Dec 042020
 


Stanley Kubrick Walking the streets of New York 1946

 

Pfizer Not Sure If Someone Can Transmit Virus After Vaccination (Hill)
NHS Staff No Longer Top Priority For Covid Vaccine (G.)
Half The World Could Get Russian Sputnik V COVID19 Vaccine (RT)
Facebook Bans Anti-Vaccine “Conspiracy Theories” As US Rollout Begins (ZH)
GOP Senators Release 400 Pages Of New Docs On Crossfire Hurricane (SAC)
DNI Ratcliffe Says He Has Given ‘1000s Of Documents To John Durham’ (JTN)
The Georgia Runoffs and Our Embattled Constitution (RCP)
Confessions of a Clintonworld Exile (VF)
Bill Clinton ‘Couldn’t Stay Away’ From Jeffrey Epstein (ZH)
Will The Empire Sacrifice the Dollar? (CHS)
Banks To Chairman Powell On Libor: Foxtrot Oscar (Whalen)
Bank of England Criticised For Losing Track Of £50bn Of Banknotes (G.)
China Stakes Its Claim to Quantum Supremacy (Wired)
Dispossession and Imperialism Repackaged as “Feeding the World” (CP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s starting to feel like we’re going to need new definitions for “vaccine” as well as for “immunization”.

Pfizer Not Sure If Someone Can Transmit Virus After Vaccination (Hill)

Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla told Dateline host Lester Holt that the pharmaceutical company was “not certain” if the vaccine prevented the coronavirus from being transmitted, saying, “This is something that needs to be examined.” In a prime-time special titled “Race for a Vaccine” set to air Thursday, Holt questioned Bourla and other individuals involved in the development and distribution of the medicine. In November, Pfizer announced that its vaccine candidate had been shown to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 and has applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The U.K. became the first country to approve Pfizer’s vaccine this week with the first round of immunizations expected to roll out next week.


In a list of interview highlights released before the special, Holt asked Bourla, “Even though I’ve had the protection, am I still able to transmit it to other people?” “I think this is something that needs to be examined. We are not certain about that right now with what we know,” Bourla responded. Though Pfizer’s vaccine has shown promising results, challenges have surfaced when it comes to distributing and administering it. The vaccine must be delivered and stored in extreme sub-zero temperatures, which has heightened the demand for dry ice. Once the vaccine is kept at normal refrigeration temperatures, it must be used within four or five days or be discarded. The vaccine is administered in two doses spaced a few weeks apart.

Read more …

“NHS personnel will be able to take the vaccine into care homes to immunise residents later this month..”

NHS Staff No Longer Top Priority For Covid Vaccine (G.)

NHS staff will no longer get the coronavirus vaccine first after a drastic rethink about who should be given priority, it emerged last night. The new immunisation strategy is likely to disappoint and worry thousands of frontline staff – and comes amid urgent warnings from NHS chiefs that hospitals could be “overwhelmed” in January by a third wave of Covid-19 caused by mingling over Christmas. Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “If we get a prolonged cold snap in January the NHS risks being overwhelmed. The Covid-19 restrictions should remain appropriately tough. “Trust leaders are worried about the impact of looser regulations over Christmas.”

Frontline personnel were due to have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine when the NHS starts its rollout, which is expected to be next Tuesday after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved it on Wednesday. However, hospitals will instead begin by immunising care home staff, and hospital inpatients and outpatients aged over 80. The new UK-wide guidance on priority groups was issued by the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) amid uncertainty over when the rest of the 5m-strong initial batch of doses that ministers ordered will reach the UK.

NHS personnel will be able to take the vaccine into care homes to immunise residents later this month if, as expected, the MHRA agrees that the batches of 975 doses it comes in can be subdivided and the stability and safety of the drug be maintained. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the leader of the British Medical Association, said it backed care home residents getting the jab first. However, that means NHS staff will be left at higher risk of getting infected and potentially dying, he added.

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How does Sputnik V differ from the Pfizer “vaccine”?

Half The World Could Get Russian Sputnik V COVID19 Vaccine (RT)

At least 40 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population, have expressed interest in Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, the team behind it have said as mass vaccination begins in Moscow. At a presentation to the United Nations on Thursday, scientists from the Gamaleya Institute, which developed the formula, said that preliminary orders have been placed for more than 1.2 billion doses. Trials involving 45,000 people across the globe have concluded that 95 percent of those given both doses of Sputnik V develop immunity to the virus. On Wednesday, the vaccine’s creators released footage of vials touching down in India ahead of the start of studies into its efficacy there.


A number of countries, including Hungary, Venezuela and the UAE, have already imported sufficient quantities to conduct their own tests. At the same time, the Philippines announced that it would work with Russia to secure access to supplies in order to begin mass immunizations early next year. On Thursday, Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin announced that residents of the capital would be able to access the vaccine from Saturday. Doctors, teachers and social workers will be first in line for appointments, and an “electronic immunization record” will be set up. According to Sobyanin, Muscovites will be able to get the jab at ‘vaccine points’ set up around the city. President Vladimir Putin ordered the start of the program on Wednesday, adding that “the production of Sputnik V, the world’s first registered vaccine against the coronavirus infection, is what allows us to begin the vaccination.”

Read more …

Our new Supreme Court.

Facebook Bans Anti-Vaccine “Conspiracy Theories” As US Rollout Begins (ZH)

It was probably inevitable. Just in time for the vaccine rollout in the US this coming week (as Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said, inventory has already been loaded on to trucks, and will be en route to destinations across the country as soon as the FDA gives the green light) Facebook said Thursday that it’s “updating its policies around the coronavirus by removing false claims about upcoming vaccines”. The social media giant said it will be monitoring for misinformation that has been debunked by public health experts on both Facebook and Instagram. “This could include false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines. For example, we will remove false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list,” Facebook said in its announcement.

The company added that it will also remove conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines that we know today are false, such as that specific populations are being forced to test the vaccine against their will. “Since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more,” Facebook added, but also said that it would “not be able to start enforcing these policies overnight.” Previously, Facebook removed Covid-19 misinformation that could contribute to “imminent physical harm.” That included false claims or cures about the disease, that the coronavirus is caused by 5G, or that it does not exist.

According to the Independent, PA News Agency editor Tom Phillips said social media companies should do more to combat misinformation, but they also must be extremely careful not to go too far and quash public debate. “We have seen a lot of the internet platforms take stricter measures against vaccine misinformation and I think that is the correct approach. Could some of them go further? Yes, possibly.” “But at the same time, it is important to remember the importance of free speech. It’s not illegitimate to have questions or worries about the vaccine and it’s important that we don’t just react by trying to suppress those questions. We allow people to ask the questions, get good quality answers and make up their minds based on good quality information.”

Read more …

How crazy would it be if Crossfire Hurricane never gets thoroughly investigated?

GOP Senators Release 400 Pages Of New Docs On Crossfire Hurricane (SAC)

Two top GOP Senators released more than 400 pages of documents related to the FBI’s investigation of the now-debunked probe into President Donald Trump and his alleged ties with Russia, known as the ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ probe. The Senators also stated in their letter Thursday that the documents they received are still far less than what they had originally requested in their official letters sent in May to the FBI and State Department. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, R- Wisconsin, and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R -Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released the documents as part of their ongoing probe into the FBI’s malfeasance during the Obama administration’s probe into Trump.

Some of the documents, which SaraACarter.com is still reviewing, are now declassified Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of State documents. “The Committees obtained these records through joint requests, as well as Chairman Johnson’s August 6, 2020, subpoena to the FBI,” stated a press release. “The Chairmen also released a comprehensive timeline of key events related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.” In a joint statement from Grassley and Johnson they said “for years, the American people have demanded answers to questions regarding the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation and its targeting of the Trump campaign, the presidential transition, and the Trump administration.”

“Our committees have sought to uncover and expose misconduct by calling on agencies to declassify and produce text messages, internal emails, and other investigative material, which in turn we have made public,” they noted. “Although agency bureaucrats have fought tooth and nail to keep records hidden, our commitment to transparency has never wavered.” The chairmen added that “the documents we are releasing today are the product of our continued fight for transparency. These documents are far less than what we have requested, but we are making them public so the American people can decide for themselves what wrongdoing did and did not occur.”

In May, the Senators asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to turn over all material regarding former British Spy Christopher Steele’s communications and documents related to the now debunked dossier used to investigate Trump. Wray has been uncooperative with the Senate requests and has been slow to produce the documents since he was appointed by Trump to the position, said numerous Congressional staff familiar with the requests. In the letter to Wray, Johnson and Grassley requested that they were “seeking information about Christopher Steele’s interactions with State Department employees before the 2016 presidential election.”

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Durham is starting to look like a black hole.

DNI Ratcliffe Says He Has Given ‘1000s Of Documents To John Durham’ (JTN)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe during an interview with the Washington Examiner on Thursday said that he has given thousands of documents to U.S. Attorney John Durham, but Ratcliffe noted that much of the material includes information that cannot be publicly released. “Between my predecessor Richard Grenell in an acting capacity and myself, we have declassified most of the intelligence community documents that would be suitable for the public to see, that wouldn’t jeopardize sources and methods,” Ratcliffe told the Washington Examiner. “There are others, many many documents — I think it’s been out there that I’ve provided literally thousands of documents to John Durham, but many of those do contain sources and methods that we can’t make public for a number of reasons, including to jeopardize any investigation that’s going there. So I think the level of cooperation — I’ve given them everything that they’ve asked for.”


Ratcliffe said that wrongdoing definitely occurred and Americans are entitled to “an accounting.” “There was an abuse of power and of legal authorities, and it’s not a question about whether those things took place — they did. I mean, there’s an FBI lawyer who is going to jail for counterfeiting evidence before the FISA court. And that after all of the Obama-Biden senior national security officials said the idea of illegal spying and abuse at the FISA court is a bunch of nonsense, and now, they’re sprinting the opposite direction,” Ratcliffe stated. “I mean, literally, every one of them — Comey, McCabe, Yates — they’ve all said, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re shocked and had we only known.’ And so, again, the American people deserve an accounting, and I’ve certainly provided a lot of information to the now-special counsel to provide that accounting, and I’m counting, like all Americans, on him to talk about a lot of the things that I know that I can’t talk about.”

Read more …

“..the rise of political parties undermines the separation of powers and, with it, one of the Founders’ barriers against consolidated, oppressive power..”

The Georgia Runoffs and Our Embattled Constitution (RCP)

If Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senate runoffs, Democrats will control both houses of Congress as well as the presidency. The Republican Party, which won nearly half the national vote, will have no check on the Democrats, aside from the Senate’s filibuster rule. Although that rule requires a supermajority to pass some legislation and appointments, it can be abolished by a simple majority when the new Senate convenes. Preventing one-party rule is one of the strongest arguments advanced by Republican incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. They are reminding voters of the threat posed by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, who proudly announced: “Now we take Georgia, then we change the world.”

That might be a winning line for national fundraising, but it’s more problematic for the Georgia electorate. Not many voters there want to “change the world,” so Warnock and Ossoff are downplaying it. Don’t expect to seek to see Schumer on the stump in Atlanta, Augusta, or Macon. It’s understandable that the national debate should focus on which party will control the Senate and just how radical the Democrats’ program will be if they do. But just beneath the surface lurk potential constitutional issues, which have received almost no attention. The basic problem is this: although America’s Founders were deeply concerned about tyranny, centralized power, and the suppression of individual rights and constructed institutional barriers to prevent those abuses, they never envisioned the mechanisms that pose serious threats today.

One of those threats is one-party rule. It’s understandable the Founders missed that since they worked before the age of entrenched and nationalized political parties. The closest analogues were England’s Whigs and Tories, but they were a far cry from modern parties. The political world envisioned by America’s Founders was populated not by parties but by cross-cutting “factions,” much like today’s interest groups. The Federalist Papers (especially the famous No. 10, written by James Madison as “Publius”) argued that, in a large republic like America, multiple factions would emerge, push against each other, and usually block any one from dominating.To prevent government authority from becoming too centralized and oppressive, the Constitutional Convention divided that authority among the three branches.

Each one, they figured, would have strong institutional interests in preventing the others from encroaching. It was a profound insight, and a remarkably successful one. But with the rise of modern political parties, it faced a challenge that no 18th century politician could imagine. Strong political parties unify their members across the legislative and executive branches. The stronger their common interests as Democrats or Republicans, the weaker their institutional interests as members of House or Senate, if those interests diverge from fellow partisans in the other house or branch. Put differently, the rise of political parties undermines the separation of powers and, with it, one of the Founders’ barriers against consolidated, oppressive power.

Read more …

is Doug Band fully turning on the Clintons?

Confessions of a Clintonworld Exile (VF)

Doug Band’s office at Teneo, the corporate advisory firm he cofounded, is decorated like a wing of the Bill Clinton presidential library. Framed photographs of the 42nd president adorn virtually every surface except for windows overlooking the rush hour traffic crawling down Park Avenue. “A lot of these pictures are just about moments,” Band said one morning last winter as he showed me his collection. Band, a broad-shouldered man with dark eyes and prematurely graying hair, appeared in many of the pictures. There were photos of Band and Clinton playing golf with Barack Obama, posing backstage with Michael Jackson, and meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. “Bill Clinton was my life for almost 20 years,” Band said.

Band was 22 when he landed an unpaid internship in the White House counsel’s office midway through Clinton’s first term. He served as Clinton’s “body man” during the second while earning a Georgetown law degree at night. On paper, the job is a glorified gofer, but Band leveraged the position to build a filial bond with the leader of the free world. When Clinton left office in January 2001, Band was one of the aides Clinton invited to go with him. Band took on a role that was equal parts fixer, gatekeeper, wingman, consigliere, and adopted son. (Officially, his title was counselor.) “They were with each other all the time,” said former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, who first got to know Band in the Clinton White House.

