Dec 092022
 


Salvador Dali Back the girl 1926

 

Second Wave Of Twitter Docs Reveal ‘Blacklists’ And ‘Shadow Bans’ (JTN)
Saxo Bank Predictions Warn Of A Wild 2023 (Spears)
Merkel’s ‘Confession’ May Be Ground For Tribunal – Moscow (RT)
US Trying To Make Ukraine Conflict Last For Years – Russia (RT)
Kremlin Explains When Ukraine Conflict May End (RT)
Bandera’s ‘Insurgency-in-Waiting’ (Robeson)
ADL: Ukraine’s Azov Battalion No Longer ‘Far-right’ (GZ)
EU Lacks ‘Critical Defense Capabilities’ – Borrell (RT)
The Russian Oil Price Cap Isn’t As Simple As It Seems (OP)
“People Are Losing Faith In This Institution”: ECB Staff (ZH)
FBI Sees ‘Threat’ In Apple Encryption Move (RT)
The Coming Purge of the China-Hands (Pattberg)
The Fixed-pPice Shopping Basket: Greece’s Answer To Cost Of Living Crisis (G.)
Daniel Ellsberg: Indict Me Too (Lauria)
Disinformation Down 92% As NYT Writers Go On Strike (BBee)

 

 

In 2018, Twitter was doing fine with the same amount of people they now employ. What was the rest doing? Just censoring?

 

 

Shadow ban

 

 

Zelensky

 

 

@CelineDion reveals she has ultimately been diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome. This is a known vaxx side effect that Pfizer kept quiet until the court forced them release the side effects in the first Pfizer dump.

 

 

Tucker board

 

 

 

 

Christine Anderson

 

 

 

 

Interesting discussions on Twitter about Twitter. Much more to come. It’ll be hard on Elon too. For instance, he tweeted that Twitter doesn’t employ the Perkins Coie law firm. And then someone sends a Dec. 8 paper that says it does. How now?

Second Wave Of Twitter Docs Reveal ‘Blacklists’ And ‘Shadow Bans’ (JTN)

Former New York Times editor Bari Weiss on Thursday released internal documents on Twitter’s censorship efforts and detailed the creation of blacklists and use of shadow ban technique to throttle “disfavored” tweets. Last week, Musk released information on the company’s censoring of the Hunter Biden laptop story via alternative journalist Matt Taibbi. Thursday’s dump came through a team of reporters Weiss led and to whom Musk granted broad access to the company’s files to investigate on condition they first publish their findings on Twitter. “[T]eams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users,” Weiss posted in the first of a series of tweets.

Weiss subsequently outlined how conservative personalities or individuals with “disfavored” positions would end up on internal blacklists to stunt the spread of their messaging. Talk-show host Dan Bongino was featured on a “search blacklist” while Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk’s account was set to “Do Not Amplify,” Weiss detailed. COVID-19 lockdown critic Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University wound up on a “trends blacklist” that prevented his tweets from featuring on the website’s trending section. Weiss then recalled prior comments from Twitter executives denying that the company used shadow bans to stifle traffic on accounts without their knowledge.

“We do not shadow ban. And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology,” said then Head of Legal Policy and Trust Vijaya Gadde and Head of Product Kayvon Beykpour in 2018. Weiss then outlined testimony from Twitter engineers detailing an identical process the company termed “Visibility Filtering” in which the platform would quietly limit the reach of specific posts. VF decisions would go through the Strategic Response Team — Global Escalation Team Weiss explained, which she said often handled up to 200 cases per day. She further asserted that a secret dubbed “Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support” included top-level officials who made the biggest decisions. Weiss asserted that former CEO Jack Dorsey participated in the group’s deliberations.

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‘If I was a strategic thinker in the non-western world I would be thinking about what to do with my US dollar reserves..’

Saxo Bank Predictions Warn Of A Wild 2023 (Spears)

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to a British prime minister being ousted after six weeks, it has been a year of shocking events. More volatility lies ahead if Saxo Bank — whose previous annual list of ‘outrageous predictions’ did not see those two coming — is accurate with its prophecies for 2023, which include the reversal of Brexit and the end of dollar dominance. Some of Saxo Bank’s predictions are more outrageous than others, admits Steen Jakobsen, chief investment officer, who has been overseeing the annual project for more than 20 years. He says the most likely prediction of Saxo’s 10 for 2023 could see the US dollar’s dominance assailed by concerted action among non-Western countries.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to the ‘US weaponising the US dollar,’ as part of the sanctions response, says Jakobsen. ‘If I was a strategic thinker in the non-western world I would be thinking about what to do with my US dollar reserves going forward.’ Oil-producing nations could agree with large consumers such as China and India to do deals in a new reserve asset, leaving the dollar behind. Saxo’s possible scenario sees non-US allied countries create an international clearing union (ICU) and a new reserve asset. Based on an idea by economist John Maynard Keynes after the Second World War, the idea would make the purchasing price for oil more stable in currency terms. ‘Why would Saudi Arabia and China do deals in dollars?’ adds Jakobsen. He believes it would be a natural move ‘at a time when the US has stepped back from being a world policeman.’

Saxo’s predictions suggest a splintering world in which national economies ‘shift into War Economy mode, where sovereign economic gains and self-reliance trump globalisation.’ But closer regional links are also foreseen, most notably in the UK, which votes to ‘un-Brexit’ and rejoin the EU in the wake of economic turmoil and political demonstrations. Jakobsen does not think Rishi Sunak’s more measured approach as prime minister will be any more effective than predecessor Liz Truss’s attempts to create a laissez-faire economy. ‘Neither is going to do anything for the debt or inflation (problems) in the UK,’ he says. ‘Maybe this leads to dissatisfaction, demonstrations and ultimately an election which will see Labour come in. Maybe the Liberal Democrats show up as a Europe-friendly party, (popular) with young people in particular.’

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Merkel made clear that the “collective west” spent years trying to create a war with Russia. It’s that simple.

A tribunal would have no effect. Because all tribunals these days listen to only one side. A “Russian war crimes tribunal” will exclude Ukraine war crimes. Useless. Or worse.

Merkel’s ‘Confession’ May Be Ground For Tribunal – Moscow (RT)

A confession by former German chancellor Angela Merkel regarding the true nature of the Minsk agreements – a roadmap for peace in Ukraine that was brokered by Berlin – could be used as evidence in a tribunal involving Western politicians responsible for provoking the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said. The former German leader admitted in an interview with Die Zeit on Wednesday that the actual purpose of the Minsk agreements was to give Ukraine time to prepare for a military confrontation with Russia. “They talk a lot about legal assessments of what is happening around Ukraine, certain tribunals and so on in all sorts of ways,” Zakharova said during a media briefing on Thursday. “But this is a specific reason for a tribunal.”

She claimed that Merkel’s comments were nothing short of the testimony of a person who had openly admitted that everything done between 2014 and 2015 was meant to “distract the international community from real issues, play for time, pump up the Kiev regime with weapons, and escalate the issue into a large-scale conflict,” Zakharova added. She said Merkel’s statements “horrifyingly” reveal that the West uses “forgery as a method of action,” and resorts to “machinations, manipulation and all kinds of distortions of truth, law and rights imaginable.” The spokeswoman claimed that the West had known well in 2015, when it spent hours negotiating the second part of the Minsk accords, that it would never even attempt to fulfill any part of the agreements and would instead pump weapons into Kiev.

“They did not feel sorry for anyone: women, children, the civilian population of Donbass or the whole of Ukraine. They needed a conflict and they were ready for it back then, in 2015,” Zakharova said. Earlier this month, a number of Western officials called for the creation of a special UN-backed court to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Russia during its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. The Kremlin has said the West has no legal or moral right to set up any courts to investigate or prosecute Russia over the conflict, which Moscow claims was ultimately provoked by the US and its allies.

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“She also said that Zelensky should watch his back, considering last week’s visit to Ukraine by Victoria Nuland..”

US Trying To Make Ukraine Conflict Last For Years – Russia (RT)

US arms procurement documents show that Washington intends to fuel the conflict in Ukraine for at least three more years, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky should take notice of it when assessing the future of his country, she added. “Washington plans to fuel hostilities in Ukraine at least till the end of 2025. That’s what their plans are, judging by documents, which they don’t hide from anybody,” the Russian diplomat told journalists during a briefing on Thursday. Zakharova was referring to a contract for Raytheon’s National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), which the Pentagon announced last week.

The US Army will buy $1.2 billion worth of hardware for Ukraine, according to the announcement, with an estimated completion date in late November 2025. The US, which pledged to provide military assistance to Kiev for “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia, previously supplied this type of anti-aircraft system to Ukrainian troops. Advisors to President Vladimir Zelensky should tell him about the procurement timeline, Zakharova suggested, so that he didn’t promise his people that the conflict would end next year, as he did this week. “Washington has different plans. There is a lot of money to be embezzled” through Ukraine aid programs, she alleged. Zakharova claimed that Western assistance was “a corruption marathon” going from the White House to Kiev and back again and profiting grifters on a global scale.

