Pierre Dumonstier II The right hand of Artemisia Gentileschi holding a brush 1625
Two Dr. D pieces in one week. That election stuff must be inspiring! I was wondering, after seeing Sidney Powell claim she has evidence of fraudulent things happening in connection with Dominion software, which would be a weird claim if she didn’t have that evidence, that we need to wonder what the next step(s) would be.
Since 29 states use the software, should they all be recounted by hand? Or perhaps only the swing states? Or should there be a nationwide recount, or even a full (hand-counted) re-election? Here’s that video again of Powell, and then Dr. D’s thoughts on it all:
Sidney Powell: “I’m going to release the Kraken”
Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell says she has “staggering” statistical evidence and testimony to show Dominion voting machines altered ballots and this deception stems back to Venezuela, Cuba, and China. She’s says “I’m going to release the Kraken.” pic.twitter.com/50mQdHnOuS
Dr. D: Since this was all set up on a White House supercomputer, with many possible branches on the logic tree, but still generally drifting toward some permutation of election fraud and a Legislative fix, I’m hazily seeing a further possibility materializing out there.
This is hard since you have to get wrapped around the well-defined legal Constitutional process preventing election fraud, and promoting fairness between big and small states, by having an election, set and run by sovereign states, who then affirm their process was legal and true in the State Legislatures before referring them to the Federal level via the Electoral College. So this could go strictly popular vote as it usually does, via state legislature, as has happened, or even via Congressional House of Representative at an impasse, which has also happened. Despite media sputtering, none of this is made-up, none of this is new. It is very well-written and well-defined for exactly the reasons the Framers knew well and we have seen this year. They have even just sat down in a smoky room and made it up outside of all Constitutional processes whatsoever, and as no one objected, there was nothing to prevent it. Other than the people, of course, the real masters, maintaining as they do the overwhelmingly large, real armed body.
So let’s suppose, as seems to be happening now, that there is some election fraud. And although given more than a month, as we know the clock unwinds very quickly in legal terms — like lightning. We are already halfway through. If it were only one state, like Pennsylvania, perhaps that state’s Legislature can and should vote in their own electors. And that appears to be happening as they take the first steps of an Legislative audit, going right ‘round the Governor and Courts. Leaving their legal blocks instantly disarmed.
But Michigan is calling for a Legislative audit too, and Wisconsin looks set for a recount. Georgia is already in one, and there are several others.
This is where people lament “No matter what happens, half the nation will think the election is stolen!” Civil war, all that. Which I doubt, given that for four years half the nation ALREADY thought it was stolen by by a Russian caterer with a $10,000 loan (correct me if I’m wrong) and ALREADY are in violent insurrection to burn down, murder, and expel Federal forces from Portland for 200 days, barely making a mark on the nation nor even much impression on their very-large state.
But that’s only if we WANT it to go that way – there’s no special reason we should. America is that land that “Will always do the right thing, having exhausted every alternative” as Churchill would say.
Suppose, seeing 6 states in Legislative stop of Electors, and 29 states in question due to now widely-reported flaws in the Dominion voting system, the Republicans see an easy victory EITHER by state level voting OR by Congressional election, and in a legal, required, “continent election” it is one state, one vote – perhaps 32 v 18. This question then runs to the House of Representatives, where Nancy Pelosi can even attempt to refuse to seat anyone and refuse to hold such a vote.
But what are we really after here? With the States, the House, the Constitution, the Military on one side, and a critical mass of the people duly annoyed, can they really expect to succeed here? We have a nationwide bad election, Republican Legislature and States have all the leverage, and we have no remaining time.
So what CAN happen is that Pelosi can hold a House vote. Trump can call for one. The Courts will demand one – I fail to see how any other option could exist.
Trump, Pelosi, and Biden COULD, if they feel like it, hold it all off and call for a national recount, even a completely new re-election. Now that would not be “Legal” in a certain sense as the President must be un-seated in January, but in a certain sense the law is something we make up in our heads. And they have already “just done it” once previously. Perhaps the House, with a 2/3 vote would make Trump the acting President instead of President Pelosi for the interim months, perhaps until Election #2 + 30 days = March.
Everyone would have the chance to do this again without massive nationwide fraud, and the concession that reveals this and smooths over the “stolen election/civil war” would go towards a quid pro quo of not arresting everyone involved and hanging them down the long boulevard of Pennsylvania Avenue until the U.S. Military runs out of rope. Everyone sunsets and the nation moves on. …With some laws passed on election integrity. And Presidential power, one hopes.
Such are the level of crazy times we are in now. And that’s sensible, since in such crazy, extreme times, unthinkable things happen. Like wars. Or also unthinkable peaces and reconciliations. Which we must have and have had many times before.
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Wonder why it took the right wing so long to wake up to how Julian Assange is linked to the whole machine. Did they really need Tucker Carlson for that?
This is lawyer “sundance” at the Conservative Treehouse. The article has a lot more info, not just on Assange; he’s been digging for a long time. I know, it’s right wing media. But nobody else will cover this. And we want to get Assange released.
On April 11th, 2019, the Julian Assange indictment was unsealed in the EDVA. From the indictment we discover it was under seal since March 6th, 2018. On Tuesday April 15th more investigative material was released. Again, note the dates: Grand Jury, *December of 2017* This means FBI investigation prior to…. The FBI investigation took place prior to December 2017, it was coordinated through the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) where Dana Boente was U.S. Attorney at the time. The grand jury indictment was sealed from March of 2018 until after Mueller completed his investigation, April 2019. Why the delay? What was the DOJ waiting for? Here’s where it gets interesting…. The FBI submission to the Grand Jury in December of 2017 was four months after congressman Dana Rohrabacher talked to Julian Assange in August of 2017: “Assange told a U.S. congressman … he can prove the leaked Democratic Party documents … did not come from Russia.” [..]
Knowing how much effort the CIA and FBI put into the Russia collusion-conspiracy narrative, it would make sense for the FBI to take keen interest after this August 2017 meeting between Rohrabacher and Assange; and why the FBI would quickly gather specific evidence (related to Wikileaks and Bradley Manning) for a grand jury by December 2017. Within three months of the grand jury the DOJ generated an indictment and sealed it in March 2018. The EDVA sat on the indictment while the Mueller probe was ongoing. As soon as the Mueller probe ended, on April 11th, 2019, a planned and coordinated effort between the U.K. and U.S. was executed; Julian Assange was forcibly arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and the EDVA indictment was unsealed.
As a person who has researched this three year fiasco; including the ridiculously false 2016 Russian hacking/interference narrative: “17 intelligence agencies”, Joint Analysis Report (JAR) needed for Obama’s anti-Russia narrative in December ’16; and then a month later the ridiculously political Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) in January ’17; this timing against Assange is just too coincidental. It doesn’t take a deep researcher to see the aligned Deep State motive to control Julian Assange because the Mueller report was dependent on Russia cybercrimes, and that narrative is contingent on the Russia DNC hack story which Julian Assange disputes. This is critical. The Weissmann/Mueller report contains claims that Russia hacked the DNC servers as the central element to the Russia interference narrative in the U.S. election. This claim is directly disputed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, as outlined during the Dana Rohrabacher interview, and by Julian Assange on-the-record statements.
The predicate for Robert Mueller’s investigation was specifically due to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The fulcrum for this Russia interference claim is the intelligence community assessment; and the only factual evidence claimed within the ICA is that Russia hacked the DNC servers; a claim only made possible by relying on forensic computer analysis from Crowdstrike, a DNC contractor. The CIA holds a massive conflict of self-interest in upholding the Russian hacking claim. The FBI holds a massive interest in maintaining that claim. All of those foreign countries whose intelligence apparatus participated with Brennan and Strzok also have a vested self-interest in maintaining that Russia hacking and interference narrative. Julian Assange is the only person with direct knowledge of how Wikileaks gained custody of the DNC emails; and Assange has claimed he has evidence it was not from a hack.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson on Friday asked Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz to open an investigation into the dozen-plus phones belonging to associates of the Robert Mueller special counsel that had been wiped of data prior to being surrendered to investigators. Government documents released this week listed multiple phones belonging to members of Mueller’s Russia collusion probe as having been cleared of all data before they were handed over to Horowitz’s office. Many of the phones, according to the documents, were purged of data after the users entered incorrect passwords too many times.
In his letter, Johnson—the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs—said the missing data “raise[s] concerns about record retention and transparency.” The senator asked Horowitz’s office to “open an investigation into this matter to determine what, why, and how information was wiped, whether any wrongdoing occurred, and who these devices belonged to.” Johnson also asked Horowitz to explain “when and how [his] office was made aware of this matter,” what steps the office took to “confirm whether information on these phones had been wiped,” whether or not the phones in question had “text message capabilities,” and if Horowtiz’s office has “the capability to retrieve the information from these phones?” The letter asks for a response “no later than September 18, 2020.”
Bob Woodward writes that Trump’s Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, and Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, spoke together about taking “collective action” to remove President Trump from office. General Mattis said Trump is “dangerous. He’s unfit.” This is the same thing that the Generals and the CIA said about President John F. Kennedy. When Generals and the CIA say that a president is unfit and dangerous, they mean he is dangerous to their budget. By “unfit” they mean he is not a reliable cold warrior who will keep hyping America’s enemies so that money keeps pouring into the military/security budget. By serving defense contractors instead of their country, generals end up very wealthy.
Both Kennedy and Trump wanted to normalize relations with Russia and to bring home US troops involved in make-war operations overseas that boost the profits of defense contractors. To stop Kennedy they assassinated him. To stop Trump they concocted Russiagate, Impeachgate, and a variety of wild and unsubstantiated accusations. The presstitutes repeat the various accusations as if they are absolute proven truth. The presstitutes never investigated a single one of the false accusations. These efforts to remove Trump did not succeed. Having pulled off numerous color revolutions in which the US has overthrown foreign governments, the tactics are now being employed against Trump. The November presidential election will not be an election. It will be a color revolution.
We have reached the point in the demise of our country that a simple statement of obvious truth is not believable. As a number of carefully researched and documented books, some written by insiders, have proved conclusively, the CIA has controlled the prestige American media since 1950. The American media does not provide news. It provides the Deep State’s explanations of events. This ensures that real news does not interfere with the agenda. The German journalst, Udo Ulfkotte, wrote a book, Bought Journalism, in which he showed that the CIA also controls the European press. To be clear, there are two CIA organizations. One is an agency that monitors world events and endeavors to provide more or less accurate information to policymakers.
The other is a covert operations agency. This agency assassinates people, including an American president, and overthrows uncooperative governments. President Truman publicly stated after he was out of office that he made a serious mistake in permitting the covert operations branch of the CIA. He said that it was an unaccountable government in inself. President Eisehnower agreed and in his last address to the American people warned of the growing unaccountable power of the military/security complex. President Kennedy realized the threat and said he was going “to break the CIA into a thousand pieces,” but they killed him first.
It would be easy for the CIA to kill Trump, but the “lone assassin” has been used too many times to be believable. It is easier to overthrow Trump’s reelection with false accusations as the CIA controlls the American and European media and has many Internet sites pretending to be dissident, a claim that fools insouciant Americans. Indeed, it is the leftwing that the CIA owns. The rightwing goes along because they think it is patriotic to support the military/security complex. After the CIA overthrows Trump, they will use Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and their presstitutes to foment race war. Then the CIA will ride in on the Pale Horse, and the population will submit.
“Real Time” host Bill Maher wasn’t nearly as confident about a Joe Biden victory in November as his guests were on Friday night. Maher began by citing what he called “frightening” finds from electoral analyst Nate Silver, who recently determined that if Biden wins the popular vote by less than 1%, he’ll have only a “6 percent chance” of becoming president through the electoral college. Similarly, if Biden wins the popular vote by 1 or 2%, he’ll have a “22% chance” of being elected in addition to the “46% chance” with a 2 to 3% popular vote margin. “So he could win by 3 percent and he still has less than half a chance of winning the election,” Maher said. “You’ve got to get up to 5 or 6% before he has a 98% chance of winning the election. That’s a f—ed up country.”
