Apr 232020

Jack Delano Union Station, Chicago, Illinois 1943


Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)
Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)
Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)
How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)
Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)
Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)
Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)
HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)
Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)
Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)
Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)
Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)
The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)
New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)



• The US had +2,341 new deaths from coronavirus today, down from its record high yesterday, bringing the total US death toll to 47,659.

• New York had +661 new deaths, while New Jersey had +310, Massachusetts had +221, and three other states (CA, MI, CT) had over 100 new deaths. Only five states did not have a coronavirus death today.

• The US had nearly +30k new confirmed cases today, bringing the total to over 848k, with over 717k active cases.


• US total cases currently at 848,735, with death totals at 47,663.
• Globally, total cases have hit 2,637,414, with death totals at 184,204.


• US yesterday new 25,985, today now 27,948.
• IL, CT today exceed 2,000


• Spain yesterday 3,968, today 4,211. Fluctuating. No daily testing data


• 4/22/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 257,216
New Jersey: 95,865
Massachusetts: 42,944
California: 35,396
Illinois: 35,108
Pennsylvania: 35,045
Michigan: 33,966
Florida: 28,309
Louisiana: 25,258
Connecticut: 22,469
Texas: 21,069
Georgia: 20,740



#Coronavirus: Global #Covid19 Deaths By Week
01/22: 17
01/29: 133
02/05: 564
02/12: 1,118
02/19: 2,122
02/26: 2,770
03/04: 3,254
03/11: 4,615
03/18: 8,733
03/25: 21,181
04/01: 46,809
04/08: 88,338
04/15: 134,177
04/22: 183,027



Cases 2,656,391 (+ 82,920 from yesterday’s 2,573,471)

Deaths 185,156 (+ 6,598 from yesterday’s 178,558)




From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-



From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%



From SCMP:



From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers





“The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Not a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System – Taleb (NYer)

COVID19 has initiated ordinary citizens into the esoteric “mayhem” that Taleb’s writings portend. Who knows what will change for countries when the pandemic ends? What we do know, Taleb says, is what cannot remain the same. He is “too much a cosmopolitan” to want global networks undone, even if they could be. But he does want the institutional equivalent of “circuit breakers, fail-safe protocols, and backup systems,” many of which he summarizes in his fourth, and favorite, book, “Antifragile,” published in 2012. For countries, he envisions political and economic principles that amount to an analogue of his investment strategy: government officials and corporate executives accepting what may seem like too-small gains from their investment dollars, while protecting themselves from catastrophic loss.

For Taleb, an antifragile country would encourage the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities—in short, build a system that could survive random stresses, rather than break under any particular one. (His word for this beneficial distribution is “fractal.”) We should discourage the concentration of power in big corporations, “including a severe restriction of lobbying,” Taleb told me. “When one per cent of the people have fifty per cent of the income, that is a fat tail.” Companies shouldn’t be able to make money from monopoly power, “from rent-seeking”—using that power not to build something but to extract an ever-larger part of the surplus.

There should be an expansion of the powers of state and even county governments, where there is “bottom-up” control and accountability. This could incubate new businesses and foster new education methods that emphasize “action learning and apprenticeship” over purely academic certification. He thinks that “we should have a national Entrepreneurship Day.” But Taleb doesn’t believe that the government should abandon citizens buffeted by events they can’t possibly anticipate or control. (He dedicated his book “Skin in the Game,” published in 2018, to Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.) “The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.”

Right now, for example, the government should, indeed, be sending out checks to unemployed and gig workers. (“You don’t bail out companies, you bail out individuals.”) He would also consider a guaranteed basic income, much as Andrew Yang, whom he admires, has advocated. Crucially, the government should be an insurer of health care, though Taleb prefers not a centrally run Medicare-for-all system but one such as Canada’s, which is controlled by the provinces. And, like responsible supply-chain managers, the federal government should create buffers against public-health disasters: “If it can spend trillions stockpiling nuclear weapons, it ought to spend tens of billions stockpiling ventilators and testing kits.”

Read more …

This was a given.

Coronavirus Started Spreading In US Much Earlier Than Thought (CoD)

Experts have released new information about just how long the coronavirus (COVID-19) might have been silently spreading in the United States. Health officials in California said the first U.S. coronavirus deaths actually occurred weeks before they previously believed. This comes as no surprise to doctors. Many doctors had patients earlier on that they now believe were COVID-19 cases. But they didn’t qualify for testing at the time because they either didn’t have a history of travel to China or the didn’t have the initially reported symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. But now there’s concrete proof that the timeline of cases started much earlier.

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the U.S. came Jan. 21 in a man from Washington state who developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China. But the first confirmed death was thought to be more than a month later, on Feb. 29, in Kirkland, Washington. Health officials there later found two deaths on Feb. 26 were due to the virus, pushing the timeline back three days. But coroners across the country are now looking back at other deaths. The medial examiner in Santa Clara County, California, sent tissue samples collected during autopsies performed in February to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

Samples taken from patients who died at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 both tested positive for the coronavirus. That pushes the fatality timeline back 20 days. Health officials believe the patients were infected in the community. Neither is known to have a travel history. Given that deaths tend to lag infections by about two weeks, the first patient could have been infected in mid-January. It’s likely the coronavirus was already spreading in the U.S. far earlier than initially reported — hidden in a bad flu season and undetected by rigid testing rules.

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So people will say: see, infection rate is much lower! Well, not if the death rate is also much higher. Which certainly in China is possible.

Coronavirus Study Points To Vast Number Of Cases Under Radar In China (SCMP)

China’s official tally of coronavirus cases could have quadrupled in mid-February if one broader system for classifying confirmed patients had been used from the outset of the pandemic, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong. In a study published in the medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday, the researchers said China might have had 232,000 confirmed cases – rather than the official total of about 55,000 – by February 20 if a revised definition adopted earlier in the month had been applied throughout. “We estimated that there were at least 232,000 infections in the first epidemic wave of Covid-19 in mainland China,” they said, referring to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“The true number of infections could still be higher than that currently estimated considering the possibility of under-detection of some infections, particularly those that were mild and asymptomatic, even under the broadest case definitions.” The researchers – led by Peng Wu from the University of Hong Kong’s school of public health – looked at the various classification systems used by the government after the epidemic erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. China has published seven editions of diagnosis and treatment guidelines, changing the classification system as understanding of the disease developed. The Hong Kong team found that different definitions made a big difference to the number of cases.

“We estimated that when the case definitions were changed from version 1 to 2, version 2 to 4, and version 4 to 5, the proportion of infections being identified as Covid-19 cases was increased by 7.1 times from version 1 to 2, 2.8 times from version 2 to 4, and 4.2 times from version 4 to 5,” the paper, co-authored by Peng’s HKU colleagues epidemiologist Benjamin Cowling and medical faculty dean Gabriel Leung, said.

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Thorough report on how and why. But even then a lack of understanding of what the virus is, remains.

How Does Coronavirus Kill? (ScienceMag)

When an infected person expels virus-laden droplets and someone else inhales them, the novel coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, enters the nose and throat. It finds a welcome home in the lining of the nose, according to a preprint from scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and elsewhere. They found that cells there are rich in a cell-surface receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Throughout the body, the presence of ACE2, which normally helps regulate blood pressure, marks tissues vulnerable to infection, because the virus requires that receptor to enter a cell. Once inside, the virus hijacks the cell’s machinery, making myriad copies of itself and invading new cells.

As the virus multiplies, an infected person may shed copious amounts of it, especially during the first week or so. Symptoms may be absent at this point. Or the virus’ new victim may develop a fever, dry cough, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, or head and body aches. If the immune system doesn’t beat back SARS-CoV-2 during this initial phase, the virus then marches down the windpipe to attack the lungs, where it can turn deadly. The thinner, distant branches of the lung’s respiratory tree end in tiny air sacs called alveoli, each lined by a single layer of cells that are also rich in ACE2 receptors.

Normally, oxygen crosses the alveoli into the capillaries, tiny blood vessels that lie beside the air sacs; the oxygen is then carried to the rest of the body. But as the immune system wars with the invader, the battle itself disrupts this healthy oxygen transfer. Front-line white blood cells release inflammatory molecules called chemokines, which in turn summon more immune cells that target and kill virus-infected cells, leaving a stew of fluid and dead cells—pus—behind. This is the underlying pathology of pneumonia, with its corresponding symptoms: coughing; fever; and rapid, shallow respiration. Some COVID-19 patients recover, sometimes with no more support than oxygen breathed in through nasal prongs.

But others deteriorate, often quite suddenly, developing a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Oxygen levels in their blood plummet and they struggle ever harder to breathe. On x-rays and computed tomography scans, their lungs are riddled with white opacities where black space—air—should be. Commonly, these patients end up on ventilators. Many die. Autopsies show their alveoli became stuffed with fluid, white blood cells, mucus, and the detritus of destroyed lung cells.

Read more …

All the big money’s already been handed out.

Many Small Businesses Say Loans Won’t Get Them To Rehire (AP)

Some small businesses that obtained a highly-coveted government loan say they won’t be able to use it to bring all their laid-off workers back, even though that is what the program was designed to do. The Paycheck Protection Program promises a business owner loan forgiveness if they retain or rehire all the workers they had in late February. But owners say the equation isn’t so simple, in part because of current economic conditions and partly due to the terms of the loans. As a result, the lending may not reduce unemployment as much as the Trump administration and Congress hope. The government’s $2 trillion relief package included $349 billion for the small business loan program, which was besieged with applications and ran out of money Thursday.

Congress and the White House reached a deal Tuesday that would provide another $310 billion. To get the loans forgiven, companies need to spend 75% on payroll within eight weeks of receiving the money. The other 25% can be spent on rent, utilities, and mortgage payments. Otherwise, the loan has generous terms: Only a 1% interest rate and six months before any principal is due. Many of the small companies that were able to obtain a loan are having second thoughts about rehiring all their workers and a few plan to return the money. Others will use what they can on rent and utilities, and will use some to rehire a portion of their laid-off staff. But most are unsure they will be able to reopen eight weeks from now.

They see little point in rehiring all their workers, paying them to do little or nothing, and then potentially laying them off again if business remains weak two months from now. “You’re turning the business into a pass through for the federal government,” said Joe Walsh, who owns Clean Green Maine, a cleaning service in Portland, Maine with 35 employees. “You’re doing very little to actually help the business.” [..] Also, the generous unemployment aid that was also included in the government’s relief package has made it more difficult to rehire. Many workers are making more with unemployment checks, which now include a $600 weekly benefit from the federal government.

Walsh, who received a $280,000 loan from the SBA, said that he is reluctant to push his employees to return to work because, under unemployment benefit rules, they could lose their weekly checks if they turn down potential jobs. “That’s just putting me as the employer in a really difficult position,” Walsh said. He pays at least $17 an hour, with benefits, but his former employees are getting the equivalent of roughly $25 an hour from unemployment.

Read more …

They all have the same campaign contributors. And they’re not small businesses.

Congressional Democrats Do Little To Improve ‘Pathetic’ Coronavirus Deal (IC)

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS are outraged with the nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus rescue package the Senate passed on Tuesday, urging House Democrats to oppose the “pathetic” deal they say doesn’t come close to providing the relief vulnerable people need while giving away all Democratic leverage for future legislation. The “Phase 3.5” bill, which is expected to sail through the House this week, left out almost everything Democratic leaders were advocating for. There’s no additional funding for state and local governments, no expanded food stamp benefits, no hazard pay for front-line workers, nor money for the U.S. Postal Service, which had all been basic Democratic priorities.

The lack of progressive opposition in Congress has been especially noteworthy, after members of the progressive caucus promised to help make future legislation more comprehensive following the hastily passed Phase 3 bill. While some progressive advocates argue that Democrats didn’t have much leverage on the package to begin with, others note that Democrats control the House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could have led the party to pass its own bill. “Just as importantly as the inadequate policy provisions, this bill gives away all Democratic leverage,” Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, said in an emailed statement.