Band virtually invented Clinton’s postpresidential life. He set up Clinton’s Harlem office, helped launch the Clinton Foundation, and created the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), the annual Davos-style conference that Clinton hosted in New York. Band and Clinton circled the globe in a private jet with a Rat Pack of billionaires that included supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, movie producer Steve Bing, and, infamously, Jeffrey Epstein. Before Clinton had quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, he dialed Band at the first sign of chest pains. There were years that Clinton spent more time with Band than with any other person—including Hillary and Chelsea. But when I met Band last February, he hadn’t been in a room with Bill Clinton in nearly five years. He couldn’t remember the last time they had spoken. “I don’t want anything to do with that whole world,” Band said after we’d been talking for nearly an hour.

Read more …

More Doug Band.

Bill Clinton ‘Couldn’t Stay Away’ From Jeffrey Epstein (ZH)

Bill Clinton’s former top aide and Chelsea Clinton nemesis Doug Band has told Vanity Fair that former President Bill Clinton did visit Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous “pedo island” in January 2003, and that he was unable to push Epstein out of Clinton’s orbit since they flew to Africa together in 2002 aboard the the pedophile’s (Epstein’s) private 727, dubbed the “Lolita Express.” “Band said he had no idea about Epstein’s sex crimes back then but got enough bad vibes that he advised Clinton to end the relationship. But Clinton continued to socialize with Epstein and take his money. In 2006 Epstein donated $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Clinton made more than two dozen trips on Epstein’s jet around this time, Epstein’s flight logs show. In January 2003, according to Band, Clinton visited Epstein’s private Caribbean island, Little St. James. Band said it was one of the few trips he declined to go on in his time with Clinton.” -Vanity Fair

Band – who revealed the Clinton Foundation’s ‘for-profit’ activity and accused Chelsea Clinton of tapping Foundation funds to pay for her wedding (known only because of WikiLeaks) – also says Chelsea Clinton had a relationship with Epstein and his alleged co-conspirator in an underage sex trafficking ring, Ghislaine Maxwell. “Chelsea had ties to Epstein and Maxwell, Band said; he showed me a photo of Bill and Chelsea posing with Epstein and Maxwell at the King of Morocco’s wedding. Chelsea remained friends with Maxwell for years after the press revealed Maxwell was a close associate of Epstein’s. For instance, Chelsea invited Maxwell to her 2010 wedding at the Brooke Astor estate in Rhinebeck, New York, after Epstein had pleaded guilty in Florida to procuring sex from a minor.” -Vanity Fair

“Ghislaine had access to yachts and nice homes. Chelsea needed that,” said Band. Band notably created the now-defunct Clinton Global Initiative, which has helped to raise $74 billion for Clinton global charities, according to Newsmax. Thanks again to WikiLeaks, we also know that Band was soliciting donations for Clinton through his PR and investment firm, Teneo in an sordid example of “pay for play” which most of the mainstream media refused to cover – which he worried about in an email to John Podesta, saying: “If this story gets out, we are screwed.”

Read more …

As rumors swirl about the Euro’s steep rise due to the ECB running out of powertools.

Will The Empire Sacrifice the Dollar? (CHS)

Let’s keep it simple: US dollar up, stocks down. US dollar down, stocks up. Stocks up, billionaires get richer. Since that spot of bother in March 2020 when the US dollar (USD) soared and stocks cratered, the USD has been in a free-fall, boosting the wealth of America’s Robber Barons and various other skimmers, scammers and other undeserving scoundrels. Chief among the undeserving scoundrels feasting on the decline of the USD are global stock markets which have soared not because revenues and profits are soaring but because the USD has plummeted. The Federal Reserve is widely worshiped as the Ultimate Power in the Universe, a kind of financial Death Star. The Fed has seen fit to crush the USD to further boost the wealth of billionaires and save global stock markets from their well-deserved ruin.

[..] The Fed is not the Empire, it is the handmaiden of the Empire. The Fed’s dual mandate– for PR purposes, stable employment and prices–is actually balancing the conflicting demands of a global and domestic currency–Triffin’s Paradox writ large. The inherent problem with a reserve currency is that it must meet global economic needs and domestic needs, and these are intrinsically in conflict. America’s billionaires and pension funds want the US stock market to loft higher on the back of a declining USD, but that diminishes the global purchasing power of the USD–a trend heading for economic ruin.

The Fed has had numerous reasons to weaken the dollar since March: a desperate need to “save” global stock markets from well-deserved collapse, and an equally desperate need to keep the dollar weak so global debtors with loans denominated in dollars can manage to service their trillions in USD-denominated debts. But drawing a line extending this short-term necessity all the way to hyper-inflationary oblivion is a grave misreading of the Empire’s need for the exorbitant privilege of a strong dollar. The Fed is about done with its “rescue” of billionaires and global markets and debtors. Against virtually all expectations of seers, pundits, gurus, etc. the USD is about to start serving the Empire in its foundational role. As for stock markets–the devil take the hindmost.

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“The 2017 decision by the Fed to do away with LIBOR is one of the most ill-considered and thoughtless actions taken by the US central bank in many years..”

Banks To Chairman Powell On Libor: Foxtrot Oscar (Whalen)

Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve Board and other agencies blinked on the ill-advised transition from LIBOR as a pricing mechanism for financing various types of assets and secured money market transactions. “The Federal Reserve Board, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency today issued a statement encouraging banks to cease entering into new contracts that use USD LIBOR as a reference rate as soon as practicable and in any event by December 31, 2021, in order to facilitate an orderly—and safe and sound— LIBOR transition.” Unfortunately, as we wrote back in September in National Mortgage News (“Housing market needs SOFR alternative — now”), the proposed “replacement” for LIBOR — the secured overnight funding rate or SOFR — is not really a market price at all.

“According to the Fed, SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight, collateralized by Treasury securities,” we wrote in NMN. “In fact, SOFR is an imaginary, backward-looking benchmark dreamed up by the economists at the Fed with no discernable market.” The 2017 decision by the Fed to do away with LIBOR is one of the most ill-considered and thoughtless actions taken by the US central bank in many years. Not only did the Fed displayed its ignorance of the workings of the US capital markets, but it also revealed its arrogance and stupidly. Simply stated, LIBOR is a price for conducting financing in dollars. SOFR is an economists’ wet dream, a backward-looking measure that may seem interesting from a research perspective, but one that lacks actual liquidity.

As we noted in NMN, the solution for the “problem” with LIBOR is to fix the existing benchmark, not to dream up some farcical concept and then try to bully insured depository institutions to use SOFR for actual risk taking. We understand that many banks have told regulators privately the same thing we hear from clients in the too-be-announced (TBA) market for mortgage backed securities (MBS): SOFR is a non-starter and must be discarded. As late as last week, the Fed and other regulators were trying to bully the large dealer banks to stop using LIBOR by December 31st. The resounding answer: “Foxtrot Oscar.” Indeed, a growing number of analysts seem to have reached the same conclusion that we made months ago, namely that asking banks to take tens of billions of dollars in risk every day using SOFR as the pricing mechanism would be unsafe and unsound.

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Go to the mattresses.

Bank of England Criticised For Losing Track Of £50bn Of Banknotes (G.)

It is known throughout the world as a byword for security. But the Bank of England is evidently a tad unclear on the whereabouts of £50bn of banknotes, and it doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about it, a powerful group of MPs has said. In a stiff rebuke for Threadneedle Street, the Commons public accounts committee said the money – equivalent to a stack of £5 notes more than 800 miles high – had essentially gone “missing” because the Bank did not keep close enough tabs on cash usage in modern Britain. Despite walls 8ft thick and an imposing reputation for guarding billions of pounds of gold bars in its vaults, the PAC said the Bank had nonetheless displayed a “lax attitude to whereabouts of bulk of sterling cash supply”.

However, banknotes by their very design are not traceable, making it hard for the Bank to follow the money and know exactly where its notes end up. According to a report from the National Audit Office, there are about £50bn worth of issued banknotes that may be being used overseas or in the UK, a tiny fraction of the trillions of pounds in money circulating in the UK economy in physical notes and by digital transfers. The PAC speculated that this money could be stashed away under mattresses as unreported household savings, may have been taken abroad, or used in the shadow economy. “The Bank of England doesn’t know,” it said.

The value of banknotes in circulation has shot up this year, which the Bank has said is probably because more people started hoarding cash during the Covid-19 pandemic in case they needed it. Coin use has declined over recent years, with the production of new pennies and pounds by the Royal Mint falling by about 65% in the last decade, a trend which could be accelerated by the pandemic as more people move to using contactless debit card payments. Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “£50bn of sterling notes – or about three-quarters of this precious and dwindling supply – is stashed somewhere but the Bank of England doesn’t know where, who by, or what for, and doesn’t seem very curious.

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“..produced results in minutes calculated to take more than 2 billion years of effort by the world’s third-most-powerful supercomputer..”

China Stakes Its Claim to Quantum Supremacy (Wired)

Last Year GOOGLE won international acclaim when its prototype quantum computer completed a calculation in minutes that its researchers estimated would have taken a supercomputer 10,000 years. That met the definition for quantum supremacy—the moment a quantum machine does something impractical for a conventional computer. Thursday, China’s leading quantum research group made its own declaration of quantum supremacy, in the journal Science. A system called Jiuzhang produced results in minutes calculated to take more than 2 billion years of effort by the world’s third-most-powerful supercomputer. The two systems work differently. Google builds quantum circuits using supercold, superconducting metal, while the team at University of Science and Technology of China, in Hefei, recorded its result by manipulating photons, particles of light.

No quantum computer is yet ready to do useful work. But the indications that two fundamentally different forms of the technology can outperform supercomputers will buoy the hopes—and investments—of the embryonic industry. Google and rivals including IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, Intel, and several large startups have all spent heavily on developing quantum computing hardware in recent years. Google and IBM offer access to their latest prototypes over the internet, while Microsoft’s and Amazon’s cloud platforms each host a smorgasboard of quantum hardware from others, including Honeywell.

The potential power of quantum computers springs from their basic building blocks, dubbed qubits. Like the bits of conventional computers, they can represent 0s and 1s of data; but qubits can also exploit quantum mechanics to attain an unusual state called a superposition that encapsulates the possibilities of both. With enough qubits it’s possible to take computational shortcuts conventional computers can’t—an advantage that grows as more qubits work together. Quantum computers don’t yet rule the world, because engineers haven’t been able to get enough qubits working together reliably enough. The quantum mechanical effects they depend on are very delicate. Google and the Chinese group were able to stage their supremacy experiments because they managed to corral qubits in relatively large numbers.

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Ukraine once fed half of Europe. Seems worth a Maidan revolution.

Dispossession and Imperialism Repackaged as “Feeding the World” (CP)

The world is fast losing farms and farmers through the concentration of land into the hands of rich and powerful land speculators and agribusiness corporations. Smallholder farmers are being criminalised and even made to disappear when it comes to the struggle for land. They are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion. In 2014, the Oakland Institute found that institutional investors, including hedge funds, private equity and pension funds, are eager to capitalise on global farmland as a new and highly desirable asset class. Financial returns are what matter to these entities, not food security.

Consider Ukraine. The organisation Grain found that in 2014 small farmers operated 16% of agricultural land in that country, but provided 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk. It is clear that Ukraine’s small farms were delivering impressive outputs. Following the toppling of Ukraine’s government in early 2014, the way was paved for foreign investors and Western agribusiness to take a firm hold over the agri-food sector. Reforms mandated by the EU-backed loan to Ukraine in 2014 included agricultural deregulation intended to benefit foreign agribusiness. Natural resource and land policy shifts were being designed to facilitate the foreign corporate takeover of enormous tracts of land.

Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute, stated at the time that the World Bank and IMF were intent on opening up foreign markets to Western corporations and that the high stakes around the control of Ukraine’s vast agricultural sector, the world’s third largest exporter of corn and fifth largest exporter of wheat, constitute an overlooked critical factor. He added that in recent years, foreign corporations had acquired more than 1.6 million hectares of Ukrainian land. Western agribusiness has been coveting Ukraine’s agriculture sector for quite some time, long before the coup. That country contains one third of all arable land in Europe. An article by Oriental Review in 2015 noted that since the mid-90s the Ukrainian-Americans at the helm of the US-Ukraine Business Council had been instrumental in encouraging the foreign control of Ukrainian agriculture.

Read more …

 

 

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Aug 192020
 


Joel Meyerowitz New York City 1963

 

 

No, no matter how much I read and watch, I can’t shake the idea (less so as I go along, actually) that the Democrats don’t really, honestly, want to win the 2020 presidential election. Obviously, there are many in the party who do, and voters too, but not the ones pushing the levers and pulling the strings. Those, whoever they may be, that are picking candidates, setting policy, maintaining media contacts, doctoring spins.

Because is there anyone among you who has ever seen a worse candidate than Joe Biden? I’m not just talking about his dementia and gaffes, but you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who can use Biden and enthusiasm -let alone inspiration, or even better: exhilaration- in one sentence that doesn’t include the word “no”. And isn’t that the #1 requirement for a candidate?

They ostensibly went with Kamala Harris to provide some of that, if we may believe the press. She’ll whip up the voters into wild bouts of inspiring enthusiasm! Only, Kamala bowed out of the primaries even before 2020 started, after spending $40 million -part of which is still not paid off- because she was stuck at 2% support and couldn’t generate … any enthusiasm.

What you got is a really old man who couldn’t get a toddler excited about ice cream, and a token black woman who nobody even in her own party likes. Mix those ingredients into a convention that attracts just half the viewers of the 2016 one and generates the excitement level of an infomercial for kitchen appliances, and is it any wonder I doubt that the “behind the curtain party” is in this to win?

As for the political program, the agenda, there is really only one item on it: Donald Trump. And no matter how many millions of times it may be repeated in speeches and news articles, NOT being something is in the end NOT a positive message. You’re supposed to win on your own merit, not someone else’s perceived lack of merit. Newsflash: “MOST BIDEN SUPPORTERS SAY THEIR VOTE IS AGAINST TRUMP RATHER THAN FOR BIDEN – WSJ/NBC News poll”.