Author Jessica Yellin, a former CNN correspondent, dismissed any reason for panic among Democrats, pointing to Biden’s “unbelievably steady” polling throughout the year, stressing that he’s been “consistently up 6 points” against President Trump, and adding that the numbers don’t indicate the “worst-case scenario” like they did in 2016. Vanity Fair contributor Peter Hamby cited Trump’s weak polling among independents and women, insisting that a “fundamental shifting” among voters “would take something overwhelmingly dramatic.” “The whole ‘What about 2016?’ thing, it’s just not 2016,” Hamby insisted. “People have had four years of Donald Trump. A verdict has more or less been rendered since he’s taken office … and Joe Biden is just not Hillary Clinton. He’s not.”
“I know,” Maher responded. “But what Nate Silver is seeing, it doesn’t matter. Because 5 or 6% is a lot in this country. That’s a big, big, big victory. And if he doesn’t get that — and races tighten at the end! You sound like the panels I used to have on right before the last election. … You guys are whistling past the graveyard.” Yellin doubled down, telling Maher she thinks it’s “very hard” to see Trump convince the rest of undecided voters to support him, pointing to polling that shows his “law and order” messaging has not improved his standing among voters. “So far. Right now,” Maher told Yellin. “You think it’s going to shift?” Yellin replied. “It could,” Maher said. “People generally don’t like violence in the streets. I mean, yes, you’re right.
When he says, ‘I’m the one who’s going to protect you,’ they’re not getting that. They’re not buying that. What they’re saying is ‘Joe Biden is a healer and we need healing right now.’ But this could change.” Maher has previously expressed doubt about Biden’s chances for a November victory. Last month, he told MSNBC’s Joy Reid he was feeling “very nervous” following the conclusion of the Republican National Convention. “I am feeling less confident about this — maybe it’s just their convention bump got to me, but I’m feeling less confident than I was a month ago,” Maher said. “I feel very nervous, the same way I did four years ago at this time.”
We’re informed hours ago, for instance, that the top lawyers in Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel operation wiped all the records from their cell phones before the DOJ Inspector General could collect evidence of their communications from the SC team’s three-year exercise in overthrowing a president. How is that not an obstruction of justice, and who will answer for it?
That’s on top of many other bits of essential evidence in the RussiaGate coup and other perfidious acts mysteriously gone missing — Special Agent Joe Pientka’s original “302” document from the Flynn interrogation, thousands of Strzok-and-Page’s text messages, official verifications of the Steele Dossier submitted to the FISA court, communications between the FBI “small group” (Comey, McCabe, Priestap, Carlin, McCord, Baker, et al.) plus CIA Chief John Brennan and DNI James Clapper with Senators Burr and Warner on the Senate Intel Committee, communications between “whistleblower” Eric Ciaramella, Col. Alexander Vindman and House Intel Committee chair Adam Schiff, records of CIA prop Stephan Halper’s doings with the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, all communication records between State Department official Jonathan Winer and British ex-spy Christopher Steele….
And now, like a fever building to climax, comes the news right out-front that the Democratic Party intends to foment insurrection if the election goes against them. They’re supporting the coming siege of Lafayette Square set to kick off fifty days of “protest” across from the White House beginning Sept 17 as a warm-up for anarchy in the streets across the nation following the Nov 3 vote. Behind us is the summer of riots, arson, and looting, and who paid to support all that? Who paid for flying Antifa and BLM personnel from city to city, feeding and housing them, paying for their “commercial-grade” fireworks, pallets of bricks, gas masks, lasers, bullhorns, black riot outfits? Why is it hard to find out who bought the plane tickets, booked the hotels? Months have gone by since all that started. Is someone in the DOJ following the money? And following their communications (especially considering the crimes against property they’ve committed)?
Russia has sent out the initial batches of the world’s first registered coronavirus vaccine to all parts of its vast territory, as authorities test the delivery system of the much-needed drug. The formula is expected to be delivered on Monday, said Russia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. “The first small batches have already been shipped,” Murashko said, explaining that the government is testing the supply chain to ensure a robust delivery system across the country’s 85 regions. As well as testing the efficacy and safety of the vaccine itself, the government believes it is paramount to ensure the efficient distribution to citizens, especially to those at high risk. Russia’s homegrown Covid-19 formula is currently in the third and final stage of clinical trials, in which 40,000 Muscovites will take part.
While three-quarters will receive the jab, another quarter will be given a placebo. On Wednesday, Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova announced that testing had begun, and over 35,000 residents had applied. “Clinical trials have begun in Moscow,” Murashko said, adding that the ministry had also created “the world’s first mobile application” that allows participants to “report on their condition” throughout the lengthy trial period. [..] The vaccine’s development process has been criticized by some Western countries for its supposedly unsafe rapid development and improper testing. However, earlier this month, the respected British medical journal The Lancet published the Russian Ministry of Health’s Sputnik V study, showing the vaccine to be 100% effective, producing antibodies in all 76 participants of early-stage trials.
For Halloween I’m going to go as a normal person with no mask since that seems to scare the shit out of everyone.
A Chinese scientist who reportedly fled her home country out of fear for her safety has said that she intends to release evidence proving that SARS-Cov-2 did not arise in nature but was actually manufactured in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Virologist Li-Meng Yan claims to have done some of the earliest work on COVID-19 when it first emerged in China last year. She has said she left China in April and that she is currently in hiding in the U.S. On the British ITV television show “Loose Women” on Friday, Yan said she intends to release evidence showing “why this has come from the lab in China, why they are the only ones who made it.”
“The genome sequence [of the virus] is like a human finger print,” she told the talk show. “And based on this you can identify these things.” Yan said at the start of the pandemic she attempted to warn her supervisors of the threat the virus posed yet she was ignored. The scientist on the show declared it “critical” for the world to understand the virus’s origins, claiming: “We can not overcome it, it will be life-threatening for everyone,” though current epidemiological data indicate that the virus likely has a survival rate above 99%.
With COVID-related income supplements and unemployment benefits now expired or reduced, we face a new wave of mortgage and rental delinquencies, many of which will come in the next few months. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, as of June 30, mortgage delinquency in the U.S. had reached 8.2 percent, the highest since 2011 and almost double the 4.5 percent of a year earlier. With 53 million mortgages in the U.S., that means more than 4.3 million mortgages are delinquent. Add to that the fact that, per Black Knight mortgage analytics, almost 5 million homes have been in forbearance. With that, I estimate that at least 1 million to 2 million more of these loans will fall delinquent before the end of this year.
As for renters, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, as of July, 18 percent were delinquent in their rent payments. That compares with less than 7 percent in prior years. With more than 43 million renters, that means more than 7.4 million are behind on their rental payments. With the loss of income and unemployment support, it is reasonable to believe that number will increase by several million over the next few months. Many of the resulting evictions that normally would have occurred have been forestalled by government mandate, and a major portion of the mortgage payments and apartment rental payments that would have been late have been staved off by the lifeline of the $1,200 checks from the CARES Act and augmented unemployment benefits.
Since this assistance has now expired, a new wave of delinquency is before us, and millions more Americans could go delinquent in the months immediately ahead. When people go delinquent on their mortgage or rent because of COVID-based job loss or income reduction, their lives often become a proverbial hell. Many resort to bankruptcy as a refuge. But that is just the start of what is a chain of impairment. For renters, their landlords are then hurt because of those missed rent payments, and so they in turn go into default on the loans they took out to buy the rental property, something felt especially by the small landlords who have little clout with their lenders. Then the lenders themselves — those that made mortgage loans to households and those that made property acquisition loans to the small landlords — suffer loss.
This all comes because the individuals who make up the first link in that chain can’t pay, often just temporarily. All can be protected — at least over the near term — by continued government support such as proposed in the HEROES Act now being debated in Congress. With that, individuals would be able to pay their rent and mortgages, and thus small landlords would be able to pay their loans, and community lenders could avoid major losses.
China’s steel exports have been subject to 15 new anti-dumping investigations in the first nine months of the year, more than all of last year, as experts warn that the US-China trade war and the coronavirus pandemic have hastened a trend towards global protectionism. The US, Britain, Australia and Thailand are among the countries that have initiated dumping probes into Chinese products, including steel plates, grinding balls, cylinders and strands, as well as galvanised wires. Last year, China faced 13 anti-dumping investigations into its steel exports, according to the China Trade Remedies Database. Thailand went a step further in August, slapping a 35.67 per cent anti-dumping tariff on Chinese hot-dipped galvanised coils and sheets.
China, the world’s biggest steel producer, has long been accused of flooding the international market with cheap, subsidised steel, primarily due to oversupply at home. It produced 996 million tonnes of crude steel last year, more than half of the world’s combined output of 1.8 billion tonnes, according to the World Steel Association. But against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, many smaller steel producers in Asia have had enough and are doing everything possible to protect their domestic industries. Korrakod Padungjitt, a Thai steel manufacturer and secretary general of the Thailand Iron and Steel Industry Club, said his country’s latest anti-dumping tariff on Chinese steel would just be a drop in the ocean. Chinese steel started flowing into Thailand in the early 2000s and has increasingly squeezed regional manufacturers, Korrakod said.
The Chinese steel onslaught was so ferocious that in 2010, mainland producers mixed alloy in their steel products to circumvent existing tariffs, he added. The issue is now a regular feature of annual meetings between the Asean Iron and Steel Council and the China Iron and Steel Association. Thailand’s industrial sector has been hard hit by the pandemic, with both investment and consumption plummeting. In July, Thailand’s car production fell 47 per cent compared to the same time last year, which was a significant blow to the steel sector. Earlier this year, Thailand’s Department of Foreign Trade launched an anti-dumping investigation into Chinese hot-dipped galvanised coils and sheets, which are used largely in construction and manufacturing, and in August followed through with a 35.67 per cent duty.
Money that should go to refugees and homeless. Not French arms dealers. But due to historic and geographical factors, Greeks take their army very seriously. They’re one of few countries that meet their NATO quota.
Greece will strengthen its armed forces by buying new weapons systems, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced Saturday. Specifically, Greece will acquire 18 Rafale fighters, a full squadron’s strength, to replacing the aging Mirage 2000 planes; 4 new frigates, while refurbishing 4 existing ones; 4 Romeo naval helicopters; antitank weapons for the Army; torpedoes for the Navy and guided missile for its Air Force. It will also add 15,000 professional soldiers to its armed forces over the next five years, Mitsotakis said. The new weapons procurement program comes amid heightened tensions with Turkey over resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Its announcement dominated the first half of Mitsotakis’ speech on the grounds of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
The trade fair itself has been canceled, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Mitsotakis delivered the customary speech describing next year’s economic policy. The extra spending on defense did not prevent Mitsotakis from announcing a new €6.8 billion injection into the economy, in the form of payroll and other tax cuts, subsidies and payments of pension cuts restored by the courts. “A shift in priorities (toward defense spending) does not mean a change in goals,” Mitsotakis told a restricted audience of just 50, all wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. “Ankara is now adding to the provocations in the Aegean, the undermining of peace in the entire Mediterreanean,” Mitsotakis said. “It is threatening the eastern borders of Europe, and it is undermining security in a sensitive crossroads of three continents.”
Greece military boost
Greek riot police fired teargas at protesting refugees clamouring to leave Lesbos as the situation on the island became more explosive days after devastating fires forced thousands to flee its notorious migrant camp. Tensions mounted as asylum seekers, desperate to make their way to other parts of Europe, watched authorities, including the Greek army, rush to replace the now gutted facility of Moria with a new holding centre. “Freedom, freedom,” demonstrators chanted under the watchful eye of riot police deployed to the Aegean isle from Athens. “We don’t need new camp … we want freedom,” proclaimed some of the crude handwritten placards held aloft by protesters on Saturday.