“We fought so hard to win back the House in 2018 — to make sure that we had a voice in negotiations like this. So far we’ve heard silence from the House. This bill may be our last chance to get the things we need. [Republican Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell has already said he doesn’t want to push through another bill, and if he does, it won’t be for weeks.” [..] The interim package, which would replenish funds for an emergency small business lending program, also includes an additional $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing — two necessities that have been framed as GOP concessions. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the legislation is everything they were expecting. “When you look at the package that is going to be passed, it’s almost exactly like the one we asked for two weeks ago, or 12 days ago,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

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It takes 2 weeks for new infections to occur. By then, most of the US will have reopened.

Trump Disagrees ‘Strongly’ With Georgia Reopening Shops (JTN)

President Trump said he disagreed with Georgia’s decision to allow some shops to re-open as early as Friday after shuttering due to the coronavirus pandemic. “I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the Phase 1 guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump said Wednesday during a press conference of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. “But at the same time, he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right. But I disagree with him on what he’s doing.” Trump said he wanted to give governors discretion, although he would step in if he sees something “totally egregious, totally out of line.”

Trump’s administration last week released a 3-phase set of guidelines to re-open following the worst of the pandemic. Trump said that these Georgia shops shouldn’t be re-opening during the federal phase 1 guidelines and should instead wait for phase 2. “We’re going to have phase 2 very soon,” Trump said. “It’s just too soon. I think it’s too soon. And I love the people. I love those people that use all of those things, the spas, and the beauty parlors, barber shops, tattoo parlors. I love ’em. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit. Not much. Because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.”

[..] 46% of registered U.S. voters want decisions about re-opening the country after the coronavirus to be made by state and local officials. Only 15% think it should be a federal decision, according to the Just the News Daily Poll with Scott Rasmussen. Trump praised Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) for his re-opening strategy. “Some of the governors have done a fantastic job working with us,” Trump said.

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Sidelined a little too late perhaps?

HHS Secretary Alex Azar Waited For Weeks To Brief Trump (WSJ)

On Jan. 29, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told President Trump the coronavirus epidemic was under control. The U.S. government had never mounted a better interagency response to a crisis, Mr. Azar told the president in a meeting held eight days after the U.S. announced its first case, according to administration officials. At the time, the administration’s focus was on containing the virus. When other officials asked about diagnostic testing, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to answer. Mr. Azar cut him off, telling the president it was “the fastest we’ve ever created a test,” the officials recalled, and that more than one million tests would be available within weeks.

That didn’t happen. The CDC began shipping tests the following week, only to discover a flaw that forced it to recall the test from state public-health laboratories. When White House advisers later in February criticized Mr. Azar for the delays caused by the recall, he lashed out at Dr. Redfield, accusing the CDC director of misleading him on the timing of a fix. “Did you lie to me?” one of the officials recalled him yelling. Six weeks after that Jan. 29 meeting, the federal government declared a national emergency and issued guidelines that effectively closed down the country. Mr. Azar, who had been at the center of the decision-making from the outset, was eventually sidelined.

Many factors muddled the administration’s early response to the coronavirus as officials debated the severity of the threat, including comments from Mr. Trump that minimized the risk. But interviews with more than two dozen administration officials and others involved in the government’s coronavirus effort show that Mr. Azar waited for weeks to brief the president on the threat, oversold his agency’s progress in the early days and didn’t coordinate effectively across the health-care divisions under his purview.

[..] White House officials say there is no plan to replace Mr. Azar during a pandemic. Still, the president last week installed a former campaign aide, Michael Caputo, to serve as assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS. The White House also appointed policy adviser Emily Newman as a liaison to HHS who will oversee the agency’s political hires. Mr. Azar has largely been sidelined over the past several weeks from discussions with the president and with the White House task force, administration officials said. He hasn’t attended the daily briefing since April 3.

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The headline is just too good.

Azar Tapped Former Labradoodle Breeder To Lead US Pandemic Task Force (R.)

On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared. “We developed a diagnostic test at the CDC, so we can confirm if somebody has this,” Azar said. “We will be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we are able to do rapid testing on site.” While coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was “potentially serious,” Azar assured viewers in America, it “was one for which we have a playbook.”

Azar’s initial comments misfired on two fronts. Like many U.S. officials, from President Donald Trump on down, he underestimated the pandemic’s severity. He also overestimated his agency’s preparedness. As is now widely known, two agencies Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own. Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19.

The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.” Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the GDP of most countries. [..[ Azar and his top deputies oversaw health agencies that were slow to alert the public to the magnitude of the crisis, to produce a test to tell patients if they were sick, and to provide protective masks to hospitals even as physicians pleaded for them.

The first test created by the CDC, meant to be used by other labs, was plagued by a glitch that rendered it useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. It wasn’t until March that tests by other labs went into production. The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the HHS Inspector General said in a report this month. The equipment shortage “put staff and patients at risk.” A promised virus surveillance program failed to take root, despite assurances Azar gave to Congress. Rather than share information, three current and three former government officials told Reuters, Azar and top staff sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.

Read more …

Little Mike mighty actually pull it off. But he doesn’t care too much about privacy.

Cuomo Taps Bloomberg To Lead COVID-19 Contact “Tracing Army” (Gothamist)

Michael Bloomberg has been charged with amassing and leading a “tracing army” to track the spread of COVID-19 in the Tri-State area, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The goal will be to aggressively test and isolate contacts of all those who tested positive for the virus — a major undertaking that experts say is necessary before officials can consider relaxing social distancing measures. After previewing this push in recent weeks, Cuomo revealed during a press conference on Wednesday that Bloomberg will “coordinate the entire effort,” including developing the program and designing the training for thousands of newly-hired tracers.

The multibillionaire former mayor, who does not have a public health background, has also agreed to contribute $10 million to the initiative. By comparison, he spent $1 billion on his failed presidential bid. The announcement came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his own plans for a citywide contact tracing apparatus. The mayor was not informed by the Governor’s Office that Bloomberg, his predecessor and political rival, would be heading up the statewide effort until Wednesday morning, as de Blasio was announcing his own initiative, mayoral spokesperson Freddi Goldstein told Gothamist. While the city will still be responsible for hiring some of the field workers, Cuomo stressed that the initiative had to be regionally focused.

“You cannot trace someone within the boundaries of New York City,” he said. The state will also partner with Johns Hopkins University and the non-profit Vital Strategies to roll out the program. Some of the roughly 35,000 CUNY and SUNY students in medical fields will also be tapped for the effort, Cuomo said. The federal government has made available $1.3 billion for New York to begin contact tracing. Cuomo did not immediately have an estimate for how much it would cost. “You don’t have months to get this up and running,” he added. “You have weeks.”

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Turkey is one of the exploding countries. Is it a good ide to export their supplies?

Turkey PPE Supplier Doesn’t Have Enough Stock To Meet UK Order (Sky)

A commercial supplier in Turkey did not have enough stock to fulfil an order for 84 tonnes of protective equipment supposed to be bound for the UK, Turkish officials have said. British sources said the UK government was working with the company and the Turkish authorities to secure the shipment “as soon as possible” – though no time frame was given. It comes as a flight carrying PPE – urgently needed by front line health workers as they treat COVID-19 patients in the UK – arrived from Turkey, following days of delays. The Royal Air Force plane arrived at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire from Istanbul just after 3am.

The total consignment of 84 tonnes includes 400,000 clinical gowns, but it is not clear how much of this is on today’s flight. An initial batch of just 2,500 gowns was sent to the airport in Istanbul for quality control checks on Tuesday. Turkish officials said Britain’s attempt to buy the protective equipment from a Turkish firm ran into trouble because the supplier did not have enough stock. Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Umit Yalcin, told Sky News: “As far as I understand there have been problems with the private supplier company. “Now Turkey is cooperating with the UK authorities to find a quick solution for the UK’s urgent needs.

Read more …

Support your local dealer.

Coronavirus Upends Global Narcotics Trade (R.)

Countries around the world have spent billions of dollars bailing out businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Peru’s coca farmers, who grow the bushy plant used to make cocaine, say they want help, too. Prices for coca leaves sold to drug gangs have slumped 70% since Peru went on lockdown last month, according to Julián Pérez Mallqui, the head of a local growers’ organization. He said his members cater to Peru’s tightly regulated legal coca market, but acknowledged some growers sell on the black market. Peruvian officials say more than 90% of the country’s coca crop goes to traffickers who are now struggling to move product. With the sector in turmoil, Pérez’s group is crafting a plan to ask the government to buy up excess coca inventory.

Peru “has to design clear intervention strategies for coca,” Pérez said. “We’re screwed, just like everyone else in the world.” A spokesman for Peru’s anti-drugs agency said it may funnel more development aid to hard-hit areas. The coronavirus outbreak has upended industries across the globe. The international narcotics trade has not been spared. From the cartel badlands along the U.S.-Mexico border and verdant coca fields of the Andes, to street dealers in London and Paris, traffickers are grappling with many of the same woes as legitimate businesses, Reuters has found. On three continents, Reuters spoke with more than two dozen law enforcement officials, narcotics experts, diplomats and people involved in the illicit trade.

They described a business experiencing busted supply chains, delivery delays, disgruntled workers and millions of customers on lockdown. They also gave a window into the innovation – and opportunism – that are hallmarks of the underworld. [..] coronavirus has managed to do what authorities worldwide have not: slow the global narcotics juggernaut almost overnight and inflict a measure of pain on all who participate. In Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel has faced many threats over the years, including the jailing of former leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. But never one like the coronavirus pandemic.

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“The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children.”

The Analogy Trap in Economic Policy (Eichengreen)

Where comparisons with past crises have value is precisely in highlighting how this crisis is different, and therefore how the policy response should vary. First, this crisis did not originate in the financial system, in contrast to 1929 and 2008. Flooding financial markets with liquidity, as central banks have done, may prevent problems on the real side of the economy from destabilising financial institutions and markets. But doing so will not mend the economy or even halt its downward spiral. Achieving this requires first containing the pandemic. Second, in contrast to these earlier episodes, major fiscal stimulus packages are not the right policy focus. Unlike in the past, we have also experienced an unprecedented supply shock.

It makes no sense to try to sustain demand at earlier levels at a time when production can’t keep up, since it is not yet safe — and won’t be safe for some time — for people to return to work. The time for demand stimulus is later. The task for now is income maintenance — targeting public support at the unemployed so that parents can feed their children. Third, this crisis will be most acute in low-income countries. These countries have weak health systems. They are being hit by weak commodity prices, falling remittances, capital flight, a shortage of trade credit and collapsing currencies all at once. They were not the focus in 1929 or 2008 because those crises centred on the global financial system, and because low-income countries had only rudimentary financial systems and were not integrated financially.

This time, low-income countries are at risk of a crisis that will dwarf anything in the advanced-country world. Addressing their plight should be priority number one on humanitarian grounds, but also because what happens there will spill back onto the rest of the world through both economic and epidemiological channels. With the IMF and World Bank meetings coming up next week, one wonders whether advanced countries will look beyond their domestic concerns. One worries that their preoccupation with the questions ‘is this downturn more serious than the Global Financial Crisis?’ and ‘could unemployment rise as high as in the Great Depression?’ will cause them to lose sight of what is about to become the most serious crisis of all.

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Yeah, before you know it you’re trapped with the NYT in your corner.

New York Times Revives its Role in Chinagate (Lauria)

During the saga of Russiagate The New York Times was the main vehicle for unnamed U.S. intelligence officials to filter uncorroborated allegations about Russia, presenting them as proven fact. Just as the Democratic Party attempted to shift the blame from its disastrous 2016 loss to Donald Trump onto Russia, the Trump administration is now trying to shift the blame from Trump’s disastrous handling of the Coronavirus crisis onto China. And The New York Times is once again the vehicle. In a front-page story on Wednesday, the Times reports as flat fact that “Chinese agents helped spread messages to millions of Americans about a fake lockdown last month, sowing virus panic in the U.S., officials said.” One of the messages said Trump would lock down the entire nation. “They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.”

But as in the Times‘ sordid history of numerous Russiagate stories, you have to read deep into the piece, in this case to paragraph seven, before you are told: “The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.” Any reputable journalism school will teach its students that you hold off publishing until you see the evidence underlying an assertion. This is especially true when quoting anonymous sources. And it is doubly true when these sources are intelligence agents, who have a long history of deception. It is part of their job description.