This bit from the Guardian on Monday sums it up nicely, and it veers into late night comedy territory while doing it (what more can one ask for?):

Virtual Democratic Convention Kicks Off With Emphasis On Unity

The Democratic national convention begins on Monday with a star-studded lineup and heavy emphasis on unity aimed at presenting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the US’s best hope for healing a deeply divided nation[..]

The Dems have a hard enough time uniting their own party, let alone the nation. And there’s not a Trump supporter who would move into their camp – other than the odd washed up GOP politician.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on the eve of the convention found Biden with a nine-point lead over Trump nationally [..] According to the survey, Biden holds a wide advantage over Trump on nearly every issue except the economy, which voters say is a priority this election.


[..] Biden’s selection of Harris has exhilarated supporters, who showered the campaign with a stunning $48m in the 48 hours after she was announced as his running mate.[..]

What, so now they’re only $50 million or so behind?

Democrats anticipate the excitement around Harris’s historic candidacy as the first Black woman nominated for national office by a major party, will build momentum around the convention [..] Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPac, a super Pac focused on Black Democrats: “I think there is also real relief that there is a ticket people can believe in, and get behind and push over the finish line.”

Excitement, exhilaration are words that don’t seem to mean anymore what they used to.

[..] the people who were in the Bernie campaign, the people in the Biden campaign, and people outside of both of those campaigns – have really worked hard to create an effective and genuine popular front against Donald Trump,” Weaver said, adding: “Trump is a very unifying factor.”


[..] Howard Dean, a former chair of the DNC who has attended every party convention since 1980, said the new format could work in Biden’s favor. Unlike Trump, who feeds off the energy of crowds at rallies but can look wooden and uncomfortable when reading from a teleprompter, Biden, Dean said, “does better on television than he does at a podium”. “This helps him because he will be on TV projecting calmness, reasonableness and thoughtfulness,” he said. “And that’s what people are desperate for right now.”

Isn’t it great that not feeling comfortable reading from a teleprompter 24/7 in your basement has now become a negative quality? I know, it’s hard to keep up.

But then there was the reality check from CNN on Sunday. Double digit leads vanished (coincidence?) just as Kamala caused all that exhilarating excitement:

Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High

[..] on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election [..] 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error [..]

Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%.

It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall. Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.

The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).

 

The picture painted, especially amongst the most dedicated anti-Trumpers, is of course that Biden can’t lose; that’s what they all want, right? Well, think about it: CNN lives off of Trump, and so does a large part of the MSM. But then again, they made their beds and they’ll have to lie in them. The Democratic Party, however, does not. They are free to sabotage their own campaign.

And as I said above, there are many signs that MAY indicate that they are doing just that. The selection of Joe Biden, the basement strategy, the subsequent “appointment” of Kamala Harris, the near-dead convention. Do appreciate, please, that we have no idea how Biden and Kamala were “selected”. How did Biden all of a sudden rise to the top of the crop from seemingly nowhere? Where did Kamala come from post-primary mayhem? Did Joe personally pick her? Do you believe that?

But okay, if you don’t think that they would sabotage their own campaign, flip things around: if they WOULD have wanted to make sure they’d lose the election, what would they have done, you know, the donors behind the veil, plus maybe the Obamas and Clintons? Wouldn’t they perhaps have picked Biden and Kamala, whom very few people appeared to actually like, find sympathetic, prior to them being selected for their respective roles? Why not select people that DO resonate with voters without you having to forcefully shove them down their throats?

Why would a bunch of power-hungry folk (as all politicians and their sponsors are) want to screw up their own chance at obtaining power? Well, the lack of good candidates may well be a factor, but there’s something much bigger: the US economy, like most if not all western economies, is wobbling precariously on a precipice, and about to fall off. As I labeled it recently: The Bottom Is Falling Out.

Our entire present reality is still somewhat new, the COVID pandemic, its fallout, the bailouts, the government checks, the sick and the dead, but at some point it will all start to become a “normal” part of life. That doesn’t mean, however, that the economy will return to “normal” (whatever anybody ever thought that meant).

An enormous number of businesses will never reopen, entire fields will be obliterated, re: tourism, airlines, a large swath of retail stores. The unemployment that generates will be with us for many years. The Great Depression will become a mere footnote in most history books.

And the parties in charge in various countries, including the GOP in America, will be the ones blamed for most of the ensuing problems. If you’re a Democrat behind-the-curtain wizard, wouldn’t you at least consider saying: I think I’ll pass for this round, and let Trump take the heat?

Just so, you know, you can continue your cooperation with CNN, NYT, WaPo, FBI, and blame Trump every single day and 1000 times on Sunday for everything that falls apart, while continuing to generate clickbait profits ? If all you got to show for your grand ambitions is Joe Biden, it must seem a really appealing course of action.

Besides, you don’t appear to have any better candidates than Biden -at least not centrist ones-, but don’t forget that neither do the Republicans once Trump is gone. Da Donald is set to leave a huge hole behind where he once pontificated. And just about any Democrat except for Joe Biden could step right into that hole (pun intended).

 

 

 

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Aug 182020
 


Bettmann/Getty Minimum Wage 1963

 

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)
Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)
They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)
Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)
Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)
Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)
Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)
Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)
China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)
Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)
Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)
US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)
The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)
The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)
And in the End (Rolling Stone)

 

 

No, I didn’t watch the Dem convention. Never perform invasive surgery on myself either, for pretty much the same reason. But I did pick up a few tidbits. It all leaves a very elitist impression. Deplorables.

 

 

New global cases below 200,000, new deaths at 4,297. Not bad. Or is that just because it was Monday?

Several European countries are spiking in what is perhaps a second wave. Pretty lousy controls, which will lead to all kinds of renewed lockdowns. Unnecessary.

 

 

New cases only just above 40,000 in the US, it was 70,000 not long ago, with new deaths at “only” 589.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sounds just plain dumb.

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)

From the dorms at North Carolina to the halls of Notre Dame, officials at universities around the US scrambled on Monday to deal with new Covid-19 clusters at the start of the fall semester, some of them linked to off-campus parties and packed clubs. North Carolina’s flagship university cancelled in-person classes for undergraduates just a week into the fall semester Monday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will switch to remote learning on Wednesday and make arrangements for students who want to leave campus housing. “We have emphasised that if we were faced with the need to change plans – take an off-ramp – we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” it said in a statement after reporting 130 confirmed infections among students and five among employees over the past week.


UNC said the clusters were discovered in dorms, a fraternity house and other student housing. Before the decision came down, the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial headlined “UNC has a clusterf*** on its hands”. The paper said that the parties that took place over the weekend were no surprise and that administrators should have begun the semester with online-only instruction at the university, which has 19,000 undergraduates. “We all saw this coming,” the editorial said. Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study – and party – in close quarters.

Read more …

The DNC pushed Bernie aside until he complied with the Biden “plan”. They do the same with AOC et al, without whom they may never have had control of the House. Instead, they have Republicans and billionaires speaking, along with has-beens like the Obamas and Clintons….

Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)

When the Democratic National Committee released its schedule for its big socially distanced convention this week, we learned that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, inarguably among the party’s most dynamic figures, would have just sixty seconds to address the nation. [..] the relegation of Ocasio-Cortez, who electrifies multiple parts of a Democratic base, to one meager minute, a segment that—unlike speeches by some other presenters—will be pre-recorded, isn’t just a snub. The failure of a major political party to showcase one of its most talented politicians, a young person whose communicative reach and facility positions her to be among its leaders deep into our future, is self-sabotage.

[..] Why will this convention not show off more of the historic number of women who enabled their party to retake the House in 2018? Most of them won’t be prominently featured, but former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, who ran for governor as a Tea Partier and signed eleven laws (comprising 21 restrictions) on abortion, including a 20 week ban and the prohibition of rape crisis centers advising survivors about the option of abortion, will be. He also worked to rob Ohio’s public workers of the right to bargain collectively (voters later overturned this measure). Not only is Kasich getting a plum spot on Monday, he’s used his time in the Democratic sun to diss Ocasio-Cortez, telling Buzzfeed that just because she “gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it.”

So John Kasich, Republican, feels that Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat, gets outsized attention, even as he–along with his fellow Republicans Susan Molinari (Remember her? No? Weird) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO Meg Whitman–will get more featured airtime than she at her party’s convention. But this convention seems driven to thumb its nose not only at individual politicians, but at the social movements that have transformed civic participation and changed public opinion across the nation during the course of the Trump administration. Remember those women who retook the House in 2018? A bunch of them were first time candidates who were open about how their entrance into politics was grounded in their fury about the ubiquity and pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the #metoo movement.

But the party that profited from their electoral success has offered prime speaking spots to two multiply-accused harassers: former president Bill Clinton and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. That Bloomberg’s presidential campaign met its lethal end at the hands of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who in a February primary debate detailed his history of workplace harassment, red lining, and support of stop-and-frisk policing, all in her allotted sixty seconds (she only had a minute; an eternity was in it) makes his featured presence an insult to Warren, and the many Democrats who were far more inspired by her campaign than by his. And listen, I get it, and assume everyone else does too: Bloomberg is speaking to the Democratic convention because the Democrats need his money (he shifted $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee in March).

But if organizers had been paying attention these past two years, they might have learned that that’s actually part of the structural thing about harassment and those who get away with it: too often, you need their money.


Matt Taibbi’s drinking game bingo card for the DNC

Read more …

…and that attitude of trampling over the left leads to this… If you think BLM, Antifa, #MeToo are the only angry ones, you are mistaken.

They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)

The candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states doubted that Hillary Clinton even knew they existed. They saw Obama as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the 2008 primaries and later in the general election, but he soon proved to be a disappointment. He, too, fell in love with Silicon Valley and Wall Street and neglected the people who needed him most. And they punished him: he won fewer states in 2012 than he had in 2008. People like the alternate me felt cheated by a guy who rocked a Brooks Brothers suit and talked a great game, then gave the Tech and Finance sectors everything they wanted and more.

Educated people from the best schools trusted Big Tech outfits because educated people from the best schools ran them. Elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way. Technology giants were understood not as hardy sprouts but would be treated instead with princess-and-the-pea levels of delicacy, thanks to a superstitious fear that it might all be brought to grief by, say, forcing companies with hundreds of billions in share value to tolerate an employees’ union, offer a minimum wage adequate for a decent life, or pay tax proportional to their reliance on public goods.

No one bears greater responsibility for the lack of empathy toward Old-Economy workers that led to Donald Trump’s victory than big-name Tech darlings and the New Democrats who coddled them, then openly ridiculed their own voter base: the people Hillary foolishly nicknamed “Deplorables;” that is, the millions of disappointed Obama voters who would happily have voted blue if they’d had confidence that the party would respect them, welcome them, and acknowledge their needs. But the New Economy is a gated community, shut firmly to them, whose most strenuous boosters have been the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. Old-school, working-class Democrats are unwelcome in the party they built. No one wants them tracking mud through the salon.

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the swing states the same way Barack Obama had: by characterizing her as disdainful toward blue-collar Americans. It was a potent message among those who once had seen decent wages in return for honest work, lately reduced to Walmart greeters and Uber drivers. Humiliated by a labor market in which they had nothing to trade, the former working class understood that they also had nothing to lose. Liberal democracy and its supporting institutions shed their veneer of sanctity when dead-end employees can aspire only to dead-end management gigs. Call them “associates” and “technicians” all you want; they know who they’ve become and what others think of them. They are why Trump won in the swing states; he was propelled to victory by disillusioned Obama voters.

Read more …

I would have expected so much more from Bernie. Folds for the DNC twice in a row, and doesn’t volunteer to return any donations.

Can someone check how many times he said the same in 2016?! “Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.”

Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)

Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters Monday to vote for nominee Joe Biden, imploring that the “future of our planet is at stake” and that the “price of failure” for not electing Biden would be “just too great to imagine.” “The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders said on opening night of the Democratic National Convention. “We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.” Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.

“We need an unprecedented response, a movement, like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency,” said Sanders, a democratic-socialist who finished second in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. “Our campaign ended several months ago but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream but let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy,” he also [said].

Sanders named areas where Biden has moved the progressive agenda forward, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it easier for workers to join unions,” creating 12 weeks of paid family leave and funding universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds. “Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over the next 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good paying jobs all across the country,” Sanders said. “We are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60,” added Sanders, who worked with Biden on his final campaign platform.

Read more …

Bernie campaigner David Sirota has at least a little backbone.

Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)

On the eve of a Democratic National Convention taking place as millions lose health care coverage, the health care industry is launching a new ad campaign pressing Democrats to back off from the party’s already compromised health care promises. That pressure seems to be having its intended effect on Capitol Hill, as congressional aides say the party will not push the initiative if Joe Biden wins the presidency. The signs of retreat come as health care industry profits are skyrocketing and the industry’s campaign cash has flooded into Democratic coffers. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) — a front group created by health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbying groups to oppose “Medicare for All” — announced on Friday that it is launching a new national ad campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon their plans to create a public health insurance plan.

The group said it will run ads during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week. PAHCF is led by a former Hillary Clinton aide and run out of the offices of a DC lobbying firm led by former top Democratic congressional aides. A substantial “public option” plan — which polls show is wildly popular — was the centerpiece of recent policy negotiations between supporters of former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who had been pushing for a more expansive Medicare for All program. A draft of the party platform, approved by DNC members late last month, includes a pledge to pass a public option, or a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Within twenty-four hours of the launch of the industry’s new ads, however, anonymous Democratic congressional sources were telling the Hill that Democrats likely won’t bother with the public option fight next year if Biden wins the election. Instead, they said, the party will work to tweak its 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has done little to limit insurance or hospital costs and has failed to ensure universal coverage. To justify the preemptive retreat, Democratic congressional aides told the newspaper that the party’s moderate crop of 2020 Senate challenger candidates could make it harder to pass a public option. That assertion comes even though every single one of those candidates is currently campaigning in support of a public option, according to a TMI review of campaign statements.