Witnesses reported teargas being fired after younger migrants began lobbing rocks at the police units. A series of overnight blazes starting on Tuesday razed Moria, Europe’s largest refugee camp, decanting close to 13,000 men, women and children into the surrounding countryside. With the exception of 406 lone migrant children who have been flown to the Greek mainland, the former residents have been left to fend for themselves, many making makeshift shelters out of tarps and bamboo reeds along the side of a main road leading to Mytilene, the island’s port capital. Others have camped in fields, olive groves, churches and even cemeteries.
Frustration, the insistence of Greek officials that transferal is out of the question and a growing realisation that any prospect of leaving is diminishing fast have helped create an increasingly toxic atmosphere. The destruction of containers housing the asylum service in Moria has further fuelled a prevailing sense of desperation among refugees. “The thought that they may be here for even longer now, the sight of the replacement camp and being stranded without proper shelter for days has, for many, become the tipping point,” said one aid worker requesting anonymity because she was not authorised to speak. Earlier, Greece’s alternate migration minister, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, told SKAI TV Lesbos was facing a public health emergency, “a triple challenge” that also involves “public order and national security”.
On Saturday a woman and her 20-month-old baby were flown to Athens where they will be hospitalised after testing positive for the virus. They were not among the original group, most of whom were described as asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19. With fears of infection rates increasing, some 200,000 Covid-19 rapid tests were flown into Lesbos on a specially chartered plane on Friday. “There are now real fears among our island’s residents of the virus spreading,” local journalist Yannis Sinanis told the Guardian. Officials were working around-the-clock to erect the new settlement, a collection of 500 tents with the capacity to accommodate six people each. Other asylum seekers are expected to be accommodated in a ferryboat and naval ships.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has stripped Schindler’s List of its Best Motion Picture award for not having enough LGBTQ+ characters, people of color, and other oppressed groups. “Schindler’s List would have been a great movie if it just had a dozen transgendered characters,” said Le’Jon de Froofroo, spokesperson for the Academy. “As it is, there are just a bunch of Jews and Germans — very privileged races.” “Also, the movie has Nazis — this is the current year, for goodness’ sake!” Steven Spielberg has been ordered by the Academy to re-release the film with an unnecessary LGBTQ+ side plot, a gay roommate for Schindler, and a song and dance number set to a Lady Gaga song over the end credits if he wishes to re-earn the Academy Award. Otherwise, it will be re-awarded to Brokeback Mountain. This is just the first Oscar winner to be stripped of its award, as the Academy has plans to strip the award from over 95% of the winners and give them all to Brokeback Mountain.
It’s very hard not to wonder what everyone would have been writing and talking about in these first few days of 2020 if Australia weren’t burning and the US hadn’t killed Soleimani. Because this is all people are on about. Nobody talks about impeachment, for one thing.
It’s a shame that virtually all use the two events to reaffirm their prior positions, that they see to tweak events to reinforce their prior positions. It’s nigh impossible not to read that Trump will start a grand war, or the US will. This first article by Hassan Hassan is a rare exception.
Something else that crossed my mind: Soleimani’s death has -perhaps greatly- increased the chance that US troops will have to leave Iraq. Who would want that to happen?
The killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani could prove to be the most consequential US slaying of an enemy operative in recent memory. It will eclipse in its significance the killing of Osama bin Laden almost a decade ago or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October. Not because it might spark another Middle East war, as many have warned, or merely because Suleimani was irreplaceable. Rather, his killing came at a time when the project he had led – to create an Iranian hegemony in the region – is facing unprecedented challenges in Iraq and Lebanon, through cross-sectarian and grassroots protests, while in Syria the project is still in its infancy. One can add to this picture a more aggressive policy adopted by the US.
Indeed, Suleimani was killed while he was trying to deal with these very challenges. His successor is unlikely to be able to complete that mission and contain the spiral of events in countries where, only a year ago, Iran declared major victories – in Syria against the rebels, in Lebanon through a Hezbollah-friendly government and in Iraq and Syria against Isis. In the short term, doomsday scenarios seem far-fetched. Neither side is interested in an outright war, even if developments over the past few years indicate that both have been caught in an unpredictable cycle of escalation and mounting tension. Crucially, nearly all the most influential public figures in Iraq, so far the main battle-space for the two powers, have called for a restrained and clear-headed response to prevent the situation in their country from spinning out of control.
These calls reduced significantly the chances for the worst-case scenario – of Iraq’s public figures mobilising impulsively and collectively against the United States in a way that might spark attacks and retaliations. Such scenarios would have made the US presence in Iraq unsustainable, at best. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most revered cleric, condemned Washington for its “flagrant aggression” but, in the same breath, he also called for restraint. What’s more, he cited the Iran-linked attack on the US embassy in Baghdad as part of a dangerous whirlwind of events that could steer Iraq into renewed chaos.
Beyond the extreme scenarios, Iran’s options for retaliation seem limited to familiar patterns of proxy and asymmetric warfare. Even Iranian officials have suggested any response to Suleimani’s killing would have to come later; foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that Tehran would launch “legal measures” at international level to hold the US to account. While a future response is possible, alarmism about a spiral into confrontation between Iran and the US is misplaced.
Hmmm. Yes, Trump was the first to use Twitter, social media the way he does. because they didn’t exist the way they do. Presidents, CIS etc., would use the NYT and WaPo to start wars, sell them to voters. Does any of this mean Twitter should censure Trump? Or that not doing it makes them warmongers?
Lost in the back-and-forth over the legality of the assassination and whatever future consequences it may hold is that Trump may be the first president to stoke, and perhaps even declare, war through the Internet. [..] Since taking office, Trump has used Twitter to antagonize North Korea, start false rumors about Russia, intimidate witnesses, harass journalists, slander political rivals and — perhaps we should have seen it coming — threaten Iran. For its part, Twitter seems okay — maybe even pleased — that Trump has selected their platform to connect directly with the public. To date, no other social media platform has been able to boast that two sitting presidents have actively used their platform with the level of tenacity seen on Twitter.
That was likely the thought in mind when Twitter responded to criticism over its selective enforcement of its own terms of service — the kind that prohibit direct harassment against a person, incitement of violence, certain slurs and other acts of malfeasance — by saying it would give greater leniency to world leaders because what they have to tweet is important for people to read. “Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation,” a blog post published in January 2018 said. “Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society. Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.”
Twitter goes on to argue that removing a world leader like Trump from the platform would not silence them as some would wish, but rather “hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.” “We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly,” Twitter said. So far, that enforcement has amounted to a blank check for Trump to say whatever he want with impunity, with the social network apparently figuring that whatever Trump has to say — on his personal account that he used for several years before he became president — has roots in political discourse. And, hey, it’s not like anyone has died from a president’s tweet before.
But the assassination of Gen. Soleimali at Trump’s direction changes everything. Nowhere has Trump’s trademark approach to public discourse — filterless, unhinged, often ignorant and without regard to consequence — played out more than on Twitter. Now, people are paying closer attention to what Trump has to say, particularly on Iran, and a lot of the focus is on what Trump will tweet next. Certainly among those waiting with baited breath are world leaders — allies who are trying hard to prepare for what’s ahead with virtually little advance notice and foes who are looking for any excuse to attack.
As the crisis between the United States and Iran over the killing of Gen. Soleimali intensifies, it’s not unreasonable to assume Trump will, at some point, tweet something that instigates an attack or declaration of war. When that happens, Americans will die. By choosing not to enforce its terms equitably across users and show privilege and favor to world leaders, Twitter — as a platform and as a company — will play a role in whatever comes next.
Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”
Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.
Warren, who faced criticism from the left for initially prefacing her alarm at the threat of “another costly war” with the statement that Suleimani was “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans,” amplified Sanders’s anti-war message more clearly on Friday. “Donald Trump is dangerous and reckless,” she wrote. “He’s escalated crises and betrayed our partners. He’s undermined our diplomatic relationships for his own personal, political gain. We cannot allow him to drag us back into another war. We must speak out.”
Biden also criticized the killing of the general as needlessly provocative, but issued a statement that embraced the Trump administration’s argument that Suleimani, who orchestrated deadly attacks on U.S. soldiers during the post-war occupation of Iraq, “deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops.” The former vice president — who voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq when he was still in the Senate, and later authored a bizarre plan to partition the country along ethnic and sectarian lines — was critical mainly of what he called Trump’s failure to explain his “strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel” and Trump’s lack of a “long-term vision” for the U.S. military’s role in the region.
In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence. Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.
What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. [..] The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.
This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.
Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) SUBJECT: Doubling Down Into Another “March of Folly”?
The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters. What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.
Cui Bono? It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon payed a huge role in getting George W. Bush to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Usually taciturn, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, warned in August 2002 that “U.S. action against Iraq … could turn the whole region into a cauldron.” Bush paid no heed, prompting Scowcroft to explain in Oct. 2004 to The Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized”; that Sharon has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.)
In Sept. 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, who was Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission, stated publicly in a moment of unusual candor, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.” Zelikow did not explain how Iraq (or Iran), with zero nuclear weapons, would not be deterred from attacking Israel, which had a couple of hundred such weapons.
Since President Trump took office in 2017, the leadership of the Democratic Party has overwhelmingly supported the precursors to today’s dangerous U.S. escalation towards Iran: sanctions, proxy battles and a bloated military budget. Yet, now that we stand on the brink of a possible U.S. war of aggression, Democratic leaders are feigning concern that Trump is leading a march to war without congressional approval, and using a faulty strategy to do so. These objections, however, are grounded in process critiques, rather than moral opposition—and belie Democrats’ role in helping lay the groundwork for the growing confrontation.
The U.S. drone assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force and a ranking official of the Iranian government, takes confrontation with Iran to new heights, inching the U.S. closer to the war the Trump administration has been pushing for. While Trump deserves blame for driving this dangerous escalation, he did not do it on his own.
As recently as December 2019, the House overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 with a vote of 377-48. Two amendments were stripped from that bill before it went to a vote: Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) amendment to block funding for a war with Iran barring congressional approval and Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Calif.) amendment to repeal 2001’s “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” (AUMF). That AUMF effectively allows the government to use “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone suspected of being connected to the 9/11 attacks, and has been interpreted broadly to justify U.S. aggression around the world. Officials from the Trump administration have suggested that the 2001 AUMF may give them authority to go to war with Iran.
Of the 377 Representatives who voted for the $738 billion defense bill, 188 were Democrats. Just 41 Democrats opposed the legislation. The bill cleared the Senate with a tally of 86-8, with just four Democrats voting against it. None of the Senators running for the 2020 Democratic nomination were present for the vote. Before the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to brag about the fact that “partisan demands” had effectively been removed from the bill and declared that “sanity and progress” had won out. “Reassuringly, the past few days have finally brought an end to bipartisan talks and produced a compromise NDAA,” said McConnell.
China will keep monetary policy prudent, flexible and appropriate, and continue to deepen financial reforms, the central bank said on Sunday, reiterating previous policy statements. After a work meeting chaired by People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang, the central bank also vowed to prevent any financial crisis, and said it would continue to help small companies seeking financing, according to a statement posted on PBOC’s website. It also said it will continue to let market play a decisive role in the currency exchange rate, but would keep the yuan exchange rate stable within a reasonable range. China’s economic growth cooled to a near 30-year low of 6% in the third quarter, but is expected to meet the government’s full-year 2019 target of 6%-6.5%. The PBOC on Wednesday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the eighth time in nearly two years…
The U.S. Federal Reserve still has enough clout to fight a future downturn, but policymakers should state in advance the mix of policies and policy promises they plan to use to get the most bang for their buck, former Fed chief Ben Bernanke said on Saturday. In an address to the American Economics Association, Bernanke pushed back on the notion that central banks have lost influence over the economy, and laid out his thoughts about how the Fed in particular could change its monetary policy “framework” to be sure that is not the case. Citing new research of his own and others at the Fed and elsewhere, Bernanke said the bondbuying programs known as “quantitative easing” were effective in lowering long-term interest rates even after the Fed’s target policy rate had been cut to zero.
