave of angry voters, creates fresh challenges for the German political elite, not just when it comes to the phone directory. Most leading politicians among both the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had been convinced that Democratic rival Hillary Clinton would prevail in the election. Now they are all facing the same difficult question. How do you react when the incoming occupant of the most powerful position in the Western world sees himself as a populist and is threatening to end traditional Western alliances? German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who recently branded Trump a “hate preacher,” has said he is preparing for “difficult times.”

The chancellor herself also reminded the president-elect that “democracy, freedom, respect for the law and for human dignity, regardless of ancestry, skin color, religion, gender and sexual orientation” are all values that must be defended – the very ones that the Republican candidate more or less openly questioned during his campaign.

Read more …

The entire world economic problem in just a few words: “A lot of profit that is created here does not stay here. It goes to the business headquarters in London or other parts of the world.”

Trump’s Rise Comes As No Surprise On England’s Disaffected East Coast (G.)

“It’s like Brexit isn’t it,” says Tim Rix, a staunch leave supporter and the fifth generation of his family to run JR Rix and Sons. “Donald Trump was voted in for many different – and sometimes conflicting – reasons,” the managing director says. “Many reasons that overturned the establishment’s expected result.” There are thousands of miles between the rust-belt US states that supported Trump and Rix’s office in Hull in east Yorkshire, but in many respects the two places are closely aligned. The communities of both quietly voted to shock the world, taking decisions that would reveal deep divisions in each nation and leave large swaths of society asking how this could happen. Rix sees parallels in the economic protectionism that Trump used to appeal to millions of struggling US middle-class voters.

“Europe is broken, it’s not going to work,” he says. “We have our own problems and we need to concentrate on dealing with the problems in this country.” The mood in those areas that turned against the establishment in the EU referendum is one of economic and social discontent, where people feel left behind and struggle to find their own answers to this and every other question posed by the decline of post-war industrial Britain. And while Rix and his forebears managed to develop a business that now turns over £4m to £5m, the local area is faring less well. Following the demise of its fishing, shipping and heavy industries, the city moved into sharp decline. But manufacturing still makes up 17% of the jobs in Hull, compared with 2.6% in London, according to statistics from the Centre for Cities thinktank.

“When the fish industry went down other businesses got more important. We have a lot of global operators in food, chemical, aerospace and oil refineries,” explains Ian Kelly, chief executive of the Hull and Humber chamber of commerce. “A lot of profit that is created here does not stay here. It goes to the business headquarters in London or other parts of the world.” And so Hull remains one of the poorest cities in Britain, with nearly 30% of households in social housing and one of the lowest average workplace earnings in the UK.

Read more …

Dancing the Con Tango.

Oil Tankers Used to Store Millions of Barrels as Land Sites Fill (BBG)

Oil companies booked tankers to store as many as 9 million barrels of crude in northwest Europe amid signs that space in on-land depots is filling up, a ship-operator said. The glut could get bigger still, given the region is scheduled to load the most cargoes in 4 1/2 years next month. There are 14 to 16 Aframax-class tankers now storing crude in the region, Jonathan Lee, CEO of Tankers International, operator of the world’s biggest pool of supertankers, said. Standard cargoes are normally almost 600,000 barrels. Lack of on-land capacity to hold the oil is the most likely cause of the buildup, he said. North Sea producers are among a long list of suppliers adding barrels just as OPEC prepares to try and eliminate a surplus.

Pressure on the exporter club is piling up because its own members are pumping like never before while nations outside the group including Brazil, Kazakhstan, Canada and Russia are producing more than ever or pumping from new fields. Traders began looking for profit at sea again earlier this month, with Tankers International saying at the time that between five and 10 ships had been chartered to hold oil near Singapore, most likely to profit from weak crude prices. Those ships are the industry’s biggest supertankers, holding 2 million barrels a piece. The vessels in the North Sea would normally carry about 70% less oil. Oversupply in the oil market has caused a key oil-price spread that denotes the scale of any surplus to balloon.

The difference in the price of January and February Brent contracts rose to $1.18 a barrel this week, the widest since April 2015, excluding days when the price expires. When the month-on-month discount gets deep enough – something called contango – it sometimes rewards traders to hire ships, keep hold of the oil, and sell it at the later price, because the gap more than covers the cost of booking a vessel. Other times, there just isn’t space to unload, forcing vessels to wait. Inventories in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp are the highest for the time of year since at least 2013, according to data from Genscape. “The big question is whether it’s contango or whether it’s a lack of physical land-based storage” that’s caused the storage buildup in Northwest Europe, London-based Lee said. “It seems to be the latter at the moment.”

Read more …

From my email contact: Property prices down 80% overnight in Delhi. I have a friend there, some apartments that were going for Rs 10,000,000 are now Rs 2,000,000. Owners desperate for cash. He doesn’t have money for milk and he’s a wealthy businessman. Business in the big bazaars is dead. Lines at banks for hours and lines as far as the eye can see. On the black market Rs/USD rate has doubled to 120. Cash is not a defence against deflation. We just saw it legislated out of existence. In a day. One freaking day. Poof.”

Rupee Rage Grows In India as Property Prices Collapse Overnight (R.)

Anger was rising across India on Saturday as banks struggled to dispense cash after the government withdrew large-denomination notes in a shock move aimed at uncovering billions of dollars of unaccounted wealth hidden from the taxman. Hundreds of thousands of people stood outside banks for a third day for long hours trying to replace 500- and 1,000-rupee banknotes that were abolished earlier in the week. The two bills, worth about 265 and 530 baht respectively, made up more than 80% of all currency in circulation, leaving millions of people without cash and threatening to grind large parts of the $400-billion cash-driven economy to a halt. There were also reports of people with large stashes of undocumented cash offering up to double the market rate for gold just to get rid of their bills.

The government has begun issuing new 2,000-rupee banknotes, said to be much more difficult to counterfeit than their predecessors, but the supply is far short of the huge demand. Redesigned 500-rupee notes are also in the pipeline. Thai residents planning to visit India are also being advised to prepare for inconvenience. “There is chaos everywhere,” said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrilwal and a bitter foe of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said Modi’s move had upended the lives of the poor and working while the rich — whose wealth he had sought to target — had found loopholes to get around the new rules. People argued and banged the glass doors of a branch of Standard Chartered in southern Delhi after the security guards blocked entry, saying there were already too many people inside the bank.

Others turned on Modi, criticising his ongoing visit to Japan while countrymen suffered at home. “He is taking bullet train rides in Japan and here you have old people knocking on bank doors for cash,” said Prabhat Kumar, a college student who said he had spent six hours at the queue. “He has made a terrible mistake.”

Read more …

It was dead anyway.

White House Gives Up On Passing TPP (Hill)

The Obama administration’s won’t pursue passage of its signature Pacific Rim trade deal, dealing a major blow to President Obama’s legacy. Any hope of passing the sweeping 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) quickly faded after Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Tuesday and pronouncements by congressional leaders that the pact would not be considered during the lame-duck session. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton each opposed the agreement during their campaigns, endangering the already slim chances that Congress would cobble together enough support to pass the historic agreement before the end of Obama’s presidency. The long-shot trade agreement faced widespread Democratic opposition on Capitol Hill and the environment for passing the deal only grew more toxic during the presidential campaigns.

As recently as last week, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressed optimism that the Obama administration and congressional Republican leaders could reach a deal on the final outstanding issues, including patent protections for high-tech medicines called biologics. But after Tuesday, the onus shifted to the willingness of Congress to consider the agreement. “We have worked closely with Congress to resolve outstanding issues and are ready to move forward, but this is a legislative process and it’s up to congressional leaders as to whether and when this moves forward,” said Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for the Office of the U.S. trade representative, in an email to The Hill.

Read more …

He has done nothing so far; why expect it now?

Obama To Speak In Favour Of Debt Relief During Nov 15 Visit to Greece (Amna)

U.S. President Barack Obama is in full accord with the IMF that the Greek debt is not sustainable and must be settled, a White House spokesman said on Friday, adding that the President will ask for debt relief during his visit to Athens next week. According to a report by ERT correspondent to Washington DC Lena Argiri, the spokesman said Obama recognizes the sacrifices of the Greek people and his visit will send a message of support. He will also “praise the government on the reforms” implemented and “stress that there’s still work to be done.”

Read more …

All he’ll see is what’s left of Greek riches; what’s lost will remain hidden.

President Obama Goes to Greece (TEI)

A week after Donald Trump’s upset victory, U.S. President Barack Obama is traveling to Greece, in the first stop of his last European trip of his Presidency. During his largely symbolic visit, President Obama is planning to deliver a legacy speech from the birthplace of democracy. He is expected to make an impassioned case for the merits of democracy, European unity and security, and regional stability; at a time when all three are being tested by the rise of extremist parties and rhetoric. Although he is expected to repeat these themes during his second stop in Germany, given that Greece is faced with the extra challenges of a debilitating economic crisis and an historic influx of migrants and refugees, President Obama’s stop in Athens is a particularly welcome sign of support to the country.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has stressed the geopolitical importance of Greece for the stability and security of the wider region. President Obama’s visit is a signal to Europe that the U.S. is putting a premium on keeping Greece as an integral part of the EU. He is also expected to make the case for an economic policy that puts Greece on the path of growth. However, the visit will require careful diplomacy. As Paul Glastris, who wrote the historic speech that President Bill Clinton made in Athens in 1999, put it, President Obama “will have to thread a series of needles simultaneously. He will have to find words that express Washington’s support for Greek debt relief without alienating the Troika or discouraging further economic reform in Greece; that praise Greece’s exemplary handling of the refugee crisis without encouraging more refugees; and that signal solidarity with Greece over its very real Aegean security concerns without provoking the Turkish president into doing something stupid.”

Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan has publicly challenged the Treaty of Lausanne which set the modern-day borders of Turkey, including with Greece (Erdogan made particular emphasis to “our brothers” in Western Thrace, Cyprus, Crimea and Mosul). Worried, the Greeks hope to hear the U.S. president reiterate his support for the existing international treaties. Indeed, the fact that president Obama is ending his presidency with a visit to Greece contrasts with how he started his first term, when he visited Turkey in the hope of anchoring the country to Western values and interests. But as President Erdogan is cracking down on seemingly all forms of domestic opposition after the failed coup, his rule is turning more authoritarian and relations with the U.S. are strained.

Read more …

Pure misery: “Spending on dental care in Greece declined by up to 64%..”

Financial Crisis Takes Huge Toll On Greeks’ Dental Hygiene (Kath.)

Spending on dental care in Greece declined by up to 64% between 2009 and 2015, according to data compiled by the country’s statistical authority which also showed that overall health spending fell by slightly over 19% over the same period. According to ELSTAT, in 2009 Greeks spent a total of €1.95 billion on oral care (an average €473.4 per household). Six years later, spending had dropped to €701 million (an average of €169.5 per household). Experts say that pressed by the ongoing financial crisis, Greeks chose to sacrifice oral care in favor of less flexible health spending such as medicine and hospital treatment. Experts warn that the situation is made worse by the deterioration of public dental care service which has been hit by shortages in staff and equipment.

Read more …

Until recently, one of the world’s best health care systems. Criminal austerity.

Greek Hospitals Scrounging For Cash (Kath.)

Shortages of equipment and staff in the health sector have resulted in two key Athens hospitals, the Alexandra and the Elena Venizelou, borrowing from each other and third parties, according to the Federation of Public Hospital Workers (POEDIN). “Their budgets are in the red,” POEDIN said on Thursday. “They are unable to maintain their infrastructure and their equipment or to procure medicines and medical equipment,” it said. According to POEDIN, hospitals got €1.15 billion in state funding this year, down from €1.5 billion last year. They owe €1.3 billion in debts to the state.

Read more …

Oct 312016
 
 October 31, 2016  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle October 31 2016


Harris&Ewing State, War & Navy Building, Washington DC 1917

Economic Stress As World Runs Out Of Dollars (AEP)
China as Factory to World Mulls the Unthinkable: Price Hikes (BBG)
European Banks Stuck With $1.3 Trillion of Bad Loans, KPMG Says (BBG)
FBI Obtains Warrant; Agents Waited Weeks To Tell Comey About Emails (WaPo) (WaPo)
Why Comey Jumped At The Chance To Reopen Hillary Investigation (DM)
FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe (WSJ)
Hillary’s Emails Matter: A Retired CIA Officer Explains Why (Hill)
Ex-FBI Official: ‘Intensive Investigation’ Ongoing Into Clinton Foundation (DC)
Clinton Supporter Doug Schoen Reconsiders, Cites Constitutional Crisis (RCP)
James Comey – As Seen Through The Persuasion Filter (Adams)
Theresa May Lied And Lied Again To Become PM (G.)
The Dirty Secret Beneath Hong Kong’s Wealth: Slavery (SCMP)
EU And Canada Sign CETA Free Trade Deal (G.)
Turkey Detains Editor Of Opposition Newspaper Cumhuriyet (AFP)
Erdogan Says Greek Islands ‘Used To Be Ours’ (Kath.)

 

 

“Our allocation model is now 100pc in cash. This is a warning signal for the market and it happens extremely rarely..”

Economic Stress As World Runs Out Of Dollars (AEP)

Surging rates on dollar Libor contracts are rapidly tightening conditions across large parts of the global economy, incubating stress in the credit markets and ultimately threatening overvalued bourses. Three-month Libor rates – the benchmark cost of short-term borrowing for the international system – have tripled this year to 0.88pc as inflation worries mount. Fear that the US Federal Reserve may have to raise rates uncomfortably fast is leading to an acute dollar shortage, draining global liquidity. “The Libor rate is one of few instruments left that still moves freely and is priced by market forces. It is effectively telling us that that the Fed is already two hikes behind the curve,” said Steen Jakobsen from Saxo Bank. “This is highly significant and is our number one concern. Our allocation model is now 100pc in cash. This is a warning signal for the market and it happens extremely rarely,” he said.

