Allow me to start with a question: Has anyone seen any of the main newspapers and networks who went after Donald Trump for 3 years accusing him of colluding with “the Russians”, apologize to either Trump, or to their readers and viewers, for spreading all that fake news now that Robert Mueller said none of that stuff was real, that they all just made it up?
I’ve seen only one such apology, albeit a very good and thorough one, from Sharyl Attkisson for The Hill. But one is a very meager harvest of course. With over 500,000 articles on collusion published on the topic, as Axios said -leading to 245 million social media ‘interactions’, shouldn’t there be more apologies, if only so people can hold on to their faith in US media for a while longer?
With the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe now known to a significant degree, it seems apologies are in order. However, judging by the recent past, apologies are not likely forthcoming from the responsible parties. In this context, it matters not whether one is a supporter or a critic of President Trump. Whatever his supposed flaws, the rampant accusations and speculation that shrouded Trump’s presidency, even before it began, ultimately have proven unfounded. Just as Trump said all along. Yet, each time Trump said so, some of us in the media lampooned him.
We treated any words he spoke in his own defense as if they were automatically to be disbelieved because he had uttered them. Some even declared his words to be “lies,” although they had no evidence to back up their claims.We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s “treason.”
As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment. And when we corrected our mistakes, we often doubled down more than we apologized. We may have been technically wrong on that tiny point, we would acknowledge. But, in the same breath, we would insist that Trump was so obviously guilty of being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet that the technical details hardly mattered. So, a round of apologies seem in order.
It’s a shame Attkisson refrains from labeling the whole decrepit circus as “fake news”, even if she says it’s just that, in different words. It’s a shame because the term “fake news” can this way remain connected to Trump, something the mainstream media really like. Because it allows for the media to cast doubts on the Mueller report, and for the Democrats to cast doubt on AG Bill Barr.
But they, the MSM, CNN and the NYT, are the ones who, as Robert Mueller has proven, have been spreading fake news all that time, not Trump. And if you would suggest they apologize, they’ll tell you that you’re too early, wait for the report to be released, or that Bill Barr is holding tons of stuff back, or that Mueller didn’t have access to elementary info, or that Trump is a really bad person or or or.
Their reputations would be lost forever if they issue a mea culpa, and apologizing constitutes a mea culpa, so that’s not going to happen. And they all think their credibility remains sound and alive, because they live in echo chambers where they don’t have to listen to anyone prepared to cast any doubt on their credibility.
I first said it years ago: in the new -digital, social- media age, the mainstream media have only one chance of survival: report the naked truth, and be relentless about that. There are a billion voices who can write up rumors, slander, smear and other falsities, but none have the organizations to find out the truth.
Well, it looks like they gave up on that one chance. Russiagate has made it crystal clear that the MSM would rather make a quick buck than investigate, that money and political views trump veracity any day where they operate. So stick a fork in them and turn them over; they’re done.
April 1 was the perfect moment to add it all up, and the Babylon Bee did exactly that:
Fooling thousands of readers in a prank that the cable news organization said was “just for fun,” CNN published a real news story for April Fools’ Day this year. The story simply contained a list of facts, with no embellishment, editorializing, or invented details. The story also didn’t cite shaky “anonymous sources” and only quoted firsthand witnesses to the event. It was completely factual without any errors whatsoever. Baffled CNN fans immediately knew something was up.
“I was reading this story, and I was like, ‘Wait, what is this?'” said one man in New York who relies on CNN for his fake news every morning. “They really got me good. Then I looked up at the calendar and I realized I’d been duped. A classic gag!” “Those little rascals!” he added, shaking his head and laughing goodnaturedly. “As long as they return to their regularly scheduled fake news tomorrow, we’re good. We’re good.”
We could stop right there. What’s to add? It sums up America to the core. Then again, perhaps not quite yet. How about we add this from the BBC?
For the people contracted by Facebook to clamp down on fake news and misinformation, doubt hangs over them every day. Is it working? “Are we changing minds?” wondered one fact-checker, based in Latin America, speaking to the BBC. “Is it having an impact? Is our work being read? I don’t think it is hard to keep track of this. But it’s not a priority for Facebook. “We want to understand better what we are doing, but we aren’t able to.”
[..] While there are efforts from fact-checking organisations to debunk dangerous rumours within the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook has yet to provide a tool – though it is experimenting with some ideas to help users report concerns.
Right, Facebook Fights Fake News. Right. 533,074 web articles on Trump-Russia collusion pre-Mueller report according to Axios, and 245 million ‘interactions’ -including likes, comments and shares- on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s say 100 million on Facebook.
How much did they catch as fake news in their valiant efforts? Not “the Russians” spreading fake news, but the New York Times? How about none? How many times did Facebook shut down the New York Times? Rachel Maddow? None. But Robert Mueller says all those articles about collusion were fake news.
Those reputations are gone forever. Nobody serious will ever again believe anything these people say. Oh, their own subscribers will, but they don’t count as serious people. They swallowed all the nonsense for all of that time. Get real.
Talking about reputations: I decided to try and follow the trails of the Steele dossier earlier, because I think if you figure out the road that dossier has traveled, who has been pushing it etc., you can get a long way towards finding out how how Russiagate came about.
I turned to Wikipedia first, where “Steele dossier” automatically becomes “Trump-Russia dossier”. I read the intro, and it was already so clear where Wikipedia stands on this: not on Trump’s side. Impartiality does not count as a virtue there either. And I know that this stuff is written by third parties, but does Jimmy Wales really want to devalue his life’s work for party politics?
Right below the intro of the very long entry, a familiar name pops up: Luke Harding, and I’m thinking HAHAHAHA!
Luke Harding, after making a mint with his book Collusion, which Robert Mueller has singlehandedly moved into the Fiction section of the bookstore, and co-writing Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy last November, which Mueller fully discredited, is presented as a source for an entry about collusion? Oh boy.
A few paragraphs down I come upon the name Victoria Nuland, and again of course I think HAHAHAHA, what kind of source is she? Nuland became notorious for colluding with John McCain on Maidan Square in Kiyv, and she has less credibility than Harding, if such a thing is possible. A Nuland quote from the Wikipedia article:
“In the middle of July , when he [Steele] was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, ‘This is not in our purview’.” “This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”
The entry continues:
It has remained unclear as to who exactly at the FBI was aware of Steele’s report through July and August, and what was done with it, but they did not immediately request additional material until late August or early September, when the FBI asked Steele for “all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI.”
According to Nancy LeTourneau, political writer for the Washington Monthly, the report “was languishing in the FBI’s New York field office” for two months, and “was finally sent to the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.”, in September 2016.
Meanwhile, in the July to September time frame, according to The Washington Post, CIA Director John Brennan had started an investigation with a secret task force “composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI”. At the same time, he was busy creating his own dossier of material documenting that “Russia was not only attempting to interfere in the 2016 election, they were doing so in order to elect Donald Trump … [T]he entire intelligence community was on alert about this situation at least two months before [the dossier] became part of the investigation.”
Ergo: the fully deranged Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, gets the dossier to the FBI, where nothing happens with it despite Nuland’s insistence that it shows terrible things going on, until someone (McCain?!) gets it to Brennan, and then the ball gets rolling.
There’s all these people in the Hillary sphere of influence who pick it up, in the media, the House, and the FBI and CIA. Because the campaign decides a story about prostitutes peeing on a bed where Obama once slept can a be a winner, and by July 2016 a few nerves had started twitching. The entire machinery shifted into gear right then and there.
The index to the entry contains some 350 links to articles, almost all by the usual suspects and with the usual angles. It all oozes collusion. An exception is Bob Woodward in January 2017:
Woodward said on “Fox News Sunday” the dossier was a “garbage document” and that Trump’s point of view on the matter is being “under-reported.”Woodward said the dossier should never have been presented at an intelligence briefing and it was a mistake for U.S. intelligence officials to do so. “Trump’s right to be upset about that … Those intelligence chiefs, who were the best we’ve had, who were terrific and have done great work, made a mistake here.
And when people make mistakes, they should apologize,” said Woodward. Meantime, Woodward’s former partner in reporting on the Watergate scandal, helped report the news about the dossier on CNN last week. Carl Bernstein defended the reporting on the dossier, dismissing Trump’s contention that it was “fake news.” Bernstein argued that U.S. intelligence saw fit to present the material to President Obama and President-elect Trump.
“Mistakes” by the intelligence chiefs? Hard to believe, if you’ve followed Brennan, Clapper, Comey in the past 2 years.
Not sure I’m going to finish reading that Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier. What’s the point? It’s fantasy advertized as fact in order to make money. It’s misleading, it’s fake and it seeks to damage people. It would appear we’d be better off discussing what fake news is (and what is not), and to not stick the label to everything Trump says, or the $50 million spent on the Mueller probe will have been entirely wasted.
What we can learn from it is that we can no longer trust the media we once had confidence in. Those days are gone and they won’t be back. They’ve been lying for a long time for their 30 pieces of silver, and once your credibility is gone, it’s gone for good.
That, by the way, is why we need Julian Assange so much, because we know he doesn’t lie. But of course that little fact has also already been buried in a big pile of fake news.
Theresa May’s prospects of cobbling together a cross-party majority to convince EU leaders to grant a short Brexit delay next week appear to be slipping away after Labour claimed she had failed to offer “real change or compromise” in talks. The prime minister made a dramatic pledge to open the door to talks with Labour on Tuesday after a marathon cabinet meeting. But after two days of negotiations and an exchange of letters on Friday, Labour issued a statement criticising the prime minister for failing to offer “real change or compromise”.= “We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in parliament and bring the country together,” a spokesperson said.
The pessimistic note came after May wrote to the European council president, Donald Tusk, on Friday morning, asking for Brexit to be delayed until 30 June, while cross-party talks continue. Even before Labour’s statement, EU politicians responded with bemusement to her failure to offer a concrete plan for assembling a coalition behind a workable deal – increasing the risk that they will take a tough line at next Wednesday’s summit. May’s letter suggested that the UK was preparing to field candidates in European parliamentary elections on 23 May if no deal could be reached.
France has won the support of Spain and Belgium after signalling its readiness for a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if there are no significant new British proposals, according to a note of an EU27 meeting seen by the Guardian. The diplomatic cable reveals that the French ambassador secured the support of Spanish and Belgian colleagues in arguing that there should only be, at most, a short article 50 extension to avoid an instant financial crisis, saying: “We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.” The chances of Theresa May’s proposal of an extension to 30 June succeeding appeared slim as France’s position in the private diplomatic meeting was echoed by an official statement reiterating its opposition to any further Brexit delay without a clear British plan.
May wrote to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, on Friday to ask for the delay until 30 June while she battles to win cross-party agreement on a way forward. EU states are extremely sceptical that an extension to 30 June will resolve anything in Westminster. Tusk is pushing the EU to offer at a summit next Wednesday what he has described as a “flextension” in which the UK would be given a year-long extension with an option to come out early if the deal is ratified.
Having disgraced themselves with full immersion in the barren RussiaGate “narrative,” the Resistance is now tripling down on RussiaGate’s successor gambit: obstruction of justice where there was no crime in the first place. What exactly was that bit of mischief Robert Mueller inserted in his final report, saying that “…while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him?” It’s this simple: prosecutors are charged with finding crimes. If there is insufficient evidence to bring a case, then that is the end of the matter. Prosecutors, special or otherwise, are not authorized to offer hypothetical accounts where they can’t bring a criminal case. But Mr. Mueller produced a brief of arguments pro-and-con about obstruction for others to decide upon.
In doing that, he was out of order, and maliciously so. Of course, Attorney General Barr took up the offer and declared the case closed, as he properly should where the prosecutor could not conclude that a crime was committed. One hopes that the AG also instructed Mr. Mueller and his staff to shut the fuck up vis-à-vis further ex post facto “anonymous source” speculation in the news media. But, of course, the Mueller staff — which inexplicably included lawyers who worked for the Clinton Foundation and the Democratic National Committee — at once started insinuating to New York Times reporters that the full report would contain an arsenal of bombshells reigniting enough suspicion to fuel several congressional committee investigations.
The objective apparently is to keep Mr. Trump burdened, hobbled, and disabled for the remainder of his term, and especially in preparation for the 2020 election against whoever emerges from the crowd of lightweights and geriatric cases now roistering through the primary states. It also leaves the door open for the Resistance to prosecute an impeachment case, since that is a political matter, not a law enforcement action. This blog is not associated with any court other than public opinion, and I am free to hypothesize on the meaning of Mr. Mueller’s curious gambit, so here goes: Mr. Barr, long before being considered for his current job, published his opinion that there was no case for obstruction of justice in the RussiaGate affair. By punting the decision to Mr. Barr, Mr. Mueller sets up the AG for being accused of prejudice in the matter — and, more to the point, has managed to generate a new brushfire in the press.
It is astonishing that intelligence leaders did not immediately recognize they were being manipulated in an information operation or understand the danger that the dossier could contain deliberate disinformation from Steele’s Russian sources. In fact, it is impossible to believe in light of everything we now know about the FBI’s conduct of this investigation, including the astounding level of anti-Trump animus shown by high-level FBI figures like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as the inspector general’s discovery of a shocking number of leaks by FBI officials.
It’s now clear that top intelligence officials were perfectly well aware of the dubiousness of the dossier, but they embraced it anyway because it justified actions they wanted to take – turning the full force of our intelligence agencies first against a political candidate and then against a sitting president. The hoax itself was a gift to our nation’s adversaries, most notably Russia. The abuse of intelligence for political purposes is insidious in any democracy. It undermines trust in democratic institutions, and it damages the reputation of the brave men and women who are working to keep us safe. This unethical conduct has had major repercussions on America’s body politic, creating a yearslong political crisis whose full effects remain to be seen.
Having extensively investigated this abuse, House Intelligence Committee Republicans will soon be submitting criminal referrals on numerous individuals involved in these matters. These people must be held to account to prevent similar abuses from occurring in the future. The men and women of our intelligence community perform an essential service defending American national security, and their ability to carry out their mission cannot be compromised by biased actors who seek to transform the intelligence agencies into weapons of political warfare.
Just a few hours after Ethiopian Airlines warned of a “stigma” associated with the 737 Max that may make them choose not to take delivery of the planes they ordered, Boeing has released a statement after-hours that the company will slash production of the 737 plane from 52 to 42 airplanes per month. Bloomberg reports that Boeing plans to coordinate with customers and suppliers to blunt the financial impact of the slowdown, and for now it doesn’t plan to lay off workers from the 737 program. “When the Max returns to the skies, we’ve promised our airline customers and their passengers and crews that it will be as safe as any airplane ever to fly,” Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement Friday after the market close.