She also said that Zelensky should watch his back, considering last week’s visit to Ukraine by Victoria Nuland, a veteran US diplomat, whom Zakharova called “a harbinger of tragic shocks, caused by the Washington-orchestrated bloody putsch” of 2014. “A new palace coup may be in the making or some other reshuffle. I believe the Zelensky regime, which has repeatedly tested Washington’s patience, has some things to consider,” she remarked, adding that the US didn’t care who was in power in Kiev. Nuland, who served as US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in 2014, was recorded discussing with then-US Ambassador to Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt, the composition of the post-coup Ukrainian government. The private conversation was leaked online by unidentified parties. Her preferred candidate for prime minister subsequently got the job.

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“Zelensky knows when all this can end, it can end tomorrow if desired..”

Kremlin Explains When Ukraine Conflict May End (RT)

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky knows that if desired the fighting between Moscow and Kiev could end at any moment, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said during a press call on Thursday. “You can talk about when all of this will end until you are blue in the face,” Peskov said in response to the Ukrainian president’s recent prediction that the conflict could be over next year. “Zelensky knows when all this can end, it can end tomorrow if desired,” the spokesperson added. In a recent interview with Politico – which named him ‘the most powerful person in Europe’ – Zelensky stated that Ukrainians “will be the most influential next year, but already in peacetime.”


Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine could turn out to be a “lengthy process” because achieving all of Russia’s objectives could take quite some time. Earlier, the Russian leader also said that it was wrong to talk about the timing of the special operation or try to adjust it. He noted that it was impossible to set an exact date for when the conflict could end because the fighting is still intense. “We are working calmly, the troops are moving, reaching the lines that are set as tasks. Everything is going according to plan,” Putin said back in June.

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“[Zelensky] can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back..”

Bandera’s ‘Insurgency-in-Waiting’ (Robeson)

In early February 2022, a couple weeks before Putin’s invasion, Ragozin observed, “While downplaying the risk of a Russian offensive and even reprimanding the West for sowing panic, the Ukrainian leadership appears preoccupied with a different threat – that of a coup.” In the same article (“What is Zelenskiy afraid of?”), he described the “Capitulation Resistance Movement” as “a radical street force dedicated to toppling Zelensky” and “a paramilitary force associated with the nationalist opposition that coalesced around former president Petro Poroshenko.” Nationalists officially launched the “Capitulation Resistance Movement” (Rukh Oporu Kapitulyatsiyi, ROK) in October 2019 to sabotage Zelensky’s peace mandate after the political newcomer crushed Poroshenko and his political party in elections held earlier that year.

“No Capitulation” became the slogan of a broader, far-right-led campaign against Zelensky and his government, with protests typically spearheaded by the neo-Nazi Azov movement and the ROK. “Zelensky ran as a peace candidate,” and the hardliners vigorously opposed him, the late Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen explained to journalist Aaron Maté that month. “He won an enormous mandate to make peace. So, that means he has to negotiate with Vladimir Putin.” But there was a major obstacle. Ukrainian fascists “have said that they will remove and kill Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin… His life is being threatened literally by a quasi-fascist movement in Ukraine.” Peace could only come, Cohen stressed, on one condition. “[Zelensky] can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back,” he said.

“Maybe that won’t be enough, but unless the White House encourages this diplomacy, Zelensky has no chance of negotiating an end to the war. So the stakes are enormously high.” That was three years ago. After Russia invaded, the ROK became the FURM, or the Free Ukraine Resistance Movement, which has mostly flown under the radar. After interviewing a representative of the FURM in early March, a neoconservative US journalist referred to the “Resistance Movement” as an “insurgency-in-waiting, one of many, no doubt, that plans to resort to guerrilla warfare in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempted conquest of Ukraine turns into a prolonged occupation of major population centers.”

After keeping tabs on this “quasi-fascist” movement for a few years (although it mostly went dark after Russia invaded), I feel comfortable speculating that the ROK was partially responsible for making Zelensky feel that negotiating peace with Russia would be too dangerous for him. I also suspect that once Putin declared war, Zelensky as an actor felt his only choice was to become an action hero, not just to rally international support for his country, but to become so popular in Ukraine and the West to rule out a coup d’etat.

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“The New York Times has even referred to the unit as the “celebrated Azov Battalion.”

ADL: Ukraine’s Azov Battalion No Longer ‘Far-right’ (GZ)

A November 9 email from the Anti-Defamation League to The Grayzone provided a twisted defense of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion. Despite its self-proclaimed “anti-hate” mission, the ADL insisted in the email it “does not” consider Azov as the “far right group it once was.” The Azov Battalion is a neo-Nazi unit formally integrated into the US government-backed Ukrainian military. Founded by Andriy Biletsky, who has infamously vowed to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led untermenschen,” Azov was once widely condemned by Western corporate media and the human rights industry for its association with Nazism. Then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In the months that immediately followed, Azov led the Ukrainian military’s defense of Mariupol, the group’s longtime stronghold. As the militia assumed a frontline role in the war against Russia, Western media led a campaign to rebrand Azov as misunderstood freedom fighters while accusing its critics of echoing Kremlin talking points. The New York Times has even referred to the unit as the “celebrated Azov Battalion.” Like the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets, the ADL ignored Azov’s atrocities this April in Mariupol, where locals accused the group of using civilians as human shields and executing those who attempted to flee. One video out of Mariupol showed Azov fighters proudly declaring the Nazi collaborator and mass murderer of Jews, Stepan Bandera, to be their “father.”

The Azov Battalion has long served as a magnet for the international white nationalist movement, attracting recruits from the terrorist Atomwaffen Division to a US Army Specialist arrested on charges of distributing bomb-making instructions. Back in March 2022, just a month before the battle of Mariupol, the ADL itself issued a report acknowledging that white nationalists see Azov “as a pathway to the creation of a National Socialist state in Ukraine.” Eight months later, however, the ADL has changed its tune, asserting to this outlet that Azov has rooted the fascists from its ranks. So did Azov change its Nazi ways, or did the ADL simply shift its messaging to conform to the imperatives of a Biden administration still intent on sending billions in military aid to Ukraine?

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Does Borrell work for Raytheon? His spending demands will make Europe a lot poorer…

EU Lacks ‘Critical Defense Capabilities’ – Borrell (RT)

Europe must begin to take more responsibility for its own security, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said, announcing that total expenditure by member states will grow by €70 billion over the next three years. Speaking at the ‘Investing in European Defence’ forum on Thursday, Borrell, who also heads the European Defence Agency (EDA), called on European nations to cooperate more on upping defense capacities in the common interest of bloc security. They should also look past the current conflict in Ukraine and anticipate “future threats.” Borrell said states’ spending on defense had surpassed the €200 billion-level in 2021 for the first time, though they’re still playing catch-up. “After the Cold War, we shrunk our forces to small-size armies without coordination … We lack critical defense capabilities,” he said.

“We have to compensate for years of underspending.” “Total defense expenditure that Member States have announced will grow by another €70 billion in the next three years,” Borrell said, adding that “people don’t fight with banknotes.” Borrell said Brussels faced a challenge to spend the money “in a coordinated manner” and that national decisions should not be focused solely on present needs, an apparent reference to the turmoil in Ukraine. If the focus remains only on current requirements, Europe will once again be faced with “a fragmented European capability landscape,” he warned. The top diplomat said a balance must be found between responding to current needs and preparing for future threats. Those threats are “close by and likely to get worse,” he said.

The EU has committed around $2.5 billion in weapons to Ukraine since Russia’s offensive began in February. Borrell’s pledge comes as European nations are running out of weapons to give Ukraine as they see their own stocks dwindling. The constant transfers of weapons to Ukraine has left most NATO nations’ stockpiles strained, according to a New York Times report last month, which said the bloc’s smaller nations had “exhausted their potential” and at least 20 of NATO’s 30 members were “pretty tapped out.” Politico reported last week that France unofficially admitted it has run out of weapons to send Kiev due to the state of its own supplies, while Germany also faces a €20-billion shortfall in ammunition.

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“..wondering how a fixed price would work in a market that trades oil on a forward floating basis against international benchmarks..”

The Russian Oil Price Cap Isn’t As Simple As It Seems (OP)

The $ 60-per-barrel price cap on Russian crude oil, which came into effect on Monday, looks pretty straightforward. Buyers paying $60 or less per barrel of Russia’s crude will have full access to all EU and G7 insurance and financing services associated with transporting Russian crude to non-EU countries. However, the physical oil market doesn’t usually see trades with fixed prices of crude – oil is being sold at a price premium or discount against the forward prices of the major international benchmarks such as Brent or the Oman/Dubai average. So, the price cap is much more complicated than a straightforward $60 per barrel ceiling. As a result, traders of physical oil cargoes are confused by the price cap on Russian crude, wondering how a fixed price would work in a market that trades oil on a forward floating basis against international benchmarks.

Physical oil traders, those who are willing to trade crude in compliance with the price cap, are also concerned that they could end up inadvertently violating the cap if, for example, the price of Russia’s flagship grade, Urals, with a discount to Brent, is higher than $60 per barrel weeks after the oil trade has been made. In such cases, traders would be stuck with above-$60 Russian crude that violates the price cap and would significantly limit access to EU/G7 tankers and maritime transportation services such as insurance and financing, oil traders tell Bloomberg. This could complicate the physical handling of Russian crude oil cargoes and hedging, they say. “Physical traders rarely trade on a fixed price,” John Driscoll, chief strategist at JTD Energy Services Pte Ltd, told Bloomberg.