Goldman Sachs estimates that up to 30pc of all business loans in the US are priced off Libor contracts, as well as 20pc of mortgages and most student loans. It is the anchor for a host of exotic markets, used as a floor for 90pc of the $900bn pool of the leveraged loan market. It underpins the derivatives nexus. The chain reaction from the Libor spike is global. The BIS warns that the rising cost of borrowing in dollar markets is transmitted almost instantly through the global credit system. Changes in the short-term policy rate are promptly reflected in the cost of $5 trillion in US dollar bank loans,” it said. Roughly 60pc of the global economy is linked to the dollar through fixed currency pegs or “dirty floats”, but studies by the BIS suggest that borrowing costs in domestic currencies across Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, move in sympathy with dollar costs, regardless of whether the exchange rate is fixed. Short-term “Shibor” rates in China have been ratcheting up.

The cost of one-year swaps jumped to 2.71pc last week, and the spread over one-year sovereign debt is back to levels seen during the Shanghai stock market crash last year. This is not a pure import from the US. The Chinese authorities themselves are taking action to rein in a credit bubble. It is happening in parallel with Fed tightening, each reinforcing the other, and that makes it more potent. Three-month interbank rates in Saudi Arabia have soared to 2.4pc. This is the highest since the global financial crisis in early 2009 and implies a credit crunch in the Saudi banking system. The M1 money supply has fallen 9pc over the last year. The Bank of Japan has doubled its window of dollar credit for Japanese banks to head off an incipient dollar squeeze, drawing on the country’s ample foreign reserves.

It may not be so easy for others. Credit analysts are becoming nervous about the spread between Libor and the overnight index swap, the so-called Libor-OIS spread that is used to gauge problems in the plumbing of the credit system. It has widened to 38 basis points, near levels seen in the eurozone debt crisis and past bouts of stress. The message from the ‘TED spread’ is similar, if less severe. This measures the spread between eurodollar rates in London and three-month futures contracts for US treasuries. The picture is complex. These signals have been distorted by new rules for US prime money market funds, which have shrunk by $560bn and led to a contraction of commercial paper. The deadline for this reform has come and gone, yet the spreads have not settled.

Read more …

Only thing left to do now is find buyers.

China as Factory to World Mulls the Unthinkable: Price Hikes (BBG)

China’s factories may be on the cusp of delivering a new shock to the global economy after years of undercutting rivals with cheaper costs. This time, increases in prices could reverberate around the world. To understand why, consider the dilemma facing Jiangmen Luck Tissue Mfy Ltd., now caught in a squeeze between surging wages and tepid demand. The company has already slashed staff by half, shaved prices and automated production to survive. Now, with margins razor thin, it’s weighing the first price increases since 2010. “There’s just no possibility for me to cut prices any more,” says deputy director Roger Zhao, 52, whose company is based in the city of Jiangmen in southern Guangdong province.

“Because costs are already pretty high and I don’t see any possibility they’ll go down, I’m seeking opportunities to raise prices a little bit.” That push to recover lost margins – even as demand remains muted – was shared by exporters of everything from clocks to jacuzzis interviewed in Guangzhou last week at the Canton Fair, a biannual gathering where 25,000 exhibitors and 180,000 mostly foreign buyers ink export deals in booths spanning exhibition space equivalent to about 3,400 tennis courts. For the world economy, decisions from companies like Jiangmen Tissue to stop cutting prices – and even raise them where demand allows – removes a source of disinflationary pressure.

To be decided is whether China, the factory to the world, swings from becoming a drag on consumer prices to a source of pressure nudging them higher. China’s manufacturing prices rose in September for the first time in almost five years and overall producer prices also clambered out of negative territory. Those likely to feel the biggest lift if Chinese export prices follow through with sustained increases would be the country’s top five markets: the U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Mexico. “China’s return to positive growth in producer prices marks a very significant turning point in deflationary pressures both in China and globally,” said Shane Oliver at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney. “This is only step one, though. We are still waiting for step two: stronger global demand and trade.”

Read more …

Draghi to the rescue. He better be fast.

European Banks Stuck With $1.3 Trillion of Bad Loans, KPMG Says (BBG)

Eight years after Lehman Brothers’ collapse sparked the financial crisis, Europe’s banks still have €1.2 trillion ($1.3 trillion) of non-performing loans and will probably be stuck with them for decades to come, according to KPMG. Anemic economic growth across the region is making it harder for lenders to off-load toxic assets, hurting profitability while banks also come under pressure from tougher capital rules and fines for misconduct, London-based KPMG said in a report published Monday. Firms could take “decades rather than years” to reduce their exposures, hampering profitability. European lenders are battling to cut soured loans as they face evaporating income from lending amid negative interest rates from the ECB.

Net interest margins, the difference between income from lending versus cost of funding, average about 1.2% in the region compared with about 3% in the U.S., according to KPMG. “Reversing the profitability of European banks is not a lost cause but it will certainly be a lot of hard work,” Marcus Evans, a partner at KPMG’s ECB office, said in a statement. “It’s clear that across Europe banks are still grappling with the new world of low, or negative, interest rates and mounting capital and regulatory costs.” The total value of toxic loans in Europe has surged since 2008 from about 1.5% of lending to more than 5% since 2013, according to the report. This has a negative impact on profitability from unpaid interest, raising provisions against impaired assets and realizing losses when disposing bad debts, according to KPMG.

Read more …

Lots of Weiner and Comey stuff today. Lots of guessing going on. Accurate picture is slow to seep through.

FBI Obtains Warrant; Agents Waited Weeks To Tell Comey About Emails (WaPo) (WaPo)

FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state knew early this month that messages recovered in a separate probe might be germane to their case, but they waited weeks before briefing the FBI director, according to people familiar with the case. Director James B. Comey has written that he was informed of the development Thursday, and he sent a letter to legislators the next day letting them know that he thought the team should take “appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails.” That missive ignited a political firestorm less than two weeks before the election. Almost instantly, Comey came under intense criticism for his timing and for bucking the Justice Department’s guidance not to tell Congress about the development.

And his announcement means that Clinton could have to contend with the news that the FBI has resumed its investigation of her use of a private email server — without any clarity on whether its investigators will find anything significant — up to and beyond Election Day. The FBI has obtained a warrant to search the emails found on a computer used by former congressman Anthony Weiner that may contain evidence relevant to the investigation into Clinton’s private email server, according to law enforcement officials. The warrant was obtained in New York, as FBI agents there have possession of the laptop. [..].. officials familiar with the case said the messages include a significant amount of correspondence associated with Clinton and her top aide Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife.

People familiar with the case said that agents on the Clinton email team had known about the messages since soon after New York FBI agents seized a computer related to their investigation into Weiner [..] Officials said the agents probing Clinton’s private email server didn’t tell the director immediately because they were trying to better assess what they had. “It’s a step-by-step process,” said one senior law enforcement official. “There are many steps along the way that get you to a place where the director can be appropriately briefed in order to make a decision” about whether to move forward.

Read more …

Even his wife was on to him. ‘They felt that he betrayed them and brought disgrace on the bureau by letting Hillary off with a slap on the wrist.’

Why Comey Jumped At The Chance To Reopen Hillary Investigation (DM)

James Comey’s decision to revive the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server and her handling of classified material came after he could no longer resist mounting pressure by mutinous agents in the FBI, including some of his top deputies, according to a source close to the embattled FBI director. ‘The atmosphere at the FBI has been toxic ever since Jim announced last July that he wouldn’t recommend an indictment against Hillary,’ said the source, a close friend who has known Comey for nearly two decades, shares family outings with him, and accompanies him to Catholic mass every week. ‘Some people, including department heads, stopped talking to Jim, and even ignored his greetings when they passed him in the hall,’ said the source.

‘They felt that he betrayed them and brought disgrace on the bureau by letting Hillary off with a slap on the wrist.’ According to the source, Comey fretted over the problem for months and discussed it at great length with his wife, Patrice. He told his wife that he was depressed by the stack of resignation letters piling up on his desk from disaffected agents. The letters reminded him every day that morale in the FBI had hit rock bottom. ‘He’s been ignoring the resignation letters in the hope that he could find a way of remedying the situation,’ said the source. ‘When new emails that appeared to be related to Hillary’s personal email server turned up in a computer used by Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner, Comey jumped at the excuse to reopen the investigation.

‘The people he trusts the most have been the angriest at him,’ the source continued. ‘And that includes his wife, Pat. She kept urging him to admit that he had been wrong when he refused to press charges against the former secretary of state. ‘He talks about the damage that he’s done to himself and the institution [of the FBI], and how he’s been shunned by the men and women who he admires and work for him. It’s taken a tremendous toll on him. ‘It shattered his ego. He looks like he’s aged 10 years in the past four months.’ But Comey’s decision to reopen the case was more than an effort to heal the wound he inflicted on the FBI. He was also worried that after the presidential election, Republicans in Congress would mount a probe of how he had granted Hillary political favoritism.

Read more …

Maybe the agents should have spoken out earlier?

FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe (WSJ)

The surprise disclosure that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking a new look at Hillary Clinton’s email use lays bare, just days before the election, tensions inside the bureau and the Justice Department over how to investigate the Democratic presidential nominee. Investigators found 650,000 emails on a laptop that they believe was used by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife Huma Abedin, a close Clinton aide, and underlying metadata suggests thousands of those messages could have been sent to or from the private server that Mrs. Clinton used while she was secretary of state, according to people familiar with the matter.

It will take weeks, at a minimum, to determine whether those messages are work-related from the time Ms. Abedin served with Mrs. Clinton at the State Department; how many are duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI; and whether they include either classified information or important new evidence in the Clinton email probe. Officials had to await a court order to begin reviewing the emails—which they received over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter—because they were uncovered in an unrelated probe of Mr. Weiner.

The new investigative effort, disclosed by FBI Director James Comey on Friday, shows a bureau at times in sharp internal disagreement over matters related to the Clintons, and how to handle those matters fairly and carefully in the middle of a national election campaign. Even as the probe of Mrs. Clinton’s email use wound down in July, internal disagreements within the bureau and the Justice Department surrounding the Clintons’ family philanthropy heated up, according to people familiar with the matter.

Read more …

“Accidentally removing a single classified message from controlled spaces, without any evidence of intent or exposure to hostile forces, can get you fired and cost you your clearance. Repeated instances will land you in prison.”

Hillary’s Emails Matter: A Retired CIA Officer Explains Why (Hill)

Nobody uses a private email server for official business. Period. Full stop. The entire notion is, to borrow a phrase from a Clinton campaign official, “insane.” That anyone would presume to be allowed to do so is mind-boggling. That government officials allowed Hillary Clinton to do so is nauseating. Classified and unclassified information do not mix. They don’t travel in the same streams through the same pipes. They move in clearly well defined channels so that never the twain shall meet. Mixing them together is unheard of and a major criminal offense. If you end up with classified information in an unclassified channel, you have done something very wrong and very serious.

Accidentally removing a single classified message from controlled spaces, without any evidence of intent or exposure to hostile forces, can get you fired and cost you your clearance. Repeated instances will land you in prison. Every hostile intelligence agency on the planet targets senior American officials for collection. The Secretary of State tops the list. Almost anything the Secretary of State had to say about her official duties, her schedule, her mood, her plans for the weekend, would be prized information to adversaries. It is very difficult, in fact, to think of much of anything that the Secretary of State could be saying in email that we would want hostile forces to know. As we wait for more information on the latest revelations, let’s quickly note what we already know Hillary Clinton did.

While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton exclusively used a private email address for official business. Instead of using a State Department account, she used a personal email account, housed on a private server located in her home in Chappaqua, New York. The Department of State exercised zero control or oversight in this process. No government security personnel were involved in protecting them. When the House Select Committee on Benghazi asked to see these emails, the Department of State said they did not have them. Clinton’s lawyers then went through all the emails on her server. They turned over 30,000 emails they decided were work related and deleted all of the rest. How they made the decision as to which emails to share and which to destroy remains unknown. Active government officials not were involved in this process.

Hillary says she did not use the account to transmit classified information. This has been proven false. The FBI found over 100 messages that contained information that was classified when sent, including numerous email chains at the level of Top Secret/Special Access Programs. They don’t get any more highly classified, it’s the virtual summit of Mt. Everest. [..] While serving in one of the most senior positions in the United States Government, Hillary Clinton was at a minimum, grossly negligent in the handling of classified information and when confronted with this practice, acted immediately to destroy information and prevent a full, fair and complete investigation of any damage to national security. Anyone else who did such things in the government would long ago have been tried, convicted and sent to jail. ou decide if you want to send her to the White House instead.

Read more …

A bit of extra juice. And for many a big surprise.

Ex-FBI Official: ‘Intensive Investigation’ Ongoing Into Clinton Foundation (DC)

Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director at the FBI and a CNN analyst, said Saturday that the bureau has an open investigation into the Clinton Foundation. The statement undermines a report from a team of CNN reporters in August that the Justice Department quashed an investigation into the Clinton family’s non-profit earlier this year. “The FBI has an intensive investigation ongoing into the Clinton Foundation,” Fuentes said Saturday, citing current and former senior FBI officials as sources. “The reports that three divisions came in with a request to Washington to open cases and that they were turned down by the Department of Justice, that’s not true,” he said, referring to the CNN report. “What was turned down was that they be the originating office. Headquarters at the FBI made the determination that the investigation would go forward as a comprehensive unified case and be coordinated,” he added.