Boeing had planned to hike output of the 737, a workhorse for budget carriers, about 10 percent by midyear, to meet the backlogs. [..] if the issues are not resolved in a timely manner and production of the 737 MAX needs to be halted for an extended period of time, it would take about 0.15% off the level of GDP, or about 0.6%-point off the quarterly annualized growth rate of GDP in the quarter in which production is stopped. [..] the value of total shipments of aircraft by domestic producers in the US totaled $129 billion in 2016. Extrapolating that figure using monthly shipments data by the aircraft and parts industry implies a similar figure for 2018, around $130 billion.
President Donald Trump said Friday the U.S. economy would climb like “a rocket ship” if the Federal Reserve cut interest rates. Commenting after a strong jobs report for March, Trump said the Fed “really slowed us down” in terms of economic growth, and that “there’s no inflation.” “I think they should drop rates and get rid of quantitative tightening,” Trump told reporters, referring to the Fed’s policy of selling securities to unwind its balance sheet, a stimulus put in place during the financial crisis. “You would see a rocket ship. Despite that we’re doing very well.” White House aides have called for the Fed to cut interests rates by as much as 50 basis points. Following the Fed’s most recent meeting in March, the central bank decided to maintain interest rates and hold off on any further increases this year.
As Trump’s chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow did on Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell highlighted the slowing global economy. “We’re facing a worldwide slowdown [as] Europe is not doing well,” Kudlow said on Bloomberg TV. But unlike the White House, the Fed did not conclude in March that slowing global growth means the bank should begin cutting rates. Trump has been heavily critical of Powell’s decisions at the Fed, going as far as to say that “the Fed has gone crazy” with raising rates. Trump has blamed Powell’s decision-making for drops in the stock market, calling him “loco” for steadily raising rates in 2018 and saying choosing Powell for Fed chairman was the worst mistake of his presidency,
Capitalism needs capitalism first of all. For that to happen, the Fed will have to be dismantled. You can’t have capitalism without functioning markets. Ergo: America doesn’t appear to like capitalism, or it would make sure it exists.
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s biggest hedge fund, says capitalism has developed into a system that is promoting an ever-wider wealth gap that puts the very existence of the United States at risk. In a two-part series published on LinkedIn, the noted investor argues that capitalism is now in need of reform — and offered ways to accomplish it: ‘I have also seen capitalism evolve in a way that it is not working well for the majority of Americans because it’s producing self-reinforcing spirals up for the haves and down for the have-nots. This is creating widening income/wealth/opportunity gaps that pose existential threats to the United States because these gaps are bringing about damaging domestic and international conflicts and weakening America’s condition.’
[..] Today, however, the system has produced little or no real income growth for most people for decades, according to the Dalio essay on LinkedIn. Prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980, and the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents has fallen to 50% from 90% in 1970. The wealth gap is at its widest point since the late 1930s, with the top 1% owning more than the bottom 90% combined, “which,” Dalio notes, “is the same sort of wealth gap that existed during the 1935-40 period (a period that brought in an era of great internal and external conflicts for most countries).”
Most people in the bottom 60% “are poor,” he writes. About 40% of all Americans would struggle to raise $400 in the event of an emergency, he says, citing a recent Federal Reserve study. The childhood poverty rate stands at 17.5% and has not shown meaningful improvement in decades. That, in turn, leads to poor academic achievement, low productivity and low incomes.
There is a rich literature trying to identify the cause, in particular the work of the Belgian economist, the late, great Ernest Mandel. Crudely, it works like this. Social and economic conditions mature to spark a runaway investment boom in the latest cluster of new technologies. After a period, excess investment and increased competition lower rates of profitability, curbing the boom. At the same time – because this is as much a sociological as an economic process – growth expands the global workforce, both in numbers and geographically. The new, militant workforce launches social struggles to capture some of the wealth created in the boom.
This, in turn, adds to the squeeze on profits. The peak and early down wave are characterised by violent social conflicts, whose outcome determines the length of the contraction. To date each K-wave has seen a crushing of social protest and a halt to wage growth, if not a fall in real incomes for the working class. Thus conditions accumulate for a fresh investment boom, as profitability recovers. The ultimate trigger for the new upcycle is investment in the next bunch of new technologies, which simultaneously provide monopoly profits and a new set of markets.
Where precisely are we in the Kondratiev cycle? There is a dispute about this. Economists convinced by the Kondratiev theory largely agree there was a strong up-phase following the Second World War, lasting till the early 1970s. This was driven by the collapse in European wages imposed earlier by the Nazis and by the universal adoption of Fordist, mass production techniques. This expansion turned into a downswing in the 1970s and early 1980s, as profitability declined and the revived European economies (linked through the early Common Market) eroded American competitiveness.
The dispute concerns what happened next – the era of Reagan, Thatcher, neoliberalism and globalisation, running up to the present. In 1998, the American economic historian Robert Brenner published a hugely influential account of global capitalism which claimed to identify a super downswing running from circa 1970 to the turn of the millennium. Brenner rejected the notion global capitalism had (or was likely) to regain profitability, citing excess capacity rather than working class resistance as the primary driver. He pointed to the sudden stagnation in the Japanese economy, in the 1990s, as a precursor for the West’s future.
The European commission has charged BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen with colluding to limit the introduction of clean emissions technology, in the preliminary findings of an antitrust investigation. The car manufacturers have 10 weeks to respond and could face fines of billions of euros – up to 10% of their global annual turnover – if their explanations are rejected. A similar cartel case the commission took out in 2014 against MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Iveco and DAF ended with €2.93bn (£2.53bn) of penalties being levied. The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality.”
She added: “Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology.” The EU announcement follows raids on the auto manufacturers in July 2017 after allegations in Der Spiegel that they had met in secret working groups in the 1990s to coordinate a response to diesel emissions limits. Between 2006 and 2014, the commission suspects that the “circle of five” carmakers – including VW’s Audi and Porsche divisions – colluded to limit, delay or avoid the introduction of selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) and “Otto” particle filters.
After a three-decade boom, the Australian economy is finally facing a recession. The outlook for the economy is exceptionally bleak this year, as the decline in housing prices is more widespread than thought, according to a new report from CoreLogic. National home prices recorded a month-on-month decline of 0.60% in March, which CoreLogic noted was the smallest rate of monthly decline since October. “While the pace of falls has slowed in March, the scope of the downturn has become more geographically widespread,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless said. All eight capital cities in Australia posted declines, with Sydney recording the most significant price drop of .90% month-on-month.
Quarterly, the value of single-family homes and condos declined 3.9%, followed by Melbourne (3.4%), Sydney (3.2%), Perth (2.9%), and Brisbane (1.1%). Prices in Canberra were unchanged. Sydney recorded the most significant annual decline of 10.9%. Melbourne followed with 9.8%. Australia’s regional housing markets have also deteriorated. Regional areas outside Sydney declined by 3.6% over the past year while regional Queensland saw a 1.6% decline. Regional Western Australia experienced a 9.5% decline over the past year, and for the past five years, values in the region have collapsed by 25.8%
Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell its oil in currencies other than the dollar if Washington passes a bill exposing OPEC members to U.S. antitrust lawsuits, three sources familiar with Saudi energy policy said. They said the option had been discussed internally by senior Saudi energy officials in recent months. Two of the sources said the plan had been discussed with OPEC members and one source briefed on Saudi oil policy said Riyadh had also communicated the threat to senior U.S. energy officials.
The chances of the U.S. bill known as NOPEC coming into force are slim and Saudi Arabia would be unlikely to follow through, but the fact Riyadh is considering such a drastic step is a sign of the kingdom’s annoyance about potential U.S. legal challenges to OPEC. In the unlikely event Riyadh were to ditch the dollar, it would undermine the its status as the world’s main reserve currency, reduce Washington’s clout in global trade and weaken its ability to enforce sanctions on nation states. “The Saudis know they have the dollar as the nuclear option,” one of the sources familiar with the matter said. “The Saudis say: let the Americans pass NOPEC and it would be the U.S. economy that would fall apart,” another source said.
In its Russiagate coverage, The New York Times has repeatedly offered a graphic accusing the President’s retinue of “more than 100 contacts with Russian nationals.” This decision to question the loyalty of people who have had contact with a Russian national -so, for just knowing or meeting a Russian- has been a staple of New York Times coverage. “More than 100 contacts with Russian nationals.” It’s incredible that this can even be an allegation -in our paper of record- there in explainer graphics almost every day, for more than two years now. It smacks of the famous Senator Joseph McCarthy speeches in the 1950s: “I have in my hand a list of 205 [or 57, or 81]…” And yet no one ever seemed to mind.
After all, as former intelligence chief (and liar to Congress) James Clapper has asserted on television, “Russians are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor.” Worse, I may have already been co-opted and penetrated without even knowing it! As Clapper said recently on CNN when asked if Trump could be “a Russian asset,” it is “a possibility, and I would add to that a caveat, whether witting or unwitting.” Unwitting! So you can be an unwitting traitor? Infected with Russian mind-control, like a zombie? Yes. As mainstream media have argued repeatedly and quite explicitly. Consider the stunning set of short films on The New York Times op-ed webpages titled “Operation Infektion: How Russia Perfected the Art of War”.
[..] I was not surprised to see politicians up on their hind legs, panting mindlessly about Russians. But to see journalists at CNN, The New York Times, NPR, MSNBC, competing to be even dumber … hot on the trail of a non-story, recklessly discarding fairness and professionalism … dragging us gleefully down every rabbit hole … applauding the collateral damage to bystanders, as they indulge their collective rage against Donald Trump, their hysterical certainty that he must be a Russian asset … What can I say? It’s been heart-breaking. I know of smart, progressive-leaning journalists who politically oppose Donald Trump, but who feel like strangers in their own newsrooms, afraid to speak out against this mob psychosis. When I meet old colleagues, we have to feel each other out cautiously, until with relief we realize: Thank God, you’re not one of them – not one of the pod people from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” that might point at me and scream.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has definitively put to rest the collusion theory of President Trump’s election. That’s not a little embarrassing for the many journalists, talking heads, celebrities and instant experts who spent more than two years furiously speculating about Moscow “pee-pee” tapes, treasonous rendezvous and the president’s imminent arrest. The president’s haters no doubt wish to memory-hole collusion and move on to the next anti-Trump theory. But not so fast: We want to laurel the punditry “champion” — the one who peddled the most nonsensical nonsense, the wildest inanities, the weirdest theories and unsubstantiated stories. That’s where your brackets come in.
Our contenders are divided into four groups (not unlike NCAA conferences): the print journalists, the cable TV talkers, the Twitterati and the network news reporters and “analysts.” And the brackets are seeded, with the most visible and influential figures contending against the lesser-known. In the Print category, the top seed is the never-Trump honcho Bill Kristol, who in August predicted that “Mueller will find there was collusion between Trump associates and Putin operatives; that Trump knew about it; and that Trump sought to cover it up and obstruct its investigation.” Or not. Pick your brackets — no, not for March Madness. This is Collusion Madness!
“They are literally — the media and the Democrats — have called the president an agent of a foreign government. That is an accusation equal to treason, which is punishable by death in this country.”
President Donald Trump wasn’t the only one taking a victory lap a day after the Justice Department announced that the long-awaited Mueller report found no evidence that the president’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told “Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie on Monday morning that Attorney General William Barr’s four-page letter to Congress summarizing the two-year investigation was a “total exoneration” of the president. What’s more, she called on the media and Democrats to apologize for “wasting” the past two years on treasonous charges.
The exchange between Sanders and Guthrie got heated at times, with the “Today” anchor — who has a law degree and previously covered courts — arguing with Sanders that the Barr letter is not a full exoneration. “Let’s be clear about what this report, what this letter is and what it isn’t,” said Guthrie. “It is a legal exoneration with regards to conspiracy and collusion. As to whether he obstructed justice, the special counsel doesn’t say. … Would you acknowledge that it is incorrect for the president to call this is a total exoneration? “It is complete and total exoneration, and here’s why — because the special counsel couldn’t make a decision one way or another — the way the process works is they then leave that up to the attorney general,” countered Sanders.
She also referred to the two-year, $25 million investigation as something that “never should have happened,” adding that “this should never happen to another president, and we want to make sure that the institution of the president is protected.”
“..a roughly 33-month national ordeal (the first Russigate stories date back to July 2016) in which the public was encouraged, both by officials and the press, to believe Donald Trump was a compromised foreign agent.”
On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress, summarizing the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The most telling section, quoted directly from Mueller’s report, read: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That one sentence should end a roughly 33-month national ordeal (the first Russigate stories date back to July 2016) in which the public was encouraged, both by officials and the press, to believe Donald Trump was a compromised foreign agent. After the 2016 election, the storyline instantly became that Trump was an illegitimate president, a foreign operative who’d cheated his way into office and would therefore need to be removed ahead of schedule.
There were too many stories that dwelled on this theme to count here, but we all saw them. New York asked, Was Trump “meeting his handler” in Helsinki? The Daily Beast asked, “Is he a Russian asset?” (Note: the extravagant use of hack spy-novel language during this period is going to look particularly ridiculous in history books decades from now.) Some outlets didn’t even put their beliefs in the form of a question. “Trump Is Compromised by Russia” read a not-unusual editorial in the New York Times last November. If you tried to protest that this had not been proven, that journalists should be more careful about leveling such serious accusations, the first line of response (if it wasn’t accusing you of being in league with Putin) was usually a version of: Be quiet, you don’t know what Mueller knows.
Mueller knows became the cornerstone belief of nearly all reporters who covered the Russial investigation. Journalists reveled in the idea of being kept out of the loop, thrilled to defer to the impenetrable steward of national secrets, the interview-proof Man of State. He was no blabbermouth Donald Trump, this Mueller! He won’t tell us a thing! “What Robert Mueller knows — and Isn’t Telling Us,” proclaimed Wired in February, going on to list the many areas where Mueller “probably knows far more than he’s willing to say.” Last month’s “What we know we don’t know from Mueller’s investigation,” by the Washington Post, marveled at Mueller’s ability to keep secrets. It made note of former Trump aide George Papadopoulos: “Mueller’s team kept him under wraps for months, with barely a hint of his importance.”