“It’s a much more complex space where they trade on formulas and spot differentials to a benchmark crude for the trading of actual cargoes as well as for hedging that follows,” said Driscoll, who has more than 30 years of trading oil in Singapore. The price cap is not set in stone – it “is fixed for now but adjustable over time,” the EU said last week. A price revision would “take into account a variety of factors, which can include the effectiveness of the measure, its implementation, international adherence and alignment, the potential impact on coalition members and partners, and market developments,” the EU says. Even within the price cap, banks are generally wary of providing financing, industry officials told Global Trade Review this week.

Banks are concerned by the high compliance risk and fear they will have to increase scrutiny and due diligence to avoid being caught in a trade or deceptive shipping practices. Adding further confusion for physical oil traders is Russia’s position on the matter. Moscow says it will not trade its oil with countries that have joined the price cap. The EU says that “With the price cap, there are clear incentives for Russia, oil importing countries and market participants to maintain the flow of Russian oil. This will achieve both objectives at the same time.” But Russia says the price cap artificially limits prices—a mechanism Moscow will not accept.

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In times of plenty, incompetence tends to remain hidden. But today, almost everyone working in European institutions turns out to be incompetent. They’ve been selected not for their skills, but for loyalty to some ideology or another.

“People Are Losing Faith In This Institution”: ECB Staff (ZH)

This one is just too funny to pass by: having watched as their incompetent and clueless “leaders” sparked the biggest surge in European inflation since Weimar, crushing the purchasing power of ordinary people across the continent, it is only when their own purchases were suddenly threatened that the ECB’s rank and file decided to make some noises. According to the FT, workers at the world’s biggest hedge fund (or at least it was until the Euro hit parity), known as the European Central Bank, will discuss protest action and even potential strikes after rejecting a pay offer well below the rate of eurozone inflation, a union official has warned. The ECB’s proposal to increase pay by “only” 4.07% in January is – hilariously enough – consistent with the bank’s own opposition to deals that link wages to inflation that it believes risk fuelling a damaging wage-price spiral.

There is just one problem: its own employees think Christine Lagarde – herself a multimillionaire who barely avoided jail time despite being a convicted felon – is full of it and demand much higher pay… which if extended to all European workers will result without doubt in a wage-price spiral, as higher wages will mean higher prices, which mean even higher wages, and so on. The ECB’s latest pay offer, up from a 1.48% rise at the start of this year, is less than half what annual eurozone inflation is expected to be this year and will leave its staff with a significant pay cut in real terms (don’t tell them, but most Europeans won’t even get a 4.07% nominal wage increase: are they supposed to strike too). “People are losing faith in this institution,” said Carlos Bowles, vice-president of the Ipso union that represents ECB staff. “What the ECB leadership is telling us is ‘sorry we missed our own inflation target and now you, the staff, are going to pay the price’. “We really see an issue in the way the ECB stance is damaging the bargaining power of workers,” said Bowles.

“This is playing a role in increasing inequality.” Of course, that’s what we have been saying since 2009. But it was only when their own livelihood was on the line, did workers for Europe’s money printer figure it out too. A recent survey by the union found “the vast majority of colleagues are angry” about the ECB’s pay offer, he said. “The pay consultation is due to finish at the end of the year and we will decide in January if we protest.” The union reportedly met with the ECB’s ultra wealthy president Christine Lagarde – who doesn’t care what food costs, after all with the help of Bernard Tapie she embezzled enough to last her a lifetime – a few weeks ago and she made it clear there was no room for negotiation, he said. A strike, as happened at the ECB over pension reforms in 2009, was “not excluded” but it would only “come after an escalation curve”.

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“In this age of cybersecurity and demands for ‘security by design,’ the FBI and law enforcement partners need ‘lawful access by design.’”

FBI Sees ‘Threat’ In Apple Encryption Move (RT)

The FBI has issued a warning about upcoming security updates for Apple products, insisting the company’s plans to strengthen end-to-end encryption will interfere with efforts to track down criminals and terrorists. The agency sounded alarms soon after Apple announced several “advanced security features” set to be introduced in the coming months – including new protections for files stored in the cloud – telling the Washington Post it is “deeply concerned with the threat end-to-end and user-only-access encryption pose.” “This hinders our ability to protect the American people from criminal acts ranging from cyber-attacks and violence against children to drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism,” an unnamed FBI spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

“In this age of cybersecurity and demands for ‘security by design,’ the FBI and law enforcement partners need ‘lawful access by design.’” US and allied law enforcement officials have long demanded tech firms to provide open access to all devices, with the FBI frequently citing the aftermath of a 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California, when agents were unable to get into an Apple phone used by the shooter. Though the bureau pressed the company to help it break in, Apple refused, leading to a lengthy legal battle centered on encryption. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, Apple received at least 11 separate court orders to help police access various devices thought to be involved in criminal activity, but objected to all of them. A New York City court would later conclude that Apple could not be compelled to unlock its phones on the basis of the 1789 All Writs Act, which the FBI had repeatedly cited in prior cases.

Alongside agencies in the UK and Australia, the US Department of Justice has placed similar pressure on other tech giants in the past. In 2019, the three countries issued an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg which argued that “companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content.” Officials suggested encryption could interfere with investigations into “the most serious crimes,” effectively asking for the ability to crack any device at any time. Privacy advocates, including famed national security whistleblower Edward Snowden, have pushed back on the drive to undermine strong encryption, saying it is impossible to create a backdoor exclusively for law enforcement, and that any such security loophole will also be open to everyone, including bad actors.

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How our impression of China is shaped. Read!

The Coming Purge of the China-Hands (Pattberg)

There comes a time during or shortly after the academic training of every “Student of China” when he frequently runs into one of the many agents of Western anti-China state security. They are adverse hostile forces, they run a complete background-check on you, and then they‘ll make you a simple offer: You either produce anti-Chinese content for the West, or they‘ll mark you as anti-democratic and enemy of freedom, a traitor. In that case, you’ll never find work in the West again. And if you make a big fuss about it and cry coercion or blackmail, they are gonna start decomposing you. Like most young students back then, I, too, was completely ignorant about the inner workings of Western world hegemony. And, like the idiot I always was, I threw myself heedlessly into “China Studies” at a respective University in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh to be exact.

Immediately, the conceited profs and lecturers, they taught us the horrors of Han chauvinism, the horrors of Qing China and the horrors of the Maoists and the horrors against the poor people of Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. When I looked it up, those were all former British colonies and/or places of interest to the British Crown. We were told LIES by the very British people whose soldiers raped, looted and colonized China, and were now angry that China somehow stood its ground and survived. I do not expect you to believe at first what I am about to tell you. I would not have believed it myself, back then I mean, before I joined some of the many “Studies” invented by the Western Empire of LIES. “China Studies” is not about China. It could be, but it is not. It is warfare against China. To keep China down. To sabotage her. To control her people and her history. In this war, it is the West or you perish.

Joining the enemy, China, is a capital crime. Have you ever wondered why there are no pro-China talking heads in the books, in the papers or on telly? It is because pro-China people in “China Studies” were the enemy. They didn’t make it through graduation, they weren’t hired, etc.. Our common sense is often betrayed by what sociologists call ‘the survivor bias’: We believe that since all we hear or read about China is negative, this must be sure proof that China is a very nasty place. What we fail to see, however, is that all the negative stuff we heard and read about China was the product of just 1 “China Studies” graduate for every 1,000,000 people or so of the general Western population. Nobody who was pro-China survived the selection process or came anywhere near central power.

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“For many it was not in the increased number of homeless on the streets, or beggars huddled around tourist sites, or eye-wateringly high energy bills – although all of those existed before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. ”

The Fixed-pPice Shopping Basket: Greece’s Answer To Cost Of Living Crisis (G.)

Even before the cost of living crisis was formally pronounced, it had arrived in Greece. For many it was not in the increased number of homeless on the streets, or beggars huddled around tourist sites, or eye-wateringly high energy bills – although all of those existed before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It was there for everyone to see on the supermarket shelves,” says Panagiota Kalapotharakou, who heads the consumer rights association Ekpizo. “Eighteen months ago there were so many products with price labels that a great number of Greeks could not afford. Costs were going up long before the war in Ukraine.” It came as little surprise for consumer groups, then, that when talk turned to the need for relief measures to counter rising inflation the government chose to focus on staple goods.

What emerged was the novel concept of the “household basket”: supermarkets agreed with the government to sell about 51 staples – from flour to fish – at fixed prices. The measure, thrashed out around a long mahogany table in the ministry of commerce, went into effect in early November. Officials in the centre-right government intend the scheme, scheduled to run to the end of the winter, as a bulwark for the most vulnerable against the inflationary storm. No government subsidies are involved. “We spent weeks sitting around this table working on it with supermarket market representatives and our competition committee,” says Sotiris Anagnostopoulos, the ministry’s fresh-faced general secretary. “In politics you have to anticipate what is coming next. The cost of living crisis is a huge challenge, maybe the biggest we have faced since the adoption of the euro.”