[..] Fuentes was discussing the investigation in the context of a letter that FBI director James Comey sent to Congress on Friday stating that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails. [..] Fuentes asserted that the emails could pertain to the original Clinton email investigation, which was closed in July, as well as to the Clinton Foundation probe. “In a sense, it’s almost turned into a one-stop shopping for the FBI as they could have implications affecting three separate investigations on one computer,” said Fuentes, who served as assistant director at the FBI during the George W. Bush administration.

Read more …

Precious few voices have dared speaking of a constitutional crisis, though the threat seems obvious. Whoever wins.

Clinton Supporter Doug Schoen Reconsiders, Cites Constitutional Crisis (RCP)

Hillary Clinton supporter, Fox News contributor, and former pollster Doug Schoen told FNC’s Harris Faulkner Sunday night that the newly renewed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton is forcing him to “reassess” his support for the Democratic candidate. DOUG SCHOEN: As you know, I have been a supporter of Secretary Clinton… But given that this investigation is going to go on for many months after the election… But if the Secretary of State wins, we will have a president under criminal investigation, with Huma Abedin under criminal investigation, with the Secretary of State, the president-elect, should she win under investigation. Harris, under these circumstances, I am actively reassessing my support. I’m not a Trump —

HARRIS FAULKNER, FOX NEWS: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You are not going to vote for Hillary Clinton? SCHOEN: Harris, I’m deeply concerned that we’ll have a constitutional crisis if she’s elected. FAULKNER: Wow! SCHOEN: I want to learn more this week. See what we see. But as of today, I am not a supporter of the Secretary of State for the nation’s highest office.

Read more …

We don’t need to know reality to survive. So we don’t know it. “..you might believe you are reincarnated from a monk and I might believe my prophet flew to heaven on a winged horse but we can both get through the day just fine.”

James Comey – As Seen Through The Persuasion Filter (Adams)

As my regular readers know, the Persuasion Filter is related to the idea that the human brain never evolved to accurately comprehend reality. In order for us to be here today, our predecessors only needed to survive and procreate. They had no need to understand reality at any basic level. And we have no such need either. That’s why you might believe you are reincarnated from a monk and I might believe my prophet flew to heaven on a winged horse but we can both get through the day just fine. Many different interpretations of reality are good enough for survival. I like to describe reality as each person living their own movie, which works well unless our script’s conflict. When that happens, one of us goes into cognitive dissonance and rewrites our past to make the movies consistent.

That’s how I see the world. Last year in this blog I suggested that the most productive and predictive way to view reality is through what I call the Persuasion Filter. That’s what I have been using to make spooky-good predictions about the election so far. And that’s what I’ll use today to give you an alternate movie about James Comey. Compare it to the movie you are running in your head and see which one better predicts the future. The base assumption of the Persuasion Filter is that people are irrational 90% of the time and only rarely – when no emotions are involved – truly rational. This is the reverse of the common filter for reality, in which people are assumed to be rational 90% of the time and a bit crazy 10% of the time. That’s some background for context.

[..] The way you know the new emails are disqualifying for Clinton is because otherwise our hero would have privately informed Congress and honored the tradition of not influencing elections. Comey is smart enough to know his options. And unless he suddenly turned rotten at his current age, he’s got the character to jump in front of a second bullet for the Republic. According to this movie, no matter who gets elected, we’ll eventually learn of something disqualifying in the Weiner emails. And we can’t say we weren’t warned. Comey took two bullets to do it. So compare this movie to your own movie and see which one does the best job of explaining the observed facts. And when we find out what is in the Weiner laptop emails, compare that news to my prediction that the information is disqualifying.

Read more …

Hard hitting Brits.

Theresa May Lied And Lied Again To Become PM (G.)

Theresa May appeals to a stereotype that has a deep grip on the English psyche. Sober and commonsensical, she behaves with the moral seriousness we expect from a vicar’s daughter. She may be a little clunky, but what a relief it is to have a straightforward leader from the heart of the country after the flash, poll-driven phonies of the past. I am not saying her public image is all a pretence. No focus group told her to campaign against the modern slave trade when she was home secretary. There were few Tory votes in stopping the police targeting young black men, either. But the dominant side of Theresa May is more superficial than David Cameron and more dishonest than Tony Blair. It is a tribute to the power of cliches to stop us seeing what is in front of our noses, that so few have noticed that the only reason she’s prime minister is that she put ambition before principle.

Last week, Downing Street spin doctors were trying and failing to downplay the importance of a secret speech she gave to Goldman Sachs on 26 May, which was leaked to Nick Hopkins and Rowena Mason of the Guardian. In private, May was unequivocal. “The economic arguments are clear,” she told the bankers. Companies would leave the UK if the UK left the EU. In public, however, she made just one speech during the referendum campaign. You forgot it the moment you heard it. May never mentioned the danger of companies fleeing. Her economic case, such as it was, came down to a flaccid, pseudo-impartial argument that “there are risks in staying as well as leaving”. As an orator, May was hopeless. As a politician on the make, she was close to perfect.

When Craig Oliver, Cameron’s former chief of communications, wondered if she was secretly an “enemy agent” for the Leave side, he was being too Machiavellian. May was just making the smart move. She kept her views about the economic consequences of Brexit quiet, so that the Conservative right would accept her as leader if Cameron lost. Failing to state your honest opinion on the most important decision Britain has taken in decades may seem cowardly enough. But the consequences of May’s pretence do not stop with one referendum. Her manoeuvres have forced her into a position where she must make arguments she cannot possibly believe, on behalf of causes she cannot possibly believe in.

Read more …

Just lovely.

The Dirty Secret Beneath Hong Kong’s Wealth: Slavery (SCMP)

Hong Kong, a city commonly associated with finance and wealth, has one of the highest proportions of people enslaved across Asia, a new report has found. At least 29,500 people out of a population of more than seven million are trapped in modern slavery in one of the 10 richest cities in the world based on its gross domestic product, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016, which assessed the problem in 167 countries and regions. The sobering figures which specifically concern Hong Kong may come as a surprise, but the hard-hitting report stated that the city has become one of the worst places in Asia for its poor response to the problem, performing worse than mainland China.

The city urgently needs tougher laws and a “transparent plan of action” to combat the problem, human rights group Justice Centre Hong Kong said. Jade Anderson, anti-human trafficking coordinator for the campaign group, said the Global Slavery Index, produced by charitable organisation Walk Free Foundation, came as a “shock” to some Hongkongers. But her organisation’s research had found there were major human rights abuses that went unpunished in the city, and the number of slaves could be much higher than researchers have estimated, she said. The Justice Centre’s investigation involving 1,000 migrant domestic workers found 17% were carrying out “forced labor”, which she said equated to about 55,000 of the city’s 320,000 helpers.

Read more …

Again: just lovely.

EU And Canada Sign CETA Free Trade Deal (G.)

The EU and Canada signed a free trade deal on Sunday that was almost derailed last week by objections from French-speaking Belgians , exposing the difficulties of securing agreement from 28 member states as Britain prepares for Brexit talks. The European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said there was no parallel between the deal struck with Canada and looming Brexit talks. “I don’t see any relation between what we are signing today and the Brexit issue,” Juncker said, before greeting Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, in Brussels Trudeau and top EU officials signed the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, known as Ceta, paving the way for most import duties to be removed early next year. However, the treaty needs the approval of at least 38 national and regional parliaments, including the UK’s, to take full force.

Trudeau was meant to fly to Brussels last Wednesday but he stayed at home when the Wallonia region raised objections that held up agreement until Thursday. Belgium’s regional parliaments endorsed a compromise deal, which addressed concerns about competition for Wallonia’s farmers from Canada, on Friday. Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, who stood beside Trudeau at a news conference, said the delay was caused by Belgium’s internal politics and that the deal would be far less contentious when it went before national parliaments. Tusk said: “Fortunately we live in a democratic system and democracy is less predictable than other political systems but I still prefer democracy. My prediction is there is no huge problem with European parliaments. After my talks with all 28 member states’ leaders, I have no doubt Ceta is the least controversial trade agreement you could imagine.”

Read more …

Amazing he was still walking free.

Turkey Detains Editor Of Opposition Newspaper Cumhuriyet (AFP)

Turkish police detained the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, state media reported Monday, while CNN Turk said 13 arrest warrants were issued for journalists and executives from the daily. Murat Sabuncu was detained while authorities searched for executive board chairman Akin Atalay and writer Guray Oz, the official news agency Anadolu said. The daily said Oz had already been detained. Police were searching the homes of Atalay and Oz, Anadolu said. The latest detentions came as authorities pressed a massive crackdown over a failed July bid by a rogue faction of the military to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Tens of thousands of civil servants have since been suspended, fired or detained, with the government pointing the finger of blame for the coup bid at exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The government has also shut more than 100 media outlets and detained dozens of journalists as it presses a purge that has come under fire by Western leaders and human rights organisations. Sabuncu’s arrest also came as the government fought an insurgency from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The government’s operation against the Cumhuriyet daily was launched over its alleged “activities on behalf of” the Gulen movement and the PKK. The PKK — proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the EU and US — has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief is Can Dundar, who was sentenced in May by a Turkish court to five years and 10 months in prison for allegedly revealing state secrets. Dundar is now believed to be in Germany after he was freed earlier this year pending an appeal.

Read more …

It’s too late for an October surprise from Erdogan, but this stuff is so insane it makes you wonder.

Erdogan Says Greek Islands ‘Used To Be Ours’ (Kath.)

In what was widely seen as a fresh dig at Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday reiterated that several Greek islands in the eastern Aegean “used to be ours.” The Turkish leader made waves recently in Greece when he said that the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the borders between Greece and Turkey in 1923, was unfair on his country. He returned to the subject on Saturday, saying he didn’t understand why his remarks had raised so many objections. “I said Lausanne and they got annoyed. Why are you annoyed?” he said, adding that “these islands were ours.” “We have our monuments and our mosques there [on the islands],” he said. “Whoever signed [for their passing to Greece] bears the responsibility.”

Read more …

Oct 302016
 
 October 30, 2016  Posted by at 7:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano The Chicago & North Western between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa 1943

It looks like I owe you an update. Things move fast in the FBI vs Huma Abedin case. When only some 24 hours ago I started writing my article “Throw Huma Under the Bus?”, there was one thing I did not know at all, one thing I was guessing at as much as the reporters who brought it up, and one I couldn’t verify sufficiently to feel comfortable about including it in the piece.

First, what I did not know at all was the role of Department of Justice head and US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Nobody I had read wrote a single word about her role, and I said “Wait a minute! Anybody seen Loretta Lynch lately?”. 24 hours later we know that Lynch, and the DOJ, actively attempted to keep James Comey from writing his infamous letter to members of Congress.

These attempts were ostensibly based on a ‘longstanding’ tradition of the DOJ and FBI to minimalize any potential interference in (presidential) elections. Given that Comey didn’t have ‘enough’ solid evidence gathered from the emails, Lynch et al apparently told him he should not come forward. But it turns out there’s a dark flipside to this argument, please bear with me.

Second, there was the ‘rumor’, or whatever we may call it, that Comey faced pressure from agents (or ‘assets’) in the Bureau to either come forward or risk having details leaked into the press from within the FBI. This is still not verified, and maybe never will be, but it does fit a narrative that’s starting to take shape. Though perhaps not quite the way one might have suspected.

Third, something I couldn’t verify sufficiently, was the issue of a warrant the FBI would need to examine the emails on devices owned by, and in at least some cases shared by, Huma and husband Anthony Weiner. I had seen this, and wrote in yesterday’s Debt Rattle at the Automatic Earth that “The NY Post suggests that NBC suggests that the FBI needs a fresh warrant to study the new batch of emails..”. Nobody else mentioned it though.

But now there’s more on that aspect, and it changes the story, perhaps a lot. In an overall pretty good article, Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff has this:

FBI Still Does Not Have Warrant To Review New Abedin Emails Linked To Clinton Probe

When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen. “We do not have a warrant,” a senior law enforcement official said.

When I saw that confirmed, a whole new picture started emerging. You have on the one side James Comey who does something ‘unprecedented’, for which he knows he’ll face a lot of flack. On the other you have Loretta Lynch, a staunch Democrat not known to be nearly as impartial as Comey, trying to keep him from sending the letter.

And on top of that you have ‘negotiations’ between the DOJ and FBI about obtaining a warrant to get access to the emails. The DOJ can, and still may, refuse to grant the FBI that warrant. But that chance is a lot smaller now than if Comey had not sent his letter. By bringing the matter out into the open, he’s hugely increased the pressure on Lynch to issue the warrant.

What we have here in fact is a power struggle. And as I hinted before, this may not be Lynch vs Comey directly, but it may come from within the FBI. Where various ‘assets’ have become so frustrated with how the investigations have been conducted so far that they have put pressure on Comey that may even have taken the form of an ultimatum. “We’ll leak unless we get a warrant”.

But it’s quite possible that Comey himself is the one behind the pressure on the DOJ, it’s quite possible that he has grown as weary as his people of the ‘progress’ in the entire Hillary email proceedings.

There is no indication from the eight-page FBI report on the interview, however, that the agents ever pressed her on what has now turned into an explosive issue in the final days of the 2016 campaign: Did Weiner have access to any classified government documents on his laptop and iPhone — devices that, he apparently used to exchange sexually charged messages with women he met online, including in one alleged case, an underage teenager in North Carolina?