The situation echoes the Democratic promises and subsequent surrender on a public option that marked the debate over health care more than a decade ago — only this time around, the health care crisis is an even more acute emergency. While most developed countries have managed to contain COVID-19, the pandemic is spiraling out of control in the United States, and an estimated 27 million people have lost their employer-based health insurance plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read more …

And also recorded before Trump lost his brother?! Or wouldn’t she have cared? She did remember last night that she said it, right? Class? Grace? Where? We go low?

.. by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair …

Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)

There was one glaring omission from Michelle Obama’s 20-minute Democratic National Convention speech Monday night — Kamala Harris. That’s because the former first lady recorded her rousing speech before Joe Biden selected Sen. Harris of California as his running mate. The speech was delivered remotely like all others at the DNC because of the coronavirus pandemic, and The Associated Press reports it was filmed before Harris was named last week as Biden’s VP candidate, indicating the choice was so close to the vest and down to the wire that even the Obamas were not in the loop. In her speech, Michelle Obama eloquently praised Biden and emotionally denounced Trump’s policies.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said. “It is what it is,” Obama added, quoting Trump’s recent remark on coronavirus deaths. “Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another,” Obama said. “They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protesters for a photo-op.”

She said that by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own. His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.”

Read more …

The issue is not nearly as simple as some people would let you believe.

Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)

With less than three months until the 2020 election and no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, a new debate over mail-in voting has begun. Swirling and sudden concerns about the United States Postal Service (USPS) have arisen from Democrats who are wildly accusing President Trump of cheating and manipulating the Postal Service in his favor. Conveniently they forget to mention the president is more than an arms-length away from how we vote, and the Postal Service is not under the thumb of his control. Senate Democrats joined Republicans to unanimously install postal leadership — of which, one is an Obama appointee.

No doubt President Trump has expressed deep concerns about the validity of the ballots, and rightfully so. Sending out millions of ballots without authenticating the inbound ballots is ripe for massive fraud. Democrats have desperately been seeking to legalize “ballot harvesting” (the collection and submission of ballots by someone other than the voter and without authentication) and other nefarious activities. It must be noted elections in the United States are administered by counties and certified by states. In other words, per the United States Constitution, elections are run locally and not by the executive branch of the federal government. The president has simply sought fair elections.

Ironically, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 that seeks to federalize elections and give the president power he doesn’t currently have now. Her solution would create the problem she inaccurately blames Trump for today. [..] The president of the United States does not control the operations of the Postal Service nor does he select or appoint the Postmaster General. The Board of Governors does both of these things. The Postal Regulatory Commission sets rates, service levels and decides on postal closings, not the president. The governors are appointed by a president and confirmed by the United States Senate. No more than five of the nine governors may be from the same political party.

Read more …

Clickbait fodder.

Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)

US President Donald Trump said he would soon hand out a pardon to a “very important” person. While the details were left shrouded in mystery, he ruled out both his former advisor Michael Flynn and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “Doing a pardon tomorrow on someone who is very, very important,” Trump told reporters on board Air Force One on Monday, offering little elaboration other than to say it would not be Flynn – his first National Security Advisor – nor the famed whistleblower. Despite repeatedly calling Snowden a “traitor” over the years, Trump has hinted at giving the whistleblower a reprieve on more than one occasion in the last week, saying he may have been treated “unfairly” and that he would “look at” allowing him to return home.


With the president explicitly ruling him out for Tuesday’s pardon, however, it appears Snowden will have to remain in Moscow for some time longer, where he was given asylum after leaking a massive cache of purloined documents from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing Washington’s sweeping domestic and global spying apparatus.

Read more …

They’re starting a new competition.

China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News that China poses “a greater national security threat” to the United States “than any other nation,” detailing a web of threats that includes “election influence and interference.” Intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned about interference in the U.S. election by China, adding to existing concerns about meddling by Russia that have been around since 2016, as well as the threat of meddling from Iran. “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically. That includes threats of election influence and interference,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement.

While Russia was widely seen as favoring now-President Trump and generally seeking to sow chaos in America during the 2016 election, the difference with China is it is seen to be seeking a Trump loss in November. Yet congressional Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who ever since 2016 have issued dire warnings about Russian meddling, have not been quite so vocal about China’s potential to interfere in the 2020 election. Pelosi, D-Calif., last week said the threats of interference from Russia and China are “not equivalent,” while urging the intelligence community to put out more information about Russian efforts, saying Moscow is “actively 24/7 interfering in our election.”

Ratcliffe said the threat from China is actually significant, and he is “committing the IC resources needed to fully understand the threat posed by China and provide U.S. policymakers with the best intelligence to counter China’s broad and deep malign activities.” “China is concerned that President Trump’s reelection would lead to a continuation of policies that they perceive to be ‘anti-China,’” Ratcliffe explained, noting that the intelligence community has briefed “hundreds of members of Congress” to raise their concerns about China “and its increased efforts to impact the U.S. policy climate in its favor.” “Fair and free elections are a bedrock of American democracy, and the IC remains vigilant against the various activities by China, as well as other threat countries and actors, which seek to affect our electoral process,” Ratcliffe said.

Read more …

Great fundraiser, they said.

Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)

Kamala Harris, named Tuesday to be Joe Biden’s running mate, still has more than $1 million in unpaid bills left over from her failed 2020 presidential bid, according to a report. The California senator raised about $39 million for her White House bid in 2019 and spent about $40 million, leaving her campaign with just $116,380 in the bank at the end of June, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing Federal Election Commission filings. Harris ended her campaign last December amid falling poll numbers and a lack of fundraising.


International law firm Perkins Coie LLP was still owed $523,883 at the end of June, while TorchStone Global LLC, a corporate and private security company, was owed $160,702, the report said. California political consulting firm SCRB Strategies had $92,4087 in outstanding invoices. Donors have contributed slightly more than $48,000 to her campaign this year. The report noted that the campaign can’t be shuttered until all debts are paid under federal law. And while Biden raised $26 million in a day after announcing her selection, his campaign can do little to retire Harris’ campaign debt. It can donate $2,000 and the Democratic National Committee can contribute $5,000. But Biden can ask his donors to send funds to Harris’ campaign.

Read more …

Feel free to call this a failed society.

Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)

For the first time in US history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13th, these 12 had a combined $1.015 trillion. This is a disturbing milestone in the US history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen. The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b) and Rob Walton ($62b).

Since March 18th, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent. Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent. Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18th. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18th.

Read more …

The Sacklers took out many billions, then declared bankruptcy. Now they’re “willing” to contribute more to a settlement than the entire company is worth. Sick.

US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)

U.S. states claimed they are owed $2.2 trillion to address harm from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic, accusing the drugmaker in new filings of pushing prescription painkillers on doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. In filings made as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings that were disclosed on Monday, the states said Purdue, backed by the wealthy Sackler family, contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people since 1999 and caused strains on healthcare and criminal justice systems. The filings cited more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016.

In large states such as California and New York, claims alone totaled more than $192 billion and $165 billion, respectively. Forty-nine U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and various territories are making the claims. Oklahoma settled litigation with Purdue last year. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits brought by cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, hospitals and others. The lawsuits said the company, and in some cases the Sacklers, used deceptive marketing and took other improper steps to flood communities with prescription opioids. The company and family have denied the allegations and pledged to help combat the opioid epidemic, including by providing addiction treatment drugs and overdose reversal medications under development.

[..] Purdue is only worth a bit more than $2 billion if liquidated. The company values a proposal to settle litigation, which includes providing addiction treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, at more than $10 billion. The Sacklers would contribute $3 billion and cede control of Purdue, with the company becoming a trust run on behalf of plaintiffs.

Read more …

These well-meaning people are mightily confused about growth:

“In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth..”

I think that means to want to return there.

“..the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.”

More growth? Isn’t growth itself the problem then? Never mind, anyone who talks about sustainable growth is not a serious person in my book.

The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)

In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth without risking severe climate distress and social unrest.Climate scientists tell us that in order to meet the targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, global net carbon-dioxide emissions must fall by about 45% by 2030, and by 100% by 2050. Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, countries urgently need to scale up their investments in climate adaptation and mitigation. But that will not be possible if governments are bogged down in a debt crisis. If anything, debt-service requirements will push countries to pursue export revenues at any cost, including by cutting corners on climate-resilient infrastructure and stepping up their own fossil-fuel use and extraction of resources.

This course of events would further depress commodity prices, creating a doom loop for producer countries. In light of these concerns, the G20 has called on the IMF “to explore additional tools that could serve its members’ needs as the crisis evolves, drawing on relevant experiences from previous crises.” One such tool that should be considered is a “debt-for-climate swap” facility. In the 1980s and 1990s, developing countries and their creditors engaged in “debt-for-nature swaps,” whereby debt relief was linked to investments in reforestation, biodiversity, and protections for indigenous people. This concept should now be expanded to include people-centered investments that address both climate change and inequality.

Developing countries will need additional resources if they are to have any chance of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, investing sufficiently in climate adaptation, and creating opportunities for twenty-first-century jobs. One source for such resources is debt relief conditioned on such investments. A policy tool of this type would not only put us on the path to recovery, but also could help to prevent future debt-sustainability problems that might emerge as more fossil-fuel holdings and non-resilient infrastructure become “stranded assets.” Moreover, the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.

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I should read Stephanie Kelton’s book, right?!

The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)

One Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Operations

I confess immediately that I chose the title and subtitle for this post because their acronyms are palindromes. The subtitle is more accurate than the title, because this model considers only the monetary aspects of MMT: the Job Guarantee and inflation management components are not yet incorporated. But the monetary assertions of MMT remain in dispute in economic and political circles, so it is worth putting these into a mathematical model where their veracity can be tested. The primary stimulus for developing the model was the publication of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth. Stephanie has written the book for non-technical readers, and she’s done a very good job: it’s a very easy read that explains why many conventional wisdoms about government spending are wrong.

But MMT is facing heavy resistance in political and economic circles, with my favourite to date being a motion before the US Congress, posted by Representative Kevin Hern, to resolve: “That the House of Representatives (1) realizes that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous; and (2) recognizes— (A) that the implementation of Modern Monetary Theory would lead to higher deficits and higher inflation; and (B) the duty of the House of Representatives to condemn Modern Monetary Theory.”

The objective of this series of posts is to allow the assessment of the first part of this motion—the assertion that “deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous”. The models in this post are built in the Open Source system dynamics program Minsky, whose unique feature is the capacity to build models of financial flows using what are called Godley Tables (in honour of Wynne Godley, the pioneer of stock-flow-consistent-modelling). These tables enforce the “law of accounting” that (see Figure 1, A blank Godley Table).

Once an account is flagged as an “Asset” for one entity, Minsky knows that it has to also be shown as a “Liability” for another entity. This makes it possible to take an integrated look at the financial system, which allows us to assess Hern’s motion from the perspective of the entire monetary system, and not just the Government’s view of it.

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50 years later: ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!’

And in the End (Rolling Stone)

It’s a miserable Monday morning in January 1969, and the Beatles are trying to get back to where they once belonged. The Get Back project sounded like a perfect idea: just the four lads and their instruments, ready to hit the studio, return to their roots, conjure up some great songs out of thin air. Just like they used to. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have booked a TV concert special for January 18th — their first live show in years. They’ll rehearse for a couple of weeks, eyeball to eyeball, summon up genius on the spur of the moment. They’ve done it many times before. They’ve never not done it. The good news: Paul showed up today, and so did Ringo. So did the camera crew — these sessions are being filmed, so the Beatles can show a half-hour clip of rehearsal footage before their TV performance.

So here they are on Monday morning, ready to dazzle the world with a blast of spontaneous Beatles brilliance. Or at least Paul and Ringo are. Hey, has anyone heard from John and Yoko? Or George? With George, there’s a slight complication: He quit the band. On Friday, with the cameras rolling, he was trying to teach them a new song, “All Things Must Pass.” John, strung out on his new heroin habit, sneered at George with open contempt. George finally stormed out, muttering, “See you around the clubs.” John doesn’t take this seriously. “I think if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play in it,” he says. “The point is, if George leaves, do we want to carry on the Beatles? I do. We should just get other members and carry on.” But now it’s Monday and still no George. No John and Yoko. (No Clapton, for that matter.) Paul and Ringo kill time jamming on a current radio hit, “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

But everyone gathers to discuss the crisis, complaining bitterly about Yoko’s constant presence. Surprisingly, the one who sticks up for her is Paul. He’s a sucker for a love story — he’s Paul McCartney, for God’s sake. But he also knows how much this romance means to his oldest, closest mate, his most troubled and cruel and impossible friend. “It’s not that bad,” he insists. “They want to stay together, those two. So it’s all right. Let the young lovers be together.” Paul has to chuckle, thinking about how future generations will look back at this — the Beatles, the greatest of all rock & roll bands, the world’s most legendary creative team, falling apart over such a trivial spat. Even on a winter morning as gloomy as this one, Paul breaks into a laugh. “It’s gonna be such an incredible sort of comical thing, like in 50 years’ time, you know. ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!'”

Read more …

 

 

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Nov 192019
 
 November 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Female bust 1943

 

Adam Schiff Validated My Reporting On Ukraine (John Solomon)
The Hill Reviewing John Solomon Articles After Ambassador Refutes Claims (ZH)
Trump’s Ukraine Scandal Rooted In Fear Of Biden (Hill)
Ukraine MP Says Burisma Financed Clinton Campaign With $10M Unmarked Cash (CDM)
House Investigating Whether Trump Lied To Mueller (CNN)
Entertaining Questions (Jim Kunstler)
Hong Kong Anti-Mask Law Ruled Unconstitutional By High Court (SCMP)
China Says Hong Kong Courts Have No Power To Rule On Face Mask Ban (R.)
Emirates Orders 50 Airbus A350 Jets In A Revised Deal Worth $16 Billion (CNBC)
Airbus Secures 120 Plane Order From Air Arabia (CNBC)
FedEx CEO challenges NYT publisher to public debate after tax story
Georgian Riot Police Disperse Anti-Govt Rally In Tbilisi (RT)
The Roger Stone – Wikileaks – Russia Hoax (Craig Murray)
The Most Spied Upon Building On Earth (Maurizi)

 

 

I guess it’s official: John Solomon is no longer at The Hill. Still don’t know why; did I miss something?