With the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe now known to a significant degree, it seems apologies are in order. However, judging by the recent past, apologies are not likely forthcoming from the responsible parties. In this context, it matters not whether one is a supporter or a critic of President Trump. Whatever his supposed flaws, the rampant accusations and speculation that shrouded Trump’s presidency, even before it began, ultimately have proven unfounded. Just as Trump said all along. Yet, each time Trump said so, some of us in the media lampooned him. We treated any words he spoke in his own defense as if they were automatically to be disbelieved because he had uttered them.
Some even declared his words to be “lies,” although they had no evidence to back up their claims. We in the media allowed unproven charges and false accusations to dominate the news landscape for more than two years, in a way that was wildly unbalanced and disproportionate to the evidence. We did a poor job of tracking down leaks of false information. We failed to reasonably weigh the motives of anonymous sources and those claiming to have secret, special evidence of Trump’s “treason.” As such, we reported a tremendous amount of false information, always to Trump’s detriment.
And when we corrected our mistakes, we often doubled down more than we apologized. We may have been technically wrong on that tiny point, we would acknowledge. But, in the same breath, we would insist that Trump was so obviously guilty of being Russian President Vladimir Putin’s puppet that the technical details hardly mattered. So, a round of apologies seem in order.
“It’s a shame that our country has had to go through this,” a defiant Trump said Sunday. “To be honest, it’s a shame that your president has had to go through this.” Democrats nonetheless demanded the release of the full Mueller report, while suggesting Barr’s summary could not be trusted given his prior criticisms of the special counsel investigation. “The fact that Special Counsel Mueller’s report does not exonerate the president on a charge as serious as obstruction of justice demonstrates how urgent it is that the full report and underlying documentation be made public without any further delay,” the Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“Given Mr Barr’s public record of bias against the special counsel’s inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.” Democrats took particular issue with the claim by Barr and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, that Mueller’s evidence was insufficient to prove Trump had obstructed justice. The special counsel examined several actions by Trump in considering the question of obstruction, including his firing of the former FBI director James Comey, public and private attempts to pressure the former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and role in misleading the public about a meeting between his campaign and a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
In a joint statement, the Democratic chairmen of the House intelligence, judiciary and oversight committees called for the complete release of Mueller’s report and “all underlying documents”. “It is unacceptable that, after Special Counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the president in under 48 hours,” the chairmen said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller found that no one in the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in 2016 – but Democrats are not ready to accept that finding. In interviews since Attorney General William Barr issued his four-page letter on Sunday, Democrats have refused to accept that determination, saying there’s ample evidence of Trump campaign and Russia contacts that may not have risen to the level of criminal conduct. They are demanding the full release of the Mueller report to determine what else the special counsel found, and they say they will continue investigating ties between Trump and Russia.
But that strategy risks political backlash for Democrats if they are viewed as overreaching and probing into an area that has already been exhaustively investigated by a special counsel whose investigation turned up no criminal wrongdoing. “What I accept was there was apparently no criminal conspiracy … with the Russians,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, told CNN. “That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of activity with the Russians that ranges from unsavory to treacherous.” [..] House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, called for House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff’s resignation from the committee on Monday – payback after Schiff and the panel’s other Democrats pushed former Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican, to recuse himself from the panel’s Russia investigation in 2017.
“When you look at the claims that they’ve made, Chairman Schiff said he had more than circumstantial evidence that there was collusion. Whether he was misleading people or he was misled himself, he ought to be held accountable,” Scalise told reporters. “A lot of people, I think, should be angry today that for two years they’ve had people misleading and lying to them, saying there was collusion when there wasn’t.”
“..the collusion that actually occurred between the Hillary campaign, the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, the UK’s MI6 intel agency, and the Obama White House, striving to prevent the election of a TV reality show star, and to disable him afterwards..”
What actually happened with RussiaGate? A cabal of government officials colluded with the Hillary Clinton campaign to interfere in the 2016 election and, failing to achieve their desired outcome, engineered a two-years-plus formal inquisition to deflect attention from their own misconduct and attempt to overthrow the election result. The Cable News characters, quite a few of them lawyers, were litigating the living shit out of the story on Sunday night in their usual spirit of obdurate rank dishonesty. For instance, Jeffrey Toobin, who plays Attorney General on CNN, went off on the infamous 2016 Trump Tower Meeting in which the president’s son, Donald, Jr., met with Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya.
Toobin omitted to mention that Ms. Veselnitskaya was, at that very time, on the payroll of Fusion GPS, Hillary Clinton’s “oppo” research contractor. In other words, Trump Junior was set up. That was characteristic of the collusion that actually occurred between the Hillary campaign, the FBI, the DOJ, the CIA, the NSA, the UK’s MI6 intel agency, and the Obama White House, striving to prevent the election of a TV reality show star, and to disable him afterwards — also of the news media’s role in the whole interminable scam of RussiaGate. Their fury and despair were as vivid the night of March 24, 2019, as on November 8, 2016. And now they will attempt to spark off a sequel.
[..] My favorite college professor and mentor, David Hamilton, once put a curious question to us when we were vexing him for some reason now forgotten: “Why,” he asked, “Did Achilles drag Hector around the city of Troy three times?” We twiddled our cigarettes and pulled our chins. “Because he was just that pissed,” he said.
The high-profile attorney Michael Avenatti was charged with trying to extort more than $20m from the sports company Nike. Avenatti, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels and a prominent critic of Donald Trump, threatened to release damaging information about Nike unless it paid him off, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal authorities in New York. He was also charged with wire and bank fraud in a separate case in Los Angeles, where prosecutors said he embezzled money from a client. Avenatti, a California lawyer who has teased the idea of a presidential bid, rose to national fame as the lawyer for Daniels, the porn star who was paid off to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump. They parted ways this month.
He used his prominence to try to extort millions from Nike, prosecutors alleged. He threatened to publicize allegations of misconduct against Nike unless the company paid a client he represented $1.5m, and paid Avenatti and another lawyer up to $25m to conduct an internal investigation, the criminal complaint says. “A suit and tie doesn’t mask the fact that at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown,” said Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York. Avenatti was arrested in New York on Monday morning and later appeared in court. He did not enter a plea and was released on a $300,000 bond.
Berman said Avenatti, 48, acted as an attorney bringing a case on behalf of a client merely to “provide cover for [his] extortionate demands for a massive payday for himself”, adding: “When lawyers use their law licenses as weapons as a guise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attorneys. They are acting as criminals.”
Theresa May’s Brexit strategy has been left in disarray and her leadership under threat after three of her ministers resigned and MPs dramatically voted to take control of the process from the government. A total of 30 Tory MPs defied the party whip and supported a cross-party amendment which will allow MPs to potentially dictate the business of the House of Commons. The move could pave the way for a “softer” deal that keeps Britain closer to the European Union, as ministers warned of the prospect of a third UK general election in four years.
[..] More than 80 per cent of people think the government has handled Brexit badly, a new survey has found. The NatCen Social Research poll found that just 7 per cent of voters think Theresa May’s team has done well, while 81 per cent said the opposite. The figures are significantly worse for the government those from 2017, when only 41 per cent said Brexit was being managed badly, while 29 per cent thought the government was doing well.
MPs have inflicted a fresh humiliating defeat on Theresa May, voting to seize control of the parliamentary timetable to allow backbenchers to hold a series of votes on alternatives to her Brexit deal. An amendment tabled by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin passed, by 329 votes to 302 on Monday night, as MPs expressed their exasperation at the government’s failure to set out a fresh approach. The prime minister had earlier declined to say whether she would abide by the outcome of a process of “indicative votes”. The government issued a punchy statement after the amendment passed, warning that it “upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future”.
Three ministers resigned from government in order to back the Letwin amendment: the foreign affairs minister, Alistair Burt, the health minister Steve Brine and the business minister Richard Harrington. A total of 29 Tory MPs rebelled to vote for the amendment. Harrington, who has been outspoken in his warnings about the risk of a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks, accused the government of “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country” in his resignation letter. The amendment was drawn up by a cross-party group – led by Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn – and gives MPs a series of votes on the alternatives to May’s deal, such as a softer Brexit or revoking article 50.
Nasa’s plans for an all-female spacewalk have fallen through – at least in part because the agency doesn’t have enough spacesuits that fit the astronauts. Early this month, Nasa announced that Christina Koch and Anne McClain would take part in the first-of-its kind mission on 29 March, walking outside the international space station (ISS) to install new batteries. In the past, missions have been all-male or male-female. But in a press release on Monday, Nasa said its plans had changed, “in part” due to a shortage of outerwear.
McClain had “learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best.” Only one such top can be made by Friday, the agency said, and it will go to Koch. When McClain took part in a spacewalk last week, she became the 13th woman to do so, Nasa says; Koch will be the 14th. McClain is now “tentatively scheduled” to perform her next one on 8 April.
[..] The first woman to perform a spacewalk was the Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, 35 years ago. More than 500 people have been into space, but only 11% have been women, Reuters reported. But Koch and McClain were both part of Nasa’s 2013 class, which was half female. Fitting for spacesuits is a tricky business, according to Space.com, since microgravity makes you taller. McClain tweeted this month that she was 2in taller than when she launched.
Message to Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kemala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard and the rest of the crew: you can stop asking for campaign donations, because you no longer stand a chance in the 2020 elections. Your own party, and the media who support you, made sure of that. Or rather, the only chance you would have is if you guys start another smear campaign against your president, and I wouldn’t recommend that.
I don’t want to start another Lock Her Up sequence, that’s too ugly for my taste. But three parties in this No Collusion disaster must be held accountable: US intelligence, the Democratic party, and the media. You can’t just let it go, too much water under the bridge. No can do. “The Democrats need to move on”, a recent ‘soft line’, is not good enough. They must be held to account.
Bill Barr can investigate the FBI and DOJ, but the obstacles there are obvious: investigating the investigators. The Democratic party would mean going after individuals, but sure, let’s see what Loretta Lynch, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Maxine Waters have to say for themselves and take it from there, before you get to Hillary. The media, though, is something else altogether.
Freedom of the press, and freedom of opinion, is one thing. Conducting a 2-year+ smear campaign against your own president is another. So what does US law say about this? Let’s hear it. Since Trump made Bill Barr the new Attorney General, Barr is instrumental in answering these questions. Is it a smear campaign? Is that acceptable? Is it legal? Asking for a friend.
Not a soul could blame me if I were to gloat because what I’ve said since the 2016 elections has been proven: there is no collusion between ‘the Russians’ and Donald Trump and there never was. But I don’t feel much like gloating because 1) it’s old news and 2) this tale is far from over. The media, and the Democrats, are not going to cave in, because they have nowhere left to ‘cave into’.
The biggest shame, I think, is not that the media will just keep doing what they have, but that a remnant, a residue of all the made-up narratives will remain in their audience’s minds, long after Robert Mueller has said it was all lies all that time. That the public will say: there’s been so much, surely some of it must be true?! The power of repetition.
The same media that has spun the collusion theme all this time will simply continue doing what it’s done, just perhaps without using that term -and not even that is sure. Don’t let’s forget, and I’ve said this 1000 times, that while there is a dose of genuine hatred of their own president involved, and some political issues, most of all it’s about their business model. Trump scandals mean readers and viewers. And money.
Because of that, or at least partly because of it, I would seriously like to ask what the odds are of putting Rachel Maddow behind bars. How many lies can you tell, and how often can you repeat them, about anyone, but certainly about your President, before someone calls you on it? Trump can’t really defend himself, or couldn’t as long as Mueller was busy, but this can’t be.
Does the fact that you work for the media protect you to the extent that you can just say anything? And Maddow of course is just an example, albeit an extreme one, but the same goes for CNN, New York Times et al. What freedoms do you have as a journalist? And at what point are you no longer a journalist at all? Who decides that?
BuzzFeed said Mueller was in possession of evidence that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Mueller himself had to discredit that. The Guardian’s Luke Harding wrote a #1 NYT bestselling book called “Collusion” before writing an article with Dan Collins claiming that Manafort had met with Assange multiple times in London.
Not a word of that was true. But Harding And Collins and their editor still work at the Guardian, and no apologies or corrections were ever issued. And at some point you have no choice but to ask: where does it stop? Where do we draw the line? Can anyone who labels themselves a journalist and/or anyone employed by MSM, say anything they want? From sources:
The nonpartisan Tyndall Report pegged the total amount of time devoted to the story on the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC last year at 332 minutes, making it the second-most covered story after the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
According to a count by the Republican National Committee released Sunday, The [Washington] Post, The New York Times, CNN.com and MSNBC.com have written a combined 8,507 articles [since 2017] mentioning the special counsel’s investigation [into nonexistent collusion], some 13 articles a day. The cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, have added hundreds of hours of discussion about the topic, too.
And they wrote many more in 2016 as well. They were on a mission. Tyler Durden adds:
Mueller’s 40 FBI agents issued over 2,800 subpoenas, executed “nearly 500 search warrants,” and “obtained over 230 orders for communication records. They also issued 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
All that time, and all those resources, dedicated to a figment of the imagination, invented out of this air to derail a presidential election and a presidency. Where do we think these people see their country go? I must admit I’m not sure about that one. But I see Bernie Sanders on the anti-Trump wagon, and AOC and Tulsi trying to get on, and I think: please don’t do that, it doesn’t go anywhere.
I’ve called for a second special counsel many times, and I can’t imagine there won’t be one, and as much as I think it’s desperately needed, it’s obvious at the same time that it can only divide the nation further.
There was a reason Trump was elected: people had gotten sick of what was there before, of what Republicans and Democrats had to offer. And there is absolutely nobody in either party who addresses that issue. In other words, there’s still nobody who is listening to those people. So they tune into Rachel Maddow and her kind of ‘reporting’.
Looks like Bill Barr will be badly needed. And that to restore the credibility of US intelligence, he will need to clean up the FBI and DOJ and get rid of all those who’ve taken part in the collusion debacle. A formidable task. I’d suggest he start with Maddow et al and take it from there. Find out who feeds the media their fantasy stories.
Oh, and now that collusion’s off the table, free Julian Assange. Let Robert Mueller show he’s not as much of a coward as he looks until now. To that end, let him swallow the Guccifer 2.0 nonsense as well. That Rachel Maddow makes things up from scratch, doesn’t mean Special Counsels should do that too. Mueller knows exactly what this is about.