Reporters should by now be wary and demand proof after they had allowed intelligence officials to misuse them in misleading the public about the reasons to invade Iraq, and indeed about the later proven lies about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Times story on Wednesday rather shamelessly revives and links China’s alleged misdeeds to Russiagate. “American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.”

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Feb 112020

Mathew Brady Grand Review of the Army. Units of XX Army Corps, Army of Georgia, Pennsylvania Ave. near the Treasury, Washington, DC. May 24 1865


3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)
China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)
China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)
Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)
Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)
Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)
China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)
Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)
Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)
Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)
Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)
China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)
US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)
Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)
‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)



First, don’t forget to read my article earlier today, Corona Cartoon Numbers, because thay may teach you a thing or two about the “official” numbers.

Those numbers for Feb 11:

• Cases 43,112 vs 40,614 yesterday. That’s up 2498

• Deaths 1,108 vs 910 yesterday. Up 108.

• Hubei provincial health commission said the province had confirmed a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday, a fatality rate of 3.07%. More than three-quarters of the deaths have been in the provincial capital Wuhan. The commission said there were still a total of 16,687 suspected but unconfirmed cases

Bizarre news item: In January, several individuals on a Paris takeoff flight bound for Shanghai were diagnosed with the #Coronavirus— in the opposite travel direction of the outbreak epicenter.



An update of a familiar BBC graph:



And this from the Yokohama cruise ship. 439 tested, 135 positive. 32.5%.

The Holland America cruise ship Westerdam, which had gotten permission to dock in Thailand after 9 days at sea and 3 countries refusing entry, has been denied entry by Thailand at the last minute as well. There are no known carriers aboard.




And this guy, bless his soul, has been disappeared.:

Lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi: “I’m not even afraid of death. You think I’m afraid of the Communist Party?”



Time flies when you’re having fun with viruses. It’s already been 9 days since I explained in The Party and the Virus: “Never a bad word should be uttered about the Party, and nothing said that could embarrass it.”

The Party blames individuals, so it can escape the blame. Problem with that is that is the Party is wrong, it won’t be corrected.

3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)

A special task force reviewing prevention efforts in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, has summoned three local officials for emergency meetings and detailed their failings in containing the outbreak. Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexing and two district chiefs in the city, Lin Wenshu and Yu Song, were called in for meetings, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Officials found to have been negligent would be held accountable, the report said. Headed by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, the task force was set up by the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Mainland media reported on Friday that Chen Yixin, a protégé of President Xi Jinping, had been added to the team.

China has had nearly 1,000 cluster outbreaks of the coronavirus and found that 83 per cent occurred in families, with the rest arising in hospitals, schools and shopping malls, said Wu Zunyou, chief scientist of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a media briefing on Tuesday. Among the cluster cases, 86 per cent were first or second-generation transmissions – people who lived or travelled in Hubei, contracted the virus and passed it to people who were in close contact with them, such as family members or people who shared meals with them. “Occurrences of these cluster cases showed our control and treatment measures have been effective and it did not spread from small units to bigger areas of society,” Wu said.

Read more …

Let’s see your priorities. For now, “gets back to work” looks a bit much.

Do note: when Xi comes out of hiding to announce it will be a hard fight, expect trouble.

China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)

Health authorities in China reported on Tuesday 108 new fatalities attributable to the novel coronavirus, bringing the national death toll to 1,018. This is the first time more than 100 people have died from the disease in a single day on the mainland. The National Health Commission also reported 2,478 new confirmed cases of the illness, bringing that total to 42,638 as of Monday. Of the new deaths, 103 were in Hubei province – the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic – and five in other provinces. As millions of people in China prepare to return to work, Beijing has made clear that the reopening of businesses must not be hampered by “crude and oversimplified” restrictions.

As many as 160 million people are expected to be returning to their cities of employment over the following week, according to Xu Yahua, director of the transport services department at the Chinese ministry of transport. The coronavirus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year travel season, when millions of migrant workers traditionally travel to their homes to spend the holiday with their families. As part of China’s response to the outbreak, the holiday season was extended to February 18. Many local authorities – from megacities like Beijing and Shanghai to remote villages – have curbed public transport provision and restricted people from moving outside their communities during the outbreak.

Many local governments have also adopted a registration system and prior approval requirements for companies planning to resume production. Some business owners have been detained for resuming work in advance. But Beijing has now made clear these practices were not in line with the requirements and policies of the central authorities. “Such a tendency must be stopped,” said Ou Xiaoli, director of social development at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency. “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way,” he said, at the same press conference on Tuesday.

Read more …

Anything public has lost most of their income. Whaddaya mean no lay-offs?

China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)

A Chinese media company said it will lay off 500 employees due to the coronavirus outbreak, the latest among a string of firms to do so in the past two weeks as the epidemic takes a toll on small-to-medium sized businesses. Xinchao Media, which places advertisements in elevators, will cut 10% of its workforce to “ensure survival”, the company said in a post on its official WeChat account on Monday, which carried the transcript of an internal speech by CEO Zhang Jixue. “To overcome the epidemic, you have to step on the brakes, jam the cash flow, reduce costs,” Zhang said, as he noted the company’s cash reserve of 1 billion yuan ($143 million) would likely be enough for only 6-7 months in the absence of income.

The job cuts come even as President Xi Jinping said the government would prevent large-scale layoffs caused by the virus outbreak – which has killed more than a 1,000 people in mainland China and infected over 40,000. Authorities said on Tuesday they will roll out measures to stabilize jobs. But many companies are hurting from disruptions felt since late-January after local governments extended Lunar New Year holidays and urged people to stay home. Beijing’s “Karaoke King” has said it wants to terminate contracts with all its 200 employees as it shut its outlets due to the outbreak, local media reports said. The karaoke chain did not immediately return calls made by Reuters on Tuesday.

Chinese restaurant chain Xibei, which has over 360 outlets, said it was worried about wages for its roughly 20,000 workers given how the epidemic had impacted its income. “We need 156 million yuan a month to pay our workers, and if the epidemic continues, and cash flow continues to be inadequate, we will not be able to hold up for much longer,” it said on its official Weibo account. In Beijing, only 11,500 restaurants were operational mid last week, or 13% of the total, the Beijing Municipal Market Supervision Bureau said.

Read more …

Cited this last week. Individuals get the blame, so the Party does not.

Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)

China has “removed” several senior officials over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak – as the death toll passed 1,000. The party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission, and the head of the commission, were among those who lost their jobs. They are the most senior officials to be demoted so far. The deputy director of the local Red Cross was also removed for “dereliction of duty” over “handling of donations”. The two Hubei party officials will be replaced by a national figure – the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, Wang Hesheng. On Monday, some 103 died in Hubei province alone, a daily record, and the national death toll is now 1,016. But the number of new infections nationally was down almost 20% from the day before, from 3,062 to 2,478.

Hubei’s health commission confirmed 2,097 new cases in the province on Monday, down from 2,618 the previous day. According to state media, there have been hundreds of sackings, investigations and warnings across Hubei and other provinces during the outbreak. But removal from a certain role – while regarded as a censure – does not always mean the person will be sacked entirely, as it can also mean demotion. As well as being removed from their posts, officials can also be punished by the ruling Communist Party. For example, the deputy head of the Red Cross, Zhang Qin, was given “a serious intra-Party warning as well as a serious administrative demerit”, state media said. Earlier this month, the deputy head of the Wuhan bureau of statistics was removed, also with a “serious intra-party warning a well as a serious administrative demerit for violating relevant regulations to distribute face masks”.

The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%.

Read more …

“..a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence”..”

Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)

A prominent Chinese intellectual has become the first high-profile public figure to lay the blame for the coronavirus crisis at the feet of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, saying the spread of the deadly virus has “revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance”. As the crisis expands across the country, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor from one of the country’s top universities, lambasted the government under Xi in an essay titled: Viral Alarm, When Fury Overcomes Fear. In it, Xu laid the blame for the current national crisis at the feet of Xi and a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence” that he has created. The virus has now killed more than 1,000 people inside China.

“The cause of all of this lies with The Axelrod and the cabal that surrounds him,” Xu writes, referring to Xi, according to a translation of the article by historian Geremie Barmé published on Monday by the website ChinaFile. “It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.” Xu describes the outbreak as a “national calamity” that involves politics, the economy and “nation’s ethical fabric” making it “more perilous than total war itself”.

After weeks of disappearing from public view, Xi on Monday visited a neighbourhood and hospital in Beijing where he held a video call with health workers in Wuhan. Coverage of his appearance filled the front page of the official People’s Daily on Tuesday. Xu’s essay captures growing public anger at the government, which has reached a new peak after the death of a doctor and whistleblower last week. Officials have tried to blame lower-level bureaucrats, but top bosses have not escaped. On Tuesday, the party secretary of health commission of Hubei province and the director of the Hubei provincial health commission were both fired.

Read more …

Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my Feb 5 article The Big Lockdown:

Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)

The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.

“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. Leung – one of the world’s experts on coronavirus epidemics, who played a major role in the Sars outbreak in 2002-2003 – works closely with other leading scientists such as counterparts at Imperial College London and Oxford University.

At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread. Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.

[..] In January Leung published two papers in the Lancet. The first examined the damage done by social unrest to the mental health of the Hong Kong population. The second was on the spread of coronavirus. “So the two have now come together. The first has made the second impossible to deal with – impossible. I mean, how do you bring your population along when there’s been this huge chasm in society?” he said.

Read more …

Western governments and media are as guilty here as China. No use singling out China. Everyone just wishes it would all go away. Everyone’s more afraid for the economy than of the virus. Until they can’t. Dumb piece. Find your own faults first, not those of the other. You really want people to believe western governments would react differently?

China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)

Nearly six weeks after China announced the coronavirus outbreak, there’s still a surprising amount we don’t know about this newly discovered disease. But one thing is becoming clear: China’s silence in the earliest days of the crisis may have made it worse. Chinese authorities delayed informing the world about the severity of a deadly disease spreading within the country’s borders — even trying to muzzle whistleblowers, like the late Dr. Li Wenliang. Now hailed as a national hero, Li was forced on January 3 by police to sign a letter saying he spread “untrue speech” for warning colleagues about the virus that eventually took his life. With more than 40,500 people infected and 910 deaths, China’s missteps early on seem increasingly fateful.

The fact that the international community has not acknowledged those missteps is also consequential. On Friday, President Trump applauded China. “They’re working really hard and I think they’re doing a very professional job,” Trump told ABC News. Meanwhile, the leading global health body, the World Health Organization, has stayed mum about China’s blunders — and is drawing criticism for failing to publicly criticize the country and creating “a false sense of security” about an emerging health crisis. But the reality is this: China’s mishandling and the ensuing silence from the international community is emblematic of how the global system governing the international response to pandemics fails to work, half a dozen global health experts told Vox.

Though we have global health laws — in particular, the International Health Regulations, or IHR — meant to guide countries dealing with outbreaks, they’re not actually enforceable. “You can’t penalize [countries that] don’t follow it,” said Devi Sridhar, the chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Instead, the international community has to rely on “soft law and norms” — or “disease diplomacy.” This means that when a pandemic threat looms, the world has little recourse to punish those that fail to live up to the IHR for not detecting a public health problem, or hiding a crisis, even when that mishandling imperils the lives of billions. And with just about every outbreak, history repeats. “Our global outbreak response system depends on the full participation of all actors at all levels of government,” Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a professor of global health at York University, summed up. “But our system is only as strong as its weakest link.” Understanding the IHR, and how disease diplomacy is done today, helps explain why.

Read more …

Not just economic growth. Flaws in the Party system, which is incapable of adapting to being found out.

Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 1,000 people and infected over 40,000, has exposed fundamental flaws in China’s governance system and its growth model – the excessive concentration of power, information and resources in the hands of a powerful state. But given the path of China’s political and economic evolution, it is difficult for China to loosen its grip on power as a response to so-called black swan events such as the coronavirus. The most likely outcome is that Beijing will continue to strengthen centralised control, which in turn is a greater threat to China’s prospects than the virus itself.

When it is done right, a centralised political system means the government can deliver positives such as rapid economic growth, but it also make it possible for the government to place emphasis on the wrong things, which has the potential to lead to uncertainty and even disaster for society. There is precedent that China tends to enhance centralisation as the solution to a problem that has stemmed from over control. The “new normal” concept, which was adopted by the state in 2014, dissociated the political legitimacy of the Chinese government from economic growth, therefore reducing the pressure on local Chinese authorities to deliver. And while the concept had the good intention of seeking high quality growth, it has, in reality, made the local authorities less friendly to the private sector.