Nationwide chains have signed up to the programme, selling products under blue household basket labels. With the country’s annual consumer inflation rate currently at 10% – down from a high of 12% in September – the government insists the initiative has succeeded in stabilising prices at a time of uncertainty and, in some cases, driving them lower. “What was never expected was the price war that we have seen among the big supermarket chains,” says Anagnostopoulos. “It’s been a surprise and a pleasant one because in general Greeks have much lower purchasing power.” Forced to survive on some of the lowest wages in the EU – at less than €1,200 a month, the average monthly salary is about a quarter of that in Germany – Greeks have felt the impact of soaring prices perhaps more than other EU nations.

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“Anyone who has downloaded a classified document from WikiLeaks, Cryptome or any other source, or posted it online is liable to prosecution under the Act..”

Daniel Ellsberg: Indict Me Too (Lauria)

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg has told the U.S. Justice Department and President Joe Biden that he is as indictable as WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange for having unauthorized possession of classified materials before they were published by WikiLeaks and that he would plead “not guilty” because the Espionage Act is unconstitutional. Ellsberg revealed this week to the BBC interview program Hard Talk that Assange had given him the files leaked by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to keep as a backup before they were published by WikiLeaks in 2010. Assange has been charged with violating the Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of classified information and faces 175 years in a U.S. prison if he is extradited from Belmarsh Prison in London.

Ellsberg is the second figure this month to come forward calling on the U.S. government to indict them for the same reasons Assange has been charged. “Cryptome published the decrypted unredacted State Department Cables on September 1, 2011 prior to publication of the cables by WikiLeaks,” John Young wrote in a Justice Department submission form, which Young posted on Twitter last week. “No US official has contacted me about publishing the unredacted cables since cryptome published them,” he wrote. “I respectfully request that the Department of Justice add me as a co-defendant in the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act.” The 1917 Espionage Act does not exempt journalists from receiving and publishing classified information, which Ellsberg says is a clear violation of the First Amendment and should be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Anyone who has downloaded a classified document from WikiLeaks, Cryptome or any other source, or posted it online is liable to prosecution under the Act, which would include millions of people around the world. Receiving and publishing classified information is routine work for journalists at major publications. Five newspapers partnered with WikiLeaks to publish Manning’s material in 2010 but only Assange has been charged. Those five newspapers last week called on the Biden administration to drop the charges on Assange because of the threat to the First Amendment. The Obama administration declined to indict Assange in 2011 because it understood that it would also have to indict New York Times editors and reporters for having published the same materiel Assange did. That is the only material Assange was indicted for.

He was not charged for releases exposing Central Intelligence Agency hacking activities in 2016, though that so infuriated then C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo that Pompeo later asked for plans to be drawn up to either kidnap or kill Assange while he was living under asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy. The Trump administration then had Assange arrested and charged under the Espionage Act in 2019. Despite being part of the Obama administration, Biden has refused to drop the case. When those plans were first revealed at Assange’s extradition hearing in 2020, Ellsberg said that the government was treating Assange worse than he had been treated and that it should have set Assange free.

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“..all other news outlets around the country reported feeling “lost” as they were so used to just copying and pasting from the New York Times each morning.”

Disinformation Down 92% As NYT Writers Go On Strike (BBee)

Researchers are reporting that disinformation on Twitter, Facebook, and mainstream news sources is already down by 92% in the wake of a 24-hour writer’s strike at the New York Times. “We always wondered where all this harmful disinformation was coming from,” said Darryl Ball, a researcher with the Center for Combatting Bad Things Online. “Turns out, it was all coming from those knuckleheads at the Times. Who knew?” Several studies indicate the country has seen a sharp decrease in hate speech, foreign propaganda, and shockingly dumb hot takes since the entire writing staff walked out of the building in New York City, which experts believe could lead to an outbreak of peace and harmony across the nation.


“All this time, the threat to democracy was us all along!” said NYT Union Boss Fuggs Crullers to reporters from other news organizations not on strike. “We have begun negotiations with leadership to pay us more money to never come back to work in hopes of saving America.” At publishing time, all other news outlets around the country reported feeling “lost” as they were so used to just copying and pasting from the New York Times each morning.

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Paul Marik

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Polar bear cub

 

 

 

 

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Jul 122022
 
 July 12, 2022  Posted by at 9:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  40 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of woman in wheelchair 1936

 

Defiant Schroeder Will Keep Talking To Putin (RT)
Why Biden Is Putting Us In Danger (Shellenberger)
July Shutdown Of Nord Stream Pipeline Has The EU Worried (ZH)
U.S. China Policy Is Heading Towards Disaster (NI)
z Macron Ordered To Resign, Faces Urgent Probe After ‘Betraying France’ (Exp.)
Uber Paid Academics Six-figure Sums For Research To Feed To The Media (G.)
The ECB Must Follow Its Mandate (Lacalle)
Officials Pressured EU Regulators to Rush Authorization of Pfizer Vax (CHD)
Doctor Files $5M Defamation Lawsuit Against News MedPage Today (AFN)
It’s Not Working (Jim Kunstler)

 

 


Giant constrictor snake squeezing Copenhagen citybus as part of a campaign for the city zoo

 

 

SARs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wise man.

Defiant Schroeder Will Keep Talking To Putin (RT)

A diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is the only thing that can effectively alleviate the suffering of civilians, the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has told Germany’s FAZ newspaper, adding that he would continue to use every opportunity to talk to the Russian president Vladimir Putin. The former chancellor, who was earlier forced to leave his position at the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft amid pressure from the European Parliament lawmakers, is now facing potential expulsion from his Social Democratic Party (SPD) at home. His perceived close relations with Moscow are cited as one of the reasons why the party considers his behavior “damaging” to its image, according to FAZ.

Schroeder himself, however, believes that the idea of isolating Russia politically is flawed. “I will not give up on… opportunities to talk to President [Vladimir] Putin,” Schroeder told FAZ in an interview published on Sunday. Russia is “interested in a negotiated solution,”the former chancellor asserted as he blamed Kiev for the stalled talks with Moscow. Schroeder, who sought to act as a mediator between Kiev and Moscow in early March, said that Ukrainians did not want any commitments “written down.” Such a position made any “serious” talks impossible at that stage of the negotiations, he added. The former chancellor also demonstrated little understanding for the West’s focus on supplying Ukraine with arms. “I don’t believe in a military solution.

The war can only be ended through diplomatic negotiations,” he told FAZ, adding that lives of the military on both sides can be spared and the suffering of the civilian population in Ukraine alleviated only through a diplomatic solution. When asked if he thinks that the western weapons deliveries contribute to a stronger negotiating position for Ukraine, Schroeder reiterated that all the nations, including “those not directly involved in this conflict,” should “work together to find a diplomatic solution”instead. He also criticized Lithuania over restricting the movement of goods to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, again saying that “all sides” bear responsibility for ensuring that “this conflict does not escalate further.”

The interview comes ahead of an SPD committee meeting next week that will discuss the former chancellor’s potential expulsion from the party. The politician’s lawyer told FAZ, however, that there is no sufficient legal basis for such a move. In June, Schroeder said he would still remain a Social Democrat, even if kicked out of the SPD.

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“U.S. oil refineries are operating at 94% capacity..”

Why Biden Is Putting Us In Danger (Shellenberger)

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the Biden Administration’s policy of sending American oil to China and other nations. “When it comes to the oil, it is something that oil companies decide… The Department of Energy can’t dictate what oil companies do with the oil they purchase or where they ship it to sell.” But the United States Department of Energy (DOE) does decide to whom it will sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). “A total of 16 companies responded to this notice, submitting 126 bids for evaluation,” noted DOE. A dozen won contracts. One was Unipec America, the trading arm of Sinopec, the China Petrochemical Corporation, which is wholly owned by the Chinese government.

There is no evidence that DOE went out of its way to sell American oil to Unipec, and little reason to believe that the U.S. could have refined that oil into gasoline, diesel, and other products had it remained in the U.S. After all, U.S. oil refineries are operating at 94% capacity. The DOE sold the oil to the highest bidders. And it was a coordinated release with international partners, including China, which also released oil from it strategic reserves. Indeed, Bloomberg and others oil market analysts predicted back in November that some U.S. SPR oil would go to China and India. But the reason our refineries are at maximum capacity is because Biden revoked a permit for a massive refinery expansion in the U.S. Virgin Islands in March and halted its operations entirely in May.

And where the U.S. released 50 million barrels of oil in 2021 and 180 million barrels of oil in 2022 so far, China has only released 7.4 million barrels of oil, which is just a half day’s consumption. Is that because China is oil-poor? No. It has equal-sized petroleum reserves to the U.S. In fact, despite promises in November and again in January to release oil from its reserves, China has instead been increasing its reserves. And there is no evidence that any non-Chinese firms, much less American firms, bought any of its released reserve oil, which undercuts the Biden Administration’s claim that the SPR release was being reciprocated. But the real drama is about to start. Today, Russia cut off all natural gas flowing through the main pipeline to Europe as part of routine maintenance.