Several rounds of QE were rolled out in response to the deep 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession, and Bernanke said bondbuying should be made a permanent part of the U.S. central bank’s toolkit. Similarly, “forward guidance,” or promises about future policy, proved effective particularly as those pledges became more specific and tied to particular goals like reaching a certain level of unemployment. “Forward guidance in the next downturn will be more effective – better understood, better anticipated, and more credible – if it is part of a policy framework clearly articulated in advance,” Bernanke said. “Both QE and forward guidance should be part of the standard toolkit going forward.” “The room available for conventional rate cuts is much smaller than in the past,” Bernanke said, but “the new policy tools are effective.”
From the mid-1960s through the mid-’90s, American politics had something more like a four-party system, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alongside liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Conservative Mississippi Democrats and liberal New York Democrats might have disagreed more than they agreed in Congress, but they could still get elected on local brands. You could have once said the same thing about liberal Vermont Republicans and conservative Kansas Republicans. Depending on the issue, different coalitions were possible, which allowed for the kind of fluid bargaining the constitutional system requires.
But that was before American politics became fully nationalized, a phenomenon that happened over several decades, powered in large part by a slow-moving post-civil-rights realignment of the two parties. National politics transformed from a compromise-oriented squabble over government spending into a zero-sum moral conflict over national culture and identity. As the conflict sharpened, the parties changed what they stood for. And as the parties changed, the conflict sharpened further. Liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats went extinct. The four-party system collapsed into just two parties.
The Democrats, the party of diversity and cosmopolitan values, came to dominate in cities but disappeared from the exurbs. And the Republicans, the party of traditional values and white, Christian identity, fled the cities and flourished in the exurbs. Partisan social bubbles began to grow, and congressional districts became more distinctly one party or the other. As a result, primaries, not general elections, determine the victor in many districts.
An amazing photo taken by a woman as fires raged nearby seemed to mimic the Aboriginal flag. South Australian woman Rose Fletcher took the photo at Victor Harbour as the sun rose on New Year’s Day when fires near her home were at their worst. ‘It was taken on New Year’s Day, just after sunrise, when the fires were arguably at their worst, and hearts were heavy and people were frightened – me included,’ Mrs Fletcher told Daily Mail Australia. ‘The rising sun was just a pale disc behind the layers of smoke over the Southern Ocean – and then, for just a few magic seconds, as it moved up through successively dense layers, it formed the Aboriginal flag.’
Towns on Australia’s east coast have been plunged into darkness in the middle of the day recently, while others have witnessed the sky turn apocolyptic red as the fire front approached. At least 24 people have died so far and dozens more are still missing so far this fire season. Authorities predict that number will rise. In addition to the death toll, more than 1,500 homes and four million hectares of land have been wiped out. More than 500 million animals are feared to have perished. Ms Fletcher said she recognised right away the power of the image and immediately went home to share it. ‘So I went home and put it up on Facebook, hoping that those moments would speak to other people as they spoke to me, and the rest is history,’ she said.
Lots of news outlets labeled yesterday’s House vote to impeach President Trump “historic”. It was. But what was historic about it was not that Donald Trump became the third president to be impeached. What was historic was the way it was done. That was a first.
Because it was not the House that impeached President Donald Trump, it was the Democratic Party. Which just happened to have the majority in the House. They appear to think that this is all that’s needed, which is a big mistake and an even bigger gamble. A gamble on the value and future of the US Constitution and the entire political system.
In an exercise in sanctimonious rhetoric, Nancy Pelosi and several other Democratic House members claim they are the only ones upholding the Constitution, and they’re the only ones who know what America’s Founding Fathers had in mind while writing the Constitution, and what they wrote about impeachment. Maybe someone should point out -again- that the Constitution is a document written by slaveholders. See how that flies with their black constituency.
Then again, none of this is really much different from what their witnesses in the past weeks had to say about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky, the one and only issue that impeachment eventually came to rely on, after years of trying to find something “impeachable”. That is, it’s not about facts, it’s about opinion and interpretation.
Trump asked Zelensky to look into a number of issues. But never said he wanted him to do that in order to elevate his chances in an election which was at that point a year and a half away, and in which Joe Biden’s role was not then, nor is it now, anywhere near assured. While there are many lingering questions surrounding the roles of both Joe and Hunter Biden.
For most of the witnesses called by the Democrats, including 3 “legal experts”, it was for some reason clear what Trump meant even though he never said it. That is a mighty slippery slope. That all three were donors to various Democrats is just icing on the slippery cake. But what remains most important is these were opinions, and they were not based on facts.
And we should at least be able to agree that facts are undoubtedly what the Founders meant for impeachment to be based on. They were wary enough of the instrument to set it up the way they did, with the role of the House and the separate role of the Senate, where a 2/3 vote is required. They did not want it based on hearsay and personal bias.
What they did not foresee was what has happened now, they trusted both the system and future politicians to safeguard themselves against using impeachment as a partisan political tool. They were wrong.
Well into this year, 2019, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi still emphasized the need for impeachment proceedings to be bipartisan. In March she said: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path..”
And on June 16, a full two months after the Mueller report came out: “I don’t think there’s anything more divisive we can do than to impeach a president of the United States, and so you have to handle it with great care..”
By September 24, however, again two full months after the Trump-Zelensky call, she abandoned that principle, and it’s not fully clear why, other than “unverified claims of an anonymous whistleblower”. She insisted it was because of the Zelensky call, but we’ve all been able to read there was not enough in that call for either her change of mind or, for that matter, impeachment itself.
Nancy Pelosi now hints she will delay sending articles of impeachment to the Senate because she wants to make sure the process is bipartisan. But does anyone want to claim that what happened in the House was bipartisan? If so, pray tell how we can tell it was.
Adam Schiff, like Nancy, questions if there will be a fair trial in the Senate. Does he mean like the one he presided over in the House, with behind closed doors testimony, no witnesses for the other side, and a committee chairman who constantly interrupts representatives from the other side? He may well get exactly that, just from a very different angle.
Schiff and his Democrats have been after Trump since before the 2016 elections, and the number of times they have uttered terms like “overwhelming” and “uncontested evidence” are impossible to count. But the “evidence” never was uncontested. And it isn’t to this day.
Something I don’t quite understand is that everybody knows Trump knew the call was recorded, and many people were listening in on it while it took place, so the entire interpretation of contents of the call as impeachable -he didn’t say it but he meant to- must be based on the idea that Trump is incredibly dumb – or evil?! Even if he would have wanted dirt on Joe Biden because of 2020, he could have gone about it in less “evident” ways than a semi-public phone call.
A house divided cannot stand. Yet the Democrats use their majority in the House to de facto say they ARE the House and thereby divide it. Unfortunately for them, this House too, cannot stand divided. It will crumble.
If one values the Constitution, the House, the Senate and the Office of President of the United States, one must treat all of these with the utmost care and respect. Which means you cannot get rid of a president just because you don’t like him or her, because if you do, you open the floodgates and you might as well throw everything America’s politics is based upon, out the window.
You can’t impeach a president based on hearsay, opinions, conjecture or personal interpretations of words s/he said. But that’s all I’ve seen and read and heard.
The Democrats are confident they can come out of this in one piece, and many even think as winners. Donald Trump doesn’t feel much of a threat, and why should he, but it’s been three years of great nuisance that now culminate in Pelosi not even having the courage to go to the Senate with her cherished impeachment articles.
Meanwhile though, the divisions in America have grown so deep it feels like Moses himself created them. And that is the real damage done. You can’t attack the political system, and the presidency, with anything but solid evidence, without doing real damage. Well, it has been done.
If Trump gets re-elected, and I would wager he will be after all the circus, the Dems can only start the wheel again. If a miracle Democrat gets the nod, the Republicans will initiate the same treatment Trump has received during his entire presidency. And so on and so forth until death do us part.
PS I stole the title from Michael Goodwin, who used it as his closing line.
PS2 I know there are not really two political parties in the US, but the growing gaping divide between the people is very real
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The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.
The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”
Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.
The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”
This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.
It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…
… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…
… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.
The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.
“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.
Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.
Jonathan Turley: "The problem is not that abuse of power can never be an impeachable offense, you just have to prove it, and you haven’t." pic.twitter.com/EXxkHfAXmN
Thanks to Pamela Karlan for so aptly capturing Democratic elites’ delusional, Reaganite, jingoistic Cold Warrior mindset in your claim that we need to arm Ukraine “so they fight the Russians there and we don’t have to fight them here” & we remain “that shining city on the hill.” pic.twitter.com/C78aNThnUk
Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”
Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”
Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”
The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”
Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”
"America is not just 'the last best hope,' as Mr. Jefferies said, but it's also the shining city on a hill. We can't be the shining city on a hill and promote democracy around the world if we're not promoting it here at home."
Professor Turley, who voted against Trump in 2016, confirmed under oath today from a legal perspective that there was no bribery, no extortion, no obstruction of justice and no abuse of power. What false charge can Democrats possibly pursue next? pic.twitter.com/pxSazjKFyA
By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.
With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.
Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.
And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.
News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.
Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.
Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.
While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”
After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.
Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.
The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.
Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.
The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’
The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.
An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”
German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.
Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV
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There are things you just cannot do. Partisanship, even the semblance of it, when discussing the US Constitution, is certainly one of them. But there we go: in Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee hearings starting today, the Democrats get to pick 3 Constitutional experts, vs just one for the Republicans. There is no bigger no-no.
This is not about whether Trump has tried to bribe Ukraine president Zelensky, something the latter has denied quite vehemently multiple times, this is about the Constitution, the document that holds the entire country together, the paper that everyone will cite whenever it appears to favor their views. But which should also be a beacon when those views get blurred.
You cannot make the Constitution play second fiddle to party politics. But that’s what just happened. Trump already sounds almost lackadaisical about it, after all he’s been through for 3 years: “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one..” “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law..”
I don’t think he should be that accepting. He should protect the Constitution instead. That’s in the job description of a US president.
The judiciary committee has the power to formally draft articles of impeachment and submit them for a full vote in the House of Representatives. The committee is hearing on Wednesday from four law professors – three picked by Democrats and one by Republicans. Chosen by the Democrats are Stanford University’s Pamela Karlan, Harvard University’s Professor Noah Feldman and from the University of North Carolina, Michael Gerhardt. George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley was picked by Republicans.
The lawyers will interpret the impeachment clause of the constitution, which allows for presidents to be removed from office due to “high crimes and misdemeanours”. The White House was invited to participate in the hearing, but on Sunday declared that they would not send any administration officials to attend. Mr Trump was scheduled to return from London to Washington later on Wednesday, after the first judiciary hearing has concluded. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump announced that he would depart early, skipping a final news conference “because we did so many over the past two days”.
His hasty departure came soon after a video emerged of other world leaders at the Nato conference appearing to mock him. “They get three constitutional lawyers… and we get one,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. “That’s not sounding too good, and that’s the way it is. “It’s all nonsense, just wasting their time, and we get one. Ok. Nobody needs to know anything about constitutional law,” he said.
Kamala Harris just ended her presidential bid. She was a forerunner not long ago. Can we hand kudos to Tulsi Gabbard for this? This bit of news came in as I was watching Hillary refusing to rule out another run in 2020 on a BBC TV show. They still don’t get it, do they, why they lost, but that’s probably because they have no candidates. Other than Tulsi.