To achieve high economic growth, local governments have had to free up market forces and allow the private sector to thrive, but without the pressure, they do not have the incentive to conduct the necessary political and economic liberalisations to entertain private investors. As a result, the central government is increasingly reliant on state-owned enterprises and state money to maintain social stability and to deliver environmental improvement, while the private economy is gradually marginalised and local autonomy is weakened.

Read more …

Co-author Dr Zhong Nanshan was very very wrong when he said late January that the epidemic would be over in 7-10 days. Talked about that. Just saying.

Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)

Medical researchers in China have found the incubation period for coronavirus ranges up to 24 days — 10 days longer than experts previously thought. The research was co-authored by Dr Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003 and has been appointed as a leading advisor in managing the current coronavirus crisis. Current advice from health organisations and ministries say the virus’ incubation period is as long as 14 days, based on the incubation period of previous MERS viruses. Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care has urged anyone travelling from specific countries, including China, to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.

The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, were published on Sunday and titled ‘Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China’. They found only 1.18 per cent of patients “had a direct contact with wildlife”. The majority of the patients had contracted the virus from being in contact with people from Wuhan, where the centre of the outbreak is. More than 80 percent of patients developed lymphopenia, which is a state where a specific white blood cell that is part of the body’s first-line defence against diseases is reduced.

Read more …

Wait till we see car sales in China.

Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)

West Texas Intermediate oil is trading just below $50 midday Monday. This is a very low price for the US benchmark, otherwise known as WTI. The lesson: don’t underestimate the impact of the Coronavirus on the oil market and the greater American economy. The price of WTI last fell below this level for a couple of weeks at the end of 2018 and start of 2019. Other than that moment, the price has not been this low since September of 2017. The concern is that the current low price is not a blip like last year but rather a sustained drop or maybe only the beginning of a situation that could get significantly worse. If the Coronavirus continues to interfere with the Chinese economy and international trade, oil prices are likely to fall further. After all, China is the world’s largest importer of oil by a wide margin, accepting 10.78 million barrels per day in December, 2019.

Here’s who really needs to keep an eye on these low oil prices.

  1. First is, of course, oil producers—from international oil companies like Exxon and Chevron to wildcatters in shale fields—need to beware.
  2. Next, we have the oil industry employees and supplemental industries like truck drivers, welders and restaurant workers near oil fields who could all be affected.
  3. Financiers and investors—hedge funds, private equity and retail investors alike—who fund oil operations are worried about failed projects if revenue drops.
  4. Airlines need to watch oil volatility, because they have an opportunity to buy jet fuel at low prices if it drops, which allows them to hedge for when higher prices eventually return.
  5. Certain state governments, such as Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota and others that fund their budgets in part with taxes on oil production and sales have to beware, as they may be facing unexpected lean times.
  6. Last, businesses that contract for products to be trucked around the country should be looking for discounted pricing.

Despite all the talk about electric vehicles and alternative energy, oil is still the vital liquid that keeps much of our economy moving. We are reminded of that at times like these, when the oil market is anticipating volatility and change.

Read more …

Well, if the virus gives up later this very day, he might be right. But not a minute later.

Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)

Zeng Gang, vice chair of the National Institute for Finance and Development, compared the current crisis with the SARS epidemic of 2003, when China’s growth declined by about 2 percentage points in a single quarter. “The impact of this epidemic on the economy in the first quarter is expected to be comparable,” Zeng said in a commentary published in the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. “At present, according to different scenario assumptions, researchers expect the negative impact of the epidemic on full-year GDP growth to be in the range of 0.2% to 1%.” If the official response to the epidemic is timely and effective at limiting its spread, long-term growth trends would not be significantly affected, Zeng said.

“But in the short term, the epidemic’s impact on economic activity cannot be ignored, especially with tertiary industries and small enterprises with tight cash flows facing greater pressures,” Zeng said. Zeng said difficulties for small companies could prompt a rise in bankruptcies and put upward pressure on the unemployment rate in the first quarter. “The employment situation is not optimistic. This will also pose a serious challenge to the macro policy goal of ‘employment first’,” he said. Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that the government would prevent large-scale layoffs, Chinese state television reported.

China’s central bank has taken steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. It has also said it will provide special funds for banks to lend to businesses. Analysts at Citi said they expect growth to slow significantly despite expectations of more proactive fiscal policy and more accommodative monetary policy. “Assuming the virus is contained by the end of March, we revise down our 20Q1 GDP growth forecast considerably to 3.6% and the annual growth modestly to 5.3%”, Citi analysts said in a note. Citi previously forecast first-quarter growth of 4.8% and full-year growth of 5.5%.

Read more …

But GDP growth only 0.2% lower?

China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)

China’s smartphone shipments for the three months ending in March could decline by more than 30% from the same period a year ago, International Data Corporation said on Tuesday. The world’s largest smartphone market could experience a so-called “Black Swan effect” in the first half of the calendar year due to the new coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people on the mainland, according to the research firm. [..] “The coronavirus outbreak impacted the Lunar New Year’s shopping season in late January and is also expected to have adverse effects in the following months,” IDC said in a statement, adding that it expects “China’s smartphone shipments to drop more than 30% year-on-year in 2020Q1.”

The virus outbreak will also “create uncertainty in product launch plans, the supply chain, and distribution channels, in the mid and long term,” IDC said. Research firm Canalys earlier this month predicted China’s smartphone shipments could drop by as much as 50% between the last three months of 2019 and the first three months of 2020. “Technology vendors are likely to stall marketing activities as they are unlikely to divert attention to new product launches, such as 5G devices,” Canalys said in a Feb. 3 report. “It will take time for vendors to change their product launch roadmaps in China, which is likely to dampen 5G shipments in 2020.”

Read more …

Curious where this will go.

US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)

The US has charged four Chinese military officers over the huge cyber-attack on credit rating giant Equifax. More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses. Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected. Announcing the indictments, Attorney General William Barr called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”. According to court documents, the four are allegedly members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military.

They spent weeks in the company’s system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data, the documents said. The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs. The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown and it is highly unlikely that they will stand trial in the US. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up – not today, anyway.”

Read more …

The country that never tires of embarrassing itself.

Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)

The Australian government has released an Aboriginal man from immigration detention after a landmark high court case decided Aboriginal Australians are not aliens for the purpose of the constitution and cannot be deported. On Tuesday afternoon the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, said the government is still reviewing the decision but “in the light of the court’s ruling, Mr [Brendan] Thoms was this morning released from immigration detention”. The case was a major defeat for the deportation powers of Peter Dutton’s home affairs department and a significant development in the rights of Indigenous Australians. In a four-to-three split decision the high court ruled that Aboriginal people with sufficient connection to traditional societies cannot be aliens, giving them a special status in Australian constitutional law likely to have ramifications far beyond existing native title law.

The majority of the high court ruled that New Zealand-born Brendan Thoms was not an alien and the commonwealth therefore did not have power to order his deportation. The court was not able to decide if the second plaintiff, Daniel Love, was an Aboriginal Australian, requiring a further hearing to establish whether he is accepted as a member of the Kamilaroi tribe. Speaking outside the court earlier, the men’s lawyer, Claire Gibbs, called on the government to immediately release Thoms, who had been in immigration detention for 500 days. Love had previously been released in September 2018. Gibbs said she was “confident” Love will also be found not to be an alien and told reporters the pair will seek “significant” damages.

Read more …

Nobody’s looking at New Hampshire. It’s an illusion. Trump is only watching out of Schadenfreude. The only people who care about Democrats today are Democrats. And they have themselves to blame for that. The only thing is that Biden and Warren, on the brink of annihilation, might come with heavy and utterly ridiculous allegations vs ButtGeek and Bernie.

‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)

In Plymouth, Buttigieg tried to reach out to undecided voters, referring to “future former Republicans” who he said were more than welcome to back his campaign. “It’s decision time,” Buttigieg said. He took a shot at Sanders, saying that the self-described democratic socialist would have a hard time pulling in moderate voters. “Knowing how much depends on bringing Americans together, we cannot risk alienating Americans at this critical moment,” he said. “And that’s where I part ways with my friend Senator Sanders.” In a separate event, Sanders aimed his attacks at Trump. “I know not everybody agrees with everything I say, but I think what we can agree about is that we cannot continue having a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders told a crowd at a sports club in Manchester.

Read more …




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Jan 072020

Jack Delano Worker inspecting locomotive, Proviso Yard 1942


China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)
Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)
Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)
McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)
McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)
A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)
China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)
American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)
Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)
Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)
Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)
New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)



Read between the lines. China suffers from capital flight. It can’t keep the dollars at home. But sure, it’s tempting to call this diversifying.

China Pledges ‘Prudence’ In Diversifying Foreign Exchange Reserves (SCMP)

China will “steadily and prudently” diversify its US$3.1 trillion foreign exchange reserve holdings, the government agency managing the assets pledged in its 2020 work plan, suggesting a subtle policy change in the way Beijing uses its hard currency holdings. The careful approach would “promote the diversified use … and ensure the safety, flow, and preservation and appreciation of foreign exchange reserve assets,” China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) said in a statement published on Sunday, which summarised the results of its annual work conference last week. It is the first time that SAFE, headed by Pan Gongsheng, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, has called for “prudence” in diversifying China’s reserve assets in its annual work conference statement.

The regulator also vowed to improve its management of reserves “with Chinese characteristics”, although it did not explain what that meant. SAFE added it would prevent risks caused by external shocks endangering “national economic and financial security” in 2020. China’s diversification strategy for its foreign exchange reserves – which generally indicates a reduction in holdings of US government bonds for other riskier assets – has gained speed in the past decade after the creation of a separate sovereign wealth fund in 2007. SAFE has created a special office of lending dollars to institutions like the China Development Bank to finance overseas projects and launched a number of overseas offices for investment.

In its 2018 annual report, SAFE revealed for the first time the share of US dollar denominated assets in its reserves portfolio for the period 2005 to 2014. Dollar assets accounted for 58 per cent of China’s total reserves by 2014 – the most recent data provided – down from 79 per cent in 2005, the report showed. By international standards, the share of US dollar assets in China’s reserves in 2014 was below average. The latest data from the International Monetary Fund showed that 61.8 per cent of the world’s reserves assets were denominated in US dollars at the end of the third quarter last year.

Read more …

Ha ha! Larry Summers as the expert.

Experts Urge Fed To Consider Radical Approaches To Fight Next Recession (MW)

Two monetary-policy experts, contradicting former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, said they wanted the central bank to consider new “radical” approaches to fight the next recession, out of a concern that existing tools might not be as effective as they were in the last crisis. In a Sunday morning panel at the American Economic Association annual meeting, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said the Fed’s QE program, in which the central bank would buy government bonds to bring down long-term rates, might not pack so much punch because the 10-year Treasury note is already close to 1%. “I’m less optimistic about the incremental efficacy of QE,” Summers said.

“I don’t think pushing 10-year rates down from 100 basis points to 50 basis points or 20 basis points has [a] significant incremental effect.” In a speech to the AEA on Saturday night, former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said he thought the Fed had to the tools, including QE, to successfully combat a severe downturn. Bernanke said he thought QE, and verbal guidance from the Fed, would be equivalent to a 300-basis-point easing of the central bank’s benchmark federal funds rate. Adam Posen, a former policy maker at the Bank of England, urged the Fed to consider “radical” approaches, including a new tool called “yield-curve control” to fight the next downturn.

The Bank of Japan has already been using yield-curve control since 2016 to fight deflation. “The BOJ has gotten it right. Yield-curve control is a success story,” Posen said. Under this policy, last used in the U.S. during World War II, the Fed would announce it intended to peg the 10-year Treasury rate at a specific low rate. Low rates would help spur activity. And with the Fed guaranteeing low rates, Congress could boost government spending. “It enables fiscal policy, it doesn’t judge it,” Posen said. It was used during World War II precisely because the government needed to boost fiscal spending.