The fact that FBI agents failed to follow up on this shows that the original probe into the Clinton email server was “not thorough” and was “fatally flawed,” said Joseph DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney and independent counsel who has been a strong critic of Comey and the FBI probe. “The first thing they should have done was gotten a sworn affidavit about all her accounts and devices,” he said, adding that agents should have immediately attempted to obtain the devices, including Weiner’s.

We don’t know why the agents haven’t. The suggestion I referred to yesterday that Huma Abedin may have been granted a ‘secret immunity’ deal could have played a big part in that. After all, there must be some reason why no devices were seized in ‘part 1’ of the investigation; even if that reason is not exactly public knowledge. The ‘secret immunity’ and the lack of devices seized, of course remind us again of Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix back in June.

Agents may simply not have had the authority to ‘obtain’ the devices. Whether that was because the DOJ actively frustrated their investigation, or the orders came from Comey, we don’t know and we never may. But something’s changed since then. That’s what Comey’s letter, and its timing, strongly seems to suggest.

About the material found on Weiner’s devices, Hillary’s side of course has a good idea what’s in the emails. Huma has been thoroughly grilled by now, if she hadn’t been before. The FBI probably has at least a partial idea: it’s highly likely they have seen things when investigating Weiner that would now be a part of the Hillary email investigation if the warrant were issued.

Hillary and other Dems can now protest Comey’s actions all they want, and demand full openness, but they know full well that this openness depends on ‘their own Loretta Lynch’ granting the FBI that warrant. And every single second that the warrant is not issued is a dark cloud on Hillary’s campaign, and indeed on the whole of America.

Of course the Democrats would love to lift this whole thing over November 8, and that’s why they seek to play for time and focus -again- not on the content but on the process, the proceedings and the individuals involved. People inside the FBI -whether that includes Comey or not- appear to think that would not serve democracy. But they have tens of thousands of mails to dig through even if they get the warrant, and that takes time. Will they get that time?

There’s no way Comey is not smart enough to have seen coming what’s happening now. From the Democrats’ favorite son he’s become in their eyes so incompetent they even suggest he may be yet another of Putin’s assets in America.

Is he seeking to right a wrong? Did he think that no matter what he did he would be fed to either the Republican or the Democrat sharks anyway? Or was he pressured by his ‘assets’? Right now, it seems too soon to tell. But don’t be surprised if James Comey comes out of this looking like a true American Hero. Even if it costs him his job.

 

 

Oct 292016
 
 October 29, 2016  Posted by at 1:30 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Throw Huma Under the Bus?


Alfred Palmer U.S. Marine Corps glider detachment training camp, Parris Island, SC 1943

There is so much in innuendo and guesses and biased opinion floating around on this ‘morning after’ the Comey bombshell that the only option we have is to read and watch a ton of stuff and see what sticks. One thing that definitely should stick was published late last night by Paul Sperry for the New York Post.

He scores a solid and massive point that looks as damning for the FBI itself (or at least the superiors), as it does for Hillary Clinton. It is, in that regard, perhaps telling that one of the alleged reasons whispered for FBI director Jim Comey to come forward on Friday is that he feared details of the probe would otherwise be leaked to the press.

Sperry’s point: the emails that are at the center of Friday’s announcement that Hillary Clinton ‘s entire email server investigation will be re-opened -whether formally or not is moot-, were obtained by seizing devices from Anthony Weiner in relation him sexting to a 15-year old girl.

And seizing devices was exactly what was never done in Hillary’s case, though “agents assigned to that case knew Abedin hoarded classified emails on her electronic devices.” They were seized neither from Hillary nor from her closest aide Huma Abedin, who now probably- and probably rightly- fears that she may be thrown under the bus at the first convenient moment.

Hillary doesn’t appear to know what exactly is on the Weiner/Abedin device, but her staff is undoubtedly preparing a defense based on Hillary denying she knew anything about what emails Huma kept and/or sent. Such a defense may well be useless, depending on the contents of the mails. But by now it’s full blown panic danger control in the campaign.

While at the FBI the mood may now be that a second consecutive investigation that would end in a second consecutive ‘dismissal’ would be unacceptable to -a lot of- agents. Something Comey is undoubtedly painfully aware of. His ‘own people’ may have given him an ultimatum: either you do it right this time, or we will.

A few bits from Paul Sperry’s piece:

On page 3 of their 11-page report, the agents detail how they showed Abedin a classified paper on Pakistan sent from a State Department source which she, in turn, inexplicably forwarded to her personal Yahoo email account — an obviously unclassified, unencrypted, unsecured and unauthorized system. The breach of security was not an isolated event but a common practice with Abedin.

This is one of those things that Hillary will likely try to plead innocence on. Not that that should be good enough: the server, illegal as it may have been, was still her responsibility. That either she herself or Abedin would play fast and loose with the confidentiality and classification of the material involved, on top of using a server whose very existence played fast and loose with the law, is the kind of thing that disqualifies her from public office, let alone the presidency.

Hillary’s ‘defense’ has been ‘I made a mistake’, and that was enough for her, for Comey, and for the entire American media. It’s still hard to believe. And it certainly doesn’t look like it will be enough a second time. Just imagine what some FBI agents must have thought when they found out, and when Comey subsequently decided to hush the case.

“She routinely forwarded emails from her state.gov account to either her clintonemail.com or her yahoo.com account,” the agents wrote. Why? “So she could print them” at home and not at her State Department office. Abedin contended that she “would typically print the documents without reading them” and “was unaware of the classification.” Uh-huh.

The FBI also pointed out that “the only person at DoS (Department of State) to receive an email account on the (clintonemail.com) domain was Abedin.” “Multiple State employees” told the FBI that they considered emailing Abedin “the equivalent of e-mailing Clinton.” Another close Clinton aide told the FBI that “Abedin may have kept emails that Clinton did not.”

The phrase “the equivalent of e-mailing Clinton” says a lot about how closely the two worked together. And that in turn says something about the odds that Huma acted alone, without Hillary knowing.

In her April interview with the FBI, Abedin incredulously maintained that she “did not know that Clinton had a private server until about a year and a half ago, when it became public knowledge.” [..] .. another witness told agents that he and another Clinton aide with computer skills built the new server system “at the recommendation of Huma Abedin,” who first broached the idea of an off-the-grid email server as early as the “fall (of) 2008.”

So if you believe Abedin, she didn’t know the private clintonemail.com server that hosted her [email protected] account even existed until she heard about it in the news. Comey was a believer; he didn’t even bother to call her back for further questioning. Case closed.

Yes, Huma knew the server existed, long before she admitted knowing it. That’s a bold faced lie. But wait, didn’t she get immunity? Apparently perhaps not officially (?!), but FBI agents seriously suspect she did:

During research, FBI assets and federal law enforcement sources concluded the only way Abedin could have walked away from the probe without criminal charges was because her legal team struck a secret immunity deal with Justice. “She has a deal in place or (FBI Director James) Comey and (Attorney General Loretta) Lynch let her just walk out the door,” a FBI source said.

Wait a minute! Anybody seen Loretta Lynch lately? Did she know Comey would make his announcement Friday? She’s his boss…

If Huma knew the server existed when she said she did not know, it’s 99% sure Anthony Weiner knew it, too. Which is important in more than one way. They shared at least one device, which means he had access to classified material. That in itself is highly illegal. And in the -year long- first stage of the probe, FBI agents knew this, or could have suspected it, and asked Huma for details. Apparently, that didn’t happen.

Perhaps even more important, Weiner is a huge and obvious risk as a blackmail target. For all we know, he may have already provided classified files to parties threatening to go public with photos he sent exposing his weiner to underage girls.

Was the clinton email server hacked? So far the word is there’s no proof of that, but… Did Huma delete and/or bleach-bit information on her devices the same way Hillary did? We can’t know, because despite Huma’s obvious untruths, these devices were not seized for the earlier investigation.

Why? We can only guess. But to quote Hillary from last night (albeit on a slightly different topic): “your guess is as good as mine, and that’s not good enough”.

What we do know is that, obviously, there is still enough material left for the FBI to re-open the case. They may have found as many as tens of thousands of mails belonging to Huma (well, actually, to the US government) on Weiner’s laptop.

[..] Abedin’s role in this caper begs for fresh scrutiny. Making false statements to a federal agent is a felony. So is mishandling classified information. By forwarding classified emails to her personal email account and printing them out at home, Abedin appears to have violated a Classified Information NonDisclosure Agreement she signed at the State Department on Jan. 30, 2009, in which she agreed to keep all classified material under the control of the US government.

Classified emails sent to an unprotected server and printed out at home. How dumb exactly is Huma Abedin? And how dumb does all this make Hillary?

Let’s see if Comey puts the screws to Abedin and leverages her for information on her boss. If he agrees to cut another immunity deal, we’ll know the fix is still in.

Will the media propaganda caravan now turn on Hillary to save its face? I would predict perhaps not immediately, since they bet a lot on their horse. But give it a few days and they may conclude it’s high time to cut their losses. And so may a lot of other parties involved.

The thumbscrews put on Huma this morning by the campaign must be hurting. Can she cut another immunity deal or will she end up under the bus?

Sep 132016
 
 September 13, 2016  Posted by at 1:36 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


The Statue of Liberty in Paris, outside Bartholdi’s workshop 1884

 

 

Whenever I bring up something Hillary Clinton has done or failed to do, there are always people who react with a “Yes, but Trump did so and so…!” reflex. I’d like to get that out of the way first of all, because it distorts the conversation to no end. Criticism of Hillary does not equal support for Trump. Suggesting that it does is insulting.

I do not think it’s a good idea for Trump to become president. But that does not mean it’s a better idea for Hillary to be inaugurated. In fact, there’s something to be said for the argument that if you have to choose between two really bad options, pick the worst in order get it over with faster. The problem with that, in turn, is that in this case it’s hard to determine which of the two is worse.

 

 

I’ve had an article in progress on my desktop for weeks, with the (work-)title “Hillary Is Not Electable”. Never finished it until now because there was always 1) lots of work on other things, and 2) a daily stream of new Hillary files that looked like they should be included (I have dozens of them open in a browser).

But then over the weekend, just after I had asked readers of the Automatic Earth Facebook page what they thought the odds were that Hillary would drop out of the presidential race citing health factors, I saw Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, tweet: “Hillary Clinton just became unelectable”, in reaction to the statement by her campaign that she had become ‘overheated’ during the 9/11 service in NY, where multiple sources report it was about 75ºF (24ºC) with a 40-45% humidity.

Scott didn’t yet know when he wrote his tweet and subsequent blogpost, The Race for President is (Probably) Over, that the ‘official’ message would be changed from overheating to pneumonia mere hours later.

And even though it’s a valid question to ask why she would venture among the public with a potentially -highly- contagious disease that she was diagnosed with two days earlier, and even though I saw my headline used by someone else, these things are not what shapes the issue as I see it. Because I think Hillary became unelectable long ago. Still, then this morning I read the following in the NY Post:

“Clinton’s spokesman said that in addition to her illness, “several of the senior staff have been afflicted with something or other for the last few days.” “I was sick for a couple of days. I had the mild form of it,” Fallon said. The stricken staffers included campaign manager Robby Mook, and two top aides who needed emergency medical treatment – one of whom was taken by ambulance to a hospital emergency room after collapsing from severe dehydration, People magazine reported. Fallon told CNN that Clinton’s pneumonia, which she is treating with antibiotics, was “not contagious.”

So her staff is sick enough to require emergency medical treatment, but not for Clinton’s pneumonia, which is “not contagious”. What do they have then (it’s obviously contagious), and does Hillary have it too, in addition to her pneumonia? Were the staff coughing? The NY Times claimed yesterday that most of the staff were not told about the pneumonia diagnosis. Apparently not even after some of them fell ill around the time of that diagnosis?! What a curious story.

One additional thing I think must be mentioned, which I picked up yesterday through Mish, is a timeline of Hillary’s 2016 coughing fits that consists of 7 examples – with videos- dating back to January 25. We can only guess what’s going on here; the campaign certainly hasn’t been very forthcoming with information.

It’s her very campaign leaders, and the way they deal with information, that have now become Hillary’s Achilles heel. Not that I see how they could have done much else, or much different; whenever someone suggests that Hillary should be fully transparent from now on in, I think 1) you haven’t been paying attention, and 2) transparency is her worst enemy.

Transparency is the very thing she and her crew sought to prevent when setting up her email servers the way they did (in 2009). She recently said it was done at the suggestion of Colin Powell, who promptly denied it, and added that the server set-up had been running for a year before she ever asked him anything about it.

I don’t have a clue why she had the whole thing set up the way she did, it all looks really clumsy, but I do know her initial goal was to expressly be non-transparent. This is obvious from the lack of communication with the State Department. It’s obvious because she deleted 10s of 1000s of emails, many after having received subpoenas (one in August 2013, the other (actually 2 separate ones) in March 2015, forbidding her to do just that.

She did hand over some emails to the FBI and the Benghazi Committee, but thousands more were discovered or handed over at later points in time. Thousands of others were “BleachBit-ted” by an employee of her server host because they allegedly only contained yoga and/or wedding related topics. Not that we can check that; that’s were BleachBit comes in.

The narrative that a lowly employee decided on his own to make these mails unrecoverable is one of the worst points in the entire story. But even more important is that deleting the mails was against US law. And that Hillary and/or her staff are not the people who decide what is important or not. Not when it comes to State business. That is a gross and illegal overreach.