Joe Biden will not survive Burisma, there’s no way. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are at this moment both too far left for flyover country, and you would have to worry about their charisma to begin with. Hillary has some charisma alright, but she’s not a popular person across the nation; she’s downright despised among large groups of people, the same way Trump is among other groups. A bit of a Mexican stand-off?!
Jerry Nadler, who Devin Nunes said recently had been “in a witness protection program because of the failed Mueller probe”, will kick off another round of “impeachment” (or is it censure by now?) inquiries, to which he invited Trump knowing full well the latter would be in London for a NATO summit that day.
Lisa Page lied to her direct boss, FBI deputy head Andrew McCabe, about her relationship with FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, while she was working there -as a lawyer- as well. Strzok was thrown off the Mueller investigation, which was all FBI, because his partisanship even in those partisan settings had become all too obvious. He was later fired outright by the FBI. Page “left on her own accord”.
And now Lisa Page decides to speak out under the really strange headline ‘There’s No Fathomable Way I Have Committed Any Crime at All’ because Trump appears mean to her. “Trump Target” was part of so many headlines the past few days you’d think all the “reporters” and editors who used it were communicating about it. But maybe not, maybe by now they no longer need instructions or meetings, maybe it all seems natural at this point.
Thing is, way before Page could even remotely could have been a Trump target, if there is such a thing, because he had no idea she existed in 2016, Trump had become a Lisa Page -and Peter Strzok- target. We know this from thousands of emails the lovebirds sent each other. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok in August 2016, during the investigation into the campaign. “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded. In another text message sent in August by Strzok to Page, he said “I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s [McCabe’s] office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
But Lisa decided to go on record at the Daily Beast as a victim, a Trump Target. One must truly wonder what made her do that, at this particular point in time. We can speculate about the upcoming Horowitz report, or the Durham investigation, all we want, but we just don’t know. That she won’t be named in either would seem far-fetched though. And maybe she knows that too. The DOJ IG said:
“We found that the conduct of these five FBI employees brought discredit to themselves, sowed doubt about the FBI’s handling of the Midyear investigation, and impacted the reputation of the FBI,” the inspector general wrote in 2018 of Page and pals.
“Moreover, the damage caused by their actions extends far beyond the scope of the Midyear investigation and goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral factfinding and political independence. We were deeply troubled by text messages exchanged between Strzok and Page that potentially indicated or created the appearance that investigative decisions were impacted by bias or improper considerations.”
“Page insists that Trump wasn’t the target of the 2016 investigation into his campaign, and that the FBI learned of “the possibility that there’s someone on the Trump campaign coordinating with the Russian government in the release of emails, which will damage the Clinton campaign.” “We were very deliberate and conservative about who we first opened on because we recognized how sensitive a situation it was,” Page says. “So the prospect that we were spying on the campaign or even investigating candidate Trump himself is just false. That’s not what we were doing.”
Again, there are 1000’s of emails between Strzok and Page that confirm they were targeting Trump, and not some unknown Russian. Her claims about this make zero sense. The best way to approach this is perhaps this Jordan Schachtel tweet:
Lisa Page is a “survivor” now.
Pay no attention to the IG report that said her corruption caused irreparable harm that “goes to the heart of the FBI’s reputation for neutral fact finding and political independence.” https://t.co/32cF4Fg2XX
Is the FBI more interested in harming Trump than it is in the harm done to its own organization? It seems obvious it was in 2016. How is that now? Am I a conspiracy theorist for even thinking about it? As always, just when you think you’ve seen it all, there turns out to be more from where that came from.
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Everything Brexit changes every 5 minutes. That makes it hard to follow. It makes it hard to write about it too, because things are certain to be different as soon as you hit Publish.
Boris wanted snap elections on October 14. That became 15 because of a Jewish holiday. but the opposition didn’t really want that election, Or they did, but not on his terms. And over the past few days it’s been said 1000 times that Boris is not to be trusted so no election at all, lest he underhandedly changes the date. Well, okay let’s have one but not before November. That way his hands are tied.
Because there is no such thing as a British -or UK, if you will- constitution, court challenges against prorogating Parliament get thrown out, since no judge feels obliged to waddle into that minefield. The Supreme Court will have to, though. And soon. The prorogation apparently still leaves room on Monday September 9 for another go in Parliament at Boris’s move for an election. It will be thrown out.
Then: 5 weeks of silence. Yeah, right. Parliament may be prorogued, but Boris won’t be, and neither will the courts. There was this judge the other day who said Parliament itself can decide when to sit, but that is simply untrue. Because it ignores prorogation, which another judge just said is perfectly legal.
Boris wants to prorogue Westminster for 5 years? Perfectly legal, it would seem. Unless some lawyer or judge delves up a law from the 16th century that says otherwise. Constitutions have their use, you know.
But it’s hard not to feel sorry for the man here and there and now and then. Ministers leave, friends leave, his brother is outta here and even his dog handed him a pink slip.
And the opposition, including a whole bunch of his own party, is ganging up on him. Maybe that has something to do with special adviser Dominic Cummings telling 21 Tory parliamentarians they’re no longer welcome in their own party, of which he himself is not even a member and never has been. Maybe that’s it.
But the strongest words came from Liz Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru leader at Westminster -Plaid Cymru is a a social-democratic political party in Wales advocating Welsh independence from the United Kingdom within the European Union- says Wikipedia.
Saville Roberts said that this morning the opposition party leaders agreed that guaranteeing an article 50 extension should take priority over calling an early election, via BBC News:
We need to make sure we get past the 31 October and an extension to article 50. In that respect, we were in agreement that the prime minister is on the run. Boris is broken. We have an opportunity to bring down Boris, to break Boris, and to bring down Brexit. And we must take that.
Just as this week, the vote for a general election would play into Boris Johnson’s hands. It would allow him to ignore the legislation that is currently going through the House of Lords, likely to have royal assent today. It would allow him to ignore that. It would give him the opportunity to ignore the law.
Our duty, therefore, as parliamentarians who are intent on stopping no-deal Brexit is to be here in this place, to hold him to account, and to make sure that he abides by the law.
See, my theory is that Boris doesn’t give a hoot about politics, he just wants being PM on his bucket list. And he trusts, as he always has in his life, in his particular charm to woo the -older- ladies in the country to his side. Boris looks like someone with mother issues, she’s the one he’s trying to charm.
But ganging up on him like this is not nice. The older ladies will confirm this. There’s a former PM too who’s in on it:
Pressed on a challenge by Sir John Major on Thursday night to sack Cummings, Johnson first failed to answer a direct question from one reporter, then refused to give his chief adviser explicit support when asked a second time. He answered:
“I … I … Look … Advisers, as I think someone said in the Commons the other day, advisers advise and ministers decide.”
On Thursday evening, Major made an implicit reference to Cummings in a speech to the CBI Scotland annual dinner: “We have seen over-mighty advisers before. It is a familiar script. It always ends badly. I offer the prime minister some friendly advice: get rid of these advisers before they poison the political atmosphere beyond repair. And do it quickly. There is no need for them to be led out of Downing Street by armed police, but go they should. And now.”
Boris looks to be checkmate at this point. But he’s not the leader, Dominic Cummings is. And Cummings can see a few moves ahead. So there may still be surprises coming. Then again, Boris has claimed he’d rather die in a ditch than ask the EU for another Brexit extension, and Parliament appears to have made it impossible not to ask for one.
Ergo, Boris may have to go this weekend or right after the Monday vote that will deny him his snap election in time for Halloween. And if he does, he doesn’t lose all that much face, because he can blame his failure on a vast selection of other people.
But then what? Have that election anyway? Half of Britain will be red hot angry if there still is no Brexit, and there will be a lot of Labour voters in that half. So Jeremy Corbyn is not very likely to win right now. Lib Dems then? They were salvaged from the dustbin what seems just 5 minutes ago because nobody else wanted to support the Remain option. They were gone, broken.
It’s going to take a long time to put the pieces of that broken country back together again, no matter what the outcome of all this may be. That doesn’t bode well for anyone. And make no mistake, it’s broken. Into millions of little pieces.
Pro-democracy demonstrators planned on Sunday to choke travel routes to Hong Kong’s international airport after a chaotic night of running battles between police and masked protesters, the latest wave of unrest to hit the Chinese-ruled city. Protest organizers have urged the public to overwhelm road and rail links to the airport, one of the world’s busiest, on Sunday and Monday, potentially disrupting flights. People would begin gathering at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT), protest groups said. The airport closed one of its car parks and advised passengers to use public transport, without giving a reason.
A similar so-called “stress test” of the airport last weekend failed to gain momentum. Three weeks ago, some flights were delayed or canceled after protesters swarmed the airport. Late on Saturday and into the early hours, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters threw petrol bombs, escalating clashes that have plunged the Asian financial center into its worst political crisis in decades. As government helicopters hovered overhead, protesters who had been banned from demonstrating set fires in the streets and threw bricks at police near government offices and Chinese military headquarters.
Officers fired two warning shots in the air to scare off a group of protesters who had them surrounded and were trying to steal their pistols, the police said, only the second time live rounds have been used in more than three months of unrest. Police sprayed demonstrators with blue-dyed water to make it easier to identify them later. Parts of the metro system ground to a halt as skirmishes spread to the subway, with television showing images of people being beaten as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas. Police said they arrested 40 people inside Prince Edward metro station on suspicion of obstructing officers, unlawful assembly and criminal damage. Three stations stayed shut on Sunday.
To prorogue parliament for no better reason than to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of a no-deal Brexit may have been an intolerable abuse of power, and an affront to democracy, but in Britain it is constitutionally possible. As a result, for all the threats of judicial review and court actions, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge. For the prime minister controls everything, from the business of the House of Commons to the ability to prorogue it. He or she is lent monarchial sovereignty, the same sovereignty that Charles 1 tried to justify because the monarch was supposedly God’s representative on Earth: the divine right of kings, now transmuted into the divine right of Boris.
Part of the-then cleverness of the 17th-century deal was that it co-opted the crown into being the above-the-fray, holder-of-the-ring of proper parliamentary procedure and process. But today, that capacity has evaporated. So when Jacob Rees-Mogg travelled to Balmoral last week to ask the Queen to prorogue parliament, there was virtually no prospect of her refusing – as an elected head of state might have done. She did have the option of saying that on such a controversial use of prerogative power she wanted to go beyond the minimum quorate of three for a privy council meeting (the chief whip and leader of the House of Lords accompanied Rees-Mogg on a separate plane to Balmoral to avoid suspicion) and call for a full meeting including former ministers from other parties, purportedly the constitutional forum to advise her on use of the royal prerogative.
But that would have been seen as a political act. She folded. Exposed as a constitutional cipher, the case for an elected head of state has suddenly become unanswerable. It is but one of the many constitutional earthquakes triggered by Brexit whose aftershocks will be felt for decades. Even the character of the referendum itself is testament to our lack of a constitution. No super-majority was required for this fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with Europe, any more than it was for the Scottish referendum: amazingly, a 42-year and a 300-year union could be ripped apart by a majority of one citizen’s vote.
For much of August the plan to shut down parliament for five weeks was kept a very tight secret at the heart of government. For the few Whitehall officials who were made aware of it early on, however, it was not difficult to decipher whose fingerprints were all over it. It was clear to that small group that the bombshell idea had been hatched by Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, and No 10’s director of legislative affairs, Nikki da Costa. Cummings has long been known at Westminster for his disdain for Whitehall and the way the entire system of British government works. He doesn’t mince his words or tolerate those he regards as fools. “If he meets resistance from ministers or officials he will just tell them to fuck off, whoever they are,” said one Whitehall source, who has worked with him.
[..] Last Friday an email between a Whitehall official and No 10 was leaked to this newspaper. It made clear that Johnson had approached Cox for advice on a five-week suspension from around 9 September to 14 October. Cox’s initial view, the correspondence made clear, was that it would probably be legal, unless various court actions being planned by Remainers to block prorogation were successful. Downing Street’s official response when asked about the leak was, at first, muted. “No 10 officials ask for legal and policy advice every day,” said a government source.