A friend (not exactly a Trump fan) mailed me last night saying this was never a witch hunt. And I’m thinking: maybe that depends on how you define it. Here’s one definition: “an unforgiving, evidence-scant campaign against a group of people with unpopular views.” Not too far off, is it?
Time for spring cleaning, Bill Barr.
regardless of where you stand on the Mueller report/DOJ letter, this is a pretty cringe-inducing video that indicts the media coverage over the last two years.. pic.twitter.com/KUqhpkCp0E
If you're just going to let stuff like this go – unexamined, unacknowledged, and unaccounted for – don't expect anyone to be remotely sympathetic to the fact that public trust in big media is nonexistent and politicians benefit by making journalists their enemies: pic.twitter.com/NRXP8827MD
France has drafted in extra security forces including army troops to try to prevent any repeat of violence during gilets jaunes protests in Paris or other cities this weekend. Police, gendarmes and soldiers will be deployed in a show of force in the capital and in the southern city of Nice, where the president, Emmanuel Macron, will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for a state visit on Sunday. Despite a ban on protests in parts of Nice, yellow vest organisers have called for a demonstration there on Saturday, the 19th day of action. Protests are also expected in other French cities. Critics see the deployment of troops from Operation Sentinelle, which was established after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, as provocative.
Macron’s administration views the potential escalation of civil unrest as a serious challenge to its authority and is determined to regain the upper hand after it was accused of being unprepared for last week’s riots. Last weekend protests in Paris were hijacked by rioters and looters who destroyed luxury shops, newspaper kiosks and one of the country’s most exclusive restaurants on the Champs Élysées. The Paris police prefect was sacked after his officers were accused of failing to stop the unrest. The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, spoke to the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, and the local prefect, Georges-François Leclerc, on Thursday to reassure them that security forces would be deployed to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s clashes and destruction.
[..] Officials say soldiers will be used this weekend to protect key buildings, freeing up police and gendarmes to control crowds. Bruno Leray, the Paris military chief, told French radio they could “go so far as to open fire …if their life is threatened or the life of those people they are defending”. The hard-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said Leray’s admission was “grave” and could “feed a fatal escalation” of violence. A number of gilets jaunes have been injured by police firing rubber bullets. “Maintaining order is not a task to be given to the army. The army’s mission is to defend the nation against its enemies, and in no way can demonstrators be considered internal enemies,” Mélenchon wrote in a letter to the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, on Friday.
Robert Mueller’s latest service to America is all but complete. But the reverberations from his yet-to-be-revealed report could amount to inestimable political and constitutional consequences. The conclusion of the special counsel’s investigation was an important landmark in itself, at a moment in America’s modern history when governing institutions are under intense strain. It demonstrated that so far at least, a credible legal examination is possible into the most explosive of charges against an unchained President, without interference and despite the bitter polarization of the times. The question now is whether everyone accepts the result.
The nation could learn within days whether Mueller answered key inquiries: Did Trump cooperate with a hostile foreign power to win the 2016 election? Did he use that platform to seek to enrich himself with multi-billion dollar business deals in Russia? Did the President obstruct justice, including by firing FBI Director James Comey, in an effort to cover it all up? And is there any evidence to suggest why Trump often appears to be obedient to Russian President Vladimir Putin, following fears felt deep within the FBI that the US President was compromised? And can he explain the multiple suspicions contacts between Trump’s associates and Russians — both before and after the election — and the lies they all told about those relationships?
Trump’s team is already celebrating, claiming it is already clear that the President has already been vindicated since Mueller did not indict anyone for cooperating with Russian election meddling. The lack of charges against Trump’s son, Donald Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who were involved in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, especially disappointed his critics. Their escape proved the shrewdness of Trump’s consistent messaging that the only question that mattered in an investigation that held Washington spellbound for two years was whether there was collusion. “The fat lady has sung,” one Trump aide told CNN’s Jim Acosta.
if you’re going to accuse a sitting president of being a Russian intelligence asset, you kind of need to be able to prove it, or (a) you defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, (b) you destroy your own credibility, and (c) you present that sitting president with a powerful weapon he can use to bury you. This is not exactly rocket science. As any seasoned badass will tell you, when you’re resolving a conflict with another seasoned badass, you don’t take out a gun unless you’re going to use it. Taking a gun out, waving it around, and not shooting the other badass with it, is generally not a winning strategy. What often happens, if you’re dumb enough to do that, is that the other badass will take your gun from you and either shoot you or beat you senseless with it.
This is what Trump is about to do with Russiagate. When the Mueller report fails to present any evidence that he “colluded” with Russia to steal the election, Trump is going to reach over, grab that report, roll it up tightly into a makeshift cudgel, and then beat the snot out of his opponents with it. He is going to explain to the American people that the Democrats, the corporate media, Hollywood, the liberal intelligentsia, and elements of the intelligence agencies conspired to try to force him out of office with an unprecedented propaganda campaign and a groundless special investigation. He is going to explain to the American people that Russiagate, from start to finish, was, in his words, a ridiculous “witch hunt,” a childish story based on nothing. Then he’s going to tell them a different story.
Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation.
The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or delineation decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.
Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has launched a fundraiser to “facilitate the full publication” of the long-awaited Russiagate report, as many wonder: why pay for a nothingburger that’s poised to be released to the public anyway? While some wondered if the WikiLeaks’ twitter account was ‘hacked’ by the Democrats, many wondered why the whistleblowers’ website would seek to raise so much money to publish ‘literally nothing.’ Most netizens, however, seemed puzzled by the initiative, with reactions ranging from accusations of trying to ‘bribe’ Robert Mueller to the idea that WikiLeaks is trying to get hold of the report to release a ‘redacted’ version of it.
ANNOUNCE: @WikiLeaks launches $1m goal for the full publication of the 'Mueller report'. All contributions to over the next seven days (from now until Friday 29 March 23:59 GMT) will be exclusively used to facilitate the full publication of the report. https://t.co/MsNZhrTzTLpic.twitter.com/buyvw1Yvs1
Pressure on Theresa May has reached new heights as ministers backed attempts to let parliament take control of the next stage of the Brexit process and MPs openly speculated that her time in office could end within weeks. As a beleaguered May returned from Brussels, MPs suggested her deal could lose by an even higher margin, with several saying the timing now required the prime minister to “fall on her sword”. May wrote to Tory MPs on Friday in an attempt to address some of the criticism and regain control over the process. In her letter, she even hinted she may not bring her deal back to parliament for the third time without “sufficient support” and apologised for the tone of her statement on Wednesday night where she blamed MPs for the Brexit impasse.
MPs had earlier suggested that it could be pointless for the prime minister to attempt to pass her deal next week, after a defiant statement by the Democratic Unionist party where they rejected the current state of negotiations. In her letter, May said the decision of the EU council meant she would bring back her deal next week “if it appears there is sufficient support and the Speaker permits it”. The prime minister said a number of colleagues had raised concerns about her speech in Downing Street on Wednesday. “You have a difficult job to do and it was not my intention to make it any more difficult,” she wrote, offering to hold more meetings with MPs next week. May will face further pressure from hundreds of thousands of members of the public expected to join the Put it to the People march in London on Saturday to demand a second referendum, after millions signed a petition to revoke article 50.
EU leaders cannot say explicitly that they no longer want to deal with the current prime minister. Urging regime change is beyond the pale of normal diplomacy among democratic states. But there is no effort to conceal the frustration in May or the evacuation of confidence in her as a negotiating partner. The one thing everyone in Brussels, Berlin and Paris had most wanted to avoid from an article 50 extension was giving May a licence to carry on behaving as she has done for what feels like an eternity. They could no longer tolerate the hollow shell of a prime minister shuttling back and forth between Tory hardliners demanding fantasy Brexits and Brussels negotiators who trade in realities.
There is a difference between patience with the prime minister and readiness to help her country navigate through its current crisis. There are still stores of goodwill available for Britain in Brussels, but they cannot be unlocked by May. The bankruptcy of May’s overseas enterprise has been coming since the day she set up shop in No 10. The squandering of credibility started almost at once, with the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary in 2016. Only someone with a tin ear for European sensibilities would have given the top diplomat job to a man known on the continent as a rogue peddler of anti-Brussels propaganda. Then there was the early negotiating period, during which EU leaders thought May’s robotic, inscrutable manner concealed a deep, strategic intelligence.
They came to realise that there was no mask. The inanity – the reciting of “Brexit means Brexit” even in private meetings – was not the cover story for a secret plan. It was the plan. The point of no return was the summit in Salzburg last September. May was invited to make the case for what was left of her “Chequers plan” to European heads of government. It was late. They were tired. There were other difficult matters to attend to. And instead of speaking candidly, persuasively, passionately or even just coherently, the British prime minister read mechanically from a text that was, in substance, no different from an op-ed article already published under her name in a German newspaper that morning. It was embarrassing and insulting.
Many European diplomats say that was the moment when Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and others realised they were dealing with someone out of her depth, unable to perform at the level required for the job that needed doing.
The extent and range of the impact of a no-deal Brexit is revealed in a confidential Cabinet Office document that warns of a “critical three-month phase” after leaving the EU during which the whole planning operation could be overwhelmed. The classified document, seen by the Guardian, sets out the command and control structures in Whitehall for coping with a no-deal departure and says government departments will have to firefight most problems for themselves – or risk a collapse of “Operation Yellowhammer”. “The … structure will quickly fall if too many decisions are unnecessarily escalated to the top levels that could have reasonably been dealt with internally …” the document says. It also concedes there are “likely to be unforeseen issues and impacts” of a no-deal Brexit that Operation Yellowhammer has been unable to predict.
The Cabinet Office has taken the lead in preparations for no deal and is desperately war-gaming scenarios in the event the UK leaves without a coherent plan. The document includes a flow-chart of a routine no-deal day in Whitehall – which starts at 7am with “situation reports” from across the UK being sent to ministers and senior officials, and continues with non-stop assessments and meetings until 5.30am the following day. This high tempo is likely to be necessary for months, the document says. One source with knowledge of Operation Yellowhammer made clear that while planning had stepped up, the overall picture remained chaotic and “rudderless”.
A petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked and Brexit cancelled has attracted more than three million signatures. The milestone, hit by midday on Friday, was reached after more than two million people signed up in less than 24 hours. It has since become the parliament website’s fastest growing petition despite the service crashing several times on Thursday, apparently unable to cope with demand as people voiced their discontent for Theresa May’s plans for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Signatures continued to be added even after the threat of a no-deal exit on 29 March was removed when EU leaders agreed Brexit could be delayed. At one point nearly 2,000 people were signing up every minute.
Analysis by software firm Tableau of the 16,000 petitions running on the government website showed the revoke Article 50 petition had more than three times as many signatures as all the pro-Brexit petitions combined. After the number of signatures passed one million, the petitions committee, a cross-party group of MPs appointed to examine petitions to parliament, said the rate of signing was the highest its website had ever had to deal with. Organiser Margaret Anne Georgiadou wrote: “The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’. “We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now for remaining in the EU. A People’s Vote may not happen – so vote now.”
It’s not hard to see how this fiasco developed and blossomed. In the 1960s, when I was in college, Marxism offered a neat, pre-engineered template for opposing the odious Establishment that blundered into the Vietnam War. Students then at least had skin in the game: the threat of getting drafted into the army and shipped over to die in the jungle for a senseless conflict. In fact, many young men unsuited for college took refuge there to evade the military. Then, with a bull market in Boomer Generation PhDs, the faculties were soon filled with the former Sixties radicals.
Many were Boomer women, who set out to explain and correct the evolving relations of men and women in the office workplace of the day. By then the war was over. The sick economy of the 1970s put an end to the ability of men to support a family and more women were forced to enter the office environment. Meanwhile radical progressivism needed an ever-fresh supply of new aggrieved parties to justify its agitation against the old Marxist bugbears of bourgeois values and structural oppression — and incidentally fuel academic careers. Hence, the multiplication of victims into handy intersectional categories.
By the 1980s, it also became evident that 60s civil rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws had not solved the quandaries of race in America, and that disappointment refreshed the progressive crusade to heal the world of injustice and inequality. Every other effort to produce equal outcomes for different categories of people had also proved disappointing, so now progressives resort to plain coercion to force equal outcomes at all costs, and nowhere is that behavior more overt than on campus the past decade.
The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.
The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.
Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.
Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?
After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.
Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.
China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.
[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.
The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.
The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.
Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”
Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.
It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.
Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.
Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.
Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.
The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.
“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”
After two years of peddling collusion & venerating Mueller's probe, Nadler now says that if Mueller's probe doesn't find collusion, "we can agree to disagree," and that "this investigation goes far beyond collusion." This isn't moving the goalposts, it's moving the arena: https://t.co/XjHvKPB8jg
Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.
In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.
The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”
[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.
US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.
At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”
[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.
“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.
[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.
I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.
The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.
“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”
• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.
Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.
In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.
She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”
Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.
Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.
At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )
Perhaps against better judgment, I just can’t keep silent about the Michael Cohen’s in da House show performed on February 27. I was watching it and increasingly fearing for the future of America. We had all been able to read his prepared statement before he opened the party with it, and therefore we all knew there was nothing there. So why did this thing take place, and why were all the cameras and reporters there? Do we live in split realities these days?
Both before and after the gruelling -for the viewer- session, words like ‘explosive’ and bombshell’ were all over, so I thought I’d watch, since I might have missed something, but no, there was nothing, there wasn’t even a there there. Apparently, US House members are by now immune to being revealed as nutcases frantically phishing for evidence of accusations they formerly made but could never prove.
A phishing expedition with a willing whale in the center who sort of volunteered to be harpooned, and still came up with absolutely nothing but blubber. And then like 4 hours of that. There’s never been a more convincing picture of what US politics and media have become. But they’re all entirely impervious to it. They’re discussing nothing for hours on end with millions watching, and they see it as normal.
Now, I’ve been following the decay of the American press ever since Trump entered politics stage right, and I’ve written a hundred thousand words about it, but it really hit home during the Cohen session. Tellingly, the Republican House members were exclusively focusing on Cohen credibility, since he had been caught lying to Congress before, and the Supreme Court just days ago disbarred him.
But this was not about the man’s credibility, and sure, I felt sorry for him too, it was about the fact that he had nothing at all to say, but Republicans had nothing on that. They instead joined the Dems in questioning him about nothing, pretending it was big and explosive and stuff. If anything has ever resembled the Emperor’s new clothes, it was that charade there yesterday.