Russia is contractually committed to turning the gas back on 10 days later, but many analysts, heads of state, and government officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t turn the gas back on in 10 days. Why? So he can increase prices, increase Russia’s energy revenues, and pressure Europe to stop supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia. France’s economy minister yesterday called a complete cut-off “the most likely” scenario. The consequences of a full Russian gas embargo would be devastating. German industries are already “in danger of permanently collapsing,” warned the head of Germany’s trade unions. Britain has warned that, in order to protect its own citizens, it may cut off natural gas supplies to Europe. If Putin cuts off the gas, Europe would be forced to ration energy, and bail-out both electric utilities and energy-intensive companies.

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A mess of its own making.

July Shutdown Of Nord Stream Pipeline Has The EU Worried (ZH)

It’s a dynamic which some in the alternative media have been warning about for months – While the establishment claimed that Russia would be crushed under the weight of NATO sanctions, others have suggested that Russia could hurt the west more (specifically Europe) by implementing sanctions of their own. While mainstream governments and journalists argued about how fast NATO should implement restrictions on Russian oil and gas, none of them seemed to consider the possibility that Putin would cut off energy exports himself. This is the problem with instituting foreign policy and engaging in geopolitics using a “cancel culture” mentality; it leads to childish thinking and a lack of foresight. You can’t “cancel” a nation if you are dependent on them for 40% of your energy needs.

Anyone with moderate industry knowledge in oil and gas could have seen this coming. Europe is now on “high alert” as the Nordtream 1 pipeline to Germany has lost 60% of its natural gas transfers as Russia pressures Canada for the return of a massive turbine being held in Canada for repairs. Canada has lifted sanctions in response and allowed the shipment of the turbine back to Russia, showing that the Kremlin does indeed have economic leverage over NATO countries. Even more concerning is that the pipeline will be undergoing an extended shutdown due to “maintenance” until July 21st. Some officials in Europe believe this shutdown may be a precursor (a beta test) to a total block of Russian gas to the EU, and they are probably right.

Speaking at the economic forum Les Rencontres Économiques, French Minister Bruno Le Maire said: ‘Let’s get ready for a total shutdown of the Russian gas supply…This is the most likely event.’ He added ‘We should not take Vladimir Putin’s threats lightly.’ It’s important to remember that Europe is not only dependent on oil and gas imports for heating, it is also dependent on them for electricity and many other needs. The middle of summer does not seem like the worst time to face heating shortages, but the overall effect of energy loss would drag the EU economy down into panic. Will the gas supply return after July 21? Probably, but this shutdown indicates that the Kremlin may be sending a message that they could end Europe’s economic stability anytime they want. The closer we get to winter, the more pressure will be applied, no doubt.


Visible pipeline flows.

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“Breaking China Apart”

U.S. China Policy Is Heading Towards Disaster (NI)

The unity, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of China are translated into the sanctity of its borders which includes “red lines” like Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea (out of fourteen neighbors, China has signed boundary agreements with twelve, barring India and Bhutan). Then, China’s “peaceful rise” is viewed as a natural evolution, even a sense of an historical entitlement, that China has finally “arrived” on the international stage. This was first publicly alluded to by President Xi, during his speech on October 18, 2017, at the 19th CCP Congress. Referring to “the world witnessing once in a century changes,” Xi remarked that China has become “a great power in the world,” playing “an important role in the history of humankind … it is time for us to take center stage in the world.”

Among “core interests” is the primacy of the CCP as China’s center of gravity pivotal to the country’s unity, stability, and prosperity, because, for Xi and his close associates, there is the conviction that anything like Gorbachev’s glasnost would be a recipe for disaster and could even lead to the breakup of China. As the inheritors of the “Middle Kingdom” which built a Great Wall to defend China from foreign intruders, the CCP leadership is well aware that existing fault lines can be susceptible to manipulation to China’s detriment. I was struck by the fact that, unlike Americans, who tend to have short memories and shifting relationships with foreign countries, Chinese take the long view, with a keen sense of history.

A few years ago, during a meeting with a top Chinese “thinking” policy maker, while discussing U.S. “designs against China,” he politely passed on an old op-ed of the New York Times written by Leslie Gelb on November 13, 1991, around the time when the Soviet Union was disintegrating. Interestingly titled, “Breaking China Apart,” Gelb’s piece matter-of-factly discussed the United States resorting to the “ultimate sanction — a threat to the territorial integrity of the Middle Kingdom — if Beijing leaders continue to defy new standards of world behavior…” Alarmingly, Gelb continued in the New York Times, if “Chinese actions go far beyond the pale. Americans and others may take extraordinary measures, including kindling separatism, to stop them. Beijing’s leaders will be making a terrible mistake to think otherwise.” It is thus no accident that China often views unrest in Xinjiang, Tibet, or Hong Kong or talk of Taiwan as some sort of a U.S.-supported state policy of “kindling separatism.”

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“It is not a president who governs France but a lobby!”

Macron Ordered To Resign, Faces Urgent Probe After ‘Betraying France’ (Exp.)

The French President backed the development of Uber in France singing a deal when he was economy minister between 2014 to 2016. The findings, leaked after an investigation based on 124,000 confidential internal Uber documents, prompted calls for Mr Macron to resign. Les Patriotes leader Florian Philippot said: “Macron must resign! He betrays France, its companies, the State, justice, the people! Out!” He added: “If after the #UberFiles the oppositions don’t vote ‘no confidence’ today, I don’t know what they need! “Be responsible and vote it! Put the Macronie down!” Echoing his comments, National Rally MEP Jordan Bardella said: “It was common knowledge, the #UberFiles demonstrate it once again.

“Despite the permanent ‘at the same time’, Emmanuel Macron’s career has a consistency, a common thread: to serve private interests, often foreign, before national interests.” Left MEP Manon Aubry also blasted the French leader. She said: “Revelations on a secret deal between Macron and Uber. “We also better understand the role played by France in blocking any European regulation of platforms! “It is not a president who governs France but a lobby!” Debout La France leader Nicolas Dupont-Aignan echoed: “Emmanuel Macron, loyal supporter of Uber. “Minister of the Economy, he was already betraying France by defending the interests of an American company!”

According to the investigation, the French leader signed a deal with Uber to “make France work for Uber so that Uber can work in and for France”. Mr Macron also promised “a drastic simplification of the legal requirements” to obtain a ride-sharing licence. Uber also secretly lobbied ministers to influence London’s transport policy, it has been reported. Leaked documents show lobbyists for the ride-sharing app company met then-chancellor George Osborne and other ministers, according to the BBC. The “undeclared” meetings took place after Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London, had promised to launch a review that could have limited Uber’s expansion in the capital. The meeting with Mr Osborne took place at a private dinner in the US state of California, where Uber is based.

An internal Uber email stated that this was better than a meeting in London because “this is a much more private affair with no hanger-on officials or staffers”, the BBC reported. Other meetings were held between Uber lobbyists and current or former ministers including Priti Patel, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove, according to the corporation. Mr Johnson ultimately abandoned his review, and Uber was able to increase its number of drivers in London.

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It’s the Monsanto model.

Uber Paid Academics Six-figure Sums For Research To Feed To The Media (G.)

Uber paid high-profile academics in Europe and the US hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce reports that could be used as part of the company’s lobbying campaign. The Uber files, a cache of thousands of confidential documents leaked to the Guardian, reveal lucrative deals with several leading academics who were paid to publish research on the benefits of its economic model. The reports were commissioned as Uber wrestled with regulators in key cities around the world. University economists were targeted in France and Germany where enforcement by the authorities was increasingly fierce in 2014-15. One report by a French academic, who asked for a €100,000 consultancy fee, was cited in a 2016 Financial Times report as evidence that Uber was a “route out of the French banlieues”, delighting Uber executives.

Using techniques common in party political campaigns, Uber targeted academics and thinktanks to help it construct a positive narrative, namely that it created well-paid jobs that drivers liked, delivered cheap transport to consumers and boosted productivity. Documents show how its lobbyists planned to use academic research as part of a production line of political ammunition that could be fed to politicians and the media. The aim was to use the research to increase pressure for changing the rules Uber was evading. While Uber’s involvement in reports was mentioned, leaked files expose how it wanted to use academics’ work and their reputations to further its aims, and how much it was prepared to pay them. In France, the €100,000 consultancy arrangement was negotiated with a rising star of university economics, Prof Augustin Landier of the Toulouse School of Economics.

Landier agreed to produce a report that he described in emails to Uber’s policy and communications team as “actionable for direct PR to prove Uber’s positive economic role”. Landier proposed collaborating with David Thesmar, another high-profile professor from France’s top business school, École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris (HEC). In discussions in February 2015, Uber executives noted that although the price was high, it was worth it, especially if they worked on the report’s messages “to ensure it’s not presented in a potentially negative light”.

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“The balance of the ECB is 69.5% of the GDP of the eurozone, when that of the Federal Reserve is 37% of the GDP of the US and the Bank of England’s is 39% of the UK GDP.”