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A consistent point of view. The west makes sure nobody here believes it, but Iran has said the same thing for many years. It’s a religious issue. And just because we warp Christian values to allow for the inclusion of nukes, doesn’t mean they should do the same with the Islam.

Iran ‘Not Interested’ In Having Nukes – UN Envoy (RT)

Prohibited by the supreme leader’s decree, nuclear weapons are inconsistent with Iran’s defensive doctrine, the country’s UN envoy said after Tehran announced the suspension of limits under the 2015 deal. Iran’s decision to lift restrictions on uranium enrichment – after a US drone strike killed General Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport – made headlines in Western media, with some speculating that the Islamic Republic could be seeking nuclear weapons. However, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, reassured the public that this is not the case – even though the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is now in jeopardy.

There is “no place for nuclear weapons in Iran’s defensive doctrine,” he told PBS Newshour, adding that the country is also abiding by the Non-Proliferation Treaty – a 1968 pact that aims for nuclear disarmament and sets standards for arms control. We are not interested in having a nuclear weapon, because we have a very clear, clear-cut religious edict by our supreme leader prohibiting nuclear weapons. Tehran has meticulously followed the provisions of the nuclear deal even, though it has received “almost nothing in return,” Takht-Ravanchi said. And while the European parties to the JCPOA (from which Tehran expected to receive benefits) “didn’t act in accordance with the deal,” Iran has chosen not to abandon it completely. “If Iran is given the benefits of the deal, we will go back to the full implementation of it,” the ambassador stated.

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That’s not how social media work these days, Mitch. Everyone needs to form an opinion within seconds.

McConnell Urges Lawmakers To Wait For Facts On Soleimani Killing (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday U.S. lawmakers should wait for the facts before criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to kill top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad last week. “We can and we should learn more about the intelligence and thinking that led to this operation and the plan to defend American personnel and interests in the wake of it,” McConnell said at the U.S. Capitol after lawmakers returned from winter break. “Unfortunately, in this toxic political environment, some of our colleagues rushed to blame our own government before even knowing the facts. Rushed to split hairs about intelligence before being briefed on it.”

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So that’s that?!

McConnell Has The Votes To Block Democrats’ Impeachment Witness Demands (Hill)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the votes to quash Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) demands to require additional witnesses testify at the start of President Trump’s impeachment trial. Two key moderate senators, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), on Monday evening backed McConnell’s position that the Senate should follow the precedent of the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial and defer until later in the process the question of calling additional witnesses. Collins told reporters at Monday evening votes that the Senate should follow the 1999 precedent and consider the question of subpoenaing additional witnesses and documents only after House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team present their opening arguments.

She noted in a statement Monday that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) adopted a resolution in 1999 to set out the rules for the proceeding that didn’t include any agreement for specific witnesses to testify. “The process moved to a period during which the Senate debated and voted that three witnesses should be deposed. I believe that this process — the Clinton approach — worked well,” she said. Murkowski also urged colleagues to follow the path laid out during the Clinton trial. “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this unfortunate process and that was to go through a first phase and then they reassessed after that,” she told reporters.

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A whole new game. Maybe Bloomberg still has a shot. But really, the time between Super Tuesday and the elections should be used to form a united front. Not going to happen. Trump is the only thing that keeps the Dems together.

A Very Real Scenario Of A Protracted, Bizarro World Democratic Primary (Pol.)

Democrats are now beginning to confront a very real scenario where the nomination — and the winnowing — will not be decided in states where campaigns have been plowing ground for more than a year, but in places and calendar dates so deep into primary season that until recently they’ve received almost no attention at all. The Iowa field is bunched together with little daylight between a handful of well-funded candidates. Each of the four early voting states continues to present the prospect of a different winner. And, at the end of that gauntlet on Super Tuesday, a free-spending billionaire — Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor — is waiting to challenge whichever candidate or candidates emerge.

It’s a unique set of circumstances that has the campaigns — and party officials — scrambling to make sense of the reconfigured landscape. Looking at the possibility of a still-contested nomination even after Super Tuesday’s massive delegate allocation on March 3, Washington state Democratic Party chair Tina Podlodowski said mid-March will “probably matter more than ever before.” One strategist working with a presidential candidate said, “We’ve never had a situation where we get past Super Tuesday and there’s still five people in the field,” predicting that possibility this year. “We’re in bizarro world here,” the strategist said.

[..] “Super Tuesday is typically a wild scramble, and anybody who’s still surviving is usually limping a little bit in terms of money. They’re spread thin in terms of where to go,” said Doug Herman, a Democratic strategist. “Campaigns can’t pay to have simultaneous overhead in all of the early states and all of the next round of states with quality people. So they put all of their best people in early states and then cut and paste them into the next states.” For later states, said Matt Bennett, a veteran of the 2004 presidential campaign and a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way, “The strategy is wait and pray. There is no other strategy … I just think you basically ignore it, and then they’ll frantically run around in those states for a week.”

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Look at per capita emissions. In the end that’s all that counts. Now imagine Europe, China and the US at the same levels as India. That’s our future.

China Must Cancel New Coal Plants To Achieve Climate Goals (R.)

China must end the construction of all new coal-fired power plants in order to meet long-term climate goals in the most economically feasible manner, according to a study co-authored by a government-backed research institute. China’s energy strategy over the next decade is under close scrutiny as it aims to bring climate warming carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and fulfill a pledge made as part of the 2015 Paris agreement. But with economic growth at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years, Beijing has continued to approve new coal-fired plants, raising fears the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas is backtracking on its commitments.

Beijing is capable of phasing out coal to help meet a global target to keep temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, but only if it embarks on a “structured and sustainable” closure strategy to minimize the economic impact, according to the study by Chinese government researchers and the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability published on Monday. The report, which evaluated more than 1,000 existing coal-fired power plants, said China must first end new construction and then rapidly close older and inefficient plants. As much as 112 gigawatts (GW) does not meet environmental standards and could be shut down immediately, it said.

China currently has over 1,000 GW of coal-fired power, accounting for about 60% of the country’s total installed generation capacity. “Well-designed policies can help lower the cost of coal-power deep decarbonization,” said Jiang Kejun, research professor with the Chinese government-backed Energy Research Institute, one of the report’s authors. [..] Beijing promised last year to show the “highest possible ambition” when drawing up new climate pledges for the coming decade, but it has built 42.9 GW of new coal-fired power capacity since the start of 2018, with another 121 GW under construction.

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We need a whistleblower.

American Airlines Reaches Secret Settlement With Boeing Over 737 MAX (R.)

American Airlines said on Monday it had reached a confidential agreement with Boeing to address damages the airline incurred in 2019 due to the ongoing grounding of its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. American, the largest U.S. airline, said the compensation will be received over several years. The airline will use more than $30 million of the compensation for the airline’s 2019 employee profit-sharing program. American said it does not expect any material financial impact of the agreement to be realized in its fourth-quarter 2019 earnings and it will continue talks regarding compensation for damages related to the MAX grounding beyond 2019. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines’ 28,000 flight attendants, said it welcomed the news about compensation, and was evaluating the details.

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Et tu, Hunter?

Chelsea Clinton Reaps $9 Million From Corporate Board Position (Hill)

Chelsea Clinton has reaped $9 million in compensation since 2011 for serving on the board of an internet investment company, according to Barron’s, the financial publication. Barron’s reported Sunday that Clinton has profited handsomely as a board member for IAC/InterActiveCorp, a media and internet investment company that has an ownership stake in 150 well-known brands, such as Vimeo, Tinder, Angie’s List and Home Advisor. Clinton, the only child of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has served on IAC’s board since 2011 and receives an annual $50,000 retainer and $250,000 worth of restricted IAC stock units, Barron’s reports.

She reported owning $8.95 million worth of IAC stock to the Securities and Exchange Commission at the end of December. Barron’s notes that IAC’s stock has risen 89 percent, 50 percent and 36 percent in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively, a far steeper rise than the broader stock market. Clinton’s public profile has proved a valuable commodity. She earned an annual salary of $600,000 working as a special correspondent for NBC News in 2013 and part of 2014. Clinton was named to the board of Expedia Group in March of 2017, a position that typically earned $250,000 in 2015, according to a report at the time by The Guardian. Both IAC and Expedia are controlled by Barry Diller, the business and television mogul, who is a friend of Hillary Clinton.

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It’s all their fault, of course.

Australia To Kill Thousands Of Camels As They Drink Too Much Water (Hill)

Officials will kill thousands of camels in Australia as they drink too much water amid the wildfires. Leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northwest Australia will send helicopters to kill up to 10,000 camels in a five-day campaign starting Wednesday, The Australian reported. The order to kill comes as a drought makes the camels more desperate for water, causing chaos in local communities. Marita Baker, an APY executive board member, told the newspaper that the camels were causing problems in her community of Kanypi. “We have been stuck in stinking hot and uncomfortable conditions, feeling unwell, because the camels are coming in and knocking down fences, getting in around the houses and trying to get to water through air conditioners,’’ she said.

The State Department for Environment and Water will send the helicopters up. The camels’ bodies will be burnt or buried if they are accessible, but in remote areas, their bodies will be left. The camels are also being removed due to concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, since camels emit one ton of carbon dioxide per year. The animal’s population also doubles every nine years if not regulated. The National Feral Camel Management Plan estimated about one million camels lived in three states and the Northern territory in 2010, according to the newspaper. One million camels is the equivalent of having 400,000 more cars on the roads, Tim Moore, chief executive of carbon farming specialists RegenCo, told the newspaper.

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Think the white Aussies will change their ways now?

Australian Owners Say Cultural Burning Saved Their Property (Age)

Aboriginal cultural fire practitioner Dennis Barber led a series of cultural burns on six hectares of bushland at Ngurrumpaa in 2015 and 2016 – the first burns in the area since a wildfire swept through in 1994. “There’s nothing more powerful than doing it and feeling like you’re doing the right thing, and seeing the results,” he said. Unlike hazard reduction burning, cultural burns are cooler and slower moving, usually no taller than knee height, leaving tree canopies untouched and allowing animals to take refuge from the flames. Small fires are lit with matches, instead of drip torches, and burn in a circular pattern. Mr Barber says the ancient practice is informed by thousands of years of traditional knowledge.

“It’s more than just putting the fire on the ground – it’s actually knowing the country, knowing what’s there … the soil types, the geology, the trees, the animals, the breeding times of animals, the flowering times of plants,” he said. The timing and frequency of burns depend on the environmental “system”. A former park ranger with 15 years’ professional firefighting experience, Mr Barber says he had a “light bulb moment” at a cultural burning workshop with Indigenous elders in far north Queensland in 2010. “Everything that I’d been doing as a professional firefighter, thinking that I was doing the right thing, was wrong, because I viewed fire in the landscape totally differently after that week,” he said.

“That’s where I got the bug to come back and actually spread that knowledge and see it happening in other parts of Australia.” The Wiradjuri man started Koori Country Firesticks in 2016 to promote cultural burning as an alternative to hazard reduction techniques in NSW. The organisation has culturally burnt around 50 hectares of land across the Hunter Valley and Sydney, mainly on private properties at the request of owners. But the 55-year-old has met plenty of resistance from governments, professional firefighters, national parks and even ecologists. “It’s been a little bit frustrating, but I’ve just decided I’m not going to let that stand in the way anymore,” he said.

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Wait. If our brains are indeed more powerful than we think, why are we not already thinking that?

New Neural Activity Suggests Our Brains Even More Powerful Than We Think (RT)

Scientists have discovered a new form of brain activity related to how cells process information. The incredible find suggests our brains might be even more powerful than previously thought, according to the team. The new research, conducted by German and Greek scientists and published in Science, centers on signals sent and received by the ends of neurons, known as ‘dendrites.’ The information passed by these parts of the brain is key to how the organ decides subsequent actions. Working with slices of human brain tissue, the team found unexpectedly complex electrical activity in the dendrites of human pyramidal neurons.

Modeling this activity then showed that single neurons were capable of solving computational problems which were thought to need a lot more brain power. “The dendrites are central to understanding the brain because they are at the core of what determines the computational power of single neurons,”said study co-author Matthew Larkum, a neuroscientist at Humboldt University of Berlin. “There was a ‘eureka’ moment when we saw the dendritic action potentials for the first time.” Little is currently known about how dendrites operate in other species, or if this kind of high-computational activity is uniquely human. However, it’s incredibly difficult to record dendrite activity in humans or animals while they’re alive, and Larkum says more research is needed to fill in these blanks.