If you insist, we can walk through a few of the topics. A nice example that was not in the prepared statement was that Cohen claimed he had never wanted a White House job, but even the CNN pundits were saying he had wanted one for a long time, and was very insulted when he didn’t get it. Poof! went the last shred of his credibility. Well, not for the House members, they have shorter memories even than CNN talking heads.
Second, the issue of a Trump Tower in Moscow, about which Cohen allegedly lied earlier on, in that the plans were shelved later than he had claimed. But the only thing that really interests the House, because even they understand that wanting to build a hotel in the city is not some criminal thing, is Russiagate, invented out of thin air but still popular stateside.
The one thing related to this that collusion ‘experts’ emphasize time and again, and it came up again in the Cohen thing, is that Trump supposedly planned to gift a penthouse apartment in a potential Trump hotel on Red Square to Vladimir Putin. Conveniently, not a single American appears to have wondered whether Putin would be interested in such a gift.
And I can assure you he wouldn’t. Putin can get -just about- any piece of real estate he wants on Red Square, besides he already has the Kremlin, and he can get anything built there which he might desire. Accepting a free dwelling from a US builder makes no sense. Why should he? Still, this is one of the main items Russiagaters keep coming up with. It makes no sense, and that’s fitting, because neither do they.
Second, pornstar pay-offs. Male politicians worldwide and through the ages have had affairs, and in modern times (re: JFK) there’s been an understanding that the media leave these things alone. On the one hand, it’s proof of virility, something voters like in their candidates, and on the other it shows infidelity, something they don’t. A battle no-one can win, hence the understanding.
In France, this all plays out a bit more openly, though never in the open, but in the US you can break the pact if you want. And since the initial story was that campaign funds had been used to pay Stormy Daniels, there was a potential criminal angle. But we now know that that angle was fake, so no there there either. Trump paid so it (true or not) didn’t become a big campaign story, and that he did so just before an election is irrelevant, because the whole topic is irrelevant. Unless you want to exhume JFK.
Third and what pisses me off more than anything, is that Cohen both volunteered, and was coaxed into, talking about Roger Stone’s alleged contacts with Julian Assange. Cohen talked about a conversation between Stone and Trump on July 18-19 2016, in which Stone allegedly said he had talked to Assange who told him WikiLeaks was going to release a big batch of Hillary-related mails.
The DNC convention was July 25-28, the WikiLeaks release July 22. Looks like a slam-dunk collusion story, right? Except that Assange had said 5 weeks earlier, on June 12 2016, that such a batch would be released. So even if Stone had talked to him, there was no news there. Moreover, both Assange and WikiLeaks have repeatedly denied the conversation ever took place. And of course Assange can’t defend himself against anything anyone says anymore.
And we can keep going: the assertion that the DNC mails were hacked has been refuted many times, and if they were stolen it was by someone inside the DNC. No story, no collusion, no there there. Only hour after tedious hour of Michael Cohen House testimony about nothing at all.
It felt a lot like a new low point in US political history, but you need to be careful with such classifications these days, since competition’s stiff and still picking up. I liked the following lines from an article in the Guardian this morning to appropriately describe the goings-on:
“Trump’s former fixer cautioned that he could not prove the “collusion” with Moscow that the president vehemently denies. Still there was, Cohen said, “something odd” about the affectionate back-and-forth Trump had with Vladimir Putin in public remarks over the years.
Here’s the best thing Cohen could do in the entire time wasted on the topic:
“There are just so many dots that seem to lead in the same direction,” he said.”
How does that not make you want to scream? No collusion, only “something odd”, and “so many dots”. A thorough analysis out of the mouth of an at least questionable character who worked closely with Trump for a decade. That’s all the US House of Representatives had to show for the show it put on. And that’s a really big problem, but there’s no-one in sight to address, let alone rectify, it.
There are a thousand things wrong with Donald Trump, but even though that would not necessarily disqualify him for the presidency, the Democrats and the mainstream press have opted to go all-in on the Russia collusion theme, which even two years and change of Mueller hasn’t been able to prove.
Whether this will be the winning ticket for the Democrats in a next election is very doubtful, and what the press hope to get other than a few more readers and viewers addicted to scandals is anyone’s guess. But more importantly: why do they do it? Why focus on all the made-up stories instead of going out and finding the real ones?
Even if the Cohen show not constitute a new low, it was certainly scraping the gutter of American political reality, and someone better do something, or entirely new and thus far unimaginable lows will be attained. Not a single national political system can survive on entirely trumped-up accusations for long, let alone that of the globe’s most powerful nation. Does anyone ever wonder what the Dems will do if Trump wins again in 2020? Where can they flee to?
I’ll leave you with a few Twitter voices who also see no there there. Note: the first one is dated July 7 2016, some two weeks before Stone -unverifiably- said he talked to Assange (who always denied it, but it wouldn’t matter even if he had) :
Cohen said the purported conversation between Trump and Stone took place on July 18 or 19. Here's WikiLeaks promoting the upcoming release of Hillary-related emails on its *public Twitter account* on July 7! Idea that Stone ever had special foreknowledge is totally unsupported pic.twitter.com/FBZ1W7eA3O
STATEMENT on Michael Cohen testimony to Congress: WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone. WikiLeaks publicly teased its pending publications on Hillary Clinton and published > 30k of her emails on 16 March 2016. https://t.co/XcH75u3kbu
The DNC was July 25-28, 2016. Assange announced the first of many times an upcoming leak on June 12, 2016. Therefore Cohen testifying to hearing about it in a meeting in a July, “days” before the DNC (how many days?), doesn’t speak to “advance” knowledge in any real sense. https://t.co/H1VU3FaMXi
The folly of our times. The Fed has completely destroyed America’s market system, and thus its economy, and they are treated as wise men. There are no markets left, there are no pensions left, there’s only the Fed.
The Federal Reserve’s promise in January to be “patient” about further interest rate hikes, putting a three-year-old process of policy tightening on hold, calmed markets after weeks of turmoil that wiped out trillions of dollars of household wealth. But interviews with more than half a dozen policymakers and others close to the process suggest it also marked a more fundamental shift that could define Chairman Jerome Powell’s tenure as the point where the Fed first fully embraced a world of stubbornly weak inflation, perennially slower growth and permanently lower interest rates. Along with Powell’s public comments, Fed minutes, and other documents, the picture emerges of a central bank edging towards a period of potentially difficult change as it reviews how to do business in light of that new reality.
[..] Concern that years of solid economic growth and falling unemployment would inevitably rekindle inflation or threaten financial stability have been a staple of Fed debates, but had largely disappeared by the Fed’s Dec. 18-19 meeting, according to a review of Fed meeting minutes and officials’ public statements. It was a conclusion hiding in plain sight. After a year when the Trump administration pumped around $1.5 trillion of tax cuts and public spending into a full employment economy, the Fed in 2018 would miss its 2 percent inflation target yet again.
“I hate to say we were right,” Dallas Federal Reserve president Robert Kaplan told reporters on Jan. 15 in Dallas. “But we have been warning for quite some time that…the structure of the economy has changed dramatically.” Technological innovation, globalization, and the Fed’s commitment to its inflation target all held down prices, and “those forces are powerful and they are accelerating,” he said.
[..] thus far the market has bounded higher after shaking off a withering decline toward the end of 2018 that culminated in the worst Christmas Eve drop on record. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 19.4% since that time, breaking above a psychologically significant at 26,000 level on Friday, while the S&P 500 has advanced 19.5%, the Nasdaq Composite has risen 22.4% and the small-capitalization focused Russell 2000 index has returned more than 25%, according to FactSet data. Much of that gain has been underpinned by a Fed that has signaled that it is likely to slow a reduction of its $4 trillion balance sheet as soon as this year and a willingness to wait before increasing borrowing costs further. Both of those plans had been cited as a source of friction for markets.
However, Stockman has said a yawning deficit and an economic expansion in the U.S. that is making history for its length are signs that a reckoning my be at hand. He says easy-money days cannot last and has ramifications for all, arguing that the Fed must normalize its policy, at some point: “My point is, it’s finally catching up with us. We’ve gotten by with this for 30 years ‘cause the Fed has been monetizing the debt — buying bonds hand over fist. When Greenspan arrived, the balance sheet of the Fed was $200 billion; at the peak it was $4.5 trillion,” he told Cavuto, referring to former Fed boss Alan Greenspan. “We need to wake up and smell the roses here. We’re in year 10 of the longest business expansion in history.
We’re increasing the deficit at the very wrong time. They say it’s $900 billion this year it’ll be $1.2 trillion of borrowing at the same time that the Fed is beginning to shrink its balance sheet, which means they’ll be dumping bonds into the market,” he said.
It has been one week since the US Treasury revealed that the national debt had topped $22 trillion (only 11 months after it had topped the $21 trillion threshold). And as the US budget deficit shows no signs of shrinking thanks to the Trump tax cuts and the death of the Obama-era budget sequester that has allowed for an expansion of federal spending (with more presumably on the way once the Trump infrastructure plan comes into focus), S&P warned on Thursday that worldwide sovereign debt could reach $50 trillion this year. According to Reuters, S&P predicted that governments will borrow some $7.78 trillion this year, up 3.2% since 2018 (the US will constitute more than $1 trillion of that all by itself). That’s a 6% increase in the total debt pile from the year before.
Most of this borrowing will be rolling over long-term debt. “Some 70 percent, or $5.5 trillion, of sovereigns’ gross borrowing will be to refinance maturing long-term debt, resulting in an estimated net borrowing requirement of about $2.3 trillion, or 2.6 percent of the GDP of rated sovereigns,” said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Karen Vartapetov. Governments, like corporations and individuals, took advantage of low interest rates around the world to step up borrowing in the wake of the financial crisis. Now, with borrowing costs expected to rise, these long-term burdens will become more burdensome to service. And with central banks slowly beginning to allow their inflated balance sheets to run off…
Special counsel Robert Mueller will not deliver his report to the Justice Department on Friday or next week, a Justice Department official told The Hill. The news comes amid broad speculation that Mueller’s probe into Russia’s electoral interference is wrapping up, with several news outlets reporting Wednesday that newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr was preparing to receive Mueller’s final report as soon as next week. The highly anticipated report is expected to cap off a sprawling, nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, a probe that has ensnared multiple former Trump campaign officials and associates.
Next week is already slated to be a busy week in Washington, with former longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen appearing for testimony on Capitol Hill and several other major hearings and votes set to take place. President Trump is also slated to travel to Vietnam next week for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. It remains unclear when Mueller will ultimately wrap up and submit his final documentation, though Friday’s news indicates the end of the investigation is at least a week away.
Mueller has been investigating Russian interference and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow since May 2017, weathering constant attacks from Trump, who views the investigation as a “witch hunt” and has long denied allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin. In the course of his investigation, Mueller has unveiled charges against more than two dozen Russians for hacking Democratic emails and committing fraud in an elaborate plot to use social media to meddle in the election. The special counsel has also charged six Trump associates with making false statements, illegal foreign lobbying, financial violations and other crimes. However, none of the charges have alleged a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russians to interfere in the election.
“No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who?”
There’s been no more reliable regurgitator of fantastical Trump-Russia collusion theories than Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. So when the House Intelligence Committee chairman sits down to describe a “new phase” of the Trump investigation, pay attention. These are the fever swamps into which we will descend after Robert Mueller’s probe. The collusionists need a “new phase” as signs grow that the special counsel won’t help realize their reveries of a Donald Trump takedown. They had said Mr. Mueller would provide all the answers. Now that it seems they won’t like his answers, Democrats and media insist that any report will likely prove “anticlimactic” and “inconclusive.” “This is merely the end of Chapter 1,” said Renato Mariotti, a CNN legal “analyst.”
Mr. Schiff turned this week to a dependable scribe—the Washington Post’s David Ignatius—to lay out the next chapter of the penny dreadful. Mr. Ignatius was the original conduit for the leak about former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador, and the far-fetched claims that Mr. Flynn had violated the Logan Act of 1799. Mr. Schiff has now dictated to Mr. Ignatius a whole new collusion theory. Forget Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos—whoever. The real Trump-Russia canoodling rests in “Trump’s finances.” The future president was “doing business with Russia” and “seeking Kremlin help.”
So, no apologies. No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who? What’s mind-boggling is that reporters would continue to take Mr. Schiff seriously, given his extraordinary record of incorrect and misleading pronouncements. This is the man who, on March 22, 2017, helped launch full-blown hysteria when he said on “Meet the Press” that his committee already had the goods on Trump-Russia collusion. “I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Mr. Schiff declared then. Almost two years later, he’s provided no such evidence and stopped making the claim..
It was yet another bombshell report for a president already ensnared in multiple investigations against his campaign, administration and family members. This time it had to do with hush money paid to women to silence them from speaking about alleged affairs they had with Donald Trump. According to a New York Times report published this week, Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, his controversial acting attorney general, if he could install a loyalist at the helm of the investigation into the hush money.
Although Whitaker declined Trump’s request, the story has raised fresh questions over whether the president was seeking to obstruct justice and how the reported move fits into a broad pattern of Trump attempting to interfere with an investigation concerning himself. Since taking office, Trump’s fixation on the federal inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election – and potential collusion between his campaign and Moscow – has spurred a series of actions that could now imperil his presidency and prospects of a second term.
From high-level firings to public misstatements, Trump’s repeated steps to undermine the investigations that have clouded his two years in office paint a picture of a president who is his own worst enemy, legal experts say. “It is quite clear from all the evidence that the president has had the intent to obstruct this investigation,” said Andy Wright, a former associate counsel to Barack Obama and the founding editor of the legal blog Just Security. “It’s been in plain sight.” “It’s a fundamental abuse of power for the president to be trying to shut down an investigation in which he has a personal stake – both as a potential target himself and his political allies and family members,” he added.
Meanwhile, their antics may be eclipsed by the now inevitable inquiry around the misdeeds carried out by public officials in Act I of the show: the Russia Collusion Ruse. Based just on the current Andy McCabe book tour, there will be an awful lot to get to, and it is liable to be far more compelling than the nonsense conjured up by the Three Stooges. Mr. McCabe, in his quest to hand off the hot potato of culpability to his former colleagues, and to sell enough books to pay his lawyers’ retainers, has neatly laid out the case for his orchestrating a coup d’etat within the FBI. It’s an ugly story, and it’s all out there now, like so much spaghetti hurled against the wall, and it won’t be ignored.