The ECB Must Follow Its Mandate (Lacalle)

The European Central Bank should be hugely concerned about two pieces of news. The euro is on the verge of parity with the US dollar and has accumulated a drop of 17% since 2021, more than 35% since 2008. On the other hand, inflation in the eurozone reached 8.6% in June, 5% excluding the energy and food components. Inflation in more than six eurozone countries, including Spain, is already in double digits with core CPI at multi-decade highs. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, June inflation was 3.4% with core at 1.9%. Switzerland relies on imports for gas, commodities, and supply chains as much as its neighbors, but it has not engaged in massive printing of its currency.

The euro is the greatest monetary success of the last 150 years, and it cannot be jeopardized by risking the independence of the European Central Bank. It is an elevated risk and those of us who want it to remain a reserve currency and a success are concerned. The balance of the ECB is 69.5% of the GDP of the eurozone, when that of the Federal Reserve is 37% of the GDP of the US and the Bank of England’s is 39% of the UK GDP. However, the euro is not the world’s reserve currency. The US Federal Reserve is the only central bank that pays attention to the global demand for US dollars and despite this, it has also made the enormous mistake of expanding money supply well above demand and, thereby, triggering inflation.

Let us not forget that prices do not go up all at once for the same amount of currency issued. One or two prices may rise for exogenous reasons, but not all rise unless the purchasing power of the currency is destroyed by printing without control. As Frank Shostak reminds, inflation is money supply growth, not prices denominated in money. A weak euro and rising inflation are extremely worrying factors because in June 2021 the increase in broad money supply (M3) in the eurozone was 8.3% annualized, with M1 (currency in circulation and overnight deposits) increasing by 11.8%. In other words, the increase in money supply (M3) was still 16% higher than during the so-called “Draghi bazooka”. In May 2022 it is still growing above 5.6% with GDP rebounding a mere 2.6% (consensus estimates).

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“The political fall-out seems to be too high, even if the ‘technical level’ … could defend such a delay..”

Officials Pressured EU Regulators to Rush Authorization of Pfizer Vax (CHD)

A Nov. 16, 2020, email from Marco Cavaleri, then head of the EMA’s biological health threats and vaccines strategy, stated that “[Alex] Azar and US GOV [sic]” had “pushed hard” to “rush into EUA [Emergency Use Authorization].” Azar at the time was secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the FDA. In a Nov. 19, 2020, email, Noel Wathion, then deputy executive director of the EMA, referenced a “TC” — shorthand for teleconference — “with the commissioner,” referring to European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen. During the call, which Wathion described as “rather tense, at times even a bit unpleasant,” von der Leyen warned the EMA what might happen “if the expectations are not being met” to quickly issue a CMA [Conditional Marketing Authorization] for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, “irrespective if such expectations are realistic or not.”

In the same email, Wathion wrote: “The political fall-out seems to be too high, even if the ‘technical level’ … could defend such a delay in order to make the outcome of the scientific review as robust as possible. … “Although we know that whatever we do (speeding up the process to align as much as possible with the ‘approval’ timing by FDA/MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] versus taking the time needed to have robust assurance in particular as regards CMC [Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls guidelines] and safety) EMA will have a very big challenge addressing questions and criticism from various parties … in case of a delay of several weeks.” The “various parties” Wathion referenced included the European Commission, the European Parliament, the media and the general public.

Wathion went on to argue that “CMC, responsibility and accountability are certainly elements to be considered in my view.” In a later email, dated Nov. 22, 2020, Wathion further revealed the pressure the agency was facing to issue a CMA for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, writing: “The likelihood that FDA (and also MHRA) will issue an EUA before a CMA is granted is extremely high. So we have to prepare for this.” However, Wathion expressed concerns in the same email that such preparation might come at the expense of a proper scientific assessment of the Pfizer vaccine. “We are speeding up as much as possible but we also need to make sure that our scientific assessment is as robust as possible,” Wathion wrote.

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Nuremberg 2.0. A code, not a trial.

Doctor Files $5M Defamation Lawsuit Against News MedPage Today (AFN)

America’s Frontline Doctors member Dr. Bret Barker, DNP, FNP, RN is suing MedPage Today and its Director of Enterprise & Investigative Reporting Kristina Fiore for defamation after Fiore wrote an article Dr. Barker says is riddled with disinformation. Dr. Barker is author of Sold Out Souls:Sars2-COVID-19, Simple Truths Ignored and CEO of Nuremberg 2.0, an organization dedicated to medical accountability and holding responsible medical professionals who harm the public in the name of COVID-19. In May, Fiore penned an article titled, “Should Doctors Worry About ‘Nuremberg 2.0?’ — It’s a ‘completely misleading application of the concepts of the Nuremberg trials.’”

Fiore first led readers to believe that Nuremberg 2.0 is about the Nuremberg trials and not the Nuremberg Code, which was developed in response to the medical experimentation perpetrated by the Nazis as revealed in the Nuremberg trials. The Code contains 10 tenets dedicated to human safety and dignity, the first of which is that “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.” In fact, Fiore writes about an individual who made a public comment at the California State Assembly against bill AB-2098, which would allow medical professionals to be punished for challenging the COVID-19 narrative. As Fiore wrote: “’I oppose this bill,’ he started, ‘and anybody who supports this bill will be held accountable under Nuremberg codes. Be warned.’”

But despite the outright reference to the Nuremberg Codes, Fiore said the word, which is “thrown around by the right wing,” refers to the Nuremberg trials. “These days, it’s mostly referred to as ‘Nuremberg 2.0,’ to invoke a second coming of the trials,” she wrote. Fiore then shared how one science professor in Canada said “he’s received many threats referencing Nuremberg 2.0” She proceeded to re-invoke the California State Assembly incident and name Dr. Bret Barker, making it seem as though Dr. Barker was the individual who made the public comment, when the doctor was not even there. She wrote that “the speaker at the California State Assembly hearing didn’t identify himself” and then went on to name Dr. Bret Barker as the CEO.

Third, Fiore led readers to believe that Nuremberg 2.0 is a medical terrorist organization “which essentially calls for doctors (and others) to be killed for providing COVID shots and other supposed pandemic crimes.” She also suggested that Nuremberg 2.0 members want to “execute” those who promote the COVID-19 vaccine, like in the Nuremberg trials. The week after Fiore wrote her piece, Dr. Barker filed a lawsuit against both MedPage Today and Fiore herself, seeking compensatory damages of $5 million for “long-term permanent damage to my personal life and reputation,” and punitive damages of $1 million. The complaint also mentions that Fiore did not reach out to Dr. Barker for a statement before publishing the story online and in emails to the publication’s 150,000 subscriber base. The story reached Dr. Barkers colleagues “and those who may have influence on my licensure and ability to work.”

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Green ain’t cheap.

It’s Not Working (Jim Kunstler)

Many people, I’m sure, assume that the more solar units feeding the grid, the better. Strangely, not so. Electric companies work much better when the production and flow of current is absolutely predictable and under their control — like, when they decide to fire up the natgas on generator number three or tune down the hydro turbines. It’s much harder to run the system with little dribs and drabs of electricity trickling in from hither and yon. But alt-energy is good PR for the government, so they do whatever they can to promote or even compel its use. I got a whopping folio of tax breaks and subsidies from the state and federal government when I decided to put solar electric on my house in 2013, though it finally still cost a lot: $35-K.

I had intimations of living through a chaotic period of history, and the decision was consistent with my general theory of history, which is that things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time. Getting a home solar electric rig seemed like a good idea. So, last week, after considerable hassle with my solar company setting up an appointment for a techie to visit and evaluate the problem here, the guy came up (at $150-an-hour) and informed me that my charge controller was shot. The charge controller processes all those chaotic watts coming from the solar panels on the roof into an orderly parade of electrons. He also told me that my back-up batteries — for running critical loads like the well-pump during grid outages — were at the end of their design life. Subtext: you have to get new batteries.

There are four big ones in a cabinet under the blown charge controller and the inverter (for turning direct current into alternating current that is the standard for running things). The techie had some bad news, though. New building codes forbid his company from replacing the kind of batteries I have, which are standard “sealed cell” lead-acid batteries. Some bullshit about off-gassing flammable fumes. Now the government requires lithium batteries, which would cost me sixteen-thousand dollars ($16-K) more to replace than new lead-acid batteries.

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Nov 052020
 


Pablo Picasso Bull plates I-XI 1945

 

Trump Goes To Supreme Court, Files Lawsuits To Stop Vote Counting In PA (F.)
Trump Assembling All-star Legal Team To Mount Election Challenges (JTN)
US Inability To Count Votes is a National Disgrace. And Dangerous (Greenwald)
How The GOP Retook House Seats From Democrats (F.)
House Democrats Fall Way Short In Disappointing Night (Hill)
Statehouse Wins Position GOP To Dominate Redistricting (Pol.)
Election Update, 9:50 am Weds Nov 4 (Jim Kunstler)
Michigan Finds 138,339 Ballots, Every Single One Has Biden’s Name on It (RS)
For Stocks, Any Election Outcome is Now the Best Outcome (WS)
ECB May Cut Support For Indebted Countries In Nudge Towards EU Loans (R.)
COVID Testing: We’ve Been Duped (AT)
England Underestimates The Costs Of Lockdown At Its Peril (Jonathan Sumption)
Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited To US But Can Also Appeal (BBC)
Bayer Takes Over $10 Billion Write-Down Over Monsanto Roundup Weed Killer (RT)

 

 

There is this odd divide between the presidential vote, which Biden may win, and all the other votes, where the GOP candidates are doing much better than expected, and taking back House seats. How is that possible?