But when the Observer story broke last Saturday evening, as Johnson and his team were in Biarritz for the G7 summit preparing for meetings with US president Donald Trump and EU council president Donald Tusk the next day, Downing Street changed tack and tried to dismiss the story in a way that was to backfire spectacularly. Johnson’s press team issued a statement saying that “the claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false”. It did not deny that the attorney general had been consulted about prorogation but its intent was clear: to create the impression that shutting down parliament was not going to happen.
But less than 72 hours later more leaks were to follow from people inside the government machine to media organisations saying that the prime minister was to make an announcement about prorogation on Wednesday morning. After the BBC got wind of the new leaks, some senior staff were initially dubious that they were genuine, given No 10’s previous denials. When Johnson announced the exact same plan on which his team had poured buckets of cold water four days earlier, large sections of the media, as well as MPs and much of the country, were understandably furious.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson challenged lawmakers to deliver on the Brexit vote and not thwart his plans to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31. Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, but opposition lawmakers – and several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservatives – want to act to rule out a no deal Brexit when parliament returns from recess on Tuesday. Previous votes have indicated a majority in parliament opposing a no-deal Brexit, but in a newspaper interview, Johnson said that backing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn risked there being no Brexit at all.
“The fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum? Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people — and plunge this country into chaos?,” Johnson told the Sunday Times. “Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda? That’s the choice.”
The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario as the EU could not meet Britain’s demands that the backstop for the Irish border is removed from the withdrawal agreement. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Barnier said that the so-called “backstop” had to stay to protect the integrity of the EU’s single market while ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland. “I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination,” Barnier said, according to extracts of his article on the newspaper’s front page.
“The backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31. Opposition lawmakers plan to act next week to stop no-deal in parliament. Writing in the same newspaper, Johnson’s de facto deputy Michael Gove said that to remove the option of a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 would “diminish” the “chances of securing changes” to the Brexit deal that could get it passed through parliament.
The next head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, appears to be as much of a fan of negative interest rates as the current chief, Mario Draghi. In written answers provided to the European Parliament that were released on Thursday, Lagarde said negative interest rates have helped Europe. The ECB’s deposit rate is negative 0.4%. “On the one hand, banks may decide to pass the negative deposit rate on to depositors, lowering the interest rates the latter get on their savings,” she wrote. “On the other hand, the same depositors are also consumers, workers, and borrowers. As such they benefit from stronger economic momentum, lower unemployment and lower borrowing costs.
“All things considered, in the absence of the unconventional monetary policy adopted by the ECB – including the introduction of negative interest rates – euro area citizens would be, overall, worse off.” European banks have complained about the impact on profitability, but even there the current managing director of the International Monetary Fund defended the move. “With regard to the impact of negative rates on banks’ profitability, empirical analysis suggests that the negative effects on banks’ net interest income have been so far more than offset by the benefits from more bank lending and lower costs for provisions and impairments due to the better macroeconomic environment, which to a significant extent is a result of accommodative monetary policy,” she wrote.
“..Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.”
Jim Bianco, President of Bianco Research, cautions against evermore unconventional monetary policy interventions. He fears that the global slowdown is going to get worse and he spots opportunities in long-term bonds and gold. The global economy is on the brink: Europe is headed for recession, Japan as well and China’s growth rate is the slowest in almost thirty years. Only the economy in the United States seems to hold up. But for how long? «We live in a global world and if Japan and Europe are struggling and the world has a problem it’s going to come to the US eventually», says Jim Bianco. According to the internationally renowned macro strategist, the biggest threat to the US economy is the inverted yield curve.
«This is the market’s way of saying the Federal Funds Rate is too high and must come down», Mr. Bianco is convinced. Against this backdrop, the founder and President of Chicago based Bianco Research argues that the Federal Reserve should cut its target rate by 50 basis points at the next FOMC meeting. He also cautions against introducing negative interest rates in the United States during the next recession because in his view that would cripple the global financial system.
[..] First, the trade and currency wars where the situation reminds me somewhat of «This Is Spinal Tap». It’s a cult satire movie from the eighties about a rock band and they coined the phrase «up to eleven» because that’s how high their amplifier went. So the expression «turning it up to eleven» refers to the act of taking something to an extreme. I’m saying this because I think Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.
The largest public pension funds have over $1 trillion in aggregate unfunded liabilities. Low interest rates are going to make it harder for these and other pension plans to rely on investment returns alone to meet their obligations to retirees. Interest rates in the U.S. have been declining for over 20 years, and short-term rates have been hovering close to zero over the last decade. Negative interest rates in Japan and Europe and mounting expectations of rate cuts by the Federal Reserve have expanded the pool of bonds with negative yields to more than $16 trillion, or around 27% of the global bond market. Initially, low interest rates are good for asset prices.
Simplistically, this is because investors seeking similar returns as before are now forced to take capital that they would have otherwise invested in safe government bonds and deploy it into riskier assets (equities, high yield bonds, etc.), thereby driving up prices of these assets. In addition to stronger economic growth coming out of the 2008 financial crisis, this is one of the factors leading to strong performance of equities over the past decade. However, going forward it is unlikely that asset returns are going to be similar to what we witnessed over the last decade. One of the reasons is that risky asset returns are generally priced as a spread over risk-free real returns (i.e. inflation-adjusted returns). This makes intuitive sense, as investors would demand additional return for taking on risk.
If the risk-free rate is low, and there is high demand for risky assets, then the total investment return (risk free rate + risk premia/spread) will likely be lower than in a scenario with higher interest rates, all else being equal. According to Voya Investment Management’s capital market assumptions, expected returns for equities over the next 10 years is likely to be around 1.50 percentage points to 3.3 percentage points lower than assumptions in 2013.
U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders proposed a plan on Saturday to cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt for Americans, but offered no details on how it would be financed. Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont, said in a statement that under his plan, the government would negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills that have been reported to credit agencies. The proposal, he said, would also repeal some elements of the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill and allow other existing and future medical debt to be discharged. “In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick,” said Sanders.
“That is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of seeing over 500,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay.” According to Sanders, medical debt is the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy, with more than half a million Americans filing due to medical expenses each year. He said the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill made it difficult to discharge medical debt by imposing strict means tests and eliminated fundamental consumer protections for Americans. “It also trapped families with medical debt in long-term poverty, mandated that they pay for credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy, and increased the need for expensive legal services when filing a case for medical bankruptcy,” the senator said.
The role of journalism in a democracy is publishing information that holds the powerful to account — the kind of information that empowers the public to become more engaged citizens in their communities so that we can vote in representatives that work in the interest of “we the people.” There is perhaps no better example of watchdog journalism that holds the powerful to account and exposes their corruption than that of WikiLeaks, which exposed to the world evidence of widespread war crimes the U.S. military was committing in Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists; showed that the U.S. government and large corporations were using private intelligence agencies to spy on activists and protesters; and revealed how the military hid tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Red Cross inspectors.
It’s this kind of real journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect but engaging in it has instead made WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange the target of a massive smear campaign for the last several years — including false claims that Assange is working with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and hackers, as well as open calls by corporate media pundits for him to be assassinated. The allegations that Assange conspired with Putin to undermine the 2016 election and American democracy as a whole fell completely flat earlier this month when a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this case as “factually implausible,” with the judge noting that at no point does the prosecution’s “threadbare” argument show “any facts” at all, and concluding that the idea that Assange conspired with Russia against the Democratic Party or America is “entirely divorced from the facts.”
[..] It is important to ask ourselves what Julian Assange’s real crime is. In an era, dubbed the Information Age, where the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate, Assange worked to prevent that imbalance from becoming a rout, and stuck like a bone in the throat of the mighty.
A few weeks ago, half the top ten Amazon best sellers in romantic erotica were based around the trope of the BDSM billionaire, with Grey by E. L. James holding firm in the top ten. In the world of erotic romance, the 50 Shades of Grey series has been a continuous presence for over seven years. Thousands of riffs on the sexy and sadistic billionaire exist: Russian billionaire, billionaire blackmailer, billionaire stepbrother. I’m not trying to kink shame, but it would take a lot of money to convince me to write detailed descriptions of torture sessions in a gilded dungeon. This is especially true in the shadow of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death. Mental and sexual abuse by an obscenely wealthy man now just seems, well, obscene.
I should point out that James’ character, Christian Grey, strikes me as more a domestic abuser than a real BDSM enthusiast. He is a billionaire in the tech industry who fixates on Ana, a 21-year old virgin. He puts surveillance software on her phone. He harasses her to sign a submissive’s contract, and even though she never signs it, he still treats her like a sex slave. He manipulates Ana into doing sex acts for which she doesn’t give consent. Blatant consumerism sits on the page in stark contrast to real life. 50 Shades of Grey eroticizes money and abuse. The writing is universally panned and mocked by critics, yet it’s sold 125 million copies. How in the world of publishing did it even come to be? Let’s go back to 2008. That year the economy was melting down, Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to a felony sex offense, and the Twilight series of vampire romance novels for teen girls were bestsellers.
Twilight was a young adult twist on the long-popular vampire romance, which had flourished in that market since Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire appeared. Probably some of Epstein’s victims read the Twilight books. 50 Shades of Grey marks a shift in the erotic romance genre from vampires to billionaires. In 2009, E. L. James started publishing her version of Twilight on fanfiction websites, churning out a chapter every couple of days. Master of the Universe, as it was called then, was popular but criticized for being too racy, so she moved it to her own website and renamed the characters. James didn’t know it yet, but she was about to be catapulted to international fame by some upper middle class moms in the suburbs of New York City.
[..] In the autumn of 2011, news about Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began in reaction to the deeds of the predatory class, dominated headlines. Posters portrayed the 1% as greedy Monopoly men, far from sexy. Occupy protesters had the media’s attention for a short time before the idea was squashed. That November, Jeffrey Epstein registered as a sex offender in New York after completing his jail term and moving back into his Manhattan mansion, free to continue abusing girls. 2012 was E. L. James’ year. A prominent lifestyle blog (started by an NYU communications graduate married to a talent manager) promoted James’ fanfiction novel as sexually liberating to fashion-conscious moms in upscale suburban New York. James got a book deal and “mommy porn” was born. Paperbacks with necktie covers appeared on bookshelves and in beach bags everywhere.
The global slowdown in manufacturing progressed another notch in February. Among the top four manufacturing giants in the world, the US is the cleanest dirty shirt. Together, they produced 58% of the world’s “value added in manufacturing” in 2016: • China: $3.08 trillion (26% of global total) • US: $2.18 trillion (18% of global total) • Japan: $979 billion (8% of global total • Germany: $718 billion (6% of global total) In February, [China] manufacturing output declined for the third month in a row, and at the steepest rate since March 2016, according to the official Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics. For these PMI measures, a value below 50 means “contraction,” and a value above 50 means “expansion”:
Small-sized manufacturers in China got hit the worst, with their PMI falling to 45.3, while the index for mid-sized manufacturers dropped to 46.9. Large manufacturers showed growth, at 51.5.[..] The Nikkei Japan Manufacturing PMI fell to a 32-month low of 48.9 in February. New orders declined at a quickened pace as new export orders continued to fall “amid lower sales to China.” “Deteriorating demand conditions were signaled in the February PMI survey,” according to IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. New orders for Japanese manufacturers “dropped at the fastest rate in over two-and-a-half years.” And the decline in orders was “broad-based across both domestic and foreign markets, with falling new export sales also recorded.”
The IHS Markit/BME Germany Manufacturing PMI in February dropped below 50 for the second month in a row, and at 47.6 to the lowest level – the fastest contraction – since December 2012, “showing a deepening downturn in new orders and the first drop in output in almost six years”. All sub-indices except employment were in contraction mode. Hardest hit were the intermediate and capital goods sectors. Only manufacturers of consumer goods recorded an increase in output. IHS Market added that the downturn in new orders is “gathering pace, led by a sharp and accelerated decline in export sales. The level of new business from abroad fell the most since October 2012.”