And it’s also what the whole ‘unelectable’ thing hinges on. After 8 years as First Lady and 4 as Secretary of State, it’s fully unbelievable that Hillary would not have known why the State Department has its own servers (though they may not always have functioned in ideal ways), or what classified markers are on mail or email. That reeks of desperation, pre-conceived or not, and it’s ludicrous that the FBI takes her word for it. Moreover, she’s on record saying she’s aware of classification requirements:

 

 

The very moment a high-ranking government official with daily access to classified material sets up a poorly protected email server, in order to bypass government systems, then runs classifies government mail over that server, and subsequently denies having knowledge of what makes material classified, that official is no longer electable. That person is not even employable anymore by the government.

Hillary’s private mail system was vulnerable to hackers. And it did get hacked by Guccifer, albeit, far as we know right now, via a workaround, through the mail of friend of the family Sidney Blumenthal. The irony about that is that Obama and Rahm Emanuel’s refusal to bring Blumenthal into Hillary’s team at State may well be the very reason she set up the private server to begin with (history will tell). Hillary loves Sidney. He’s her guru.

When she last week repeated that her system had not been hacked, that was at best half-true. And half-true is not nearly good enough when it comes to classified state secrets, of which the State Department handles possibly even more than the Oval Office. What we know is that her correspondence with Blumenthal was hacked, what we are not sure of is whether her server itself was hacked. But given that servers around her, DNC et al, were hacked, it would be naive to presume offhand hers was not.

And naive is not good enough, not on our part but even much less on Hillary’s. She’s unelectable because she’s far too much of a liability. That didn’t only become apparent when her knees buckled on Sunday, it became apparent when ‘we’ first found out she used a private server to conduct government business. Or, rather, it became apparent before we found out, it became apparent when she established the system, in January 2009.

There have been too many ‘instances’ and ‘incidents’ to mention, or even to remember. One paragraph I wrote down 10 days or so ago after yet another FBI ‘interview’ came out, summarizes a few:

According to Hillary, she doesn’t remember security briefings due to a concussion and a blood clot after a fall in 2012, she didn’t know what email classification details mean (what’s that ‘C’ for?), she lost 13 Blackberry’s – many with sensitive info on them- (aides took sledgehammers to some they did manage to locate), a MacBook and a thumb drive, she left her email systems open to hackers, she didn’t think communications on drones were -or needed to be- classified, she had her server wiped AFTER receiving a subpoena that expressly said she couldn’t, etc etc.

And that is without mentioning the questionable roles she played in Libya, Honduras and many other places. It’s without acknowledging how her campaign took over the DNC to the extent that they threw out Bernie Sanders. It’s without mentioning the shady goings-on at the Clinton Foundation and between this Foundation and the State Department. It’s also without mentioning what will yet come out of the many 1000s of mails that are due to be released by FBI, State and WikiLeaks, either before or after Nov. 8.

Hillary became a liability to the US, its government and its military- and secret service personnel, a long time ago. And people in the highest offices can and must be held to higher moral standards than others. Because they are responsible for the well-being, the survival and the very lives of so many others.

Step 1 in living up to those standards is to NOT bypass government laws and regulations and systems, without asking explicit permission and being fully transparent about it. Subsequent steps are easy for everyone to think of. Or else, an individual would explicitly declare themselves bigger than the government, and the nation. And that’s what Hillary did: she went rogue.

Ironically, Hillary’s health only became a real issue when she told the FBI she couldn’t remember lots of things, something that was echoed, by the way, in earlier revelations from campaign team staffers that said she tended to forget all sorts of stuff.

The relevance of yesterday’s health episode is not that it made her unelectable, but rather that it might have finally convinced enough of her financial backers that they risk losing the capital invested in ‘their’ candidates’ campaign. She’s their liability now too. I’ve seen people suggest that Trump is throwing his campaign as a way to help Hillary, but I sometimes think it may well be the other way around.

It’s kind of hard to imagine, looking back, for someone to run a worse campaign than Hillary has, but then that’s obvious when you look at how many things had to be kept hidden, how many lies had to be told, how many narratives had to be spun. It just got to be too much, for her, and for the staff. The outcome was always predictable, but they figured they could get away with it.

Thing is, even if she does manage to be elected, someone somewhere sometime will sue her or write about her or blackmail her. That’s a sure thing, and that makes her a massive risk and liability for the Democratic Party, and for the US government as a whole, and for all those multi-million dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation and to her campaign.

As of today, there are exactly 8 weeks left till the election. The money guys better come up with an alternative, because Hillary can’t be president. Whether they will come with Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or some outsider I don’t know, but they better start making up their minds.

It all looked so promising before the details started leaking out, didn’t it? Destiny, first woman president, all of that. But not this woman. One thing that speaks for Hillary is she screwed it up all by herself. Trump had nothing to do with it. Let alone Putin. In that sense, she’s an independent woman.

In the end, Hillary got stuck in her own web of sheer hubris.

 

 

Jul 052016
 
 July 5, 2016  Posted by at 8:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Allison “Utopia Children’s House, Harlem, New York.” 1938

Don’t Panic. Britain’s Economy Can Survive Just Fine Outside The EU (Mody)
The UK Desperately Needs A Lower Pound (Steen Jakobsen)
Brexit Accelerates the British Pound’s 100 Years of Debasement (BBG)
Meanwhile At The Most Systemically Dangerous Bank In The World… (ZH)
Standard Life Shuts Property Fund Amid Rush Of Brexit Withdrawals (G.)
EU Authority Fraying In Reaction To Brexit Vote (R.)
Draghi Should Have Done More To Help Italian Banks In 90’S, Says PM Renzi (R.)
Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? (NY Times)
The Statue Of Liberty Was Built To Welcome Immigrants (Eggers)
The Elites Hate Momentum and The Corbynites – I’ll Tell You Why (Graeber)
In New Jersey Student Loan Program, Even Death May Not Bring a Reprieve (NYT)
Sydney Home Prices Just Keep On Rising (BBG)
How Australia Is Sold Into Waging War In Ukraine (Helmer)
US Economist Galbraith Sheds Light On Varoufakis ‘Plan X’ (Kath.)
Wikileaks Publishes More Than 1,000 Hillary Clinton War Emails (Ind.)
Who The F**k Is Charlotte? (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

“Between 2000 and 2014, the share of British exports to Europe fell from 60 to 45%.”

Don’t Panic. Britain’s Economy Can Survive Just Fine Outside The EU (Mody

The European Union was not the principal reason why many felt economically and politically powerless, but its bureaucratic creep became a potent symbol of the overpowering force of globalization. The outgoing Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron, who likes to think of himself as modern-day Winston Churchill, had little understanding of these historical forces. Indeed, even Churchill had his historical blind spots. He petulantly called Gandhi a “half-naked fakir” and vehemently opposed Indian independence. But Cameron, seeking his petty political victories, was largely clueless about the larger stakes he ended up playing for. Tactical gains can lead to strategic advance only when guided by a larger vision. All Cameron wanted was greater hold over his party.

But once he let the genie out of the bottle, Cameron misjudged again by making an economic case for remaining in the European Union rather than attempting a serious political argument for Europe—one based on shared values. Perhaps there was no political argument to be made, but the effort to present an economic calculus for a political decision was bound to backfire. The economic numbers to make the case for Britain remaining in Europe were fanciful, however many economists and international organizations joined to endorse them.

Following Brexit, productive British trade with the European Union will survive just fine wherever it is based on long-lasting economic gains and social relationships. At the same time, the shift toward trade with the faster-growing United States and Asia will continue. Between 2000 and 2014, the share of British exports to Europe fell from 60 to 45%. Almost all new British trade is being created outside of Europe. The new tougher trade regime could even spur productivity growth. As the British economy inevitably disengages from Europe, empathy for European Union will decline further. A referendum five years from now will produce an even clearer decision to say out.

Read more …

“The UK’s problem remains their double deficit. The chronic budget and the current account deficits.”

The UK Desperately Needs A Lower Pound (Steen Jakobsen)

I am writing this chronicle from South Africa which is almost as far away from Europe and the constant and never ending Brexit talk as you can come. It’s hard even here to avoid the turbulence and never ending ‘need’ for investors and media to understand what comes next. The best analogy I can use is one from my extensive travels: When you arrive at an airport to check in, you have to pass security control when two options are at hand: The fast track or the slow version (economy class). Using the fast track gets you quicker to the gate and allows you pre-boarding, but what really should matter is that the actual flight time and route is the same for everyone in business and in economy. We arrive at EXACTLY the same time.

The point? What is now transpiring in an economic sense is that we have entered the fast track courtesy of Brexit, the selloff in GBP, the lowering of growth projections and in some places talk about reform and change which would have happened with or without the Leave vote. The UK’s problem remains their double deficit. The chronic budget and the current account deficits. The last time the UK ran a surplus on the current account was the year Italy won the World Cup in Spain and the top scorer was Paolo Rossi. you guessed it — 1982. The UK also has the lowest productivity of the G7 countries together with Japan.

Yes, the UK needs a lower GBP and desperately so and if the ERM crisis of 1992 is any guideline, what comes next for UK is more employment and a stronger GDP as seen in this chart from the excellent research done by Societe Generale. It would be naive to anticipate only positive changes from the increased political uncertainty but do realise that the slowdown in the UK but also Europe was happening before the surprise ‘Leave’ result.

Read more …

Loss of empire.

Brexit Accelerates the British Pound’s 100 Years of Debasement (BBG)

There have been few better ways to chart Britain’s decline from empire than its currency. Historians, economists and foreign-policy specialists point to the more-than 10% plunge since the June 23 referendum as signaling another downward leg in the U.K.’s global role and influence. “The history of the pound against the dollar over the last century is essentially a downward ladder with big permanent steps,” according to Rui Pedro Esteves, an associate professor in economics at Oxford University. The world’s oldest currency — sterling is derived from the old German “ster” for strong or stable – bought almost $5 during World War I. The day of the EU referendum, it traded at $1.50. It was at $1.3330 as of 4:33 p.m. on Monday.

HSBC analysts are among those forecasting $1.20 as a likely destination. Billionaire investor George Soros suggests $1.15, the equivalent of about a euro – about 60 cents below its average since 1971. “A country’s economic size measured in other currencies – for the U.K., measured say in dollars – is an indicator of its capacity to project power and influence internationally,” said Barry Eichengreen, a professor of economics at the University of California Berkeley. While some economists, including former BOE Governor Mervyn King, see the weaker currency as leading to more export competitiveness, others see the threat of recession and lower interest rates – combined with more insular politics and withdrawal from the world’s largest trading bloc – as undermining appetite for U.K. assets.

“If you look at the U.K. now, certainly part of what is going on is a result of the exchange rate’s adjustment to growth expectations,” said Maurice Obstfeld, chief economist at the IMF. The pound has been in steady decline, spurred on by a series of financial jolts, for most of the past century – just as Britain’s prominence on the international stage has diminished.

Read more …

Correlation AND causation.

Meanwhile At The Most Systemically Dangerous Bank In The World… (ZH)

Another day, another fresh record low in Deutsche Bank’s stock price… For comparison’s sake, Deutsche Bank is analogically equivalent to where Lehman was in August 2008… when the stock soared 16% on chatter of a Korean Development Bank bailout… which then was denied, crashing the stock and ending the party…

Shares in Lehman Brothers rose substantially Friday as investors renewed hopes that the troubled investment bank was moving closer to raising capital to buffer it against a deteriorating economic environment. Capping a volatile week, the stock soared 16% on a report that the state-run Korea Development Bank was considering buying the bank, an idea that a spokesman for the South Korean firm said was “erroneous.” Lehman’s stock closed the day up 5% at $14.41.

The spokesman for Korea Development Bank told The New York Times that the bank was in the process of being privatized and was looking at various acquisitions. But he denied that buying Lehman was an option. “We have various thoughts for our future, but we don’t have any specific institutions in mind,” said the spokesman, who declined to be named, citing company policy. Lehman’s suddenly soaring stock underscores the volatility surrounding the firm as it scrambles to assess its options in the face of an abysmal third quarter. Only days ago, its shares tumbled more than 13%.

We wait for chatter of a Deutsche Bank ‘offer’ rumor any day now. We are sure it’s nothing. How can it be a problem given that US equities are so strong? right?

Read more …

Can’t be just one fund that has these problems.

Standard Life Shuts Property Fund Amid Rush Of Brexit Withdrawals (G.)

Investors in Standard Life’s property funds have been told that they cannot withdraw their money, after the firm acted to stop a rush of withdrawals following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The firm halted trading on its Standard Life Investments UK Real Estate Fund and associated funds at midday on Monday, citing “exceptional market circumstances” for the decision. It said the suspension would remain in place until it is “practicable” to lift it, and that it would review the decision at least every 28 days. The £2.9bn fund, which invests in commercial properties including shopping centres, warehouses and offices, is thought to be the first UK property fund to suspend trading since the 2007-2009 financial crisis, when some of the biggest names in investment management stopped withdrawals because they did not have the money to repay investors.

Standard Life’s decision is the latest in a line of moves by investment firms to stem flows out of their property funds. Standard Life last week, together with rivals Henderson, Aberdeen and M&G, reduced the amount investors cashing in holdings would get back by up to 5%. In a statement, Standard Life said the decision followed an increase in redemption requests from investors. “The suspension was requested to protect the interests of all investors in the fund and to avoid compromising investment returns from the range, mix and quality of assets within the portfolio,” the company said.

Read more …

Juncker’s days are definitely numbered. But nobody seems to either know nor agree what should be next.

EU Authority Fraying In Reaction To Brexit Vote (R.)

[..] Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has fought to bend EU budget deficit rules and now seeks to pump billions of euros into his country’s ailing banks if needed to shore them up, said on Monday the EU was run by “a technocracy with no soul”. He also opposed sanctions against fellow southern members Spain and Portugal for violating the EU’s deficit limits last year – a step the Commission is due to consider on Tuesday in a German-backed drive to uphold the much-abused budget rules. Italy’s banks are saddled with €360 billion in bad loans and their share prices plunged after last month’s Brexit vote. Rome is in talks with the EU Commission to devise a plan to recapitalize its lenders with public money limiting losses for bank investors.