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Jan 052020
 January 5, 2020  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »

Jack Delano Foggy night in New Bedford, Massachusetts 1941


Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)
Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)
Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)
Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)
Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)
To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)
PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)
Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)
How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)
Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)



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?

Suleimani’s Death Huge Blow To Iran’s Plans For Regional Domination (Hassan)

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.

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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?

Trump Could Start A War Via Twitter; The Social Network Is OK With That (Keys)

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.

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Trump alos said he wants no war with Iran. Biden and Mayor Pete are twisting like pretzels, Warren has a hard time keeping up with events.

Sanders, Warren Want No War With Iran, Biden, Buttigieg Better-Run Wars (IC)

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.

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Propaganda is what it is.

Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani (Murray)

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.

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“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.”

Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran (VIPS)

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.

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Guess who the main Democratic donors are. Except for Bernie and Warren, but she’s already in funding trouble.

To Stop Trump’s War with Iran, We Must Also Confront the Democrats (ITT)

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.

Read more …

Talk about propaganda. Hollow words.

PBOC Says Will Keep Monetary Policy Prudent, Flexible And Appropriate (R.)

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…

Read more …

And there’s more where that came from. The rate cuts Bernanke once labeled “uncharted territory”, he now calls “conventional”.

Bernanke: Fed Has Ample Clout To Fight Downturn If Toolkit Used Properly (R.)

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.”

Read more …

You can talk about the Framers all you want, but the country has changed a lot since them.

How the Two-Party System Broke the Constitution (Atlantic)

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.

Read more …

Nice find, dark humor.

Bushfire Turns Aussie Sky Into A Re-Creation Of The Aboriginal Flag (DMA)

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.

Read more …




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Dec 192019

Saul Leiter Harlem 1960


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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Nov 212019
 November 21, 2019  Posted by at 1:49 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  35 Responses »

Salvador Dali Figure at a window 1925


Below is a private email I received a few days ago from an Automatic Earth reader and that I would like to share with you.

Watching (some of) the impeachment inquiry this week and last, I again get the same feeling I’ve had for some 4 years now, which is something we all know -metaphorically- from the Godfather.

The Democrats and the Republicans are like two -of the five- families, let’s say the Barzini family and the Tattaglia family (we’ll leave the Corleones be), which are both utterly corrupted and lethal predators, and I wouldn’t want to choose between them. But that’s not made easy.

In this metaphor, the Tattaglia family appears to have both the intelligence services and 95% of the media on their side, which keep telling their readers and viewers that the Barzini family are much worse than the Tattaglia family. That’s what I see when I look at the impeachment inquiry, and the comments in the press surrounding it: they all, the Democrats, the media and the FBI/CIA et al, are trying to convince everyone that Don Barzini is the anti-christ and the Tattaglia family are fine upstanding Americans.

What I have been doing over the past years is to try and restore some balance to that picture. But I still get -perhaps not surprisingly- accused of being a right-wing Trump supporter. Because you’re either with us or with them. And 95% of the press is apparently still not enough; they want me to join in as well.

And yes, maybe I’m stupid, maybe you shouldn’t try to go against such an overwhelming majority of the press. But at the same time, the picture they paint makes no sense to me. And besides, I want the press to give me news, facts, not try to make up my mind for me. I would like to do that myself.

But that’s where the biggest change has occurred. In the past, you could read articles in the New York Times, Guardian or WaPo, and watch CNN, and come away with the impression that you had been provided with news. Today, you no longer can, because all of it is seeped in propaganda.

Still, that’s how the press make their money these days. As I wrote quite some time ago, Trump Sells Better Than Sex. Writing and saying bad things about him is their meal ticket. For four years and change they’ve been insisting that the next story would be the bombshell (talk about a deflated word) that would sink Trump, that it would be The BIG ONE, as I wrote yesterday. And sure enough, all their comments on Gordon Sondland’s testimony yesterday say it again.

This has nothing to do with my opinion of Donald Trump (and perhaps not even theirs), it’s about the process, and how it has changed, likely to a large extent because of the pressure exerted on the old media by internet and social media. Trump is the best thing that ever happened to the old guard’s finances. They willingly gave up on half the American population, because the other half can’t get enough of Orange Man Bad narratives. Looks like a risky gamble, but they were truly desperate. One should wonder if they really want Trump gone, because what then?

As I said, I thought I’d share that mail. The author said it’s okay. I deleted anything that could identify him. And of course I’m curious to know what you think about his words (and mine).



Hello Ilargi,

I just read Moonraker’s comment about your “right wing talking points”.

This is, once again, tiresome and ridiculous. Just as when people call you a pro-Trump, or whatever similar. Derangement syndrome, or Maoist frenzy, or headless chickens, many descriptive phrases apply to these reactions to anything with a link to common sense.

What amazes me is how unhinged the mainstream view of the world has become. And I am grateful to find a healthy measure of sanity in TAE.

Since 2014 I have been watching a major onslaught of disinformation, starting around Maidan, and later moving into overdrive with Trump. I think the man is a piece of junk, but the mainstream reaction to him has a distinct Orwellian feel (when the progressive ‘Our Values’ crowd starts singing Thank God we have NATO, the CIA, the Deep State… you know your Boeing 737 MAX is flying upside down).

The Narrative about Trump, especially here [in Canada] through our PC media class, is perfect, smooth and shiny, just like a brand new Tesla or a tale you read to your child in bed at night.

Trump may be crazy, I don’t know – but for sure our reaction to him has been erasing our sanity. This [is] both painful and entertaining to watch.

Our collective delusion about anything that matters (Trump, Russia, finance, energy, the rape of our planet, etc.) is IMO the greatest show on Earth. And it is on great display on TAE, including the remarkable Comments section. I have come to love the smell of it in the morning.

So yes Ilargi, please, keep up the good work!



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Oct 102019

Rembrandt van Rijn Small self portrait 1627-28


Man, I want to get away from US (and UK) politics, it’s too depressing and I’ve already covered it so much. But I keep getting drawn back in by the nonsensical propaganda out there. I read a lot of stuff every single day, and every single piece is starting to look like any other. I took the following from the Guardian, but it could have been any MSM outlet really. The whole thing is one big insult to my one remaining brain cell (which I’m trying to kill but can’t find).

First: if you see written or otherwise pronounced anywhere that Donald Trump fears Joe Biden, in elections or anywhere else, you’re reading propaganda. Trump has no reason to be afraid of Biden. Not that he minds the Democrats thinking he is. Second: if you see people claiming that accusations about Biden’s ‘dealings’ in Ukraine are unproven, remember that they’ve never been investigated. Maybe a Special Counsel would be an idea. Say, three years and $40 million? Let’s see after that.

Despite the lack of scrutiny, both from the DOJ and the media, we do know that Hunter Biden was paid $50,000 a month by Ukrainian energy company Burisma for not knowing anything about gas, oil or Ukraine. And we know from a Ukrainian MP that Joe Biden himself was paid $900,000 by Burisma. Those are not unproven allegations, as almost every outlet calls them. And they sure as hell ain’t unfounded.

Plus, Trump has every right to ask questions about this, whether in the US or elsewhere. Where he won’t be able to ask questions, if Pelosi and Schiff have their way, is in the fake impeachment inquiry. There he may not even be able to bring a lawyer. Who’s afraid of whom exactly, and of what? Here’s that Guardian piece:

‘He’s Laughing At Us’: Joe Biden For First Time Calls For Trump To Be Impeached

Joe Biden has for the first time called for Donald Trump to be impeached for abusing the powers of his office to help his own re-election. Delivering a blistering 25-minute speech at a campaign event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Biden, the former vice-president under Barack Obama, departed from his usual campaign pitch and signalled that he will aggressively confront Trump as the president pushes unfounded accusations that Biden and his son Hunter had nefarious dealings in Ukraine.

Trump is “shooting holes in the constitution”, Biden said, by asking foreign powers to interfere in the 2020 election by pursuing dirt on the Bidens and then refusing to cooperate with a resulting House impeachment inquiry. “This is a president who has decided this nation doesn’t have the tools, the power, the political will” to punish bad behavior, Biden said, cataloguing a litany of Trump’s misdeeds that he said warrant impeachment. “He’s not just testing us,” Biden said. “He’s laughing at us.” Trump retorted via Twitter. “So pathetic,” he wrote.

It is curious. The entire fake impeachment inquiry is based on Trump pursuing dirt on Biden, specifically in his phone call with Ukraine president Zelensky. Something Zelensky himself more than once has squarely denied ever happened. What must he think of the US, when his denials are completely ignored?

What did happen, says John Solomon, is that a DNC contractor solicited Trump dirt in 2016 in Ukraine. Given the above, is it any wonder Zelensky’s said he’d be happy to investigate what happened in Ukraine in 2016? He might take a look at the Biden family while he’s at it.

Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives speaker and the most powerful Democrat in Congress, announced an impeachment inquiry against Trump on 24 September after a whistleblower alleged the White House had attempted to cover up a July call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. At issue is the question of whether Trump abused his office by using its power to his own political advantage, by pushing a Ukrainian investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claims that Biden exploited his influence as vice-president to aid his son or his business. Biden on Wednesday again condemned Trump’s “lies and smears and distortion” and said the president peddles them because he fears facing Biden in a general election. “He’s trying to create a campaign where truth and facts are irrelevant,” Biden said, adding that the spectacle covers the president’s “manifest incompetence”. “We’re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for president,” Biden added. “I’m not going to let him get away with it. He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.”

Joe, Joe, Trump didn’t pick a fight with you. And he’s not scared of you either (but he loves for you to think he is). You’re flattering yourself. And you’re not some tough guy either, you’ve lived on Capitol Hill for too long to be tough.

Without evidence, and contrary to the accounts of several Ukrainian officials, Trump has claimed Biden used his role as vice-president to protect his son from corruption investigations when he pressed for the firing of the top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, during Obama’s second term. Ukrainian officials, including one Shokin successor, have disputed Trump’s claims, and Biden has previously noted that the Obama administration’s position was supported by many other western governments, who saw Shokin as incompetent or corrupt.

Yeah, you know who called Shokin incompetent or corrupt? Victoria Nuland, that’s who. The story was that he wasn’t tough enough on corruption, but in reality he was too tough on corruption involving the US and its friends. For instance, he was investigating Burisma, and Joe Biden didn’t like that one bit. And the ‘many other western governments’ didn’t have enough knowledge to contradict the US in this.

Many of the other 19 Democratic 2020 candidates have long supported the opening of an impeachment inquiry into Trump, following the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference into the 2016 election and links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Moscow.

This takes the cake. And eats it too. What the Guardian claims here is that the utter failure that was the Mueller probe, which failed to find any dirt on Trump, has been reason for the Democratic candidates to support an impeachment inquiry into Trump over a phone call with Ukraine. How convoluted is that? There were no links between the Trump 2016 campaign and Moscow. Don’t take my word for it, Mueller said so.

“Following the findings of Robert Mueller’s investigation..” Mueller didn’t find anything, remember? The only things left standing in his report were accusations against Julian Assange and a bunch of anonymous Russians, because he knew these were people who couldn’t defend themselves. Because of that, I said back in February that Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar. He is. He is not a stand-up straight shooter.

Biden’s speech on Wednesday came as his campaign continues internal deliberations over the best way to handle Trump’s broadsides and an impeachment inquiry that could last months and potentially never result in the Republican-led Senate removing Trump from office – even if the Democratic-led House impeaches him. “When I announced my candidacy,” Biden recalled,“I said I was running in order to restore the soul of America. That wasn’t hyperbole.”

Ha ha. Could have fooled me there, Joe. Restore the soul of America without hyperbole. Brilliant!

But his advisers also point to the 2016 presidential campaign, when Trump dominated media narratives of the Republican primary and the general election against Hillary Clinton with a barrage of attacks on his opponents that forced them to campaign on his terms. Biden nodded at that reality, as well, and promised he won’t let that get in his way. “I’m not going to be distracted,” he said. “None of these attacks are true, and I’m going to stay focused on your lives. That’s what this election is about,” he continued.