 

 

 

 

Happy lawyers.

Trump Goes To Supreme Court, Files Lawsuits To Stop Vote Counting In PA (F.)

The Trump campaign is filing multiple lawsuits in Pennsylvania targeting the state’s rules for election observers and mail-in ballots, as well as intervening in an ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the state’s mail-in ballot deadline, the campaign said Wednesday, ramping up the GOP’s legal efforts in the battleground state as the race between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden narrows. The Trump campaign said in a statement Wednesday that it is suing Pennsylvania to stop the state from “hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers,” specifically mentioning a policy that requires poll watchers to stand 25 feet from where the counting process is taking place.

The campaign is appealing a case that previously failed in a lower court in Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which alleged an election observer could not “observe the writing on the outside of the ballots.” The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee sued state and local officials over a practice in which mail-in voters are allowed to provide proof of identification after the ballot deadline if it was initially missing, which Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar recently extended by an additional three days to November 12. Republicans claim allowing voters to provide identification through that date will “create a high risk of jeopardizing the integrity” of the election by delaying election results, and are calling for the court to throw out any ballots where the voter’s identification isn’t received by the original deadline of Nov. 9.

The Trump campaign also filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the state’s mail-in ballot deadline, which allows mail-in ballots to be counted if they’re delivered up to three days after Election Day.The Supreme Court previously declined to overturn the extended deadline before Election Day—in a 4-4 ruling before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court—but several conservative justices said the court could still revisit the ruling and invalidate the deadline, which would result in any late-arriving ballots being rejected.

Trump to win Arizona

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“President Trump’s campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process.”

“President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else.”

Trump Assembling All-star Legal Team To Mount Election Challenges (JTN)

President Trump’s campaign on Wednesday began assembling an all-star legal team to file challenges to election regularities in several battleground states, starting with a Court of Claims lawsuit in Michigan. Among the lawyers the president is activating include his private attorney Jay Sekulow, who will help campaign lawyers with matters before the Supreme Court as well as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, officials said. Sidney Powell, the lawyer for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, may also be called upon, officials said. The legal team’s first stop was Michigan, where the campaign filed an action in the Court of Claims seeking to halt vote counting until irregularities are addressed, campaign manager Bill Stepien announced.


“As votes in Michigan continue to be counted, the presidential race in the state remains extremely tight as we always knew it would be. President Trump’s campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law,” Stepien said. “We have filed suit today in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until meaningful access has been granted. We also demand to review those ballots which were opened and counted while we did not have meaningful access. President Trump is committed to ensuring that all legal votes are counted in Michigan and everywhere else.”

Read more …

“..the monumental failures of the polling industry and the data nerds who leech off it, for the second consecutive national election, only serve to sow even further doubt and confusion..”

US Inability To Count Votes is a National Disgrace. And Dangerous (Greenwald)

Nations far poorer and less technologically advanced have no problem holding quick, efficient elections. Distrust in U.S. outcomes is dangerous but rational. The richest and most powerful country on earth — whether due to ineptitude, choice or some combination of both — has no ability to perform the simple task of counting votes in a minimally efficient or confidence-inspiring manner. As a result, the credibility of the voting process is severely impaired, and any residual authority the U.S. claims to “spread” democracy to lucky recipients of its benevolence around the world is close to obliterated. At 7:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the day after the 2020 presidential elections, the results of the presidential race, as well as control of the Senate, are very much in doubt and in chaos.

Watched by rest of the world — deeply affected by who rules the still-imperialist superpower — the U.S. struggles and stumbles and staggers to engage in a simple task mastered by countless other less powerful and poorer countries: counting votes. Some states are not expected to finished their vote-counting until the end of this week or beyond. The same data and polling geniuses who pronounced that Hillary Clinton had a 90% probability or more of winning the 2016 election, and who spent the last three months proclaiming the 2020 election even more of a sure thing for the Democratic presidential candidate, are currently insisting that Biden, despite being behind in numerous key states, is still the favorite by virtue of uncounted ballots in Democrat-heavy counties in the outcome-determinative states.

[One went to sleep last night with the now-notorious New York Times needle of data guru Nate Cohn assuring the country that, with more than 80% of the vote counted in Georgia, Trump had more than an 80% chance to win that state, only to wake up a few hours later with the needle now predicting the opposite outcome; that all happened just a few hours after Cohn assured everyone how much “smarter” his little needle was this time around].

NYT’s predictive needle for Georgia at 8:40 pm ET, Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TravisAllen02/status/1323855693359861762

NYT’s predictive needle for Georgia less than four hours later, at 12:12 a.m., early Wednesday morning.


Given the record of failures and humiliations they have quickly compiled, what rational person would trust anything they say at this point? A citizen randomly chosen from the telephone book would be as reliable if not more so for sharing predictions. And the monumental failures of the polling industry and the data nerds who leech off it, for the second consecutive national election, only serve to sow even further doubt and confusion around the electoral process. A completely untrustworthy voting count is now the norm. Two months after the New York state primary in late June, two Congressional races were in doubt by what The New York Times called “major delays in counting a deluge of 400,000 mail-in ballots and other problems.” In particular: Thousands more ballots in the city were discarded by election officials for minor errors, or not even sent to voters until the day before the primary, making it all but impossible for the ballots to be returned in time.

Read more …

“..a 2020 election night awash with Democratic disappointment..”

How The GOP Retook House Seats From Democrats (F.)

Republicans wrested at least seven U.S. House seats from Democrats this year, retaking districts the party lost in 2018 and expanding slightly into blue territory, a surprising set of victories that could narrow the House’s thin 14-vote Democratic majority. Republicans have won back six moderate rural and suburban districts that Democrats took from the GOP in 2018 — in New Mexico, South Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Iowa — reversing some of the Democrats’ gains from two years ago.In two of those districts, this year’s races were rematches of 2018, featuring the same candidates but different outcomes: Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar in 2018 but lost to her in 2020, and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) lost to Republican Yvette Herrell despite winning against her two years ago.

Republicans also took Minnesota’s rural, conservative-leaning seventh district, ousting moderate 30-year incumbent Rep. Collin Peterson (D) after a tough re-election battle. Meanwhile, Democrats picked up just two seats in North Carolina, defeating Republican nominees in a pair of new urban and suburban districts created after a court-ordered redistricting effort last year. Dozens of House districts remained too close to call Wednesday morning, as officials rush to count mail-in ballots. In particular, Republicans are vying to win back former Republican strongholds like Orange County, Calif. and Staten Island, N.Y.

Democrats flipped dozens of congressional districts from red to blue in 2018, part of a wave election that propelled the party to a House majority. Many of those suburban and rural districts were traditionally conservative but changed hands amid nationwide leftward momentum, making their status as Democratic seats tenuous at best. Still, Democrats hoped to extend those gains in 2020 by flipping several moderate seats, and pre-election polls indicated most voters favored Democrats over Republicans in local House races. But on a 2020 election night awash with Democratic disappointment, the party’s hopes of another Democratic wave in the House quickly faded, and Republicans ended up regaining some ground.

Read more …

“The spate of Democratic losses were not limited to any one geographic region.”

House Democrats Fall Way Short In Disappointing Night (Hill)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her invigorated caucus charged into Tuesday with an energized base, a sharp fundraising advantage and hopes to flip anywhere from five to 15 Republican seats on election night. Instead, it was the Republicans who scored big — at least in the early counting — knocking out at least a half dozen vulnerable Democrats with several more clinging to the ropes. It was a reversal of fortunes for the Democrats, who had led big in the polls and the money race and were betting that President Trump at the top of the ticket would be a drag on GOP lawmakers all the way down the ballot. With gushing optimism, Democrats were expecting Tuesday night would give them a chance to pad their 232-197 majority next year.

“We’re well-positioned to have a good night,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), head of the Democrats’ campaign arm, told reporters hours before polls closed Tuesday. As the sun came up Wednesday morning, however, there appeared few bright spots for Bustos’s party. While Democrats will retain their majority, a handful of their front-line members — incumbents facing the toughest races — had been defeated. And after boasting about how they’d expanded the map and were playing “deep into Trump country,” they’d failed to pick off even a single House Republican running for reelection. Democrats did manage to pick up a pair of GOP-held open seats in North Carolina, where redistricting had made the districts much bluer, and a third in Georgia after the retirement of vulnerable GOP Rep. Rob Woodall.

The spate of Democratic losses were not limited to any one geographic region. In rural Minnesota, Rep. Collin Peterson (D), a 15-term veteran and chairman of the Agriculture Committee, was clobbered by the state’s former lieutenant governor, who’d linked Peterson to the liberal Pelosi. In the suburbs of Oklahoma City, Rep. Kendra Horn (D), a first-term moderate, was defeated by Republican Stephanie Bice, a state senator, in one of the country’s most contested races. On New Mexico’s southern border, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D), a 36-year-old centrist also in her first term, fell to Yvette Herrell, a former state legislator, in a rematch of 2018. And in South Carolina, first-term Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) was ousted by state Rep. Nancy Mace (R).