Adam Schiff Validated My Reporting On Ukraine (John Solomon)

While the jury is still out on high crimes and misdemeanors, Schiff has managed to produce during the first few weeks of his impeachment hearings a robust body of evidence and testimony that supports all three of the main tenets of my Ukraine columns. In fact, his witnesses have done more than anyone to affirm the accuracy of my columns and to debunk the false narrative by a dishonest media and their friends inside the federal bureaucracy that my reporting was somehow false conspiracy theories. The half dozen seminal columns I published for The Hill on Ukraine were already supported by overwhelming documentation (all embedded in the story) and on-the-record interviews captured on video. They made three salient and simple points:

• Hunter Biden’s hiring by the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma Holdings, while it was under a corruption investigation, posed the appearance of a conflict of interest for his father. That’s because Vice President Joe Biden oversaw US-Ukraine policy and forced the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor overseeing the case.
• Ukraine officials had an uneasy relationship with our embassy in Kiev because State Department officials exerted pressure on Ukraine prosecutors to drop certain cases against activists, including one group partly funded by George Soros.
• There were efforts around Ukraine in 2016 to influence the US election, that included a request from a DNC contractor for dirt on Manafort, an OpEd from Ukraine’s US ambassador slamming Trump and the release of law enforcement evidence by Ukrainian officials that a Ukraine court concluded was an improper interference in the US election.

All three of these points have since been validated by the sworn testimony of Schiff’s witnesses this month, starting with the Bidens. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent testified he believed the Burisma-Bidens dynamic created the appearance of a conflict of interest, and that State officials viewed Burisma as having a corrupt relationship. Kent testified State’s sentiments were so strong that he personally intervened in 2016 to stop a joint project between one of his department’s agencies and Burisma. When asked why, he answered: “Burisma had a poor reputation in the business, and I didn’t think it was appropriate for the U.S. Government to be co-sponsoring something with a company that had a bad reputation.”

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The “problem” with Solomon is he’s thorough and well-documented. Look forward to him commenting on any potential edits to his articles.

The Hill Reviewing John Solomon Articles After Ambassador Refutes Claims (ZH)

The Hill will be reviewing articles written by former contributor John Solomon after allegations by US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch that he facilitated a smear campaign. “Because of our dedication to accurate non-partisan reporting and standards, we are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any opinion pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry,” reads an internal email from Editor-In-Chief Bob Cusack obtained by CNN’s Oliver Darcy. Yovanovitch testified last week that the president’s allies, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, attacked her with false allegations that she was undermining the Trump administration’s agenda and badmouthing the president.


She claims Solomon was part of this effort – penning articles in The Hill containing the trash-talking claims as well as an allegation that she gave Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko a “do not prosecute list,” which both Yovanovitch and the State Department have pushed back on. Lutsenko changed his story, telling the New York Times there was no such list. He is currently facing allegations related to abuse of power. In response to the review, Solomon tweeted: “I welcome The Hill’s review of my Ukraine columns and suggested it myself a month ago. I believe it won’t be hard for The Hill to review these since all my source documents and original interviews are linked for all to see. Plus witnesses have affirmed much of what I wrote.”

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What the Hill publishes these days is smut like this. Toeing the line of the empire. The entire inquiry rests on the assumption that Trump is afraid of Biden. Is he though? Or does he want to find out what happened in 2016?

Trump’s Ukraine Scandal Rooted In Fear Of Biden (Hill)

Why is President Trump so nervous about the 2020 race? He has a record amount of campaign cash. Russian bots are still working for him. And he still has the backing of more than 80 percent of his party. So, how do I know he’s so nervous? As Trump loves to say: Read the transcript. At the heart of the phone call that has led to impeachment hearings is Trump going out on a shaky limb to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor.” That “favor” included a request for Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter. The only reason for Trump to risk asking a foreign leader for help getting political dirt on an opponent is that he feared that rival’s power.


And that November 2020 powerhouse in Trump’s mind is Biden. Recall that in June, Trump’s anxiety was on display when he insisted his campaign fire some its pollsters after internal polls showed him losing in Michigan and Wisconsin to Biden. Trump’s shaky nerves went public again in July when a Fox News poll showed him losing to Biden — by a lot. Trump went ballistic and attacked Fox. The president still has every reason to be nervous about a possible match-up with Biden because polls continue to show the Democrat beating him badly. If Biden, a well-liked moderate, is the nominee the election becomes a referendum on Trump. With an approval rating hovering in the mid-to-low 40s, that is not good news for the president.

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Well, this is what happened in 2016. Still nothing to investigate the Bidens on?

Ukraine MP Says Burisma Financed Clinton Campaign With $10M Unmarked Cash (CDM)

CD Media has been steadily breaking news on American government and Obama Administration corruption in Ukraine as the impeachment inquiry scam heats up in Washington, D.C. Although we have provided plenty of evidence of organized crime emanating from the State Department and elsewhere in the U.S. governmental infrastructure in Kyiv, many still wonder why the Democrats are so rabid to stop Trump from having a second term. Well, now we believe we are getting closer to the answer.

[..] “In 2015, Burisma was considered a corrupt company, but a very lucrative and powerful one. Poroshenko was trying to ‘get in’ and get a piece of the action [CD Media has reported how Poroshenko also wanted Privat Bank for the same reason]. So, essentially Zlochevsky [Mykola Zlochevsky – oligarch owner] brought in Biden for protection, and the Biden family got paid of course. No one would mess with Burisma with the Vice President involved. Zlochevsky showed everyone Biden was on the board pushing his father’s name. The problem with the ‘corrupted company’ label in the United States went away quickly in about three months. It was amazing. “And of course, Burisma also helped the Clinton campaign prior to the election.”

How did they help we asked? “They paid them around $10 million.” Wouldn’t those wire transfers show up? we questioned. “This was Ukraine; everything was done with big bags of cash to the Clintons.” Onyshchenko then went on to describe how he was approached by prosecutors in the U.S. to testify in the United States on American corruption in Ukraine. He showed us a letter published below from the Department of Justice in 2016, where he says they provided him a temporary visa to come testify on the theft and money laundering of American aid to Ukraine, and on the illegal money to the Clintons. “Right before I was to leave for the U.S., I received notice that my visa had been cancelled due to the personal involvement of Vice President Joe Biden.

He made a personal phone call and the visa was cancelled. I guess he didn’t want me telling what I know so I didn’t make it to the United States to testify.” The cancellation of the visa has been confirmed by CD Media by a secondary source. Onyshchenko also reiterated that former FBI agent Karen Greenaway was pushing hard during this time for him to not talk to the press about his knowledge of the Biden scandal, holding the threat of American law enforcement action against him to do so. Greenaway has since retired from the FBI but remains in Ukraine involved with one of the Soros foundations. “She was pushing hard…for me to say nothing,” he declared. “She was running everything for the Democrats, all the coverup for the corruption.”

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Blah blah WikiLeaks.

House Investigating Whether Trump Lied To Mueller (CNN)

The House of Representatives is now investigating whether President Donald Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller in written answers he provided in the Russia investigation, the House’s general counsel said in federal court Monday. “Did the President lie? Was the President not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” House general counsel Douglas Letter told the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit about why the House now needs access to grand jury material Mueller collected in his investigation. The House’s arguments Monday draw new focus to whether Trump had lied to Mueller following public revelations at Roger Stone’s trial this month.

Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates testified that Trump and Stone talked about information that was coming that could help the campaign in mid-2016, at a time when Stone was attempting to get secret details about stolen Democratic documents WikiLeaks had. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also apparently told the Mueller grand jury what Trump’s approach to WikiLeaks had been in 2016, according to the Mueller report. But Trump told Mueller in his written statements he didn’t recall discussing WikiLeaks with Stone. The Gates testimony adds further significance to Congress’ desire to see the redacted material.

The question of whether Trump obstructed justice, including potentially lying to Mueller, has for months been a part of the House Judiciary Committee’s wider review of potential obstruction in the wake of the Mueller report. The House previously reviewed most of what Mueller had written in his final report, including parts kept from the public. But the House hasn’t been able to see what Manafort told the grand jury, which Mueller apparently described in his report. In the Mueller report, grand jury details are redacted related to a sentence describing Manafort speaking with Trump after WikiLeaks’ first release, in July 2016.

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“Messers, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, Strzok, Halper, Ms. Page, et. al — and, if real justice is on order, not a few figures lurking in the Deep State deep background — John Carlin, Bill Priestap, Dana Boente, Michael Gaeta, Sally Yates, Loretta Lynch, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and perhaps even the archangel Barack Obama..”

Entertaining Questions (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Barr declared unambiguously and in plain English that “in waging a scorched earth, no-holds-barred war of ‘Resistance’ against this Administration, it is the Left that is engaged in the systematic shredding of norms and the undermining of the rule of law.” Is any part of that unclear? The confounded might take in this more detailed lesson in recent history from the speech:

“Immediately after President Trump won election, opponents inaugurated what they called ‘the Resistance,’ and they rallied around an explicit strategy of using every tool and maneuver available to sabotage the functioning of his administration. Now, ‘resistance’ is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power. It obviously connotes that the government is not legitimate. This is a very dangerous — indeed incendiary — notion to import into the politics of a democratic republic. What it means is that, instead of viewing themselves as the “loyal opposition,” as opposing parties have done in the past, they essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple, by any means necessary, a duly elected government.”

And anyone who takes in the nauseating spectacle of Congressman Adam Schiff’s House Intel Committee impeachment process can see that shredding of norms on full shameless display, where the attempted defense of nakedly absurd charges against the president is thwarted by a chicane of deceitful rules outside any concept of due process, concocted by Mr. Schiff and his task force of Lawfare hustlers — no right to call witnesses, no right of cross-examination, and no right to argue that set of rules cribbed from the Stalin show trials by way of the Spanish Inquisition. They’re pouring it on this week ahead of a post-Thanksgiving cold water deluge of bad news that will detail charges against the progenitors of RussiaGate.

The roll-call may be a long one, including many actors whose turpitudes have been publicly and richly documented for many months — Messers, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, Strzok, Halper, Ms. Page, et. al — and, if real justice is on order, not a few figures lurking in the Deep State deep background — John Carlin, Bill Priestap, Dana Boente, Michael Gaeta, Sally Yates, Loretta Lynch, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and perhaps even the archangel Barack Obama, just in time for Christmas, too. Robert Mueller and Andrew Weissmann deserve to be included for what amounted to a blatant, arrantly mendacious malicious prosecution, knowing that they had no case and proceeding anyway for two whole years.

I hope the roundup will extend to the very latest ploys leading to RussiaGate’s successor subterfuge, UkraineGate, namely the exploits of “whistleblower” Eric Ciaramella, his handlers and enablers in Mr. Schiff’s office, and the actions of his accomplice, Michael Atkinson, the current Intelligence Community Inspector General, with obvious conflicts of interests as a major player in the previous RussiaGate dodge — he was legal counsel to Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, who headed the Department of Justice’s National Security Division at the birth of the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” gambit, and before that he was Robert Mueller’s chief of staff at the FBI. Anything to see there, ya think? The “whistleblower” himself was, in fact, a CIA spy in the White House. You may recall that the CIA is prohibited from spying on Americans in their own country, and doing that in the White House is arguably the essence and height of lawless sedition.

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Fighting for freedom.

Hong Kong Anti-Mask Law Ruled Unconstitutional By High Court (SCMP)

A Hong Kong court has ruled in favour of pan-democrats in declaring the government’s mask ban unconstitutional in a decision that forced police to halt law enforcement while legal experts in mainland China floated the possibility of another legal interpretation by Beijing. Two High Court judges on Monday ruled that the emergency legislation that brought the ban on face coverings in public places into effect last month was “incompatible with the Basic Law” when used in times of public danger as seen in the present case. They also found the new law had imposed invalid restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms.


The ruling by justices Anderson Chow Ka-ming and Godfrey Lam Wan-ho, in favour of the 25 pan-democrats who applied for judicial review, dealt a blow to the beleaguered government. Police announced they would stop enforcing the ban for now, while prosecutors sought adjournment “to consider the situation”. Legal experts were divided, some calling the judgment an important recognition of Hong Kong’s constitutional framework, while those on the mainland expressed concerns that the court might have sent the wrong signal to the radical protesters, floating the idea of Beijing interpreting the Basic Law again.

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Hong Kong courts are trumped by Beijing. Might as well disband them then.

China Says Hong Kong Courts Have No Power To Rule On Face Mask Ban (R.)

China’s top legislature said Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on the constitutionality of legislation under the city’s Basic Law, which includes a proposed ban on face masks, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. The statement came a day after Hong Kong’s High Court ruled that a ban on wearing face masks during public demonstrations that have rocked the financial hub for more than five months was unconstitutional. “Whether the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comply with the Basic Law of Hong Kong can only be judged and decided by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,” Yan Tanwei, a spokesman for the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said in a statement. “No other authority has the right to make judgments and decisions,” the statement said.

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No, I don’t care much for planes. But this is part of the Boeing story.

Emirates Orders 50 Airbus A350 Jets In A Revised Deal Worth $16 Billion (CNBC)

Emirates has ordered 50 Airbus A350 jets, the Dubai state-owned airline announced at the Dubai Air Show on Monday. The order’s list price sits at $16 billion, but a steep discount is typically negotiated by airlines. The deal was originally slated to see Emirates order 70 planes from the French manufacturer — 40 of the A350s and 30 A330-900neo jets — but all A330 orders were scrapped in favor of bringing the A350 order size to 50. Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury told a press conference that the European multinational planemaker’s flagship A380 would now have a “younger but very talented brother in the Emirates family.”