There are many other spaghetti wads already plastered on that wall ranging from Hillary Clinton’s Fusion GPS hijinks, to Loretta Lynch’s written assurances to the Clinton campaign that the email server matter would be dropped, to the rather complete failure of the FISA process, and much much more that needs to be ventilated in a court of law. I suspect that Barack Obama and his White House confidents will enter the picture, too, sooner later, and to the great dismay of his partisans who do not want to see his legacy tarnished. Whatever your view of all these dark events, it would be pretty awful for the country to have to see him in a witness chair, but it may be unavoidable. Ditto Hillary, who is liable to go all Captain Queeg-y when she finally has to answer for her campaign’s turpitudes.
Cabinet ministers will make it clear they believe Theresa May should step down after the local elections in May and allow a new leader to deliver the next phase of the Brexit negotiations, the Guardian understands.Senior figures in government have suggested they want the prime minister to leave shortly after the first phase of the Brexit negotiations finishes – or risk being defeated in a vote of no confidence at the end of the year. May wants to stay in place for long enough after Brexit to secure a political legacy beyond the fraught negotiations. But some ministers believe she should announce the timeline for her departure “on a high” after the local election results, paving the way for a Conservative leadership contest over the summer.
Brexiters in the cabinet are keen to see a new leader take over for the next stage of the negotiations with the EU, which May has already pledged will involve more active involvement for politicians rather than advisers. The hardening mood among cabinet ministers on the timeline for her departure will place further pressure on May before a critical week of Brexit talks and votes amid a febrile climate in Westminster. On Thursday the Guardian revealed that remainer ministers emboldened by the departure of three MPs to the Independent Group (TIG) were threatening to rebel against her leadership to prevent a no-deal outcome – daring her to sack them.
And in a fresh blow to May, three cabinet ministers publicly say they would back moves to delay Brexit if she fails to get her deal through parliament. In a joint newspaper article, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, the justice minister, and the business secretary, Greg Clark, say they want to ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal on 29 March. And they insist they are prepared to defy the prime minister and join those MPs pushing for an extension to article 50 if there is no significant progress next week.
Writing for the Daily Mail on Saturday, they argue that a no-deal Brexit would wreck the country’s economy and put its security at risk. “If there is no breakthrough in the coming week, the balance of opinion in parliament is clear – that it would be better to seek to extend article 50 and delay our date of departure rather than crash out of the European Union on 29 March,” they write. “It is time that many of our Conservative parliamentary colleagues in the ERG recognised that parliament will stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit on 29 March. If that happens, they will have no one to blame but themselves for delaying Brexit.”
The government is expected next week to spell out its plan to mitigate a potential £9bn food-price shock from a no-deal Brexit, as analysts predict the cost of staples such as beef, cheddar cheese and tomatoes could soar. With just over a month until the Brexit deadline, the Department for International Trade is expected on Monday to publish a list of new import taxes, or tariffs, that will apply to 5200 products, including food and clothing, should the UK crash out of the EU without a deal. The relationship with the EU is key to the price of food because nearly one third of the food eaten in the UK comes from the bloc. At this time of year the situation is more acute because, with UK produce out of season, 90% of lettuces, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruit is sourced from, or via, the EU.
“Food and drink tariff rates will be higher than those in any other supply chain,” says Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy firm Retail Economics. “All stages within the food supply chain will experience increased costs, with retailers hit disproportionately as processed goods attract higher duties than raw materials and semi-processed goods.” In 2017 the UK bought about £34bn of groceries from the EU, which arrived on supermarket shelves and at factory gates without being hit by customs duties or other trade costs. But if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both will fall back on the World Trade Organisation’s “most favoured nation” tariffs, which means they must pay import duties on each other’s trade. On that basis the UK’s 2017 EU food imports would come with a hefty £9.3bn tariff bill on top, according to Retail Economics’s analysis.
Armed with an impassioned letter and memorized talking points, the children belonging to three Bay Area environmentalist groups (Sunrise Bay Area, Youth Versus the Apocalypse, and Earth Guardians San Francisco) implored Feinstein to support the Green New Deal. The Senator responded: “Ok, I’ll tell you what. We have our own Green New Deal.” The video skips forward to the children warning Feinstein that “some scientists have said that we have 12 years to turn this around” – referring to a conclusion by a recent UN-backed report that man-made climate change will become irreversible if carbon emissions are not significantly reduced over the next 12 years (which Ocasio-Cortez turned into “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change”).
“It’s not gonna get turned around in 10 years,” responded Feinstein – drawing a harsh rebuke from an angry chaperone. “Senator if this doesn’t get turned around in 10 years you’re looking at the faces of the people who are going to be living with these consequences,” said the adult – as one of the children chimed in “the government is supposed to be for the people and by the people and for all the people!” Feinstein was not amused. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say “it has to be my way or the highway.” “I don’t respond to that,” shot back Feinstein. “I’ve gotten elected. I just ran. I was elected by almost a million vote plurality. And, I know what I’m doing. So, you know, maybe people should listen a little bit. -Dianne Feinstein
One kid shot back “I hear what you’re saying but we’re the people who voted you. You’re supposed to listen to us, that’s your job.” “How old are you?” challenged Feinstein. “I’m 16. I can’t vote,” said the girl. “Well you didn’t vote for me,” replied the Senator.
Cisco Systems, an early Silicon Valley success story, has become one of the nation’s top tech exporters. Today, roughly half of the networking giant’s sales come from outside the U.S. As foreign countries sought to catch up with U.S. connectivity, Cisco helped plug them in. But a wave of nationalist thinking has put Cisco—and most of its peers—in an uncomfortable position. Earlier this month, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins described the current climate as “one of the more complex macro, geopolitical environments that I think we’ve seen in quite a while with all the different moving parts.” It’s likely to get worse.
While investors are cheering indications of progress being made toward a resolution of trade issues between China and the U.S., the battle for tech supremacy between the two global superpowers shows few signs of abating. Even as the White House was negotiating on trade with Beijing, it was also contemplating a U.S. ban of telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei Technologies, essentially China’s version of Cisco. As President Donald Trump was tweeting about the importance of 5G on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was pushing U.S. allies to ditch Huawei. This is a fight that is not going to end anytime soon. For years, U.S. officials have worried about Chinese equipment being used to infiltrate U.S. networks and businesses for possible espionage and theft of intellectual property.
Even a resolution of the trade war won’t quell those fears. “The perception is that too much of the information- and communication-technology supply chain is centered on China,” says Paul Triolo, who focuses on global technology policy issues for risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. “If we are in a conflict and using infrastructure built by China, they could theoretically hit a button and shut off everything.” “After 30 years of saying companies should optimize supply chains and move some abroad, now we are saying it’s a security concern,” he says. “Adjusting to that is jarring.”
A pair of Chinese twins who were gene-edited for resistance to HIV may also have ‘supercharged’ brains, along with possible resistance to age-related cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a controversial experiment led by Chinese scientist He Jiankui, the embroys of seven couples had their genes “edited” using a tool known as CRISPR. By removing a gene called CCR5, Jiankui sought to create a natural immunity to HIV – which requires CCR5 to enter blood cells. Based on new research, however, Jiankui may have also left the twins, Lulu and Nana, with improved memory and enhanced cognition, according to MIT Technology Review. They may also enjoy some degree of protection from Alzheimer’s Disease and other maladies which are rapidly being linked to chronic inflammation, as some groups of mice without CCR5 – or who have been given CCR5 inhibitors, experience less severe dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms.
“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says UCLA neurobiologist Alcino J. Silva, whose lap discovered a link between CCR5 and the brain’s ability to form new connections. “The simplest interpretation is that those mutations will probably have an impact on cognitive function in the twins,” says Silva, adding that the exact effect on the girls’ cognition cannot be predicted, which is “why it should not be done.” Jiankui’s human experiments drew harsh rebuke after news of Lulu and Nana’s birth in late October or early November, and has reportedly been fired from his position at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in Shenzhen, China. Jiankui says there are more gene-edited babies on the way.
Silva tells the MIT Technology Review that “because of his research, he sometimes interacts with figures in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who have, in his opinion, an unhealthy interest in designer babies with better brains.” When word of Jiankui’s experiment went public, Silva says he immediately questioned whether enhanced cognition was the real goal of the experiment. “I suddenly realized—Oh, holy shit, they are really serious about this bullshit,” said Silva. “My reaction was visceral repulsion and sadness.” He Jiankui acknowledged that he knew about the potential cognitive benefits of removing the CCR5 gene discovered by the UCLA team during a Q&A session, though he said “I am against using genome editing for enhancement.”
The Chinese government blocked 17.5 million would-be plane passengers from buying tickets last year as a punishment for offences including the failure to pay fines, it emerged. Some 5.5 million people were also barred from travelling by train under a controversial “social credit” system which the ruling Communist Party claims will improve public behaviour. The penalties are part of efforts by president Xi Jinping‘s government to use data-processing and other technology to tighten control on society. Human rights activists warn the system is too rigid and may lead to people being unfairly blacklisted without their knowledge, while US vice-president Mike Pence last year denounced it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life”.
Authorities have experimented with social credit in parts of China since 2014. Points are deducted for breaking the law, but also, in some areas, for offences as minor as walking a dog without a lead. Offences punished last year also included false advertising and violating drug safety rules, said China’s National Public Credit Information Centre. It gave no details of how many people live in areas with social credit systems. [..] The ruling party is spending heavily to roll out facial recognition systems, and human rights activists say people in Muslim and other areas with high ethnic minority populations have been compelled to give blood samples for a genetic database. Those systems rely heavily on foreign technology, which has prompted criticism of US and European suppliers for enabling human rights abuses.
Will Nasgovitz, who oversees about $1.3 billion in assets as the chief executive of Heartland Advisors, isn’t calling for a “full blown financial crisis,” but, with trillions in corporate debt coming due in the coming years, the industry veteran’s not exactly predicting smooth sailing in the stock market, either. “With interest rates low, the economy strong, and relatively easy lending standards, the thinking went that borrowing to buyback shares or finance acquisitions was a low-risk strategy,” Nasgovitz explained in a recent post. “But the next five years could severely test that Pollyanna view.” Nasgovitz used this chart to illustrate his stance. As you can see, about $3.3 trillion — or 48% of all current outstanding commercial debt — comes due by 2023.
The timing could be problematic. “The sheer volume would be challenging for the market to digest in the best of scenarios, let alone this late in an economic expansion,” Nasgovitz wrote. “Adding to our sense of caution are early signs that lending standards have begun to tighten for commercial and industrial borrowers.” He says that, as banks become more stringent, borrowers could end up paying higher rates just to secure funds to retire outstanding obligations. “While we don’t currently see signs of a full-blown financial crisis on the horizon,” he concluded, “we do believe that excessive debt adds unnecessary challenges to companies in general and will likely be a headwind for heavy borrowers in the intermediate term going forward.”
Barely a week after being sworn in as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr is reportedly planning to announce as early as next week that Robert Mueller has completed his investigation and that a confidential report on Mueller’s findings will be submitted to Congress in the very near future. According to CNN, the preparations – which are in line with an NBC report from late last year that the Mueller report would be completed by the end of February – “are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation.” Barr has said that he wants to be as “transparent” as possible while being “consistent with the rules and the law.”
According to the law, Mueller must submit a “confidential” report to the AG after the investigation ends. But the rules don’t require it to be shared with Congress or the public (though, like everything involving the Mueller probe, it will almost certainly leak). One thing that remains unclear is to what extent Mueller’s findings will be shared with Congress (since the DOJ typically frowns on publicizing embarrassing or compromising information about people who haven’t been charged with a crime…though that principle has apparently gone out the window over the last two years). CNN also noted that it’s possible that Mueller has made referrals to other prosecutors besides the New York US attorney who brought charges against Michael Cohen.
The existence of other investigations might also soon come to light. CNN reported that attorneys from the US attorney’s office for Washington DC have been visiting Mueller “more than usual.” Signs that the Mueller probe is winding down have been multiplying in recent weeks. Four of his 17 prosecutors have been reassigned, and the grand jury he has used to secure his indictments hasn’t convened since late January. While Trump is probably hoping that the Russia collusion narrative will decidedly die after the report is released, former DNI James Clapper – whom Trump threatened to strip of his security clearance – warned that the report might leave open the question of whether there actually was collusion between Trump and Russia, giving the release a disappointingly anti-climactic feel, according to the Hill.
A ‘subtle’ shift: now that going after Trump himself is going nowhere, Clapper et al claim Putin uses Trump as an unwitting asset. Takeaway: they will simply continue their collusion accusations. And Putin is an even easier victim.
Give me one reason why this entire cabal should not be investigated.
As I said yesterday: “Isn’t it supremely ironic that Mueller’s main objective today is trying to come up with some narrative that justifies his own probe? It’s circular ‘logic’ at its very best.
But why is McCabe so cocky about his treasonous(-like) behavior? Imagine someone like him doing an interview like that 2 years (or 6) into Obama’s presidency, saying it was possible Barack was an asset of China. Just imagine.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday that he’s far from sure that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will clear up questions about President Trump and Russia. He said he was hopeful the Mueller probe will provide some answers, but warned it might not even draw a conclusion on whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. “I think the hope is that the Mueller investigation will clear the air on this issue once and for all. I’m really not sure it will, and the investigation, when completed, could turn out to be quite anti-climactic and not draw a conclusion about that,” Clapper said Wednesday on CNN.
Clapper, a frequent critic of Trump’s, said people in the intelligence community see a strange deference on the president’s part toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The strange thing I think that has bothered a lot of people both in and out of the intelligence community is this strange personal deference to Putin by the president. I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset,” Clapper said Wednesday. He added that if Trump were indeed advancing Putin’s interests, he would more likely be doing so unwittingly.
The White House has lashed out at Clapper over his criticism in the past and announced in August it was reviewing existing security clearances for Clapper and several other former intelligence and law enforcement officials who have criticized the White House. Speculation has ramped up over Trump’s relationship with Russia after it was reported last month that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into whether the president was working on behalf of Moscow’s interests. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe on Friday claimed that he believes “it’s possible” Trump is a Russian asset.