Look, it’s not okay that whistleblower rules are changed in half-secrecy overnight from requiring first-hand to second (or third) hand information. It’s not okay that the Democrats try to start an impeachment inquiry while disregarding the rules that have long existed for such an inquiry. It’s not okay that they do so on the basis of a phone call that the Ukraine president himself says contained none of the ingredients the Dems claim it did.

It’s not okay to try and keep the Republican House minority out of the proceedings, and it might even disqualify those proceedings entirely. If Trump is as bad a person and politician as the Democrats claim, it must be possible to figure that out while at the same time respecting the rules, regulations and the entire political system. Once you deviate from all that, you put the system itself at risk. Is that worth it? There’s an election in just over a year.

The media continues to refer to Trump’s allegations about Biden as unproven, knowing full well they’ve never been investigated. At the exact same time, they also keep bringing up Trump’s alleged ‘nefarious’ dealings with Russia, even though 2+ years of Robert Mueller and an entire platoon of lawyers came up empty on those. A level playing field?

I think I have an idea who’s afraid of whom. And there’s also this creeping/creepy feeling that the impeachment inquiry that isn’t one, is part of the 2020 election cycle. And that isn’t, and should not be, what such inquiries are for. Not even if you’re afraid of losing the election – that’s cheating.





Oct 042019

Salvador Dali Crepuscular old man 1918


It took just 4 months after the deplorably failed Mueller probe of alleged Trump links to Russia, for the Democrats to raise the next -faded- red flag, Ukraine. And they do so in a manner that reminds me, personally, a lot of what happens in the UK. That is, the process has now moved on to what is legal or not and who decides what is or not.

Nancy Pelosi apparently has been told by her legal advice that it’s okay for her to move ahead with an inquiry, that she can even label an Impeachment Inquiry, without following established Capitol Hill procedure. Needless to say, them slopes are mighty slippery. Because if true, it would mean she can call the ‘other side’ offside for as long as she wishes.

She would, in effect, prorogate the US House the same way Boris Johnson tried to do Parliament in Britain. And not by shutting it down from the outside (Boris as PM) but from the inside (using her powers as Speaker). It would appear it’s time for every American to pay attention, because this could have grave consequences far into the future.

Pelosi’s plan is to not have a House vote on initiating the inquiry, but to just go ahead and have one, and stealing the name Impeachment Inquiry for it. Why? Because she thinks that way she can have only Democrats ask questions, issue subpoenas etc., while House Republicans could only sit and watch the spectacle (not what they were elected for).


I am not a lawyer, let alone a constitutional scholar, but when I read these things there are a million red hot five-alarms going off in my head. Because this is not about enacting the law, it’s about circumventing it. Just because you have a House majority cannot mean you can simply ignore the minority, or procedure. That would turn democracy into a proxy dictatorship. You don’t want to go there, not even if you’re a desperate Democrat.

But she seems to have made up her mind. So now we face Trump not being allowed to investigate what Joe Biden was up to in the run-up to the 2016 election though Joe’s party could turn that same run-up into a 3-year Special Counsel probe, which turned up less than .. well, you fill it in. It is something to behold.

At the same time, though, there is no Impeachment Inquiry, even if Pelosi calls it that. The White House today will send a letter to a judge contesting exactly that. A House Impeachment Inquiry has a procedure, and if she doesn’t follow that, the White House will deny it’s actually happening, and not respond.

Now, if you follow the headlines this week, you wouldn’t know this. Because they all talk of an impeachment inquiry going on. But you can’t get impeachment without following the official procedure, and Pelosi doesn’t follow it. And the media just go along for the ride without caring about procedure.


And obviously you can’t watch this theater and not think that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff et al have not thought about stretching out this whole tragedy for another year, right on the eve of the 2020 election, or even beyond. That they think allegations about Russia, Ukraine and China will help them win.

Because it’s clear that flouting procedure the way they try to do in the House will inevitably have to lead to court decisions, and eventually to the Supreme Court. They’re counting on the damage they can do to Trump while the courts decide. But it won’t just be damage to Trump, however it turns out, it will be damage to the entire country.

And you would think both sides of the aisle recognize that (after all, we do), but there are very few if any signs of that. Everyone’s gearing up for a very big fight because everyone else in their echo chamber is. The problem is, whatever happens, and whoever becomes president, the dividing lines will only become deeper and darker.

AG Bill Barr, along with the State Department and DOJ, and whoever else is involved, will release multiple reports from investigations conducted by US Attorney John Durham, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz and potentially others. The Dems and MSM viewpoint appears to be that is was fine to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Trump’s links to Russia, but not Democrats’ links to, well, anyone at all.

And that is just not okay. I saw this very short clip of John Brennan saying: “I think I suspected there was more than there actually was.” And that’s supposed to atone for 3 years of incessant smearing? It’s ridiculous. Brennan is ridiculous.

And yeah, I know that’s Fox, and I know I’ve on occasion had to turn to right wing media for news because the MSM have closed ranks and ‘report’ only on one side of the story. Sue me for wanting actual news.

None of this negates the fact that we’re in for ever bitter fights, up to and including at the US Supreme Court, ever more, to decide who rules the country. Just like in Britain.

I don’t think this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind. At least, unlike Britain, they cared enough to write a Constitution. A lot of good that did.





Sep 252019
 September 25, 2019  Posted by at 12:58 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »

Kazimir Malevich Woman torso 1932


Earlier today, I wrote: “What is an impeachable offense? Turns out, it’s anything the Democrats can get enough votes for.” And I realize saying that gets rid of half my possible audience, but it’s still the impression I’ve gotten over the past -less than- 24 hours.

After 2+ years of her fellow party members and Congress(wo)men riding on the now-defunct Robert Mueller train and clamoring non-stop for impeachment of Donald Trump, the man who stole the 2016 election from their candidate, God’s own candidate Hillary, the one who deserved to win, after 2+ years Nancy Pelosi does a 180 and joins the chorus. So as not to end up as fish food.

And sure, if she’s finally spotted an impeachable offense, that would make sense. But she herself states she joined because of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s Zelensky, and we know Pelosi doesn’t know what was said in that call, nor what’s in the opaque whistleblower complaint linked to it, a complaint moreover that’s based solely on hearsay.

Making the contents of the call public would set a dangerous precedent, because no foreign leader would ever again speak freely to a US president. Even sharing it ‘only’ with Capitol Hill would make them cautious. In that regard, the White House reluctance to share both the call and the complaint makes a lot of sense.

We’re talking many decades of carefully crafted tradition, whose importance cannot be overestimated. Wars have been avoided by these calls. But then again, as Trump said, he’s sure everybody and their pet intelligence hamster is listening in the talks already, so what’s the use anymore?


Democratic Party members smell something, and they think they’re sure is blood, without ever contemplating it might be their own. They’ve all been thinking impeachment for a long time, and now more than ever, because they appear to realize it might be the only way to get rid of Trump and get their people in charge, that the ballot box may well not deliver that outcome.

Ryan Grim’s piece for the Intercept provides a a good picture of what is going on in Dem Camp, not because it’s so well written, it’s actually quite shaky, but because between the lines the despair seeps through. Do read the whole thing, it’s worth the while because it tells a story nobody really talks about.

That is, on various levels of the US political system, Democratic party candidates have become increasingly fearful of losing their seats, and impeachment must bring them ‘salvation’. You get the idea it’s not even so much about what Trump does, but squarely about him standing in their way, like he stood in Hillary’s.


Why The House Democratic Caucus Was Able To Move So Rapidly Toward Impeachment

[..] as Democrats prepped for a series of private meetings, it was clear that nerves had been frayed. August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump.

“We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment. The day before, former Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had made a mockery of the Judiciary Committee’s interview of him, betraying open contempt for the process and the people running it.

Swing district freshmen Democrats known as frontliners, meanwhile, had spent the last few weeks vocally decrying the pressure on them to call for impeachment, claiming it was putting them in a political jam. Democrats were debating publicly whether the hearings Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., was running at his Judiciary Committee were or were not in fact the launch of impeachment proceedings.

I’m not sure to which extent to believe this. Do Democrat voters really pester their local politicians about impeaching Trump? Or are they making this up because they need something to blame for their own failures?

[..] The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman Lori Trahan from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again.

The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.

“Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.” That sums it up. And we now know what it was that had to give. That doesn’t make it a winning strategy, though. And then came the Ukraine “news”. It was god-given. The “new” Kavanaugh story a few days before had seemed to, but it was false. Now, however….

[..] That something came later that night, in the form of a Washington Post scoop about a whistleblower complaint from a member of the U.S. intelligence community about a promise Trump had made to a foreign leader. Then, on Thursday evening, the Post reported that the country involved was Ukraine.

The news had landed like a bomb in a Democratic caucus that was already ready to explode. Calls to impeach Trump rained down from the party’s left flank and its presidential candidates. On Friday evening, Democrats were bracing for a backlash back home. “It’s going to be a brutal weekend for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t spoken for impeachment,” one Democrat predicted. Indeed it was.

Democrats, including frontliners, spent the weekend furiously texting and calling each other as they worked through how to respond to Trump’s latest lawlessness. “People are pissed,” said another Democrat over the weekend. “Frontliners are pissed! And not even the ‘progressive’ frontliners either.”

It’s a feeding frenzy inside an echo chamber. All quite rational, of course. And Pelosi had no choice but to join in, or she would have been fish food.

Pelosi didn’t seem to understand the shift that was taking place under her feet. Reporter John Harwood asked an aide to Pelosi over the weekend if the news changed her calculus on impeachment and got back the reply: “no. see any GOP votes for it?”

Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for President Barack Obama who now serves, from his perch at Pod Save America, as something of a tribune for the volunteer-resistance army that phone banked and door-knocked Democrats into the majority, was apoplectic. “This is insane,” he said. “This is pathetic. This is not what we worked so hard for in 2018.” By Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi was calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

We want impeachment, and we’ll figure out later what for. There are Democrats right now, after recognizing nobody knows what is in either the call or the complaint, who say it’s about Trump’s entire body of work, about months and months of violating the constitution etc. I think they’ll have to be more specific than that for the inquiry, however.

“The actions taken to date by the president have seriously violated the constitution,” Pelosi said in a formal address in Washington on Tuesday evening. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”

I swear, one of these days I’m going to lose it over the next person who says “No one is above the law.” That must be the emptiest statement in politics, ever, but certainly these days.

Now, of course, lest we forget, that plenty Democrats ‘support’ impeachment doesn’t mean much of anything. There’s about a zero Kelvin chance of getting it through the Senate. Plus, you need a specific reason for impeachment, and we’ve already seen the Ukraine isn’t it, because nobody even knows what was said.

Which makes me think Pelosi’s heart can’t be in it, and that makes her a weak advocate for the issue. So what other grounds for impeachment will they come up with? That can only be things that happened in the past, and things Pelosi never thought were impeachable, or at least wouldn’t get enough votes. Why should they now?


As an aside, the Democrat candidates and frontliners -and Nancy Pelosi as per last night- are throwing Joe Biden under the bus, who’s still their leading candidate. Because there’s no way Biden will survive a thorough investigation into Ukraine. That is so obvious I’m wondering if they meant to get rid of him all along.

And then there are the ‘technicalities’. “In his response to the Democrats’ move, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said: “Speaker Pelosi happens to be the Speaker of this House, but she does not speak for America when it comes to this issue.” “She cannot unilaterally decide we’re in an impeachment inquiry,” he added.”

And I absolutely love this bit: “In her announcement Ms Pelosi said the six congressional committees already investigating Mr Trump would continue their work, but now under the umbrella of a formal impeachment inquiry.”. That says Heads of the Five Families to me, right there. You got your Tattaglia, your Barzoni etc.

There are 6 different active investigations into Trump. Well over two years after Robert Mueller started his $40 million utter failure of an investigation. Why? Impeachment. And they have all come up empty so far.

Love this bit too from the BBC on Ukraine media: “Some argue that the timing could not be worse for President Zelensky, who is scheduled to meet Donald Trump in New York later on Wednesday. Public TV station Pershy describes the controversy as a “trap” for Ukraine. “It would be stupid to start playing into the hands of either Democrats or Republicans,” said one of the channel’s commentators. Others contend that the Ukrainian president has US politicians over the barrel. “Zelensky has two pistols in his hands: one pointing at Trump, and the other at Biden,” reports Pryamy TV.