Dutch and German ministers have attacked a Commission decision that the European Parliament can approve a trade pact with Canada without referring it to national parliaments. The Dutch parliament was assured it would have a chance to weigh in on the treaty. But perhaps most worryingly for the EU, senior ministers in Germany, the bloc’s reluctant hegemon, are advocating shrinking the executive Commission, trimming its powers, and bypassing common European institutions to take more decisions by intergovernmental agreement. A call from veteran German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, long an advocate of closer integration, to shift more policy decision-making to governments for expediency’s sake was among the most striking indicators of the mood around Europe.

“If the Commission doesn’t get involved, then we should take the matter into our own hands and solve problems between governments,” Schaeuble told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, saying now was a time for pragmatism. “This intergovernmental approach proved successful during the euro zone crisis,” he added.

Read more …

Renzi, in trying to save his career, becomes a danger to Brussels.

Draghi Should Have Done More To Help Italian Banks In 90’S, Says PM Renzi (R.)

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticized ECB Governor Mario Draghi for not having done more to resolve Italy’s banking woes when he held a key Treasury job in Rome in the 1990s. Renzi’s rare public criticism of Draghi came on the day Italy’s third-largest lender, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), said that the ECB had asked it to cut its bad debts by 40% within three years, heaping more pressure on Rome to stabilize its banking system. After taking power in 2014, Renzi’s government introduced reforms aimed at strengthening the country’s cooperative banks, but several are struggling to stay afloat and a bailout fund took control of Veneto Banca last week after the ECB said it had to raise capital or close.

“If the measures concerning the cooperatives had not been taken by us but by the centre-left government that first put them forward, but was not strong enough to enact them in 1998 … then we would not have this problem,” Renzi said. The prime minister said that Draghi was director general of the Treasury at that time, with Carlo Azeglio Ciampi serving as economy minister. “And if people had the strength and intelligence to keep politics out of the banking system a bit before we did it … we would not have had cases like Monte dei Paschi di Siena,” Renzi told a meeting of his centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Read more …

How things are seldom what they seem. Or people, for that matter.

Did a Fear of Slave Revolts Drive American Independence? (NY Times)

For more than two centuries, we have been reading the Declaration of Independence wrong. Or rather, we’ve been celebrating the Declaration as people in the 19th and 20th centuries have told us we should, but not the Declaration as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote it. To them, separation from Britain was as much, if not more, about racial fear and exclusion as it was about inalienable rights. The Declaration’s beautiful preamble distracts us from the heart of the document, the 27 accusations against King George III over which its authors wrangled and debated, trying to get the wording just right. The very last one — the ultimate deal-breaker — was the most important for them, and it is for us:

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” In the context of the 18th century, “domestic insurrections” refers to rebellious slaves. “Merciless Indian savages” doesn’t need much explanation. In fact, Jefferson had originally included an extended attack on the king for forcing slavery upon unwitting colonists. Had it stood, it would have been the patriots’ most powerful critique of slavery. The Continental Congress cut out all references to slavery as “piratical warfare” and an “assemblage of horrors,” and left only the sentiment that King George was “now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us.”

The Declaration could have been what we yearn for it to be, a statement of universal rights, but it wasn’t. What became the official version was one marked by division. Upon hearing the news that the Congress had just declared American independence, a group of people gathered in the tiny village of Huntington, N.Y., to observe the occasion by creating an effigy of King George. But before torching the tyrant, the Long Islanders did something odd, at least to us. According to a report in a New York City newspaper, first they blackened his face, and then, alongside his wooden crown, they stuck his head “full of feathers” like “savages,” wrapped his body in the Union Jack, lined it with gunpowder and then set it ablaze.

Read more …

Reflecting on Lady Liberty’s right foot.

The Statue Of Liberty Was Built To Welcome Immigrants (Eggers)

Though she is the most recognisable symbol of the American experiment, there is something about the Statue of Liberty that goes largely unnoticed. And that is that she is moving. The torch in her right hand, symbolising enlightenment, cannot be ignored and is never overlooked. The book in her left hand, with 4 July carved in roman numerals, is not likely to be missed. Nor are the seven spikes of her crown, matching the world’s seven continents and seven seas. And though, if pressed, we remember that she is wearing sandals, we forget, if we ever knew, that the Statue of Liberty is on the go. Take the ferry to Liberty Island. As your boat rises and falls on the rough waters of New York Harbor, you will see, with undeniable clarity, that her right foot is striding forward.

And around her feet are chains, broken, which sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi meant to symbolise the breaking of the chains of bondage and tyranny. She is caught, forever, in the moment of becoming free. The 305ft statue is a marvel of artistry and engineering, and there are many details to admire, but none is more important than her right leg, which is stepping forward, and stepping forward not casually but with great striding purpose. This right foot, though largely unheralded, might be its most important feature. For what would it mean if the symbol of liberty were standing still? That would imply that freedom is static, that once established, it’s a settled thing. But freedom is not a settled thing.

It would imply that once the first few million immigrants arrived on American shores, fleeing religious bigotry or political violence or ethnic persecution, then the United States should or could close its gates. It would imply that the welcoming of new arrivals, the poor and tired and struggling to be free, was a temporary thing, that the welcoming of the world’s oppressed was a thing of the past. But the welcoming of the world’s oppressed is not a thing of the past. We live in a moment when shrill voices tell us that not only should immigration be stifled, but that millions of current residents should be deported, returned to their country of origin, no matter the consequences for their souls or our consciences. These fearful voices put forth a direct repudiation of the origin and elemental purpose of this country, and to the meaning of the statue that we accept as our talisman.

Read more …

The coup against Corbyn is also linked to Tony Blair’s possible indictment, and the risks that brings for those in the party who are linked to him.

The Elites Hate Momentum and The Corbynites – I’ll Tell You Why (Graeber)

As the rolling catastrophe of what’s already being called the “chicken coup” against the Labour leadership winds down, pretty much all the commentary has focused on the personal qualities, real or imagined, of the principal players. Yet such an approach misses out on almost everything that’s really at stake here. The real battle is not over the personality of one man, or even a couple of hundred politicians. If the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn for the past nine months has been so fierce, and so bitter, it is because his existence as head of a major political party is an assault on the very notion that politics should be primarily about the personal qualities of politicians. It’s an attempt to change the rules of the game, and those who object most violently to the Labour leadership are precisely those who would lose the most personal power were it to be successful: sitting politicians and political commentators.

If you talk to Corbyn’s most ardent supporters, it’s not the man himself but the project of democratising the party that really sets their eyes alight. The Labour party, they emphasise, was founded not by politicians but by a social movement. Over the past century it has gradually become like all the other political parties – personality (and of course, money) based, but the Corbyn project is first and foremost to make the party a voice for social movements once again, dedicated to popular democracy (as trades unions themselves once were). This is the immediate aim. The ultimate aim is the democratisation not just of the party but of local government, workplaces, society itself.

Read more …

In a nutshell: “..One reason for the aggressive tactics is that the state depends on Wall Street investors to finance student loans..”

In New Jersey Student Loan Program, Even Death May Not Bring a Reprieve (NYT)

New Jersey’s loans, which currently total $1.9 billion, are unlike those of any other government lending program for students in the country. They come with extraordinarily stringent rules that can easily lead to financial ruin. Repayments cannot be adjusted based on income, and borrowers who are unemployed or facing other financial hardships are given few breaks. The loans also carry higher interest rates than similar federal programs. Most significant, New Jersey’s loans come with a cudgel that even the most predatory for-profit players cannot wield: the power of the state. New Jersey can garnish wages, rescind state income tax refunds, revoke professional licenses, even take away lottery winnings — all without having to get court approval.

“It’s state-sanctioned loan-sharking,” Daniel Frischberg, a bankruptcy lawyer, said. “The New Jersey program is set up so that you fail.” The authority, which boasts in brochures that its “singular focus has always been to benefit the students we serve,” has become even more aggressive in recent years. Interviews with dozens of borrowers, who were among the tens of thousands who have turned to the program, show how the loans have unraveled lives. The program’s regulations have destroyed families’ credit and forced them to forfeit their salaries. One college graduate declared bankruptcy at age 26 after struggling to repay his debt. The agency filed four simultaneous lawsuits against a 31-year-old paralegal after she fell behind on her payments.

Another borrower, Chris Gonzalez, could not keep up with his loans after he got non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was laid off by Goldman Sachs. While the federal government allowed him to suspend his payments because of hardship, New Jersey sued him, seeking $266,000 in payments, and seized a state tax refund he was owed. One reason for the aggressive tactics is that the state depends on Wall Street investors to finance student loans through tax-exempt bonds and needs to satisfy those investors by keeping losses to a minimum. Loan revenues also cover about half of the agency’s administrative budget.

Read more …

How to kill a city.

Sydney Home Prices Just Keep On Rising (BBG)

Sydney home prices resumed their upward march as dwindling supply outweighs tighter loan approvals by lenders. Dwelling values climbed 1.2% in June, taking gains for the second quarter to 6.8%, according to data from CoreLogic. The market is getting a leg up after a slowdown at the end of last year in Australia’s largest city, as new listings fell more than 16% from a year earlier to the lowest in five months in June, according to the data.

Read more …

How to kill a country: “..it is financed by grants from the Australian Department of Defence, the Australian Army, the Australian Federal Police, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and the Japanese Government; plus Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing..

How Australia Is Sold Into Waging War In Ukraine (Helmer)

Among Turnbull’s last-minute ploys to attract votes, one was the leak last month of Australian cabinet plans for an Australian Army force to fight in eastern Ukraine, alongside Dutch and other NATO units, to destroy the Donetsk and Lugansk rebellion against the regime in Kiev. Turnbull’s leak had suggested that Tony Abbott, the prime minister Turnbull had pushed aside to take the job, dreamed up the plan of Australian war at the Russian frontier by himself. The new report by Dibb now corroborates the idea of an Australian military expedition against Russia, in exchange for improved American commitments to defend Australia from the Chinese closer to home, in the Pacific.

“How things work out in Europe,” Dibb claims, “will affect Washington’s ability to reassure allies and partners everywhere, including those in our region who must contend with increasing coercion by China.” Unless Australia does more fighting with the Americans on the Russian front, he concludes, “China will take advantage of this, and allies and partners of the US in the region -including Australia- would be subject to further uncertainty about American military commitments to Asia.” Combating “Russia’s aggressive military behaviour “is necessary because, otherwise, “both Moscow and Beijing will be seen as getting away with it.” The 40-page Dibb report is entitled “Why Russia is a threat to the international order”. Read it in full. The publisher is a think-tank headquartered in Sydney called the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

It says “ASPI was established, and is partially funded, by the Australian Government as an independent, non-partisan policy institute.” The institute’s financial reports reveal it is financed by grants from the Australian Department of Defence, the Australian Army, the Australian Federal Police, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, and the Japanese Government; plus Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing — the leading arms-exporting corporations of the US. European arms builders also funding ASPI include the European missile-maker MBDA, BAE Systems, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Rheinmetall, Airbus, and Navantia, the Spanish state shipbuilder. When Australians march into the field against the Russians, these suppliers aim to provide the best kit Australian money can buy.

Read more …

Tsipras might have done well to pay some more attention.

US Economist Galbraith Sheds Light On Varoufakis ‘Plan X’ (Kath.)

The Plan B for Greece that was drafted by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis foresaw the declaring of a state of emergency, the immediate nationalization of the Bank of Greece, the transformation of bank deposits into a New Drachma and emergency public order measures, according to a book by American economist James Galbraith, Varoufakis’s chief coordinator for the plan. In the book, “Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe,” which has been translated into Greek, Galbraith describes in detail Varoufakis’s plan for moving Greece to a parallel banking system last year.

Those privy to the Plan B – or Plan X as Varoufakis is said to have called it – would meet in conditions of high secrecy involving secure communications and the depositing of cell phones in hotel refrigerators. According to Galbraith, during the transition phase, the ministries of Defense and the Interior would have been responsible for public order, fuel supplies would be controlled, while employees at important public institutions (schools, hospitals, police) would be mobilized. Even though there was a high-level meeting about the plan, Galbraith said the prime minister did not ask to be briefed, so work on the endeavor ended with the submission of an extensive memo in May.

Read more …

At some point, indictment or not, enough people will realize that Clinton is too much of a risk for the credibility of the entire American political system.

Wikileaks Publishes More Than 1,000 Hillary Clinton War Emails (Ind.)

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website, has released more than 1,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server pertaining to the Iraq War. The website tweeted a link to 1,258 emails on Monday that Clinton sent during her time as secretary of state. According to the release, the emails were obtained from the US State Department after they issued a Freedom of Information Act request. However, it’s unclear if any of the information is classified. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange previously claimed that his website obtained enough proof for the FBI to indict the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

“We could proceed to an indictment, but if Loretta Lynch is the head of the DOJ in the United States, she’s not going to indict Hillary Clinton,” Assange told ITV. “That’s not possible that could happen.” The newly released information will likely only serve as political fodder for the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, as Clinton met with FBI investigators over the weekend wrapping up the lengthy investigation. Sources close to the probe recently told CNN that the bureau will announce no charges against Clinton in the weeks to come.

Read more …

Ha! Funny! But I think Lynch’s involvement is far more insidious than this.