The A350 is a family of long-range, twin-engine wide-body jet airliners, while the A380 is the world’s largest passenger airliner. The 50 jets ordered by Emirates are its cornerstone A350-900 variety, accommodating between 300 and 350 passengers. “Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment,” Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told press. “In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.”

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A Turkish low fare airline has ordered 10 737 MAX 8’s. They must think their clients are illiterate.

Airbus Secures 120 Plane Order From Air Arabia (CNBC)

Air Arabia has signed a firm order for 120 Airbus aircraft, the European plane-maker has announced. The deal, signed on Monday at the Dubai Airshow, consists of 73 A320neos, 27 A321neos and 20 A321XLRs. In a press statement, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said the order was a “great endorsement for the A320neo family which will allow the airline to tap into new markets.” Air Arabia Group CEO Adel Al Ali said the order, worth around $14 billion according to 2018 list prices, would support the low-cost carrier’s growth plans.


“This new milestone underpins not only our solid financial fundamentals but also the strength of our multi-hub growth strategy that we have adopted over the years while remaining focused on efficiency, performance and passenger experience,” Al Ali said in a statement. “The addition of the A320neo, A321neo and A321XLR complements our existing fleet and allows us to expand our service to farther and newer destinations while remaining loyal to our low-cost business model.” [..] U.S. rival Boeing also announced that it has received an order for an additional 10 737 Max 8 aircraft from Turkey’s SunExpress, on top of an existing fleet of 32 737 Max 8s. This marks only the second 737 Max order since the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash in March which led to the grounding of the jet worldwide.

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The pot and the kettle.

FedEx CEO Challenges NYT Publisher To Public Debate After Tax Story (R.)

FedEx Chief Executive Frederick Smith has challenged the publisher of the New York Times and the editor of the business section of the newspaper to a public debate in response to a story about the company’s tax bill. The package delivery firm’s financial filings showed it owed no taxes in the 2018 fiscal year overall due to President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul, according to the NYT story published on Sunday. Smith late on Sunday called the story here “distorted and factually incorrect” and challenged NYT’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger and the business section editor to a public debate in Washington. “FedEx’s colorful response does not challenge a single fact in our story. We’re confident in the accuracy of our reporting,” Danielle Rhoades Ha, VP-communications at NYT, said in an email on Monday.

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Riots wherever you look. Good time to be a water cannon maker.

Georgian Riot Police Disperse Anti-Govt Rally In Tbilisi (RT)

Protesters blocking the Georgian parliament building in the center of Tbilisi have been doused with water on Monday as police wearing riot gear were deployed to clear the area and raise the blockade. Massive protests gripped the Georgian capital earlier this week as people took to the streets demanding a snap election. The unease was sparked by parliament’s failure to pass amendments to the election law. If agreed on, it would have meant a transition from a mixed majoritarian-proportional electoral system to a strictly proportional one.

During the rallies, people blocked a major city highway – Rustaveli Avenue – running through the center of Tbilisi and blocked the parliament, preventing MPs from entering the building. Some demonstrators set up tents right in front of the legislature. The parliament gates were also reportedly sealed with a chain and a padlock. Law enforcement repeatedly called on the demonstrators to disperse. The appeal was rejected by the opposition-led crowds who claimed they will leave only once their demands are met.

On Monday, large police forces and water cannons were deployed to the parliament. Officers wearing riot gear and equipped with shields and batons started to slowly push the people away from the area.

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As I must have said 1000 times: “Astonishingly, in the case of Stone, he has been convicted of saying that the Mueller nonsense is true..”

The Roger Stone – Wikileaks – Russia Hoax (Craig Murray)

As ever, the Guardian wins the prize for the most tendentious reporting of Roger Stone’s conviction. This is not quite on the scale of its massive front page lie that Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. But it is a lie with precisely the same intent, to deceive the public into believing there were links between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. There were no such links. The headline “Roger Stone: Trump Adviser Found Guilty On All Charges in Trump Hacking Case” is deliberately designed to make you believe a court has found Stone was involved in “Wikileaks hacking”. In fact this is the precise opposite of the truth. Stone was found guilty of lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee by claiming to have links to Wikileaks when in fact he had none. And of threatening Randy Credico to make Credico say there were such links, when there were not.

It is also worth noting the trial was nothing to do with “hacking” and no hacking was alleged or proven. Wikileaks does not do hacking, it does “leaks”. The clue is in the name. The DNC emails were not hacked. The Guardian is fitting this utterly extraneous element into its headline to continue the ludicrous myth that the Clinton campaign was “Hacked” by “the Russians”. It is worth noting that not one of those convicted of charges arising from or in connection with the Mueller investigation – Manafort, Papadopolous, Stone – has been convicted of anything to do with Wikileaks, with anything to do with Russia or with the original thesis of the enquiry.


Astonishingly, in the case of Stone, he has been convicted of saying that the Mueller nonsense is true, and he was a Trump/Wikileaks go-between, when he was not. Yet despite the disastrous collapse of the Mueller Report, and despite the absolutely devastating judicial ruling that there was no evidence worthy even of consideration in court that Russiagate had ever happened, the Guardian and the neo-con media in the USA (inc. CNN, Washington Post, New York Times) continue to serve up an endless diet of lies to the public. Randy Credico was the chief witness for the prosecution against Roger Stone. That’s for the prosecution, not the defence. This is the state’s key evidence against Stone. And Credico is absolutely plain that Stone had no link to Wikileaks.

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Laws? What laws? What I didn’t know yet: UC Global was brought in by Correa, to PROTEST Assange.

The Most Spied Upon Building On Earth (Maurizi)

La Repubblica has had access to the video and audio recordings of the Spanish company, UC Global, which spied on the WikiLeaks founder, his team of journalists and all of us who visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy for the last seven years. Video footage and audio recordings reveal an appalling violation of privacy. All the information gathered by UC Global was sent to US intelligence.

It sounds like a James Bond movie, but it really happened. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks journalists and every single lawyer, reporter, politician, artist and physician who visited the founder of WikiLeaks at the Ecuadorian embassy over the last seven years was subjected to systematic espionage. Meetings and conversations were recorded and filmed, and all the information was sent to US intelligence. Sometimes the espionage operations were truly off the wall: at one point spies even planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange inside the embassy. The purpose? To gather the baby’s feces and perform a DNA test to establish whether the newborn was a secret son of Julian Assange.

Repubblica has had access to some of the videos, audios and photos. Meetings between the founder of WikiLeaks and his lawyers, medical examinations of Julian Assange, diplomatic encounters of the Ecuadorian ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz, meetings between Assange and journalists. Everything was spied on. The author of this article found that she was not just filmed, but her phones were screwed open, presumably to obtain the IMEI code that allows uniquely identifying the phone in order to intercept it. Spies also had access to our USB sticks, though at this stage it is not clear if they managed to break the encryption protecting the information stored in the USB flash drives inside our backpacks. These are very serious violations of the confidentiality of journalistic sources, given that our meetings inside the embassy were entirely professional and, as frequent visitors, we were repeatedly registered as “journalists”.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Aug 102019
 


Pablo Picasso Man with ice cream cone 1938

 

My first thought after reading about Jeffrey Epstein’s so-called suicide is: let it go, watch a movie instead, or go out to dinner. But a suicide of someone under suicide watch is just too much. And then I understand NBC -oh wait, and Reuters too- said he wasn’t even on suicide watch anymore. A guy who allegedly tried to kill himself two weeks ago. But of course. Why should he be?

The FBI has announced an investigation, and so has Bill Barr’s DOJ. Problem is, there are so many people with strong connections to both FBI and DOJ that these investigations are as likely to bury the truth as they are to reveal it. Because this ceased being about Epstein the very moment he was apprehended at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey July 6.

It became about Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Alan Dershowitz, Ehud Barak, and god knows who else. It wasn’t about Jeffrey Epstein anymore, it was about his ‘friends’. It was also about Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter and heiress of media tycoon and Mossad asset Robert Maxwell, another ‘victim’ of an apparent suicide two decades ago.

Ghislaine who still walks around free, who hasn’t been charged with a thing, after having been credibly and repeatedly accused of procuring at least dozens of underage girls for Epstein and his friends.

It’s pretty safe to say that in the highest, re: richest, circles of our societies, this is what goes on. A lot. Presidents, prime ministers, corporate tycoons, they were/are in Epstein’s black book, and it makes no difference whether they succeed in making that book disappear. We just got another glance at their world.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are the shit that floats to the top of our societies. Because that’s where they can do most damage. Because that’s where they find the power their distorted minds crave more than anything.

Jeffrey Epstein to my knowledge never ordered bombing campaigns that killed 1000s of people in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. But some of the people he hung out with, and provided young girls and boys for, did.

We can only hope that Bill Barr and Donald Trump are going to be serious about finding out everything about Epstein’s world. I understand that the warrant on his Manhattan mansion stands, and now that he’s gone, there’s no-one left to fight it, so everything on the premises is fair game, whoever is mentioned in all the files, videos, books etc.

But I can’t say I’m very hopeful. For instance, it appears overly obvious that Prince Andrew plays a very dark role in the whole Epstein play, but what are the odds he’ll be arrested for it? I would venture that the odds MI6 murdered Epstein are much higher. But that’s just me, and I’m not a betting man.

 

Epstein was arrested at Teterboro on July 6. I wrote the piece linked below on July 19, three weeks ago to the day. His first ‘suicide attempt’ was two weeks ago. When he ‘killed himself’ today he was allegedly no longer on suicide watch.

What did George W. Bush say again about ‘fool me twice’? “I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on … shame on you. Fool me… You can’t get fooled again!'”

And wait a minute, who’s going to get all of Epstein’s money? Here’s me on July 19:

 

How Long is Jeffrey Epstein For This World?

There are three main threats to Jeffrey Epstein’s life (or four, if you include his victims).

No. 1 is his fellow inmates in the Manhattan MCC. He’ll be in very strict isolation, because inmates and pedophilia is a very explosive combination. So isolation, but that’s never 100%. And Judge Berman yesterday ordered him in jail until his trial(s), instead of in his $77 million Manhattan mansion not far from that same prison, so he’ll be there a while; that trial could take a very long time to happen, even years. All the more chance for an inmate to make an easy $1000 by offing him.

The no. 2 threat is Epstein himself. Berman’s decision means he’s very unlikely to ever get out again. Chances of him being declared innocent are as close to zero as as anything Kelvin. So why would he want to continue to live? Perhaps his lawyers try and tell him he’s always got a shot, and there’s always a next court date, but he doesn’t strike me as fully delusional. I could be wrong, sure, about much of all this, but I don’t think so.

The no. 3 threat is, obviously, the people he might “sing” about. And that’s an litany of the world’s who’s who. No doubt the FBI may already have their IDs and photos and what-not, but why chance it when you can take down the -potential- crown witness?

 

[..] …Fox, also from July 18, because it targets Prince Andrew. Is MI6 going to be able to muffle away the obviously very strong and long-term connection between Epstein and Andrew? I’m thinking they’d probably have to get those 2,000 pages re-sealed. Or, you know, burned down. Nuked. To summarize my thoughts on this, and the reason I started writing this, I can’t see Epstein living much longer. There are too many people who would rather see him dead, including perhaps himself. And there are very few people who want him to get into lengthy talks with prosecutors who are actually looking for the truth.

Now of course we must wonder if any prosecutor wants that truth. Alex Acosta left his US government job because “Epstein is intelligence” was not enough to let him keep his job. And if we can believe some of the stories about the CIA, the State Dept and Mossad being linked to Epstein (and we got worse than that), it looks like he’s just got to go. Unless someone, or some party involved, has a reason to protect him against all odds. If only to handicap some other people.

 

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 


Johannes Vermeer The astronomer c1668

 

 

Alex Acosta is gone. That would appear to be good thing, because even if he claims he did the best he could in the 2008 Jeffrey Epstein plea deal, given the number of accusations and the seriousness of the alleged crimes, that deal seems to have had anything but the best interests of the victims in mind. That he agreed as part of the deal to not notify the victims was not only illegal, it was a total affront. It ‘sealed’ the deal, so to speak.

Saying “I was told to back off because he was intelligence” doesn’t make all that alright, it merely makes Acosta, if it were true, a salesman choosing his own career over the wellbeing of underage girls. But that’s still a bit of a side issue, at least in today’s frame, because it happened 11-12 years ago, and a lot more accusations are on the table now.

As I said earlier today, if they release Epstein on bail now, there will be riots. That’s how serious even America takes sex trafficking of underage children, provided their media tell them about it. They didn’t for many years in this case. So first giant kudos to Vicky Ward, Julie K. Brown, Miami Herald and Mike Cernovich and others. No matter what the MSM do, there are still a few voices left out there.

 

But there was something else I’ve been thinking about. I’ve read more on Epstein the past few days than I would advise anyone to do, learned a lot, but I keep having this question in my head: why did he fly back to the US from Paris on July 6? It might have appeared to be an ‘innocent’ trip, if you think anything about the man could still be labeled ‘innocent’, but something happened three days before the trip.

That is, a New York federal appeals court ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents pertaining to Epstein and his ‘environment’. These pages do not address what led Acosta to let him off crazily easily in 2008, they’re from a 2015 case brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who accuses Epstein, his alleged partner-in-sex-crime Ghislaine Maxwell, Alan Dershowitz and Prince Andrew.

But please allow me to take a step back. Here’s Julie K. Brown on July 3:

A New York federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents that are expected to show evidence relating to whether New York financier Jeffrey Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation.


The decision comes two days after the Miami Herald urged the court to issue a ruling in the civil case in the wake of last week’s Justice Department announcement in the federal criminal case that it would not void Epstein’s controversial 2008 non-prosecution agreement.