There’s no way to end this without yet another shout-out to Tulsi Gabbard, who made the October Democratic debate after ‘missing’ the September one, and who has no qualms going against the official DNC-sponsored party line party on this either if she thinks it’s wrong.

She told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that she’ll remain consistent to her message that the road to 2020 can only be found in a clear victory and mandate, saying it’s for “the American people… making that decision” of who is in the White House, not impeachment.

“I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided. The hyperpartisanship is one of the main things driving our country apart,” Gabbard told host Brian Kilmeade. “I think it’s important to beat Donald Trump, that’s why I’m running for president,” she said.

“But I think it’s the American people who need to make their voices heard making that decision.”

We need to get Tulsi her own party, right? Because right now, she’s not fighting Trump, she’s fighting the DNC and the rest of her ‘own’ party. What a waste of time and money, and conviction and talent.





Sep 212019
 September 21, 2019  Posted by at 2:12 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »

Salvador Dali Punta es Baluard de la Riba d’en Pitxot 1918-19


US Democrats and MSM are running down a blind alley, telling themselves there’s light at the end. It has become a mass delusion. For the largest part, it has been for some four years now. You would think they’d learn something along the way, but there are very few if any signs of that.

Someone comes up with a rumor, a snippet of something, and the entire crowd jumps and runs away with it. This happens a few times a week. Four years is 200 weeks. Granted, it was worse when they still had the idea they could keep Trump from the presidency, but now that idea has morphed into impeachment, and they just keep at it.

I’ve said it before, but I still don’t quite understand why so little attention is paid to their own credibility. That they continue to reside inside an echo chamber undoubtedly goes a long way towards explaining, but they must be aware that with only the echo chamber, they have no chance of winning in 2020.

Earlier this week the New York Times ran a new anti-Kavanaugh article, and apologized for it shortly afterwards because it was baseless: the woman quoted as accusing him didn’t even remember. By then, though, 100,000 other articles on the topic had been written and broadcast.

Perhaps to paper that over, though they might not care anymore after the first million nonsense stories, there’s a new tale in town: Trump and Ukraine. Do all the news outlets ‘reporting’ on it even realize how dangerous that issue is for ‘their own’ Joe Biden? Shouldn’t they be holding back? Or are they trying to cleverly sabotage Sloppy Joe’s campaign?

The Guardian provides a good example of how the ‘reporting’ goes. Get a catchy headline, create an atmosphere, throw in plenty innuendo, and hark back to some past rumors that are irrelevant today but linger in people’s minds. And…you can’t mention Mueller enough.


Ukraine Imbroglio Confirms Giuliani As Trump’s Most Off-Kilter Advocate

Cuomo: “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “No. Actually I didn’t.” Crystal clear. Except that 83 words and about 30 seconds later, Cuomo asked the question again. Cuomo: “So, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Giuliani: “Of course I did.” That Giuliani was prepared so blatantly to contradict himself on live TV in the service of the president perfectly encapsulates his transformation. “America’s Mayor”, the hero of 9/11, has metamorphosed into what the New Yorker dubbed “Trump’s clown”.

This is not the first time Giuliani has incurred ridicule and rebuke in the cause of protecting his longtime friend – no, client. In the final days of the 2016 election the lawyer was almost the only person willing to speak in favor of Trump after the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape was aired. As the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in that election reached its climax, Giuliani threw lawyerly restraint to the winds and repeatedly denounced the inquiry as a witch-hunt.

That’s quite the portrait. Guess they may have thought people forgot about Rudy.

[..] But of all the scraps in which Giuliani has engaged in recent months, of all the obfuscations and verbal sleights of hand, this week’s performance could prove the most damaging, both for him and for his White House buddy. America’s Mayor has tied himself in ever-tighter knots over claims that at Trump’s behest he improperly sought to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden in the hope of dredging up damaging information.

No fewer than three House committees this week launched investigations into the Trump-Giuliani efforts in Ukraine. Though not yet on the scale of Mueller’s inquiry into whether Trump colluded with Russia, the new uproar bears chilling echoes of it.

Lovely. That’s how it’s done. Except that Giuliani did not “improperly seek to coerce Ukraine”, as we will see. Never mind, the neverending echoes still say Trump is Bad so Rudy is Bad. As for bringing up the Mueller inquiry, do they remember how that ended? Are they already fearing this narrative may end the same way?

[..] On Friday, the Wall Street Journal disclosed devastating new details of a phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky on 25 July. The paper reported that Trump pressed “about eight times” for his opposite number to look into work in the country by Biden’s son Hunter. And, the Journal wrote, Trump explicitly urged Zelensky to work with one person in forwarding the mission: Rudy Giuliani.

That Trump would be willing to attract further legal scrutiny just months after Mueller wrapped up his work, by inviting yet another foreign government to assist him in a presidential election campaign, is profoundly puzzling. After all, he partly brought the Mueller inquiry down upon his own head by inviting Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails in July 2016.

I think they’re insinuating that Trump’s campaign joke -partly- started the Muller inquiry. Wow. And to link that to an anonymous source telling someone something we don’t know because it’s been kept secret..wow again. They’re starting to sound needy.

[..] Giuliani began thumping the Ukraine theme in April, when he laid out his theory – some would say, conspiracy theory – on Fox News. He accused the former vice-president of using bribery to shield his son from legal peril relating to business activities in the eastern European country. Specifically, Giuliani alleged that Biden leant on a former Ukraine president to fire a top prosecutor who had been investigating corruption within a gas company on whose board Hunter Biden then served.

We know Biden did that. There’s video of him bragging about it. Right here:



[..] Perhaps most incendiary of all are suggestions Trump and Giuliani may have tried to encourage the Ukraine government to play ball by invoking US aid to the country. “The potentially most explosive issue here is whether the president essentially offered Ukraine a quid pro quo,” said Richard Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University.

Trump did not offer Zelensky a quid pro quo. The WaPo said so yesterday. We have proof of Biden demanding quid pro quo, we have none of Trump even asking for it.

Anyway, some bits from the BBC:


Trump Dismisses ‘Ridiculous Story’ About Alleged Promise To Foreign Leader

President Donald Trump has dismissed a whistleblower allegation that he made a promise to a foreign leader – believed to be Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky – calling it a “ridiculous story”. He said his talks with leaders were always “totally appropriate”. Reports say Mr Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son – who was on a Ukrainian gas company board – in return for more US military support.

“If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country,” Mr Biden wrote in a statement. In its report on the complaint by the whistleblower, the Washington Post said the intelligence official had found Mr Trump’s comment to the foreign leader “so troubling” that they went to the department’s inspector general.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, quoted sources as saying Mr Trump had urged Mr Zelensky about eight times to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani on an investigation into Mr Biden’s son, but had not offered anything in return. On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that reports of the complaint raised “grave, urgent concerns” for US national security. Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky spoke by phone on 25 July. The whistleblower’s complaint is dated 12 August.

A: again, no quid pro quo, no nothing ‘in return for more US military support.’

B: Biden has guts accusing Trump of what he himself has been found guilty of. Attack is the best defense? Talk about abasing your country.

[Trump] described the complaint as “just another political hack job”. “It’s a ridiculous story. It’s a partisan whistleblower. He shouldn’t even have information. I’ve had conversations with many leaders. They’re always appropriate,” he said [..] On Thursday, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he knew all his phone calls to foreign leaders were listened to by US agencies.

Earlier this month, before the whistleblower’s complaint came to light, House Democrats launched an investigation into Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine.

Three Democratic panel heads – Eliot Engel (foreign affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence) and Elijah Cummings (oversight) – said Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani had attempted “to manipulate the Ukrainian justice system to benefit the president’s re-election campaign and target a possible political opponent”. They allege that Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani tried to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

Wait. Why were all those investigations launched? Phishing, are we?

Here’s the no quid pro quo again, as per Tyler Durden:


WaPo Reports No “Quid Pro Quo” Offered During Phone Call

[..] the Washington Post quietly reported on Friday evening that a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not contain an explicit quid pro quo if Ukraine launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son as initially reported. [..] “Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that had been pledged to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo in that call.”

[..] “The revelation that Trump pushed Zelensky to pursue the Biden probe, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, represents the most detailed account so far of the president’s conduct that prompted a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower action against the president.” -Washington Post

So – the current US president asked Ukraine to conduct a legal investigation into the former US Vice President, who openly bragged about withholding $1 billion in US loan guarantees unless they fired the guy investigating his son and his son’s company – and there was no quid pro quo offered in exchange for that investigation – at least not on that phone call.

The Daily Beast found a real-life Ukraine official (or so they say). Did they slip something into the guy’s drink? He makes some strange claims.

Trump wants to take revenge for Manafort? Because of Biden? What did/does Biden have to do with Manafort? Makes little sense.

Look, Trump wouldn’t mind getting a more solid take behind the Biden video, that’s why he asked Zelensky to investigate. After already being informed that Ukraine sought contact with his government because of it (see below).

But that doesn’t mean Trump fears Biden and seeks to discredit him for that. That video is out there for everyone to see and Biden looks like he’s selling out the US. Make what you want from that.


Trump Urged Ukraine President 8 Times During Call To Investigate Biden’s Son

The Journal’s new report came as a top Ukraine official reportedly said that Trump “is looking” for Ukraine officials to investigate business dealings of Biden’s son in that country in an effort “to discredit” Biden as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. The official, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine is ready to investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with the Ukraine gas company “as soon as there is an official request.”

But, he added, “Currently there is no open investigation.” Geraschenko is a senior advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister, who would be in charge of any investigation of Hunter Biden. “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison,” Geraschenko told The Daily Beast.

And don’t think we’re done yet. John Solomon has a lot more. Turns out, Ukraine has been contacting the US, not the other way around, about handing over evidence.


Missing Piece To The Ukraine Puzzle: State Department’s Overture To Rudy Giuliani

The coverage suggests Giuliani reached out to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team this summer solely because he wanted to get dirt on possible Trump 2020 challenger Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in that country. Politics or law could have been part of Giuliani’s motive, and neither would be illegal. But there is a missing part of the story that the American public needs in order to assess what really happened:

Giuliani’s contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department. Giuliani didn’t initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him. [..] When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.

[..] Why would Ukraine want to talk to Giuliani, and why would the State Department be involved in facilitating it? According to interviews with more than a dozen Ukrainian and U.S. officials, Ukraine’s government under recently departed President Petro Poroshenko and, now, Zelensky has been trying since summer 2018 to hand over evidence about the conduct of Americans they believe might be involved in violations of U.S. law during the Obama years .

The Ukrainians say their efforts to get their allegations to U.S. authorities were thwarted first by the U.S. embassy in Kiev, which failed to issue timely visas allowing them to visit America.

Then the Ukrainians hired a former U.S. attorney — not Giuliani — to hand-deliver the evidence of wrongdoing to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, but the federal prosecutors never responded.

The U.S. attorney, a respected American, confirmed the Ukrainians’ story to me. The allegations that Ukrainian officials wanted to pass on involved both efforts by the Democratic National Committee to pressure Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as Joe Biden’s son’s effort to make money in Ukraine while the former vice president managed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the retired U.S. attorney told me.

Eventually, Giuliani in November 2018 got wind of the Ukrainian allegations and started to investigate. [..] Ukrainian officials also are discussing privately the possibility of creating a parliamentary committee to assemble the evidence and formally send it to the U.S. Congress, after failed attempts to get the Department of Justice’s attention, my sources say.

And just like that we have an entirely different story. But everyone in the media and the Democratic party will either ignore Solomon or try to discredit him. Until their Trump-Ukraine tale fizzles out and there’s no more readerships or ads to sell on it. By then, they reckon someone will come up with the next empty shell.

I’ll keep on wondering why they always go with these false claims. Is there really nothing actually true that they can find? It is sheer laziness, are they all not all that smart, or are they secretly on Trump’s payroll?

Me, I’ll condemn Trump for what he allows to happen to Julian Assange, and Chelsea and Snowden. But I’m not going to make up narratives for that, or play along with others who do.