But it’s not just in Germany… The IHS Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI fell to 49.3. Germany led the decline. The index for Spain (49.9) entered contraction mode for the first time since November 2013. The index for Italy (47.7) was in contraction mode for the fifth month in a row, and at the lowest level since May 2013. The chart below is on the same scale as the chart for Germany above; so you can see that the peak, and the decline from the peak, have been less pronounced than in Germany alone, with the manufacturing sectors in several Eurozone countries still in expansion mode – including in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, and Greece:
Operating conditions in the US manufacturing sector in February showed “softer, but still solid improvement … amid slower expansions in output and new orders,” according to the IHS Markit US Manufacturing PMI. Backlogs were still increasing, as was employment. The index, at 53.0, shows the slowest expansion in 18 months, “with firms reporting a marked easing in production growth in February, linked to a similar slowdown in order book growth.
Others say the CPAC speech was just rambling. Fact remains there’s no-one anywhere close to running against him, none have a chance. And that’s pretty scary when you think about it: the Democrats haven’t advanced a single inch from 2016. The only thing they can think of, after seeing Russigate die, is to dig for more smear.
But if you can’t let go of oyour echo chamber hate of Trump, how are you ever going to understand him, a prerequisite for beating him?!
It’s way too early to be thinking this, much less saying it, but what the hell: If Donald Trump is able to deliver the sort of performance he gave today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual meeting of right-wingers held near Washington, D.C., his reelection is a foregone conclusion. There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn’t be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.
In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire (“Crooked Hillary,” “build the wall,” “America is winning again,” and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams’ genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, “This is how I got elected, by going off script.” Two years into his presidency and he’s just getting warmed up.
First and foremost, Trump was frequently funny and outre in the casually mean way that New Yorkers exude like nobody else in America. “You put the wrong people in a couple of positions,” he said, lamenting the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, “and all of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit.” He voiced Jeff Sessions in a mock-Southern accent, recusing “muhself” and asked the adoring crowd why the former attorney generally hadn’t told him he was going to do that before he was appointed.
Democrats backing the Green New Deal (GND) “are talking about trains to Hawaii,” he said. “They haven’t figured out how to get to Europe yet.” He begged the Democrats not to abandon the GND because he recognizes that the more its details and costs are discussed, the more absurd it will become. “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your energy,” he said at one point. “Did the wind stop blowing, I’d like to watch television today, guys?” “We’ll go back to boats,” he said, drawing huge laughs when he added, “I don’t want to talk [the Democrats] out of [the GND], I just want to be the Republican who runs against it.”
He railed against Never-Trump Republicans: “They’re on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” he said, adding “they’re basically dishonest people” that no one cares about. He joked about being in the White House all alone on New Year’s because of the government shutdown. “I was in the White House and I was lonely, so I went to Iraq,” he said, recounting that when his plane was approaching the U.S. airstrip in Iraq, all lights had to be extinguished for landing. “We spend trillions of dollars in the Middle East and we can’t land planes [in Iraq] with the lights on,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “We gotta get out.”
The mother of all political battles is coming, and it’s about a wall. No, not that one. It’s another, much bigger wall. One that fewer people are talking about — so far. It’s the wall that Social Security is due to run into in just 15 years. That’s when, say Social Security’s trustees, the program’s trust fund is scheduled to run out of money. If nothing else is done, they say, after 2034 Social Security’s annual income will only be enough to pay “about three-quarters of scheduled benefits.” We’re talking about a 25% cut in payments. How big a deal will this be? As it happens, the Federal Reserve just put out a report that tackles this.
According to Fed data, at most one quarter of people currently nearing retirement are going to be able to shrug off any cuts at all in Social Security. Actually, it’s probably considerably less than one quarter. And everyone else will be in serious trouble. Half of those nearing retirement will end up in dire straits. That’s because most of them have little or nothing in private retirement plans. The country’s 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts? The old-fashioned company pension plans? Most of these assets are owned by the wealthiest 25% of the country, the Fed calculates. Between 83% and 85% of the total balance is in the hands of the highest-earning one-fourth.
For everyone else? It’s down to Social Security or bust. And that’s especially so for the bottom half of the income distribution. “Social Security is the key to understanding retirement resources for most families,” says the Fed. For example, the Fed looked at the balance sheets of those currently in their 50s who are nearing retirement. For the middle two quartiles by income — in other words, the middle 50% — Social Security accounts for somewhere between 47% and 64% of their total retirement wealth. For those in the bottom 25% it’s nearly all of it. They hold, on average, just $28,000 in private retirement plans.
[..] In 10 years’ time, when this issue becomes urgent, people in or near retirement will make up more than half the voting age population. They’ll make up and even bigger share of the actual likely voters. And those people, as we’ve just seen, can’t do without Social Security — no way, and no how. According to the U.S. Census, by 2030 those over age 65 will account for 26% of the voting age population, and those aged 45 to 59 and nearing retirement another 29%. And according to the U.S. Elections Project, in the last presidential elections just 43% of those in their 20s bothered to vote. The figure for the over 60 was 71%. Put those two things together, and by 2030 around 60% of likely voters will be over 45 — and half of those — will already be over 60. Good luck passing a 25% Social Security cut.
Shares of the UK’s fastest growing high street lender, Metro Bank, are in free fall. They tumbled 16% on Tuesday, 25% on Wednesday and 6.86% on Thursday, to come to rest at a price of 889 pence, the lowest since the London-based bank went public in 2016. In the last five weeks the lender has lost 60% of its market cap and is now worth just £866 million, down from £4 billion a year ago. The crisis began in earnest on January 22 when Metro’s shares crashed almost 40% — the worst one-day fall suffered by any British lender since the financial crisis — following an announcement by the bank’s management that it had incorrectly classified a huge chunk of commercial property loans and loans to commercial buy-to-rent operators that should have been among its “risk-weighted assets”.
The “error” left a gaping £900 million hole on Metro’s balance sheet. On Tuesday this week, things got even worse when the bank revealed that the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), the institution that had first flagged up Metro Bank’s accountancy error, and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are investigating the circumstances behind the error. The bank also announced plans for a £350 million rights issue, after raising £303 million from investors last July. But investors — led perhaps by well-connected investors — have been smelling a rat since March 2018. By the time the initial disclosure whacked the shares on January 22, 2019, they’d already dropped 45%. Now they’re down 77% from March 2018:
Metro’s tribulations are a timely reminder of how important a force trust can be in the financial markets, particularly when it comes to banks. To gauge how much of a credit risk a bank could pose to market participants, including the bank’s bondholders and counterparties, investors rely on the bank’s capital ratio, which itself depends on the amount of risk assigned to each portfolio. By assigning a lower risk weight to its mortgage lending portfolio, whether by accident or intentionally, Metro left investors thinking it was safer than it actually is.
Brexit-supporting lawmakers who voted down British Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union withdrawal deal in January have outlined demands for a revised treaty to ensure their support, the Sunday Times newspaper said. Lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected May’s deal in January. Many were unhappy with the “Irish backstop”, insurance to prevent return of hard border controls between EU member Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland. Critics said it could leave the country tied to EU rules indefinitely. Britain, due to exit the bloc on March 29, is attempting to amend the deal to provide assurances that the backstop would not be indefinite.
The Sunday Times said hardline Brexit supporters from May’s Conservative Party had drawn up a document outlining three tests the deal must pass to gain their support. These are a “clearly worded, legally binding, treaty-level clause which unambiguously overrides” the text of the withdrawal agreement, with language that goes beyond emphasizing the temporary nature of the backstop and a clear means to exit the backstop if subsequent trade talks fail. [..] In a further sign that former opponents of May’s deal might now back a revised version, Graham Brady, a senior Conservative lawmaker, said he would support it with legally binding assurances on the backstop.
“Once we have that, my colleagues in parliament need to recognize the strength of feeling,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “The whole country is tired of vacillation and delay. When the right compromise is offered, we should pull together behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver our exit from the European Union on March 29.”
Does Brexit pose a constitutional crisis for the United Kingdom? Can its constitution be remade after Brexit or is it too late for that to happen? What are the consequences for Ireland and Northern Ireland? Constitutions are the set of fundamental rules governing a political system, usually defined as a nation. Typically they are written, short and legally entrenched, making them difficult to amend. Highly untypically, the UK’s constitution is unwritten and largely uncodified, sprawling over its common law and informal political conventions – even though the word was coined when the deposed King James II was accused in 1688 of having violated the “fundamental constitution of the kingdom”.
That continuing ideology was perfectly caught when the novelist AS Byatt last year told a disbelieving German writer, Matthias Matussek, in London: “You know, we British don’t need a constitution. We are the oldest democracy in the world.” She paused briefly before continuing: “For young countries like you Germans, constitutions could very well be useful.” The unwritten rules are now precariously balanced between the doctrine of absolute parliamentary sovereignty subject in principle to the monarch, and the shift to entrenchment represented by the 2016 Scotland Act which declared its self-government permanent, only to be abolished by a popular referendum.
At a conference last week in Mansfield College Oxford on remaking the UK constitution, the political theorist Stuart White said there is a real tension between these two conceptions of parliamentary and popular sovereignty. The Brexit maxim to “take back control” draws on both the notion of reversible treaty commitments and the 2016 referendum decision to leave the European Union. They are especially difficult to reconcile in a multinational polity like the UK where there is no longer a single people or demos.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Saturday he would return home after a visit to Ecuador and called for new protests next week against President Nicolas Maduro, whose government had banned him from traveling abroad. Guaido has spent the past few days touring between Latin American countries to muster support for his campaign to form a transition government and oust Maduro, whom he denounces as an illegitimate usurper. He had visited Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay after leaving Venezuela last week for Colombia to coordinate efforts there to send humanitarian aid into his country, though troops loyal to Maduro blocked a convoy of aid trucks and turned them back.
“As for the next steps for Venezuelans, I announce my return home from Ecuador,” Guaido told a news conference in the coastal town of Salinas alongside Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno. Guaido did not say when exactly or how he would return to Venezuela. He is expected to leave Ecuador at 9.30 a.m. local time on Sunday, according to the Ecuadorean government’s schedule for his visit. His return opens the possibility that Venezuelan authorities will try to arrest him. The Supreme Court had imposed a travel ban on him after he invoked the country’s constitution on Jan 23 to assume an interim presidency, which most Western nations now recognize as legitimate.
“The fact that Italy’s public debt has a lower credit rating than private debt is a reflection not of public debt’s intrinsic inferiority but of a political choice made by European leaders. And, by bolstering an authoritarian politician, that choice is now blowing back on them.”
Italy is now the frontline in the battle of the euro. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is being propelled by a political tailwind that may, after the European Parliament elections in May, enhance his capacity to inflict serious damage on the European Union. What is both fascinating and disconcerting is that the xenophobia underpinning Salvini’s ever-increasing authority is being generated by the eurozone’s faulty architecture and the ensuing political blame game. In its recent report on the economic imbalances afflicting each EU member state, the European Commission blames the Italian government for its failure to rein in debt, which, it says, results in tepid income growth.
According to the Commission, the government’s reluctance to cut its budget deficit has spooked the bond markets, pushed interest rates up, and thus shrunk investment. Salvini could not be more pleased. The report presents a splendid opportunity to blame the Commission itself for Italy’s travails, by arguing that it was actually the EU’s fiscal austerity policies which constricted growth, pushed the economy to the brink of a new recession, and led to the election of the populist government now dominated by Salvini. And, as if that were not enough, it was the Commission’s threats of penalizing Italy unless it imposed even greater austerity that unnerved bond traders and pushed interest rates up.