And then we move over to Courthouse News:

[..] In a partial dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler argued that all of the files should have been handled by the trial judge. “On that score, it is worth clarifying here the breadth of the court’s unsealing order: it unseals nearly 2000 pages of material,” Pooler emphasized. “The task of identifying and making specific redactions in such a substantial volume is perilous; the consequences of even a seemingly minor error may be grave and are irrevocable.”


Boies said that he and his client Giuffre are readying for a protracted process. “It’s a very important step toward making the information that the court has available to the public,” he said. “It’s only a first step.”

That’s a big one in what I’m saying: it could take along time for the 2,000 pages to be made public after they were unsealed. What does that mean?

Here’s Julie K. Brown once more:

The New York case, filed in 2015, was brought by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who claims that she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to wealthy and powerful politicians, lawyers, academics and government leaders when she was underage. Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after Maxwell publicly denounced her as a liar.


The case was settled in Giuffre’s favor in 2017, several sources have told the Herald. Nearly all the documents filed in connection with the case, however, were sealed [..] The Herald, as part of a November investigation called “Perversion of Justice,” went to court to unseal all the records in January. A lower court ruled against the newspaper, and the appeals court heard arguments by the Herald, Cernovich and Dershowitz in March.

This is all very recent stuff, not the 12-year old case for which Epstein settled in 2008. That doesn’t seem to bode well for him.

In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a lower district court erred when it issued a blanket sealing of the case, which essentially allowed all the parties to file everything under wraps.“The District Court failed to review the documents individually and produce ‘specific, on-the-record findings that sealing is necessary to preserve higher values.’ Instead, the District Court made generalized statements about the record as a whole. This … was legal error,’’ said Judge Jose A. Cabranes, writing for the three-member panel.


The court, in a 2-1 decision, said the portion of the case involving summary judgment materials (167 documents, 2,000 pages) should be unsealed forthwith, except for minor redactions. The balance of the case history — involving perhaps thousands of additional pages — will be reviewed by the lower court. In her dissent, Judge Rosemary Pooler concurred with unsealing the documents, but disagreed with how they should be reviewed.

But now we get to the crux. Between the lines, there’s this ‘threat’ that reviewing and redacting the 2,000 pages could take a very long time. And since Epstein has ace lawyers, it might even take years.

Realizing that, I started asking myself: why did Epstein fly his private plane -back- from Paris to NJ Teterboro airport, where he was arrested, on July 6. While 3 days prior, a New York federal appeals court ordered the unsealing of up to 2,000 pages of judicial documents “that are expected to show evidence relating to whether New York financier Jeffrey Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, were recruiting underage girls and young women as part of an international sex trafficking operation.”

I’m still asking myself. Didn’t he know he’d be arrested? Seems a bit far-fetched. The man pays tons of money to have connections everywhere. He’s a registered sex-offender (though only level-1, not -3, thanks to Acosta). He’s a wounded animal. Presumably he did know. The court order 3 days earlier to unseal the 2,000 pages would have been a big red flashing sign, and there’s no way he didn’t know about it.

So why fly back? Did his lawyers enter into some deal to redact the pages in a way they could control? That would sound very much like what happened in the 2008 plea deal. Did they agree beforehand on what Epstein would face conviction wise? There was a report that, through his legal team, he offered to name names if he could get off with a 5-year prison term. What do you call that kind of thing, reverse blackmail?

 

The SDNY, which ordered Epstein’s July 6 arrest, must have found something new to build a case on, it can’t be the pre-2008 stuff, that wouldn’t be legal. Did they find this new evidence in the 2,000 pages? Not entirely impossible, I would venture. What’s also an option is that they talked to people involved in the investigation prompted by Virginia Roberts Giuffre’s allegations vs Epstein and Maxwell, before the docs were sealed.

You’re an ADA, you seek out a detective or your own predecessor, and you say: what do you remember was in there? I can totally see that.

So I remain with two questions: why did Epstein return to the US from an alleged multi-week stay in Paris mere days after a federal appeals court ordered 2,000 pages unsealed that can only possibly be damaging to him (or some of his rich and powerful friends), or they wouldn’t have been sealed.

Second question: why is this playing out when it is, as in today? Who ordered this? Was it Trump? He appears to be one of the few people in the rich New York/Florida scene who doesn’t have much to fear from Epstein and his potential blackmail schemes. I base that on the -pretty well documented- fact that Trump threw Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago on 2011. He wouldn’t have done that if Epstein had anything on him. I wouldn’t rule out Epstein chasing Ivanka back then either.

 

One more item: the most amusing thing about Epstein is that not a single source/person can say how he made his money. That’s a topic for a next essay, but there’s this: 20 years after -ostensibly-, leaving Bear Stearns Epstein turns up as a director for one of their SIV’s.The vehicle was called Liquid Funding Ltd, and Epstein is listed as a director and chairman. The entire vehicle went stone dead, as did Bear. But Jeffrey did not.

Bear’s 10-K: At November 30, 2002, the total assets of this entity (Liquid Funding, Ltd.) approximated $900 million. The Company’s maximum exposure to loss as a result of its investment in this entity is approximately $5.0 million. Epstein’s Financial Trust Co. had a $121 million investment in hedge fund firm DB Zwirn & Co., which shut down in 2008, and was also a major investor in Bear Stearns’s High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund

 

Epstein could have opted to stay in France, or fly to his Virgin Islands estate. Or anywhere really. But he chose to fly to Teterboro to be arrested. Why?

 

 

 

 

Dec 152018
 
 December 15, 2018  Posted by at 11:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Road menders at Saint-Remy 1889

 

US Banks See Biggest Unrealized Losses On Securities Since Q1 2009 (WS)
European Banks’ €300 Billion Race To The Bottom (BBG)
Global Debt Hits All-Time High Of $184,000,000,000,000 (RT)
Act V: Yellow Vests Prepare For Massive ‘Macron Resign’ Protest (RT)
Senior Tories Tell May To Work With Corbyn To Save Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Strategy Left Brutally Exposed By Brussels Failure (G.)
Affordable Care Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional By A Federal Judge (CNBC)
Clinton Foundation Oversight Panel Hears Explosive Testimony (RT)
The War Against Globalism (Giraldi)
Yanis Varoufakis’s Internationalist Odyssey (Nation)

 

 

EU banks are disasters. US banks are too.

US Banks See Biggest Unrealized Losses On Securities Since Q1 2009 (WS)

The FDIC just released the aggregated third-quarter performance metrics of the 5,477 banks and thrifts it insures. The amount of their combined assets ticked up to $17.7 trillion. These assets – mostly loans but also investments of all kinds – include $3.6 trillion in securities (not including the securities in their trading accounts). And banks got hit by the biggest quarterly losses on those securities since the first quarter of 2009. Banks designate these securities either as “held-to-maturity” securities (valued at “amortized cost” or book value) and “available-for-sale” securities (valued at “fair value,” such as market value). For Q3, these were their unrealized losses – meaning, banks have not yet sold the securities:

• Available-for-sale securities: $51.5 billion in unrealized losses, or 2% of their amortized cost, as the FDIC said, “the highest loss level since first quarter 2009.” • Held-to-maturity securities: $32.8 billion in unrealized losses. • Both combined: $84.3 billion in unrealized losses. Note the damage done in 2018, after years of big gains: $83.4 billion in Q3; $66.4 billion in Q2; and about $55 billion in Q1; for a total so far this year about $200 billion in unrealized losses.

Read more …

And Draghi went for negative rates. One for the history books.

European Banks’ €300 Billion Race To The Bottom (BBG)

As we approach the end of a dismal year for European stocks, the question is: which sector had the worst year of them all? With a few trading sessions left before the end of 2018, banks and autos are in a tight race to the bottom. As of Thursday’s close, lenders are the biggest losers, with a quarter of their market value down the drain, a wipeout of roughly 300 billion euros in shareholders’ money. Banks haven’t seen such a bad year since the heat of the euro-zone sovereign debt crisis in 2011. As the final ECB meeting of the year confirmed, the central bank will keep rates unchanged at least until next summer and the grim outlook for the sector highlighted in one of our earlier Taking Stock columns remains valid.

Any attempt by the sector to break out from its downward trend in 2018 has so far failed. Perhaps it’s not a surprise as banks face a wall of worry from investors and nothing seems to be able to help them move forward. Repeated calls from some analysts that the sector is cheap hasn’t triggered any significant buying. A good example is Credit Suisse’s buyback and dividend announcement on Wednesday. That didn’t even raise investors’ interest with the stock hovering near its low. While any return of capital to shareholders is welcome, the dark clouds over its investment banking outlook seemed to weigh more.

Here’s the grim silver lining: …it doesn’t matter much to the rest of the market: Since the financial crisis a decade ago, the influence of banks over the broader European gauge has fallen dramatically, to a point where they now barely move the Stoxx 600. So what could help the shares regain their vigor? Although merger talk seems to find fruitful (speculative) ground, large cross-border deals remain a fantasy. But domestic love stories might be one theme to keep an eye on next year. Most prominent is the ongoing chatter about Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, the worst and third-worst performing stocks in the Stoxx 600 Banks index. While any merger is far from certain, market reaction shows that investors, or at least algos and punters, are betting on any consolidation as the last resort to improve bottom-lines.

And if you are gloating at the “fortress balance sheet” US banks, as BMO’s Brad Wishak notes, price and time are playing a familair hand in US bank stocks… Finally, BofAML strategists summed it all up very succinctly this week: “What we learned in 2018: That central banks trump everything, when global liquidity peaked in Q1, markets peaked; that we remain in a deflationary world which cannot handle a 10-year Treasury yield above 3%; That investors have no satisfactory answers to the existential questions of ‘If not stocks, what?’, ‘If not tech, what?’ ‘If not the U.S. dollar, what?'”…

Read more …

Sometimes you wonder if even a grand jubilee could change this.

Global Debt Hits All-Time High Of $184,000,000,000,000 (RT)

The world’s debt currently exceeds $86,000 per person on average, according to the IMF. The US, China, and Japan are the top three global borrowers, accounting for more than half of the global debt. The IMF has calculated that their share of debt exceeds that of output. It stated that the emergence of China among the top ranking is, however, a relatively new development. Since the beginning of the millennium, China’s share in global debt surged from less than three percent to over 15 percent, underscoring the rapid credit surge in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. According to the IMF, global debt has reached a record high of $184 trillion in nominal terms.

That’s the equivalent of 225 percent of the world GDP in 2017. The debt figure is $2 trillion higher than the estimated number released by the fund in October, because it includes the debts of several countries who had not previously reported their updated data. “By including both the sovereign and private sides of borrowing for the entire world, the GDD (Global Debt Database) offers an unprecedented picture of global debt in the post-World War II era,” said the IMF. GDD is a comprehensive dataset covering public and private debt for 190 countries dating back to the 1950s.

Read more …

As I write this, things seem to be quiet still.

Act V: Yellow Vests Prepare For Massive ‘Macron Resign’ Protest (RT)

Paris is bracing for yet another round of Yellow Vest protests, with demonstrators planning to take to the streets on Saturday. More than 10,000 people have already RSVP’d on Facebook to the ‘Acte 5: Macron Démission’ march. The demonstration is scheduled to take place in the French capital on the Champs-Élysées. The organizers, consisting of some 15 groups, have outlined their list of demands on Facebook, saying they will continue their action against Macron until all their demands are met. “Our organizations support the demands of tax and social justice brought by the movement of yellow vests.

They call for demonstrations Saturday, December 15, for social justice and tax, for a real democracy, for equal rights, for a true ecological transition…” the planners said in a statement, as quoted by Le Parisien. Similar demonstrations are also expected to take place in other cities across the country. Security officials are gearing up for the protests, with Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech stating that tens of thousands of cops will be deployed across France, and some 8,000 in Paris. “We need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios,” he said. Delpuech told RTL that authorities are aiming to be in “better control” of the situation than they were last weekend, when more than 125,000 people hit the streets of France, 10,000 of whom protested in Paris.

Read more …

But why should he?

Senior Tories Tell May To Work With Corbyn To Save Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Senior Tories have told Theresa May to open talks with Labour as her only hope of salvaging a Brexit deal, after the EU’s outright refusal to renegotiate left her strategy in tatters. A badly bruised prime minister was urged to stop trying to “go it alone”, accept her proposed agreement is dead and that she needs the help of other parties to push through softer exit terms. Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, told The Independent that “cross-party support and proper discussions” were now essential, while Nick Boles, another former minister, said Ms May “must open cross-party discussions”.

The calls came after EU leaders dealt a devastating blow by scrapping written commitments, designed to help Ms May pass her deal through parliament, after disastrous talks failed to achieve a breakthrough. Brussels’ frustration at the prime minister’s inability to set out clearly what she wanted was laid bare when Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, branded the UK approach “nebulous”. At a press conference, Ms May put a brave face on, insisting her Brexit deal remained on track and that talks in the next few days would achieve “further clarification”.

[..] Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister had “utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal”, calling for a Commons vote to kill it off without delay “Rather than ploughing ahead and dangerously running down the clock, the prime minister needs to put her deal to a vote next week so parliament can take back control,” he said. Nevertheless, Mr Boles said the route to success for Ms May was cross-party talks to “deliver their support for the deal”.

Read more …

She fled to Europe because she could, not to get anything done. The result is no Commons vote until after Christmas.

Theresa May’s Brexit Strategy Left Brutally Exposed By Brussels Failure (G.)

Theresa May has come home from Brussels empty-handed and without hope of further negotiations over the Irish backstop, with the failure to achieve any kind of breakthrough leaving her brutally exposed. Plans to work over Christmas on a legal guarantee over the temporary nature of the backstop had run into a brick wall, EU officials said, despite May’s claim that she would be holding further talks “in the coming days”. Brussels sources claimed May was just keeping up a pretence that the legal guarantee she had promised rebellious Tory MPs during this week’s leadership challenge was still on the cards.