For most of the past three years, the FBI has tried to portray its top leadership as united behind ex-Director James Comey’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for transmitting classified information over her insecure, private email server. Although in the end that may have been the case, we now are learning that Comey’s top lawyer, then-FBI General Counsel James Baker, initially believed Clinton deserved to face criminal charges, but was talked out of it “pretty late in the process.” The revelation is contained in testimony Baker gave to House investigators last year. His testimony has not been publicly released, but I was permitted to review a transcript.
During questioning by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Baker was unequivocal about his early view that Clinton should face criminal charges. “I have reason to believe that you originally believed it was appropriate to charge Hillary Clinton with regard to violations of law — various laws, with regard to mishandling of classified information. Is that accurate?” Ratcliffe, a former federal prosecutor, asked Baker. Baker paused to gain his lawyer’s permission to respond, and then answered, “Yes.” He later explained why he came to that conclusion, and how his mind was changed: “So, I had that belief initially after reviewing, you know, a large binder of her emails that had classified information in them,” he said.
“And I discussed it internally with a number of different folks, and eventually became persuaded that charging her was not appropriate because we could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — we, the government, could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that — she had the intent necessary to violate (the law).” Asked when he was persuaded to change his mind, Baker said: “Pretty late in the process, because we were arguing about it, I think, up until the end.” Baker made clear that he did not like the activity Clinton had engaged in: “My original belief after — well, after having conducted the investigation and towards the end of it, then sitting down and reading a binder of her materials — I thought that it was alarming, appalling, whatever words I said, and argued with others about why they thought she shouldn’t be charged.”
His boss, Comey, announced on July 5, 2016, that he would not recommend criminal charges. He did so without consulting the Department of Justice (DOJ), a decision the department’s inspector general (IG) later concluded was misguided and likely usurped the power of the attorney general to make prosecutorial decisions. Comey has said, in retrospect, he accepts that finding but took the actions he did because he thought “they were in the country’s best interest.”
Three Conservative MPs who resigned to join a new independent group on Wednesday said Theresa May had allowed their former party to fall prey to hardline Brexiters and declared that the Tory modernising project had been destroyed. In the latest evidence that Brexit is reshaping the political landscape, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, all outspoken critics of May’s stance on Europe, said the Conservative party as they had known it under David Cameron was dead. “I’m not leaving the Conservative party – it has left us,” said Soubry at a hastily convened press conference around the corner from the House of Commons. “The modernising reforms that had taken years to achieve were destroyed.”
Allen was asked if she could ever return to the Conservatives and answered: “If we do our jobs properly, there won’t be a Tory party to go back to.” She added: “We’re about creating something better that is bang smack in the centre ground of British politics that people out there, I am convinced, we are convinced, want.” The dramatic resignations – announced shortly before May confronted Jeremy Corbyn at prime minister’s questions – sent shockwaves through Westminster, where MPs had barely digested news of the Labour split. The move reduces May’s already tenuous working majority to eight, raising still more questions over her authority amid rumours that there could be further Tory defections.
On Wednesday night, Allen told ITV’s Peston that “a third of the party” – around 100 of her former colleagues – shared her frustrations at its direction. The Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC: “The government which I am supporting implementing a no-deal Brexit – what would I do? I would not be able to maintain my support of the government. I would have to leave the party.”
Just seven MPs announced their departure from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and though there may be others to come this was their first rank. And there lies the first problem. Other than Chuka Umunna virtually nobody has ever heard of the new Independent Group of MPs who were quickly dubbed the ‘Seven Dwarfs’. [..] From a crowded field I’d say the next biggest blunder was registering their parliamentary factions as a private company in a transparent effort to avoid…transparency! It’s true that Chuka and co are the corporate suit types and most of them are more familiar with the boardroom than the boiler room but no parliamentary group in history has turned themselves into a business!
The reasons – millions of them – are not hard to discern. A political party must declare who’s funding it and how much. A private company doesn’t. But again what seemed like a wheeze is in fact a blunder. I’m now free to speculate that they’ve already received millions from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and President Putin. It’s probably not true, but how can one tell? [..] I may be wrong and Manchester United may win the Champions League but I’m perfectly sure Centrist neo-liberal politics are currently out of fashion throughout the world. I base this on 14 weeks of mayhem on the streets of France, and not much more than that in President Macron’s opinion poll ratings. On Mrs Merkel slouching out of the German Chancery in ruins. On the Rushmore like ruin of Hillary Clinton. On the portrait of Dorian Gray that is the haunted face of the most hated man in Britain, Tony Blair.
A no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs of 40% or more being imposed on food such as beef and cheddar cheese, driving up prices in shops and squeezing household budgets across the UK and Ireland, retail organisations from both countries have warned. With mounting fears that the UK could leave the European Union without an agreement in 36 days’ time, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Retail Ireland, issued a joint warning that this outcome could lead to delays at borders and shortages of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. The scheduled withdrawal on 29 March comes at a time in the year when the UK imports a lot of fresh, out-of-season, produce – 90% of the lettuce consumed in Britain, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruits come from, or arrive via, Europe.
Increased tariffs, the devaluation of sterling and new regulatory checks would drive up the cost of fresh food and drink, which would be passed on to consumers, the retail bodies warned. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, both fall back on the World Trade Organization’s most favoured nation tariffs, which means import duties on everyday food items from fruit to cheese. This would mean a 42% tariff on imported cheddar, 46% on mozzarella, 40% on beef, 21% on tomatoes and 15.5% on apples, the BRC said. Last year one of the UK’s largest dairy producers, based in Northern Ireland, warned that leaving the customs union under a hard Brexit could lead to the price of meat doubling in the UK and the price of dairy, half of which is imported, rising by up to 50%.
Austerity policies from the Treasury have resulted in slower growth in every year since 2010 and left each household £300 a month worse off as a result, a thinktank has said. The New Economics Foundation said its analysis of the impact of tax and spending changes since the Conservatives came to power, first as part of a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, had left the economy £100bn smaller than it would otherwise have been. Although the peak impact of the attempt to reduce a record peacetime budget deficit occurred during the first two years of the 2010-15 parliament, the thinktank said austerity was still acting as a drag on output. The NEF said the cumulative effect of tax, public spending and welfare adjustments on growth by the end of the 2018-19 financial year would be to leave the average household £3,629 a year worse off – the equivalent of £1,495 per person.
The latest public finances figures, due out on Thursday, will show whether the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is on course to hit his forecast for a budget deficit in 2018-19 of £25.5bn – one sixth of its level in the aftermath of the financial crisis and deep recession of 2008-09. Alfie Stirling, head of economics at the NEF, said work by the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Institute for Fiscal Studies made it possible to isolate the effects of austerity. “At this time of year there is often renewed speculation over whether the chancellor will meet his year-end deficit targets by March. But for nine years, the elephant in the room has largely been missed: the sheer scale of economic damage that these targets have contributed to in the first place.”
Germany is feeling the pressure from western allies over its weapons exports freeze in the wake of the Saudi killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a freeze first announced in November, which included plans to reject any future export licences to Riyadh, but not previously approved deals. German allies like the UK have lately implored the German government to soften its stance, noting the potential broader economic impact on Europe. British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, currently in Berlin to discuss the terms of Brexit, reportedly wrote to the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, in a private letter first revealed by Der Spiegel that UK defense companies would be hindered in contractual obligations related to Eurofighter Typhoon and the Tornado fighter jet delivery, namely to supply parts affected by the German arms freeze.
Hunt told Maas in the letter published in German press: “I am very concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European defence industry and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its Nato commitments.” This follows comments by German chancellor Angela Merkel at the past weekend’s Munich Security Conference acknowledging the need for “common export controls guidelines” across Europe. She said during a question-and-answer session after her speech at the conference: “We have because of our history very good reasons to have very strict arms export guidelines, but we have just as good reasons in our defense community to stand together in a joint defense policy. And if we want … to develop joint fighter planes, joint tanks, then there’s no other way but to move step-by-step towards common export controls guidelines.”
Just one day after officially launching his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination during an interview on Vermont Public Radio, Bernie Sanders has already raised more than $6 million through more than 220,000 individual contributions, according to CNN. Sanders, who consistently ranks near the top of most polls alongside former Vice President Joe Biden, saw the money pour in from donors in all 50 states. The average contribution was $27, which is roughly in line with the average contribution from Sanders 2016 upstart primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, in which he won a number of crucial primaries (all while actively working against the DNC). Confirming his outsize popularity in an increasingly crowded field, the self-described “Democratic Socialist”‘s haul dwarfs the $300,000 raised by Elizabeth Warren during the 24 hours after her official campaign launch.
Of the $6 million raised, some 10% (about $600,000) came in the form of recurring donations, providing “a huge, dependable grassroots donor base that will afford the campaign a consistent budgeting baseline.” During his last race, Sanders regularly touted the fact that his campaign was largely funded by small donations. And it appears this is already emerging as a central theme for the 2020 race. “The only way we will win this election and create a government and economy that work for all is with a grassroots movement – the likes of which has never been seen in American history,” Sanders said in his message announcing his campaign. “They may have the money and power. We have the people.”
On top of that $6 million haul, Sanders is entering the race with more than $9 million left in his US Senate campaign committee: funds that he can transfer to his presidential campaign. That puts him behind only Warren ($11 million) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($10.3 million).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has refused to endorse Bernie Sanders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, despite working on the senator’s first presidential campaign. A spokesperson for Ms Ocasio-Cortez, like Mr Sanders a self-described democratic socialist, refused to comment directly on the 77-year-old’s Tuesday announcement he is running for a second time. “We’re excited to see so many progressives in the race,” spokesperson Corbin Trent said. “We’re not thinking at all about the next election.” Any endorsement by Ms Ocasio-Cortez is likely to be influential on the outcome of the race, thanks to her massive support among the grassroots of the party. But the 29-year-old, a congresswoman for New York, is unlikely to offer an endorsement before her state’s Democratic primary next year, and may even permanently withhold any explicit support for a single candidate.
My friend Jesse Colombo is right to point out the impact of imploding asset bubbles is the main takeaway. But I think even more than that, it’s who will be the main victims of that: those who have no assets. The losses will land on their shoulders.
It’s not fashionable to wear flapper dresses and do the Charleston, but 1920s-style wealth inequality is definitely back in style. New research says America’s ultra-rich haven’t held as much of the country’s wealth since the Jazz Age, those freewheeling times before the country’s finances shattered. “U.S. wealth concentration seems to have returned to levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,” wrote Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Zucman said all the research on the issue also points to large wealth concentrations in China and Russia in recent decades. The same thing is happening in France and the U.K., but at a “more moderate rise,” the paper said.
In 1929 — before Wall Street’s crash unleashed the Great Depression — the top 0.1% richest adults’ share of total household wealth was close to 25%, according to Zucman’s paper, which was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Those rates plunged in the early 1930s and continued dropping to below 10% in the late 1970s, findings show. Rates have been on the rebound since the early 1980s, and are currently close to 20%. It’s become especially hard to measure the full extent of riches these days. “Since the 1980s, a large offshore wealth management industry has developed which makes some forms wealth (namely, financial portfolios) harder to capture,” the paper added.
[..] Millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; the recent federal government’s partial government shutdown forced some federal workers to food pantries, and cast a harsh light on Americans’ lack of savings. Jesse Colombo says people should be more worried about issues other than the current gap between the rich and poor. “America’s wealth inequality is not a permanent situation, but a temporary one because the asset bubbles behind the wealth bubble are going to burst and cause a severe economic crisis,” he added. “My argument is that our society should be worrying more about these asset bubbles than the temporary inequality.” “What is the common denominator between U.S. wealth inequality during the Roaring Twenties and now?” he said. “A massive stock market bubble.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the 2016 election has uncovered no direct evidence of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia, Democrats and Republicans on the committee told NBC News. But different parties’ investigators in the probe, which is winding down, disagree over the implications of a pattern of contacts between Trump associates and Russians. Last week, Sen. Richard Burr, the panel’s Republican chairman, told CBS News that, while more facts may be uncovered, “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Democratic Senate investigators told NBC News on condition of anonymity that Burr’s characterizations, while accurate, lacked context. One aide said, “We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude.'”
For MS(NBC), Russigate has been a major investment. And they’re still trying to squeak past it by saying an official report will take many more months etc., but it’s done as far as the Senate is concerned. And Mueller has given zero indication of having anything collusion-related.
We knew this day was coming, but watching an MSNBC anchor and guest pundits squirm during a live Tuesday morning update in which NBC News intelligence and national security correspondent, Ken Dilanian, read aloud that the Senate Intelligence Committee admits it has found “no direct evidence” of collusion between President Trump and Russia, is a segment that itself perhaps belongs to the history books. Mediaite described of the “stunned” MSNBC host’s demeanor: “The report met surprise first, then skepticism, with Jackson and her guests.” They awkwardly and visibly try to make sense of hard and unambiguous reporting that runs contrary to everything being parroted in the MSNBC echo chamber over the past 2 years.
To drive home the explosive significance of the findings, Dilanian noted just how long the ‘collusion’ incessant drumbeat has lasted: “After two years and interviewing more than 200 witnesses, the Senate intelligence Committee has not uncovered any direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Dilanian. “That’s according to sources on both the Republican and the Democratic side of the aisle.” And in a prior NBC News article Tuesday morning, Dilanian spelled out: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”
MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson and her guest panelists’ faces looked visibly confused and uncomfortable as they learned the Senate report is going in the opposite direction of everything MSNBC and other mainstream outlets have been breathlessly reporting on a near 24/7 basis. More importantly, if this is a precursor of what the Mueller report concludes in a few weeks/months, the TV station that built its current reputation on the premise of Russian collusion, may have no option but to go on indefinite hiatus. Watch the segment above, with host Hallie Jackson appearing to grow exasperated by the 2:20 mark:“If and when the president, as he may inevitably do, points to these conclusions and says look, the Senate intelligence committee found I am not guilty of conspiracy… he would be correct in saying that?”