Italy’s tragedy is that the Commission and Salvini are both right – and also both wrong. It is correct that Salvini’s announcement that the government would rescind its promise to impose pre-agreed levels of austerity alarmed investors, made Italian debt less viable, and caused capital flight. But it is also correct that the Commission’s fiscal rules, were they to be implemented fully, would have caused a recession that would have made Italian debt less viable anyway.
BS headline. In France the protesters’ numbers are treated much as unemployment numbers are: whenever people ain’t looking, you push them down. And Reuters complies. Various videos tell a different story.
Turnout for a 16th round of “yellow vest” protests in France on Saturday was below last week’s levels and marches were largely peaceful, in a relief for President Emmanuel Macron who has struggled to find a response to the movement. While turnout figures at midday were only half of last week, by nightfall the Interior Ministry counted a total of 39,300 protesters nationwide, of which 4,000 were in Paris. Last Saturday there had been 46,600 marchers, including 5,800 in Paris, compared with 41,000 the week before and 51,400 the week before that – well down on the more than 300,000 who marched at the start of the movement in November in a protest which degenerated into clashes with police in subsequent weeks.
Protesters marched largely peacefully on Saturday from the Arc de Triomphe to Place Denfert-Rochereau on the residential left bank, though water cannon were briefly used to douse protesters on the Champs Elysees boulevard. Tear gas and water cannon were also used in Bordeaux, and in Toulouse, where some protesters marched behind a “cacatov party” banner – a play on Molotov cocktail firebombs – encouraging people to throw “poo-bombs” at police. There were no reports of anyone being hit by a “catatov”, but the threat of excrement projectiles was of concern to reporters covering the marches in Toulouse and Paris. Large parts of central Paris were in lockdown as thousands of police cordoned off key areas around the presidential palace and government buildings.
Chelsea Manning has been called to testify before a grand jury in the investigation of Julian Assange, officials said. The summons is one of several indicators that prosecutors remain interested in WikiLeaks‘ publication of diplomatic cables and military war logs in 2010. Prosecutors in Virginia have been pursuing a case based on conduct that predates WikiLeaks’ publication of hacked emails during the 2016 presidential campaign, and it is not clear investigators are interested in that activity. Officials discussed the investigation of Mr Assange, who founded WikiLeaks, on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Ms Manning, whose subpoena was first reported by the New York Times, is a former Army private who served seven years in a military prison for passing secret State Department cables and military documents to WikiLeaks before receiving a commutation from Barack Obama. Ms Manning’s attorneys have filed a motion to quash the subpoena. “I object strenuously to this subpoena, and to the grand jury process in general,” Ms Manning said in a statement. “We’ve seen this power abused countless times to target political speech. I have nothing to contribute to this case and I resent being forced to endanger myself by participating in this predatory practice.”
The subpoena was signed last month by Gordon Kromberg, a national security prosecutor on the Assange case. Mr Kromberg last month persuaded a judge to leave sealed an indictment against Mr Assange despite its inadvertent exposure in an unrelated court filing last year. Under Mr Obama, Justice Department officials had decided not to pursue charges against Mr Assange and WikiLeaks after concluding that to do so could set a precedent that paved the way for prosecuting news organisations for publishing classified information. But the case got a fresh look under Donald Trump.
Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, said the Justice Department probably indicted Mr Assange last year to stay within the 10-year statute of limitations on unlawful possession or publication of national defence information, and is now working to add charges. “There’s nothing else that would make sense,” he said. “The heart of the controversy is, there’s never been a successful prosecution” for publishing classified information, Mr Vladeck said. “There has always been the spectre of a First Amendment defence.”
Chelsea Manning was subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury and give testimony on March 5. The whistleblower filed a motion to quash the subpoena. As such, Manning risks incarceration under the coercive operations of the federal grand jury system. For Manning, the threat of further imprisonment is a particularly brutal one. Beginning in 2010, she was arrested, court-martialed, imprisoned, and tortured for exposing some of the worst crimes and brutalities of the Iraq and Afghan wars. She was released in 2017. Given the secrecy of federal grand jury procedures, we can’t know with any certainty to which potential case the subpoena pertains, or what Manning would be asked.
But since it was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia, we can make the informed speculation that it relates to inadvertently disclosed charges filed under seal against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in that same district. The New York Times reported that “there were multiple reasons to believe that the subpoena is related to the investigation of Mr. Assange,” including the district where the subpoena was issued and the assistant United States attorney that requested the subpoena, who is tied to the Assange prosecution. Another Assange associate, David House, told the Washington Post that he testified before the grand jury as well. “It was all related to disclosures around the war logs,” House said, a reference to the Iraq war documents that Manning released and Wikileaks published.
Manning’s decision to fight her subpoena, however, is not a question of protecting Assange, nor obstructing valid government investigations into federal crimes. Her challenge is an act of resistance against government repression and in defense of a free press.
In the wake of a number of the Lehman and 9/11 commemorations in America, and as a monster storm is once again threatening to cause outsize damage, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in time, which will decide how the country interacts with its own laws, its legal system, its Constitution, its freedom of speech, and indeed if it has sufficient willpower left to adhere to the Constitution as its no. 1 guiding principle.
The main problem is that it all seems to slip slide straight by the people, who are -kept- busy with completely different issues. That is convenient for those who would like less focus on the Constitution, but it’s also very dangerous for everyone else. Americans should today stand up for freedom of speech, or it will be gone, likely forever.
The way it works is that president Trump is portrayed as the major threat to ‘the rule of law’, which allows other people, as well as companies and organizations, to drop below the radar and devise and work on plans and schemes that threaten the country itself, and its future as a nation ruled by its laws.
Bob Woodward’s book “Fear: Trump in the White House” and the anonymous op-ed published in the NYT a day later serve as a good reminder of these dynamics. If you succeed in confirming people’s idea that Trump is such an unhinged idiot that an unelected cabal inside the White House is needed to save the nation from the president it elected, you’re well on your way.
Well on your way to separate the country from its own laws, that is. Not on your way to saving it. You can’t save America by suspending its Constitution just because that suits your particular political goals or points of view.
Late last night, Michael Tracey wrote on Twitter: “Trump’s preference to pull out of Afghanistan is depicted in the Woodward book as yet another crazy impulse that the “adults in the room” successfully rein in.” “We’re going to save you from yourselves, thank us later!” Nobody voted for those adults in the room anymore than anyone voted for the Afghanistan ‘war’ to enter year 17.
Meanwhile Infowars said: “Several people within Trump’s inner circle know the threat to the mid-terms and his re-election chances that social media censorship poses, including Donald Trump Jr. and Brad Parscale, his 2020 campaign manager. However, older members of the administration are completely unaware of the fact that banning prominent online voices and manipulating algorithms can shift millions of votes and are oblivious to the danger. This ignorance has placed a temporary block on Trump taking action, despite the president repeatedly referring to Big Tech censorship in tweets and speeches over the last few weeks.”
Yes, Infowars, I know, everybody loves to hate Alex Jones. And perhaps for good reasons, at least at times. But does that mean he can be banned from a whole slew of internet platforms without this having been run by and through the US court system? Without even one judge having examined the ‘evidence’, if it even existed, that leads to such banning, blocking and shadowbanning?
Alex Jones is an ‘easy example’ because he’s so popular. Which is also, undoubtedly, why all the social media platforms ban him so easily, and all at the same time. ‘He’s a terrible person’, say so many of their readers. But that’s not good enough, far from it. Twitter and Facebook should never be allowed to ban anyone, using opaque ‘Community Standards’ or ‘Terms and Conditions’ interpreted by kids fresh out of high school.
These platforms have important societal functions. They are for instance the new conduits governments, police, armies use to warn people in case of emergencies and disasters. You can’t ban people from those conduits just because a bunch of geeks don’t like what they say. If you can at all, it will have to be done through the legal system.
That this is not done at present poses an immense threat to that legal system, and to the Constitution itself. But Americans, and indeed Congressmen and Senators, have been trained in a Pavlovian way to believe that it’s not Google and Facebook who threaten the Constitution, but that it’s Trump and his crew.
Meanwhile, Trump is being put through Bob Mueller’s Special Counsel legal wringer 24/7, while Alphabet, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg escape any such scrutiny at all. That discrepancy, too, is eating away at the foundations of American law.
And like it or not, Trump had it right when he said “You look at Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media giants and I made it clear that we as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results..”
America as a country cannot tolerate a few rich companies deciding whose voice can be heard, and whose will be silenced. It is entirely unacceptable. That goes for voices Trump doesn’t want to hear as much as it does for whoever Silicon Valley doesn’t. That’s why neither should be in charge of making such decisions. It kills the Constitution.
None of the above means that everyone should be free to post terrorist sympathies or hate speech on social media platforms. But it does mean that legislative and judicial systems must define what these things mean, that this not be left up to arbitrary ‘Community Standards’ interpreted by legally inept Silicon Valley interns, nor should it be left to secret algorithms to decide what news you see and what not.
America itself hangs in the balance, and so do many other western countries. What exactly is the difference between China’s overt internet censorship and America’s hidden one? That is what needs to be defined, and that can only be done by the legal system, by Congress, by the courts, by judges and juries.
And it’s not something that has to be invented from scratch, it can and must be tested against the Constitution. That is the only way forward. That social media have taken over the country by storm, and nary a soul has any idea what that means, can never be an excuse to leave banning and silencing voices over to private parties, whoever they are.
It’s not a unique American problem. In Europe there are all sorts of attempts to ban ‘hate speech’, but there are very few proposals concerning who will define what that is. And since Europe has no Constitution, but instead has 27 different versions of one, it will be harder there. Then again, it will also be easier to get away with all sorts of arbitrary bannings etc.
Hungary will be inclined to ban totally different voices than for instance Denmark and so on. And nobody over there has given any sign of understanding how dangerous that is. Banning ‘hate speech’ doesn’t mean anything if the term hasn’t been properly defined. But that also allows for banning voices someone simply doesn’t like. To prevent that from happening, we have legal systems.
It’s essential, it’s elementary, Watson. But it’s slipping through our fingers because our politicians are either incapable of, or unwilling to, comprehending the consequences. Why stick out your neck when nobody else does? It’s like the anti-thesis of what politics means: stay safe.
So the social media’s industry’s own lobbying has a good shot at getting its way: they tell Washington to let them regulate themselves, and everything will be spic and dandy. That would be the final nail in the Constitution’s coffin, and it’s much closer than you think. Do be wary of that.
In the end it comes down to two things i’ve said before. First, there is no-one who’s been as ferociously banned and worse the way Julian Assange has. His ban goes way beyond Silicon Valley, but it does paint a shrill portrait of how far the US, CIA, FBI, is willing to go, and to step beyond the Constitution, to get to someone they really don’t like.
But has Assange ever violated and US law, let alone its Constitution? Not that we know of. Mike Pompeo has called WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service’, and the DOJ has said the 1st Amendment, and thereby of necessity the entire US Constitution, doesn’t apply to Assange because he’s not an American, but both those things are devoid of any meaning, at least in a court of law.
Bob Woodward has an idea of what Assange faces, and he’d do much better to focus on helping him than trying to put Trump down through anonymous sources. And that also leads me to why I, personally, have at least some sympathy for Alex Jones, other than because he’s being attacked unconstitutionally: Jones ran/runs a petition for Trump to free Julian Assange.
Come to think of it: it’s when that petition started taking off that Jones’s ‘real trouble’ started. Given how closely interwoven Silicon Valley and the FBI and CIA have already become, I’m not going to feign any surprise at that.
And before you feel any wishes and desires coming up to impeach Trump, do realize that he may be the only person standing between you and a complete takeover of America by the FBI/NSA/CIA/DNC and Google/Facebook/Twitter, which will be accompanied by the ritual burial of the Constitution.
Think Trump is scary? Take a step back and survey the territory.