Who The F**k Is Charlotte? (Jim Kunstler)

The mighty Shakespeare in his direst night sweats could not have conjured up the Clinton family in all their sharp angles and dark corners, but we can try to reconstruct the scene last week on Loretta Lynch’s plane out on the Phoenix airport tarmac.

Former president Bill steps aboard:
• Loretta: What the fuck are you doing here?
• Bill: I just had to tell you what Charlotte did last week.
• Loretta: Who the fuck is Charlotte?
• Bill: Our grand-kid. She’s turning into a good little earner.
• Loretta: We can’t meet like this. We’re about to depose your wife.
• Bill: Charlotte gave a speech to the whole Citibank C-suite.
• Loretta: I don’t give a fuck. Get off my plane right now!
• Bill: Well, I don’t know if ‘speech’ is the right word. She gurgles nice.
• Loretta: I guess you didn’t hear me.
• Bill: She pulled in fifty grand for that. Of course it was 100% remitted to the foundation. Well, bye now. (Exits plane).

I have a theory about the Clinton family dynamic. Bill does not want Hillary to win because he doesn’t want to live in the White House again. For sure he does not want to live with The Flying Reptile, but he especially doesn’t want to be on display in that fishbowl where folks pretty much can see what you’re up to 24/7. For one thing, “The Energizer” can’t discreetly come and go. But he certainly doesn’t want to concern himself as “First Husband” or “First Gentleman” (title TBD) with deciding which fabric to choose in replacing the East Room draperies. So Bill decided to fix things for sure with that innocent visit to the US Attorney General’s airplane to talk about grand-kids.

It seems to be working. If there was any question that Loretta Lynch could just sit on her hands about Hillary’s email investigation through the November election, it went up in a vapor last week. It also left the FBI director on the hot seat because now he will have to either cough up a referral to Justice Department prosecutors, or he’ll have some ‘splainin to do in the heat of a presidential election campaign. If you thought Watergate was a ripe peach, this one is beginning to look like a stinking durian (Durio zibethinus).

Read more …

May 192016
 
 May 19, 2016  Posted by at 9:13 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle May 19 2016


Harris&Ewing Streamlined street car passing Washington Monument 1938

Not All Death Crosses Are Created Equal (BBG)
China’s Communist Party Goes Way Of Qing Dynasty As Debt Hits Limit (AEP)
China’s Housing Bubble Is So Big, Goldman Will “Need A Bigger Chart” (ZH)
Emerging-Market Assets Under Pressure as Fed Minutes Lift Dollar (BBG)
The Case For Germany Leaving The Euro #Gexit (Bibow)
Europe’s Troubled Push For Bank Bail-Ins (FT)
Euro Area Shifts Greek Focus to Debt Relief to Win IMF Support (BBG)
All Economics Is Political (WSJ)
5 Banks Sued In US For Rigging $9 Trillion Agency Bond Market (R.)
Another Year of Anger for Deutsche Bank’s Investors (BBG)
First Look At Explosive Hillary Documentary, ‘Clinton Cash’ (NY Post)
Earth Breaks 12th Straight Monthly Heat Record (AP)
India To Start Massive Project To Divert Ganges And Brahmaputra Rivers (G.)

Difference is in 2001, 2008 there were no people as nuts as Draghi, Kuroda and Yellen. Or, if there were, they were not in charge.

Not All Death Crosses Are Created Equal (BBG)

In a note to clients, Intermarket Strategy Chief Executive and Strategist Ashraf Laidi points out that the S&P 500’s 50-week moving average is falling below its 100-week moving average. This “statistically significant” death cross has only happened twice is the past two decades, Laidi points out. The first took place in 2001 and was followed by a 37% decline in the index, while the second pattern occurred in 2008 and preceded a 48% drop. With investors already growing increasingly nervous about prospects for equities, a death cross of grave proportions could give extra reason for caution.

Read more …

“With luck, the rest of us outside China will have three or four more months to order our own affairs before the storm gathers.”

China’s Communist Party Goes Way Of Qing Dynasty As Debt Hits Limit (AEP)

[..] The latest stop-go credit cycle began in mid-2015 and has since accelerated to an epic blow-off, with the M1 money supply now growing at 22.9pc, by the fastest pace since the post-Lehman blitz. Wei Yao from Societe Generale estimates that total loans rose by $1.15 trillion in the first quarter, equivalent to 46pc of quarterly GDP. “This looks like an old-styled credit-backed investment-driven recovery, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of the ‘four trillion stimulus’ package in 2009. The consequence of that stimulus was inflation, asset bubbles and excess capacity,” she said. House sales rose 60pc in April, despite curbs to cool the bubble. New starts were up 26pc. Prices jumped 63pc in Shenzhen, 34pc in Shanghai, 20pc in Beijing, and 18pc in Hefei. Panic buying is spreading to the smaller Tier 3 and 4 cities with the greatest glut.

It all has echoes of the stockmarket boom and bust last year. “Investors are convinced that the government will guarantee that housing prices won’t fall,” said Professor Zhu Ning from the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, speaking to the South China Morning Post. It also sounds like Britain. There was a slight cooling in April but less than headlines suggested. The old measure of total social financing (TSF) slipped but this was more than offset by record bond issuance of $180bn. Together they reached a 26-month high. Capital Economics says budgeted funds must be disbursed by the end of this quarter under new finance ministry rules, implying another $310bn of bonds by late June. The fiscal boost will be ‘front-loaded’. The money will pile up in accounts and flood the economy over the late summer. If the usual time-lags hold, the mini-boom will last for a few more months. Then the trouble will start. Needless to say, markets may roll over long before the economy itself.

[..] .. this year the China bears may get their revenge, if they have any money left to play with. The rot in the country’s $7.7 trillion bond markets is metastasizing. Bo Zhuang from Trusted Sources said more than 100 firms cancelled or delayed bond issues in April due to widening credit spreads. Ten companies have defaulted this year, with the shipbuilder Evergreen, Nanjing Yurun Foods, and the solar group Yingli Green Energy all in trouble this month. But what has really spooked markets is the suspension of nine bonds issued by the AA+ rated China Railways Materials, the first of the big central SOE’s to signal default. “This has greatly weakened investors’ long-standing expectation of implicit government support,” he said.

Bo Zhuang said investors have poured money into bonds in the latest frenzy. The stock of corporate bonds has jumped by 78pc to $2.3 trillion over the last year. It is the epicentre of leverage through short-term ‘repo’ transactions, and it is now coming unstuck. “The experience with the stock market shows how difficult it can be to contain a reversal in leveraged bets. In our view, a bond market crisis would be much more destructive,” he said. With luck, the rest of us outside China will have three or four more months to order our own affairs before the storm gathers. Whether it is bumpy landing, a hard landing, or a crash landing, depends on who the “authoritative person” in Beijing turn out to be.

Read more …

“..year-over-year price growth in tier-1 cities [..] 28.3%..”

China’s Housing Bubble Is So Big, Goldman Will “Need A Bigger Chart” (ZH)

One of the stated reasons for the Shanghai Composite’s 1.3% drop (and it would have been worse had the PPT not launched its infamous last minute buying blitz) was also the most amusing one: the stock market bubble is in danger of popping even more as a result of a housing bubble that is now raging at a pace not seen since the last Chinese housing bubble, and thus threatens to soak up even more cash from China’s chronic gamblers-cum-speculators.

So just how high of a housing number did the NBS report that spooked stocks so much? Well, as Goldman summarizes, housing prices in the primary market increased 1.1% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment in April, higher than the growth rate in March. Out of 70 cities monitored by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 63 saw housing prices increase from the previous month. On a year-over-year, population-weighted basis, housing prices in the 70 cities were up 6.9% (vs. 5.5% yoy in March).  According to an alterantive set of calculations by MarketNews, aggregate home prices rose 12.4% Y/Y in April after rising 10.4% in March. Since both numbers are ridiculously high, we’ll just leave them at that.

However, it was not the overall market bubble that is troubling, but that focused on the most desired, top – or Tier 1 – cities. Here, April price growth was 2.6% month-over-month after seasonal adjustment, vs. 3.0% in March.

But the real shocker was that on a year-over-year price growth in tier-1 cities continue to rise however, reaching 28.3% vs. 26.0% yoy in March. In fact it is so bad that Goldman, which tried to show the surge in the second chart below, clearly needs a bigger chart. Incidentally, total property sales in tier-1 cities accounted for around 5% of nationwide property sales in volume terms, and around 15% in value terms (2015 data).

And the stunning charts: Home price inflation month over month

And year over year: to show the Tier 1 housing bubble, Goldman will need a bigger chart.


Read more …

Can’t keep the dollar down forever.

Emerging-Market Assets Under Pressure as Fed Minutes Lift Dollar (BBG)

Emerging-market stocks and currencies fell to two-month lows as the dollar got a boost from minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting that showed officials want to raise interest rates in June. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index headed for its biggest two-day drop in two weeks after minutes of the April 26-27 meeting released Wednesday in Washington showed most officials judged it “likely would be appropriate” to hike next month provided incoming data are in line with a second-quarter pickup. China’s yuan, South Korea’s won, Malaysia’s ringgit and Taiwan’s dollar fell to the weakest levels since March, while Indonesia’s rupiah and Thailand’s baht reached February lows.

The release of the minutes and speeches by regional Fed bank presidents warning investors not to dismiss the chance of a June increase have seen the chance of such a move increasing to 32% from 4% at the beginning of the week, Fed Funds futures show. Developing-nation stocks have now wiped out all of their gains this year and there’s a risk of outflows accelerating if the dollar keeps strengthening. “Investors should avoid any additional investments in emerging markets because their currencies and stocks will be under huge pressure from the strong dollar,” said Komsorn Prakobphol at Tisco Financial in Bangkok. Energy stocks will probably be resilient as the oil price is being driven more by supply and demand dynamics, he said.

A gauge of the greenback against 10 peers was steady after jumping 0.8% overnight, the most since November. The Bloomberg Dollar Index has rallied 3.1% in May, on track for its best month since January 2015. Overseas investors have pulled $2.9 billion from Taiwanese stocks this month and close to a combined $1 billion from Indian, Indonesian and Thai bonds, exchange data show. “Asian currency weakness has been exacerbated by portfolio outflows from the region and we see little respite in the weeks and months ahead,” said Mitul Kotecha at Barclays in Singapore. The ringgit, baht, rupiah and, to an extent, the Taiwan dollar are the most vulnerable Asian currencies to a Fed rate increase, while India’s rupee and the Korean won are better placed, he said.

Read more …

“It is undeniable that the euro has turned out to be an instrument of widespread impoverishment rather than shared prosperity.”

The Case For Germany Leaving The Euro #Gexit (Bibow)

The case for or against a British exit from the EU – #Brexit – is headline news. For the moment the earlier quarrel about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone – #Grexit – seems to have taken the back seat – with one or two exceptions such as Christian Lindner, leader of Germany’s liberal FDP. Most EU proponents are deeply concerned about these prospects and the repercussions either might have on European unity. Yet, while highly important, neither of them should distract Europe from zooming in on the real issue: the dominant and altogether destructive role of Germany in European affairs today. There can be no doubt that the German “stability-oriented” approach to European unity has failed dismally. It is high time for Europe to contemplate the option of a German exit from the Eurozone – #Gexit – since this might be the least damaging scenario for Europe to emerge from its euro trap and start afresh.

Germany’s membership of the Eurozone and its adamant refusal to play by the rules of currency union is indeed at the heart of the matter. Of course, it was never meant to be this way. And it was not inevitable for Europe to end up in today’s state of never-ending crisis that impoverishes and disunites its peoples. I have always supported the idea of a common European currency as I believed that it could potentially provide a monetary order that is far superior to the status quo ante of deutschmark hegemony: the Bundesbank – in pursuit of its German price stability mandate – pulling the monetary strings across the continent. While I have also always held that the euro – the peculiar regime of Economic and Monetary Union agreed at Maastricht – was deeply flawed, I kept up my hopes that the political authorities would reform that regime along the way to make the euro viable.

In this spirit I proposed my “Euro Treasury” plan that would, among other things, fix the Maastricht regime’s most serious flaw: the divorce between the monetary and fiscal authorities that is leaving all key players vulnerable and short of the powers required to steer a large economy like the Eurozone through anything but fair weather conditions, at best. Watching developments over in Europe from afar my hopes are dwindling by the day that the failed euro experiment will usher in reforms that could save it. Instead, the likelihood of some form of eventual euro breakup seems to be rising constantly. It is undeniable that the euro has turned out to be an instrument of widespread impoverishment rather than shared prosperity.

Read more …

“For US investors it will become very different to follow.”

Europe’s Troubled Push For Bank Bail-Ins (FT)

When Ignazio Visco, governor of the Bank of Italy, spoke in Florence this month, his focus turned to regulation. At a sensitive moment for Italian lenders, whose shares had collapsed over recent months, the governor chose to address what he called “regulatory uncertainty” in the wake of new European-wide rules for failing banks. “We must strike the right balance,” he said. “We should not rule out the possibility of temporary public support in the event of systemic bank crises, when the use of a bail-in is not sufficient”. Taxpayer support for banks, however, was precisely what the new European rules introduced at the start of this year aimed to avoid. To protect taxpayers, investors in banks bonds – mostly untouched during the bailouts of the last crisis – now face losses, or “bail-ins”.

The tension between the Italian central bank and European regulations is related to who owns this debt. In Italy, many retail investors hold exposed bank bonds, and a “bail-in” of small Italian banks in November last year was politically sensitive for this reason. But Mr Visco’s comments also reflect the challenges of implementing continent-wide rules in very different individual countries, with contrasting banking systems. So how else might this regulatory uncertainty, and the role of national governments, complicate a European vision for dealing with bank failure? Under the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), European banks are now required to have a certain amount of bonds that are exposed to losses. The key issue is who suffers losses first. Whereas senior bank bonds ranked alongside depositors during the crisis, new bonds need to be subordinated to take losses.