Without clear evidence that she has made progress, May faces mounting jeopardy in Westminster, with Labour seriously considering tabling a vote of no confidence before Christmas, if it believes the prime minister’s DUP partners might support it. Jeremy Corbyn accused May on Friday of “dangerously running down the clock”. “The last 24 hours have confirmed that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water. The prime minister has utterly failed in her attempts to deliver any meaningful changes to her botched deal,” he said. One shadow cabinet member said the moment at which Labour would table a no-confidence vote was getting “much, much closer”, but said it would depend on the stance of the DUP. “We are watching like hawks,” he added.

Read more …

Set up a bipartisan commission and get this solved. The US is a tragic laughing stock.

Affordable Care Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional By A Federal Judge (CNBC)

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, potentially threatening health-care coverage for millions of Americans and setting up a new legal showdown over former President Barack Obama’s signature policy initiative. U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas issued the decision, declaring that key portions of the legislation were inconsistent with the Constitution. O’Connor’s ruling argued that the health-care law can not stand on its own since Congress last December repealed the individual mandate, which imposed a tax penalty on consumers who went uninsured. The mandate, which remains in effect for 2018, was a key part of ACA legislation, otherwise known as Obamacare. The mandate is the greater of $695 person per adult, or 2.5% of household income.

The lawsuit was backed by the Trump administration, and is likely to be appealed — which could mean the legislation will heard anew by the Supreme Court, which upheld Obamacare in a narrowly divided 2012 ruling. Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma told reporters earlier this month that CMS has a plan to protect pre-existing conditions if the law is struck down. A CMS spokesperson late Friday told CNBC, “The recent federal court decision is still moving through the courts, and the exchanges are still open for business and we will continue with open enrollment. There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan.”

Read more …

Government investigators who refuse to share documents with the House. Not just insane, but by now years of insanity.

Clinton Foundation Oversight Panel Hears Explosive Testimony (RT)

Fraud investigators have exposed the Clinton Foundation’s alleged misdeeds in a Congressional hearing, describing it as a de facto “foreign agent” devoted not to charity but to “advancing the personal interests of its principals.” The Clinton Foundation acted as an agent of foreign governments “early in its life and throughout its existence,” according to testimony by former government forensic investigator John Moynihan, which, if true, would not only render it in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act but also would violate its nonprofit charter, putting it on the hook for a massive quantity of unpaid taxes. Moynihan and fellow ex-government investigator Lawrence Doyle shared 6,000 pages of evidence with the IRS over 18 months ago, only to be met with silence.

They shared them with the FBI multiple times – ditto. Yet when the pair testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, they refused to turn over the documents, stating they did not want to interfere with any ongoing investigations. The committee chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said witnesses’ reluctance to share all the documents was hardly a “good foundation for truth and transparency,” while Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said he felt the duo was “using” the panel for their own benefit. “These are not our facts. They are not your facts. They are the facts of the Clinton Foundation,” said Moynihan, maintaining his interest in the case is purely financial – not political.

Testifying on their findings, Doyle highlighted the Foundation’s alleged “misuse of donated public funds,” explaining that it “falsely attested that it received funds and used them for charitable purposes which was, in fact, not the case. Rather the foundation pursued in an array of activities both domestically and abroad,” which included activities “properly characterized as profit-oriented and taxable undertakings of private enterprise, again failing the operational tests of philanthropy referenced above,” referring to the equally non-charitable pursuit of funding the Clinton Presidential Library. John Huber, appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the Clinton Foundation after Sessions recused himself from doing so, was conspicuously absent from the hearing, even though his job is to probe Clinton’s approval of the sale of US uranium assets to Russia.

Read more …

Globalism has been extremely destructive. Hard to defend.

The War Against Globalism (Giraldi)

The idea that republican or democratic government will eventually deteriorate into some form of tyranny is not exactly new. Thomas Jefferson advocated a new revolution every generation to keep the spirit of government accountable to the people alive. Call it what you will – neoliberalism, neoconservatism or globalism – the new world order, as recently deceased President George H.W. Bush once labeled it, characteristically embraces a world community in which there is free trade, free movement of workers and democracy. They all sound like good things but they are authoritarian in nature, destructive of existing communities and social systems while at the same time enriching those who promote the changes.

They have also been the root cause of most of the wars fought since the Second World War, wars to “liberate” people who never asked to be invaded or bombed as part of the process. And there are, of course, major differences between neoliberals and neoconservatives in terms of how one brings about the universal nirvana, with the liberals embracing some kind of process whereby the transformation takes place because it represents what they see, perhaps cynically, as the moral high ground and is recognized as being the right thing to do. The neocons, however, seek to enforce what they define as international standards because the United States has the power to do so in a process that makes it and its allies impossible to challenge.

The latter view is promoted under the phony slogan that “Democracies do not fight other democracies.” The fact that globalists of every type consider nationalism a threat to their broader ambitions has meant that parochial or domestic interests are often disregarded or even rejected. With that in mind, and focusing on two issues – wholesale unwelcome immigration and corrupt government run by oligarchs – one might reasonably argue that large numbers of ordinary citizens now believe themselves to be both effectively disenfranchised and demonstrably poorer as rewarding work becomes harder to find and communities are destroyed through waves of both legal and illegal immigration.

Read more …

I can still hope he succeeds, but it’s getting hard to see how.

Yanis Varoufakis’s Internationalist Odyssey (Nation)

Flanked by a dozen members of DiEM25, the pan-European movement launched in 2016 to “democratize” the continent’s institutions, Varoufakis announced that he would run for a seat representing Germany in the European Parliament. He would make his bid as a Greek, a European, and, you might even say, a Berliner—all to drive home a larger point about the necessity of thinking beyond borders. “No European people can be prosperous and free when other European countries are condemned to the permanent depression that eternal austerity creates,” he said. Persistent unemployment, cuts to welfare, and other suffocating economic policies across the continent help explain why Varoufakis chose Germany—a country he’s best known for antagonizing, precisely over its leaders’ support for austerity, in the fraught negotiations over Greece’s debt in 2015.

These circumstances are also the motivating force behind the Progressive International, an initiative that Varoufakis launched five days later in Burlington, Vermont, with DiEM25 and the Sanders Institute. Building broad-based coalitions takes time, and for now, the Progressive International is just a website with some inspiring language and a video. Its membership is also very Eurocentric. But Varoufakis hopes it will blossom into a global movement that helps leftists create coherent platforms, policies, and parties to defeat the “nationalist international” masterminded by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. The logic is simple. Financiers have long had global networks; now, right-wing authoritarians do too, with coordinated social-media strategies and deep pools of dark money funding campaigns and disrupting elections around the globe.

It’s time for the left to go on the offensive and reclaim its tradition of internationalism: in Varoufakis’s words, to “mobilize workers, women, and the disenfranchised around the world” to prevent outright fascism from taking hold. This means local action, but it also means dreaming big. It’s a fuzzy plan, of course, and one that Varoufakis’s critics deem implausible. Aren’t ideas like “democratizing” the European Union and making global finance more “progressive” oxymorons? How will a ragtag group of leftists dream up a new monetary system and an ecological New Deal for the whole world when Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil call the shots?

Read more …

Aug 232018
 
 August 23, 2018  Posted by at 1:35 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Gustave Caillebotte Young man by his window 1875

 

If there’s one thing that is exposed in the sorry not-so-fairy tale of former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, it’s that Washington is a city run by fixers. Who often make substantial amounts of money. Many though by no means all, start out as lawyers and figure out that let’s say ‘the edges of what’s legal’ can be quite profitable.

And it helps to know when one steps across that edge, so having attended law school is a bonus. Not so much to stop when stepping across the edge, but to raise one’s fees. There’s a lot of dough waiting at the edge of the law. None of this should surprise any thinking person. Manafort and Cohen are people who think in millions, with an easy few hundred grand thrown in here and there.

But sometimes the fixers happen to come under scrutiny of the law, like when they get entangled in a Special Counsel investigation. Both Manafort and Cohen now rue the day they became involved with Trump, or rather, the day he was elected president and solicited much more severe scrutiny.

Would either ever have been accused of what they face today had Trump lost to Hillary? It’s not too likely. They just gambled and lost. But there are many more just like them who will never be charged with anything. Still, a new fixer name has popped up the last few days who may, down the line, not be so lucky.

 

And that’s not even because Lanny Davis is a registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. After all, both Manafort and Cohen have their contacts in that part of the world. Manafort made tens of millions advising then-president Yanukovich in the Ukraine before the US coup dethroned the latter. Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian-American.

Lanny Davis is a lawyer, special counsel even, for the Clintons. Has been for years. Which makes it kind of curious that Michael Cohen would pick him to become his legal representation. But that’s not all Davis is involved in. Like any true fixer, he has his hands in more cookie jars than fit in the average kitchen. Glenn Greenwald wrote this in August 2009 about the health care debate:

 

Lanny Davis Disease

After Tom Daschle was selected to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief health care adviser, Matt Taibbi wrote: “In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle.” One could easily have added: “And then there’s Lanny Davis.” Davis frequently injects himself into political disputes, masquerading as a “political analyst” and Democratic media pundit, yet is unmoored from any discernible political beliefs other than: “I agree with whoever pays me.”

It’s genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn’t, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him. Yesterday, he published a new piece simultaneously in The Hill and Politico – solemnly warning that extremists on the Far Left and Far Right are jointly destroying democracy with their conduct in the health care debate and urging “the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally” – that vividly illustrates the limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis’ mouth.

Davis’ history is as long and consistent as it is sleazy. He was recently hired by Honduran oligarchs opposed to that country’s democratically elected left-wing President and promptly became the chief advocate of the military coup which forcibly removed the President from office. He became an emphatic defender of the Israeli war on Gaza after he was named by the right-wing The Israel Project to be its “Senior Advisor and Spokesperson.” He has been the chief public defender for Joe Lieberman, Jane Harman and the Clintons, all of whom have engaged his paid services.

And as NYU History Professor Greg Grandin just documented: “Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.” Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.”

There’s much more in that article, but you get the drift. And now Davis, the Clinton fixer, is Michael Cohen’s lawyer. The fixer defending a fixer. So who pays the bill? Well, ostensibly no-one, because Davis started a Go Fund Me campaign where people can donate so Cohen “can tell people the truth about Trump”. The goal is $500,000. Which goes to .. Lanny Davis.

On TV yesterday he apparently promoted a wrong URL, which was promptly picked up by someone else who had it redirect to the Trump campaign. Even fixers screw up, right? Still, there’s already well over $100,000 donated for Cohen Davis. But why $500,000? One of the accusations against Cohen concerns lying to a bank for a $20 million loan. He bought an apartment not long ago for $6.7 million. He owned multiple apartments in Trump buildings.

Did he lose everything when Robert Mueller et al raided his office, home and hotel room on April 9 2018? Were all his assets frozen? Possibly. What we do know is that he ‘expected’ the Trump campaign to pay for his legal fees. Which they declined. Or rather, as Fortune reported in June: “The Trump campaign has given some money to Cohen to help cover legal expenses for the Russia investigation. To date, though, it has not offered financial assistance in the investigation of his business practices.”

It seems safe to assume that’s the point where Cohen turned, or was turned, to Lanny Davis. From a full decade of being Trump’s fixer to being fixed by the Clintons’ fixer. That’s a big move. It raises a number of questions: why did Trump not pay Cohen’s legal fees? This is 2 months after the raid on the man’s office, home, hotel room, in which huge amounts of files and disks etc. were seized.

Second question: if Lanny Davis only now sets up a Go Fund Me campaign, who’s been paying him over the past 2 months? Did Cohen sell assets, or is someone else involved?

Anyway, so Davis goes on TV with big words about how Cohen will tell all about Trump -provided people donate half a million- and adding “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office. And [Cohen] has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.”

Oh, and that “the turning point for his client’s attitude toward Trump was the Helsinki summit in July 2018 which caused him to doubt Trump’s loyalty to the U.S.” That, to my little brain, doesn’t sound like something that would come from Cohen. That sounds more like a political point the likes of which Cohen has never made. That’s plain old Russiagate.

 

But anyway. So Lanny Davis, fixer of fixers and presidents, goes on a talk-show tour last night and what do you think happens? He walks back just about everything he’s said the previous day. Aaron Maté made a list in this Twitter thread:

 

 

Is Michael Cohen sure he wants this guy as his lawyer? Is he watching this stuff?

If Cohen and Manafort have broken laws, they should be punished for it. The same goes for all other Trump campers, including the Donald. But it would be good if people realize that Cohen and Manafort are not some kind of stand-alone examples, that they are instead the norm in Washington. And Moscow, and Brussels, London, everywhere there’s a concentration of power. In all these places, and probably more so in DC, there are these folks specializing in the edge of the law.

What do you think will happen when someone of the stature of Bob Mueller spends 18 months investigating the Clintons and their fixers? Perhaps the events of the past few days won’t bring such a 2nd Special Counsel any closer, but by the same token they might do just that. Offense is the best defense.

I don’t know, we don’t know, what monsters Trump has swept under his luxurious carpets. But we do know that those are not the only monsters in Washington. Meanwhile, the Steele dossier that was used to start the entire Mueller remains just about entirely unverified. The Russian collusion meme he was tasked with investigating has so far come up empty.

That he would find something if he tried hard enough was obvious from the start. That is both dangerous in that the mandate of a Special Counsel should be limited lest it becomes endless and veers off the reasons it was initiated, as well as in the risk that it can easily turn into a party-political tool to hurt one’s opponent while one’s own dirt remains unscrutinized.

In the end, I can draw only one conclusion: there are so many sharks and squids swimming in the swamp that either it should be expanded or the existing one should be cleaned up and depopulated. So bring it: investigate the FBI, the Clintons, and fixers like Lanny Davis and Michael Avenatti, the same way the Trump camp has been.

Because if you don’t do that, you can only possibly end up in an even bigger mess. You can’t drain half a swamp.

 

 

May 042018
 


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
 


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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.”

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