Dilanian noted that while the Republican chair of the committee made what he characterized as “partisan” comments the week prior, it turned out be unanimous fact. “What I found,” he said, “is that Democrats don’t dispute that characterization.” [..] Dilanian also noted the Senate intel committee has access to classified material, which means “if there was an intercept between officers suggesting they were conspiring with the Trump campaign, [the committee] would see that. And that has not emerged.” “So that evidence does not exist, and Trump will claim vindication,” he repeated.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would vote on the Green New Deal introduced last week by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal, and we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate to give everybody an opportunity to go on record,” McConnell told reporters. The bill, which is not expected to pass the Republican-dominated upper chamber, could force some Democrats to make a politically awkward calculation. Democratic liberals, including all of the senators currently running for president, have come out in support of the legislation, which calls for generating 100% of the nation’s power from renewable sources within 10 years. Scientists have said that dramatic, immediate action is necessary to stem the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Democratic moderates have been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi derisively referred to the House version of the bill as a “green dream,” while only 11 of the 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats have signed on to sponsor the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is widely expected to enter into the 2020 race, has declined to say whether he supports the proposal. “I’m not going to take position on every bill that’s coming out,” he said Tuesday, according to Politico. “I support a Green New Deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. That’s my answer.” Republicans control the Senate, with 53 members of the 100-seat chamber. Democrats control the House of Representatives, but it is not clear if the House will vote on the measure under Pelosi’s leadership.
Sometimes losing can pay dividends in unexpected ways, and that seems particularly true in the case of stocks and trade. For the past five decades, the U.S. stock market has comparatively outperformed when the trade deficit widened and vice versa, suggesting that even if the U.S. emerges victorious from its trade war with China, investors may have few reasons to rejoice. At face value, it may seem counterintuitive, but for the U.S., which relies on trade to fuel its economic juggernaut, a deficit can actually be a sign that all is well. “Since at least 1970, U.S. stocks have done best when its trade deficit worsens,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group, who explained that if imports rise, it indicates that domestic consumption is healthy.
“And if exports go up, it means foreign demand is strong. So when we have a trade deficit, it means the U.S. is doing better,” he said. A trade balance is the difference between how much a country sells and buys from abroad, and a deficit is often viewed as a negative, chiefly as it means a country is spending more than it is making. But as the chart below demonstrates, U.S. stocks vis-a-vis foreign equities have done quite well notwithstanding all the depressing headlines over the years about how the rest of the world is taking advantage of the U.S.
And Labour wants part of the Green New Deal fame too. But what do any of these people really know about physics, about energy? It all still looks like a typical dumb politics approach: we’ll get rich while going green, promise!
Labour is to set out how the UK can move swiftly to a decarbonised future to tackle the unfolding climate crisis and put “meat on the bones” of its promise to create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, unionised green jobs. Trade unionists and industry leaders will come together with academics, engineers and public institutions to build detailed regional plans setting out the challenges and opportunities ahead. The proposal, due to be outlined on Wednesday by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, will involve a national call for evidence and a series of regional events to build “a detailed action plan” to maximise the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon future.
“A decade of austerity and decades of neoliberalism have left many in our country asking: what is Britain for?” Long-Bailey told the Guardian. “This has been brought into focus by the government’s handling of Brexit, which is at its core deeply pessimistic, with nothing to say about the future.” She said a future Labour government would oversee an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis, using the full power of the state to decarbonise the economy and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in struggling towns and cities across the UK. “We believe that together, we can transform the UK through a green jobs revolution, tackling the environmental crisis in a way that brings hope and prosperity back to parts of the UK that have been held back for too long.”
[..] Long-Bailey said Labour was determined to move beyond rhetoric about a green revolution and work out exactly how that could be achieved, and how it could translate to new well-paid, unionised jobs across the UK. “We’re launching an unprecedented call for evidence about what this means for your town, your city, your region,” she said. “We want to bring unions, industry, universities, the public sector and others together to build this vision out into a practical reality.” Labour says a key plank of its plan will be to ensure a “just transition” to high quality green jobs for those currently working in carbon-emitting industries. To do that it will have to persuade its trade union backers, who represent people in high-carbon industries, that there is a viable economic alternative.
Brexit is an acid test of whether it is possible to reshape globalisation in a way that offers the benefits of trade while allaying public fears about the erosion of democracy, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said. Speaking in London, Carney said the ramifications of the UK’s departure from the EU would be felt around the world and would determine whether it was possible to shrug off rising protectionism in favour of a new era of international cooperation. The governor cited trade tensions and the result of the 2016 referendum as examples of fundamental pressures to reorder globalisation. “It is possible that new rules of the road will be developed for a more inclusive and resilient global economy. At the same time, there is a risk that countries turn inwards, undercutting growth and prosperity for all.”
Carney’s recent comments about Brexit have highlighted the short-term risks to the economy of leaving the EU next month without an agreement in place, but he used his speech on the state of the global economy to provide a more upbeat assessment. “In many respects, Brexit is the first test of a new global order and could prove the acid test of whether a way can be found to broaden the benefits of openness while enhancing democratic accountability,” he said, speaking at a Financial Times event in London. “Brexit can lead to a new form of international cooperation and cross-border commerce built on a better balance of local and supranational authorities. In these respects, Brexit could affect both the short and long-term global outlooks.”
The politicians pushing Brexit should be careful not follow in the footsteps of revolutionary leaders who “ended up on the guillotine”, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief has said. At a press conference in Strasbourg Guy Verhofstadt compared Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre – leading figures in the French revolution who were ultimately executed by their former comrades. He said it was “important to remind” the senior Conservatives that their historical counterparts had ended up losing their heads.
“I know that within the Tory party the hard Brexiteers are compared to the leaders of the French revolution. I think Gove is Brissot, and Boris Johnson is Danton, and Rees-Mogg is compared to Robespierre,” Mr Verhofstadt said. “We should not forget that the efforts of these men were not appreciated by the common man they claimed to represent – because they all ended up on the guillotine. So that’s important to remind [them].” His comments come a week after European Council president Donald Tusk caused a story in the UK by saying there was a “special place in hell” for Brexiteers who had advocated leaving the EU without a serious plan of how to do it.
Theresa May’s high-stakes Brexit strategy may have been accidentally revealed after her chief negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying MPs will be given a last-minute choice between her deal and a lengthy delay. The prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the government intends to leave the EU as planned on 29 March, and urged MPs to “hold our nerve”, while she tries to renegotiate changes to the Irish backstop. “So our work continues,” she told MPs on Tuesday. “Having secured an agreement with the European Union for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process. The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house requires and deliver Brexit on time.”
But Robbins, the most senior civil servant involved in the Brexit process, was overheard by a reporter from ITV, holding a late-night conversation in which he appeared to suggest she would wait until March – and then give MPs the choice between backing her, or accepting a long extension to article 50. According to the broadcaster, Robbins said the government had “got to make them believe that the week beginning end of March … extension is possible, but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one.” The tactic appears to be aimed squarely at members of the backbench Tory European Research Group (ERG), who may fear Brexit could ultimately be cancelled altogether, if MPs accept a delay.
“The issue is whether Brussels is clear on the terms of extension,” Robbins was overheard saying. “In the end they will probably just give us an extension.” On the backstop, Robbins appeared to confirm that the government’s initial plan was for the backstop, which effectively keeps the UK in a customs union, to form a temporary “bridge” to the long-term trading relationship. “The big clash all along is the ‘safety net’,” Robbins said. “We agreed a bridge but it came out as a ‘safety net’.”
In Britain, for example, we now know that the EU referendum was won with the help of widespread cheating. We still don’t know the origins of much of the money spent by the leave campaigns. For example, we have no idea who provided the £435,000 channelled through Scotland, into Northern Ireland, through the coffers of the Democratic Unionist party and back into Scotland and England, to pay for pro-Brexit ads. Nor do we know the original source of the £8m that Arron Banks delivered to the Leave.EU campaign. We do know that both of the main leave campaigns have been fined for illegal activities, and that the conduct of the referendum has damaged many people’s faith in the political system.
But, astonishingly, the government has so far failed to introduce a single new law in response to these events. And now it’s happening again. Since mid-January an organisation called Britain’s Future has spent £125,000 on Facebook ads demanding a hard or no-deal Brexit. Most of them target particular constituencies. Where an MP is deemed sympathetic to the organisation’s aims, the voters who receive these ads are urged to tell him or her to “remove the backstop, rule out a customs union, deliver Brexit without delay”. Where the MP is deemed unsympathetic, the message is: “Don’t let them steal Brexit; Don’t let them ignore your vote.”
So who or what is Britain’s Future? Sorry, I have no idea. As openDemocracy points out, it has no published address and releases no information about who founded it, who controls it and who has been paying for these advertisements. The only person publicly associated with it is a journalist called Tim Dawson, who edits its website. Dawson has not yet replied to the questions I have sent him. It is, in other words, highly opaque. The anti-Brexit campaigns are not much better. People’s Vote and Best for Britain have also been spending heavily on Facebook ads, though not as much in recent weeks as Britain’s Future.
Spain’s socialist government could be forced to call a snap general election if rightwing parties and Catalan secessionists make good on their threats to reject the national budget in a key vote on Wednesday. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, faces an uphill battle to secure approval for the budget in the face of opposition from critics of his minority government. Sánchez’s PSOE, which holds 84 of the 350 seats in congress, relied on the support of Basque and Catalan nationalist parties to seize power from the conservative People’s party in a confidence vote last year. If, as seems likely, the budget is rejected by rightwing parties as well as the Catalan Republican Left and the Catalan European Democratic party, Sánchez is expected to call a snap general election in April or May.
The next general election is due to be held next year. The prime minister had been banking on the fact that the prospect of an early election – and a possible win for rightwing parties that fiercely oppose Catalan secession – would make the two big Catalan pro-independence parties swing behind the budget. But, speaking to the Guardian and other European media, the Catalan leader, Quim Torra, said the secessionist groupings would not be forced into supporting Sánchez’s budget plans. “Are we meant to approve the budget because we’re afraid of the Spanish right?” said Torra. “Mr Sánchez can obviously decide to call elections whenever he wants – he’s the prime minister. But why would he make dialogue conditional on approving the budget?
I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia were the first to fall into crisis. It hasn’t had a recession in I think 27 years, and that is like saying a homeowner hasn’t done a proper spring cleaning in decades.
The sharpest fall in home loans since the depths of the global financial crisis has prompted calls for the Reserve Bank to slice interest rates and cast doubt over the state of the budget leading into the federal election. As the NAB said the Reserve may have to cut rates within months, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed first time buyers and investors deserting the property market in a sign house prices may fall even further. Home loans in December fell by 5.9%. It was the second largest monthly fall since 2008-09 while the annual fall of 19.8% was the worst since the global financial crisis.
Investor loans have tumbled 28% over the past year while those for owner-occupiers have slumped by 16%. Since their peak in mid-2015, investor lending has dropped by almost 48%. First home buyers have been a key part of the market over the past year as they have taken advantage of falling prices but even they are now resisting the chance to enter the market. The number of loans to first time buyers fell 8% in the month to be 12% lower over the past year. NSW and Victoria are leading down the national market with sharp falls in total loan numbers through 2018. It’s not just housing. Business loans dropped by 9.7% in December to be 6.2% lower over the year.
Chinese banks are wise to resist maxing out their credit cards. Lenders have issued hundreds of millions of them to local consumers, facilitating debt-fuelled shopping sprees. It’s a lucrative but risky supplement to other types of loans, and some now appear to be pulling back. Banks in the People’s Republic issued more than 650 million credit cards as of the third quarter of 2018, up from less than 450 million three years earlier, official data show. Balances payable on cards reached 6.6 trillion yuan ($980 billion), an increase of more than 120% over the same period. Lenders are keen on the business. There’s a big opportunity for growth given relatively low penetration: the average Chinese individual has only half of a credit card, whereas the average American has three.
Plastic can be profitable, too, yielding higher interest rates and fees than typical corporate loans. That boosts net interest margins. Yet a reassessment may be underway, according to analysts at Citi Research. At Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, for instance, credit card lending made up 35% of total new loans in 2017. In the first half of 2018, that figure collapsed to negative 5%. It’s a similar story at China Merchants Bank and other lenders covered by the analysts – although some are still aiming at rapid growth, including Ping An Bank and Postal Savings Bank of China. Household credit stood at around half of GDP by the middle of last year, up from 18% a decade earlier, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Fitch Ratings projects household debt might reach 100% of disposable income by 2020, just below the 105% ratio in the US.
The current economic slowdown could make bankers’ affection for plastic look rash. Individuals tend to default on card debt first, and chasing after them in court is time-consuming, while recovery rates, sometimes estimated at below 16%, compare poorly with between 50% to 60% for corporate borrowers.
The collapse in China of a complex web of debt guarantees involving several private firms highlights risks in its financial system and opens up a potentially hazardous front for an economy in the grip of its slowest growth in nearly three decades. It is the last thing Beijing needs as it tries to fight off intensifying pressure on growth from a months-long trade dispute with the United States. Yet, as the government steps up economic support measures and moves to loosen gummed-up funding, it might be inadvertently inflaming financial risks with its call on state banks to sharply boost lending to the private sector.
The warning bells are already sounding in the once-prosperous eastern city of Dongying, a hub for oil refining and heavy industry in Shandong province. Here, at least 28 private companies are seeking to restructure their debts and avoid bankruptcy, mainly due to souring loans that they guaranteed for other firms, court rulings seen by Reuters show. Among the 28 firms are Shandong Dahai Group and Shandong Jinmao Textile Chemical Group, which were on the 2018 top 500 best-run private enterprises in China. For a private firm to get bank loans in China, especially those in traditional, capital-intensive industries, it often needs substantial collateral or the guarantee of another company. The guarantor itself is very likely to have taken on loans guaranteed by other firms.
Russia is preparing itself to be disconnected from the World Wide Web. The Lower House of Parliament passed in the first reading a law ensuring the security of the Russian part of the internet. The bill envisions the ‘Runet’ – the Russian segment of the internet – being able to operate independently from the rest of the world in case of global malfunctions or deliberate internet disconnection. The measures to ensure internet stability include the creation of a national DNS system that stores all of the domain names and corresponding IP numbers. The new legislation was drafted in response to the new US cyber strategy that accuses Russia, along with China, Iran, and North Korea, of using cyber tools to “undermine” its economy and democracy.
It also threatens dire consequences for anyone conducting cyber activity against the US. The autonomous system would ensure that Russia doesn’t face a total internet shutdown if relations with the West completely collapse and the US goes as far as cutting off Russian IP addresses from the World Wide Web. Back in 2012, then-US President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing him to take control of all communications on American soil, including those crucial for the normal operation of the internet. The US National Security Agency actually caused a three-day internet blackout in Syria in November 2012, whistleblower Edward Snowden told Wired magazine. NSA hackers accidently ‘bricked’ one of the core routers while trying to install spyware on it.