But the actual instruments that count towards this measure are determined by national legislation. As a result, different countries have taken different approaches. Italy has raised corporate depositors above bondholders. France is currently legislating for a new class of bank debt, which will sit below depositors and existing senior bonds. In Germany, the law has been changed to subordinate outstanding senior bonds. In the UK, banks sell bonds from their holding companies, which will rank below other senior bank bonds. In the Netherlands, it is unclear how the rules will work. Robert Muller, treasurer at Rabobank, says the bank is strongly leaning towards the French approach, rather than the German. For investors, this represents a challenge. “At this point in time it’s very difficult for investors to see how this pans out,” says Mr Muller. “For US investors it will become very different to follow.”

Read more …

Why am I thinking deck chairs? Anyway, can’t see Germany agree to spend its money on buying up loans.

Euro Area Shifts Greek Focus to Debt Relief to Win IMF Support (BBG)

Euro-area officials are weighing a proposal to purchase loans that member states made to Greece in a move that would ease the nation’s debt burden, a precondition for the IMF’s involvement in a bailout program. Senior finance ministry officials held a conference call on Wednesday night to discuss ways to make Greece’s €321 billion of obligations sustainable, according to two people with knowledge of the talks. One option would be for the European Stability Mechanism, the euro-area’s financial backstop, to purchase loans individual euro nations made to Greece and reduce the interest payments, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. About €52.9 billion of bilateral loans were made in 2010 and 2011.

Greece’s creditors are struggling to complete a review of the nation’s third bailout, which would pave the way for the disbursal of much-needed aid. The IMF has made its participation in the program contingent upon debt relief, a prospect euro-area finance ministers began discussing last week during an emergency meeting meant to resolve the impasse in unlocking the funds. Nations including Germany have said that the IMF needs to be involved in any future bailout program. The ESM is also considering purchasing the IMF’s loans as a way to give Greece a financial boost since its debt terms are more lenient than those of the Washington-based fund, according to a sustainability report prepared by the European institutions.

Buying back the IMF loans “amounts to debt relief,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in remarks in Brussels on Wednesday at a Politico conference. The officials mulled three debt-relief options during the call: have the ESM purchase bilateral loans made to Greece from individual countries; have the ESM purchase the IMF’s obligations; and extending the maturities of Greece’s debt and reducing the interest rates, one of the people said.

Read more …

Economics is politics in disguise.

All Economics Is Political (WSJ)

The models have been run and the numbers crunched: Bernie Sanders’s presidential platform, if enacted, would create 26 million jobs and 5.3% growth. An economist has done the calculating, and there’s no use arguing with mathematics. CNN’s headline reads: “Under Sanders, income and jobs would soar, economist says.” When I run that line by Russ Roberts, he replies with a joke: “How do you know macroeconomists have a sense of humor? They use decimal points.” Mr. Roberts is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a University of Chicago Ph.D., and the gregarious host of EconTalk, a weekly podcast that celebrated its 10th anniversary in March. He is also an evangelist for humility in economics. “The world’s a complicated place,” he says. “We demand things from economics that it can’t provide, and we should be honest about that.”

What’s striking is Mr. Roberts isn’t talking only about politically contrived agitprop. Nobody believes that stuff: One of President Obama’s former economic advisers stirred ire from Sandernistas earlier this year when he said that getting Bernie’s agenda to add up requires assuming “magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.” The deeper question is: How much better—more credible, or reliable, or falsifiable—are the economic forecasts pouring out of respectable think tanks, the White House and Congress? Mr. Roberts’s answer: not all that much. He cites the Congressional Budget Office reports calculating the effect of the stimulus package—for instance, one in late 2009 suggesting it had increased employment by between 600,000 and 1.6 million.

Leaving aside the incredible range of the estimate, how did the CBO come up with those numbers? Did it somehow measure employment in the real world? Nope: The CBO gnomes simply went back to their earlier stimulus prediction and plugged the latest figures into the model. “They had of course forecast the number of jobs that the stimulus would create based on the amount of spending,” Mr. Roberts says. “They just redid the estimate. They just redid the forecast. And you’re thinking, that can’t be what they really did.”

Read more …

Definitely the new normal.

5 Banks Sued In US For Rigging $9 Trillion Agency Bond Market (R.)

Five major banks and four traders were sued on Wednesday in a private U.S. lawsuit claiming they conspired to rig prices worldwide in a more than $9 trillion market for bonds issued by government-linked organizations and agencies. Bank of America, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Nomura were accused of secretly agreeing to widen the “bid-ask” spreads they quoted customers of supranational, sub-sovereign and agency (SSA) bonds. The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by the Boston Retirement System said the collusion dates to at least 2005, was conducted through chatrooms and instant messaging, and caused investors to overpay for bonds they bought or accept low prices for bonds they sold.

“Only through collusion could a dealer quote a wider spread than market conditions otherwise dictate without losing market share and profits,” the complaint said. “Defendants reaped millions of dollar(s) in profits at the expense of plaintiff and members of the class as result of their misconduct.” The proposed class-action lawsuit seeks triple damages, and follows probes by U.S. and European Union antitrust regulators into possible SSA bond price rigging.

[..] The lawsuit is one of many in the Manhattan federal court seeking to hold banks liable for alleged price-fixing in bond, commodity, currency, derivatives, interest rate and other financial markets. One such lawsuit, concerning competition in the credit default swaps market, led last September to a $1.86 billion settlement with a dozen banks. SSA bonds are sold in various currencies by issuers such as regional development banks, infrastructure borrowers including highway and bridge authorities, and social security funds. Many carry explicit or implicit backing from governments, and thus enjoy high investment-grade ratings.

Read more …

Will Deutsche self-destruct?

Another Year of Anger for Deutsche Bank’s Investors (BBG)

Deutsche Bank investors expressed their frustration with management at the company’s annual meeting a year ago. Weeks later, co-Chief Executive Officer Anshu Jain was gone. Now it’s Chairman Paul Achleitner and Jain’s replacement, John Cryan, who are set to feel the displeasure of shareholders when they gather in Frankfurt on Thursday. With revenue plunging and the need for capital mounting, some investors worry it may be just a matter of time before they’re asked to stump up and buy new stock. “The mood’s going to be bad, maybe even worse than at last year’s meeting,” said Klaus Nieding, vice president of DSW, a German firm that advises shareholders on company proposals.

Deutsche Bank shares dropped by more than half in the past year – erasing about $22.6 billion in market value – as plans to bolster capital and slash costs failed to revive confidence and profits shriveled across the industry. For Achleitner, a supervisory board dispute in April raised questions about his commitment to rooting out misconduct at Germany’s largest bank. Jain, 53, resigned in June after he and co-CEO Juergen Fitschen received the lowest approval rating in at least a decade in a vote at last year’s annual meeting. Fitschen, 67, will stand down on Thursday, leaving Cryan as sole CEO. Cryan, a British citizen who chaired the audit committee of the supervisory board before becoming co-CEO, has been outspoken about the company’s shortcomings, criticizing excessive pay, spiraling legal costs and outdated technology.

He suspended the dividend to bolster capital and pledged to shed about 9,000 jobs, or almost 10% of the workforce, and shrink the investment bank by scaling back the debt-trading empire built by Jain. While some investors applauded the cost reductions as long overdue, others expressed concern the cutting would eat too deeply into sales, especially during a trading slump. Debt-trading revenue, Deutsche Bank’s largest source of income, fell 29% in the first quarter from a year before, while net income dropped 61%. Cryan told analysts last month that his efforts to overhaul the company and settle outstanding legal matters may lead to a second straight annual loss. “The issue that we have is that we want to get an awful lot done this year,” he said.

Read more …

Sorry for doing politics, but this is going to be a really big item. Question’s going to be: who can fill in for Hillary once she’s behind bars?

First Look At Explosive Hillary Documentary, ‘Clinton Cash’ (NY Post)

Hillary Clinton says that when she and her husband moved out of the White House 15 years ago, they were “dead broke.” Today, they’re worth more than $150 million. In the new documentary “Clinton Cash,” it becomes all too clear how the former first couple went from rags to filthy rich — with the emphasis on filthy. As the movie shows, the Clintons are political Teflon dons compared with another Beltway power couple, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. The McDonnells were convicted of accepting more than $150,000 in gifts from a businessman while the governor was in office. Meanwhile, the Clintons raked in 700 times that amount – $105 million – under the pretext of speaking fees while Hillary was in public office.

Yet while the McDonnells face time in the Big House, the Clintons are once again aiming for the White House. The documentary is based on a book by former Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer and was just screened during the Cannes Film Festival. It is set to be shown in major US cities, including Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention there in July. Schweizer’s research has withstood a year of intense scrutiny from critics because it is fact, not fiction. And the facts are compelling. The film whisks you around the globe, retracing how the Clintons personally pocketed six-figure speaking fees and collected billions of dollars for their family foundation. How? By trading on Hillary’s position as secretary of state and possible future president.

She and her ex-president husband sold out to titans, dictators and shady characters in Nigeria, Congo, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention at Goldman Sachs and TD Bank. Along the way, the Clintons betrayed the values they profess on the campaign trail: human rights, environmentalism and democracy. That’s why Schweizer is bringing the documentary to the Democratic convention — to show the party faithful how the Clintons used and abused their liberal principles to amass a fortune. The Clintons earned the bulk of their money from speaking fees. It was simple: Bill’s fees skyrocketed when Hillary became secretary of state in 2009, suggesting that countries and companies hiring him counted on getting more than just Bill — they also expected to land what his wife had to offer.

Read more …

“The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015. ”

Earth Breaks 12th Straight Monthly Heat Record (AP)

Earth’s heat is stuck on high. Thanks to a combination of global warming and an El Nino, the planet shattered monthly heat records for an unprecedented 12th straight month, as April smashed the old record by half a degree, according to federal scientists. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly climate calculation said Earth’s average temperature in April was 58.7 degrees (14.8 degrees Celsius). That’s 2 degrees (1. 1 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average and well past the old record set in 2010. The Southern Hemisphere led the way, with Africa, South America and Asia all having their warmest Aprils on record, NOAA climate scientist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said. NASA was among other organizations that said April was the hottest on record. The last month that wasn’t record hot was April 2015.

The last month Earth wasn’t hotter than the 20th-century average was December 1984, and the last time Earth set a monthly cold record was almost a hundred years ago, in December 1916, according to NOAA records. “These kinds of records may not be that interesting, but so many in a row that break the previous records by so much indicates that we’re entering uncharted climatic territory (for modern human society),” Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler said in an email. At NOAA’s climate monitoring headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina, “we are feeling like broken records stating the same thing” each month, Sanchez-Lugo said. And more heat meant record low snow for the Northern Hemisphere in April, according to NOAA and the Rutgers Global Snow Lab.

Snow coverage in April was 890,000 square miles below the 30-year average. Sanchez-Lugo and other scientists say ever-increasing man-made global warming is pushing temperatures higher, and the weather oscillation El Nino — a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide — makes it even hotter. The current El Nino, which is fading, is one of the strongest on records and is about as strong as the 1997-1998 El Nino. But 2016 so far is 0.81 degrees (0.45 degrees Celsius) warmer than 1998 so “you can definitely see that climate change has an impact,” Sanchez-Lugo said. Given that each month this year has been record hot, it is not surprising that the average of the first four months of 2016 were 2.05 degrees (1.14 degrees Celsius) higher than the 20th-century average and beat last year’s record by 0.54 degrees (0.3 degrees Celsius).

Read more …

Complete and utter idiots. Everything that can go wrong, will. And then some.

India To Start Massive Project To Divert Ganges And Brahmaputra Rivers (G.)

India is set to start work on a massive, unprecedented river diversion programme, which will channel water away from the north and west of the country to drought-prone areas in the east and south. The plan could be disastrous for the local ecology, environmental activists warn. The project involves rerouting water from major rivers including the Ganges and Brahmaputra and creating canals to interlink the Ken and Batwa rivers in central India and Damanganga-Pinjal in the west. The minister of water resources, Uma Bharti, said this week that work could start in a few days. A spokesperson from her department told the Guardian that the government is still waiting for clearance from the environment ministry. The project will cost an estimated 20 lakh crore rupees (£207bn) and take 20-30 years to complete.

The government of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, is presenting the project as the solution to India’s endemic water problems. For years, parts of India have suffered from devastating spells of drought. As average temperatures in India rise, and the growing population puts increasing demands on water resources, millions of people are without a reliable water supply. This year, 330 million Indians have been affected by drought. State governments used emergency measures to deliver water by train in the western state of Maharashtra; in other areas, schools and hospitals were forced to close, and hundreds of families were forced to migrate from villages to nearby cities where water is more easily accessible.

According to the National Water Development Agency, which will oversee the rivers project, “the water availability even for drinking purposes becomes critical, particularly in the summer months … On the other hand excess rainfall occurring in some parts of the country create[s] havoc due to floods.” The scheme is a pet project of Modi, who has made several promises to end India’s long-term water problems. In the first few months of his premiership, Modi’s cabinet revived the idea of linking 30 rivers across India. The water resources ministry spokesperson said: “The idea is old, but the Modi government has done all the work on it.” Plans to interlink rivers were drawn up in the 1980s by Indira Gandhi’s government, and were gathering dust as central governments repeatedly failed to win the approval of states. Now, with a supreme court mandate, and government backing, save the rubber stamp of the environment ministry, the project could get under way in a matter of days.

Read more …