Read more …

And this is what comes next.

Statehouse Wins Position GOP To Dominate Redistricting (Pol.)

Here’s something else Republicans can be happy about after Tuesday. An abysmal showing by Democrats in state legislative races on Tuesday not only denied them victories in Sun Belt and Rust Belt states that would have positioned them to advance their policy agenda — it also put the party at a disadvantage ahead of the redistricting that will determine the balance of power for the next decade. The results could domino through politics in America, helping the GOP draw favorable congressional and state legislative maps by ensuring Democrats remain the minority party in key state legislatures. Ultimately, it could mean more Republicans in Washington — and in state capitals.

By Wednesday night, Democrats had not flipped a single statehouse chamber in its favor. And it remained completely blocked from the map-making process in several key states — including Texas, North Carolina and Florida, which could have a combined 82 congressional seats by 2022 — where the GOP retained control of the state legislatures. After months of record-breaking fundraising by their candidates and a constellation of outside groups, Democrats fell far short of their goals and failed to build upon their 2018 successes to capture state chambers they had been targeting for years. And they may have President Donald Trump to blame. “It’s clear that Trump isn’t an anchor for the Republican legislative candidates. He’s a buoy,” Christina Polizzi, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said Wednesday.

“He overperformed media expectations, Democratic and Republican expectations, and lifted legislative candidates with him.” Democrats had a disappointing night in congressional and state legislative races across the country, as they realized the suburban revolt against Trump did not extend in 2020. Republicans appear poised to hold on to the Senate, gain seats in the House and pick up a governorship in Montana, defying expectations. But it is the victories they won in state legislatures could be the most consequential of all, giving the GOP outsize influence over the congressional and legislative redistricting process that begins early next year.

Read more …

“Let’s not forget the rather reckless remark made by PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Halloween night that “if all the votes are added up, Mr. Trump is going to lose.“

Election Update, 9:50 am Weds Nov 4 (Jim Kunstler)

The election has rolled out as expected here – that is, not resolved the morning after, with Antifa and BLM rioters already moiling in the streets of Washington D.C.Portland, Oregon, remains in continual uproar after four months of violence and destruction, and Mayor Ted Wheeler won reelection against “Antifa candidate” Sarah Iannarone. Lucky Portland. Outside the swing states still in play, the margins were strikingly lopsided. Joe Biden’s radiant charisma worked in the usual blue coastal states — Cal 65% to 33%, NY 55% to 33% — but Mr. Trump’s margins were equally lopsided in the flyover red states — OK 65% to 32%, TN 60% to 37%, MO 56% to 41%. Mr. Biden won thumpingly in VA once the Deep State bedroom counties next to DC came in late at night. But the president won convincingly in FLA, OH, and TX.

For now, at 9 a.m. Weds, the race hinges on the usual suspects. Mr. Trump is up a half a percent in Michigan with 91% of votes counted; Mr. Biden is seven-tenths up in Wisconsin, with 95% in… awaiting Green Bay results (delayed, apparently, because a vote-processing machine ran out of ink (!). Similar close margins in NC… not so close in GA, with the president ahead a healthy 2 percent, and finally the dark maw of mischief, PA, where Mr. Trump was up by more than ten full percentage points (@700,000 votes) this morning, but awaiting more than a million mail-in ballots. Let’s not forget the rather reckless remark made by PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Halloween night that “if all the votes are added up, Mr. Trump is going to lose.” Sounded pretty sure of himself.

Now, as I understand it, the PA state supreme court ruled recently that counties could continue to process mail-in votes until Friday, and, more importantly, that they did not require postmarks or signature authentication — which would appear an easy invitation to simple ballot fraud. The president vowed late Tuesday night to take a case to the US supreme court where, I expect, that PA ruling will be tossed out as self-evidently unsound. Can the forces of Dem Lawfare work around that? I don’t see how, but I’m not a constitutional lawyer. The Dems have worked hard in recent years to manufacture the inane and false narrative that any kind of voter-ID procedure amounts to “suppression.” America needs to get its mind right about that. Does Lawfare have other tricks up its sleeve? I rather expect so, but the president has had months to plan his own defense against the threat of a Lawfare coup, so now we will see the game play out. Meanwhile, we await mayhem in the streets, condoned and encouraged by Joe Biden’s party, as though that will endear him to nation.

Read more …

Standing next to 17,000 simulated ballots
https://twitter.com/HalosRamsFan/status/1324073111969554435

Michigan Finds 138,339 Ballots, Every Single One Has Biden’s Name on It (RS)

Saying that this is an impossible thing wouldn’t be right as statistically, the early vote combined with mail-in voting was always heavily Democrat-leaning. The catch here is that it’s definitely not probable. The idea that not one of them is a Trump vote seems a little off. However, what should really make people suspicious is the fact that not one of these votes leans toward a third-party vote. While people voting for Trump definitely wanted their votes counted by showing up in person, third-party voters didn’t particularly follow the same idea as some of these were leftists as well. Not one vote for the Green Party candidate? Not one for Jo Jorgenson of the Libertarian Party?

Read more …

Second hand car salesmen.

For Stocks, Any Election Outcome is Now the Best Outcome (WS)

At first, long ago, the narrative was that a Trump victory would boost stocks. And then when this became more uncertain, the narrative was that a Biden victory would also boost stocks, and that a “Blue Wave” would boost stocks hugely because it would trigger the mother of all stimulus packages, which would spread trillions of dollars directly and indirectly to these companies, which would be good for stocks. And so it was that a victory by either presidential candidate would boost stocks, and that only a disputed election outcome with a long drawn-out legal battle or a split government would derail stocks.

And now, that Trump is already disputing the still unknown election outcome and is threatening a long-drawn-out legal battle if he loses – with Biden leading in electoral votes but millions of mail-in ballots left to be counted – even the threat of a disputed election and a long-drawn-out mess is now boosting stocks. And even funnier: The only remaining outcome that would not boost stocks, and by some measures would be the worst possible outcome during these times – namely a split government, with the Senate remaining under Republican control and Biden in the White House, and therefore no stimulus package – is suddenly a distinct possibility.

But it now too is seen as boosting stocks because it would mean, according to the newly fashioned narrative, that the absence of a Blue Wave would be good for Big Tech because it would be less threatened by antitrust pressures. These narratives are funny. They change and adapt constantly, like a weather vane. Major investment banks come out with reports to create and support these narratives, and adjust them as probabilities of outcomes change, with the purpose being that whatever happens, and no matter how it happens, and regardless of why or when it happens, it has to boost stocks, according to the narratives.

Read more …

Nice little country you have there…

ECB May Cut Support For Indebted Countries In Nudge Towards EU Loans (R.)

The European Central Bank could offer less generous support for indebted governments when it puts together a further stimulus package next month, to push them to apply for European Union loans tied to productive investments, sources told Reuters. The ECB promised last week to introduce more measures in December to help euro zone countries cope with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, including new lockdowns that will curtail economic activity. The four sources who spoke to Reuters said policymakers were debating whether the ECB should extend its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP), which gives it unprecedented flexibility in buying bonds from any country in distress, or its regular Asset Purchase Programme (APP), under which purchases should mirror the relative size of each country.


This is because PEPP has driven down borrowing costs for indebted governments such as Spain and Portugal so much that they are shunning EU loans tied to digital and green investments in favour of raising no-strings cash on the bond market. The composition of the package should be decided at the ECB’s Dec. 10 policy meeting and the sources said a compromise could be on the cards, with both PEPP and APP being expanded but the former remaining the main instrument. The difference between the two programmes is material and the decision will have implications for how much help the ECB might give to the bloc’s most indebted countries. The ECB has significantly overbought Italian and Spanish bonds under PEPP since the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, helping lower their bond yields to pre-pandemic levels — a welcome relief for their governments at a time of stress. But in doing so, it has made borrowing from the EU’s Next Generation fund less attractive.

Read more …

Most stunning is there has been hardly any movement in the whole thing. Where are the better and faster tests?

COVID Testing: We’ve Been Duped (AT)

During a considerably quieter time, back in 2007, the New York Times featured a very interesting exposé on molecular diagnostic testing — specifically, the inadequacy of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in achieving reliable results. The most significant concern highlighted in the Times report is how molecular tests, most notably the PCR, are highly sensitive and prone to false positives. At the center of the controversy was a potential outbreak in a hospital in New Hampshire that proved to be nothing more than “ordinary respiratory diseases like the common cold.” Unfortunately, the results wrought by the PCR told a different story.

Thankfully, a faux epidemic was avoided but not before thousands of workers were furloughed and given antibiotics and ultimately a vaccine, and hospital beds (including some in intensive care) were taken out of commission. Eight months later, what was thought to be an epidemic was deemed a non-malicious hoax. The culprit? According to “epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists … too much faith in a quick and highly sensitive molecular test .. led them astray.” At the time, such tests were “coming into increasing use” as maybe “the only way to get a quick answer in diagnosing diseases like … SARS, and deciding whether an epidemic is under way. Nevertheless, today, the PCR test is considered the gold standard of molecular diagnostics, most notably in the diagnosis of COVID-19.

However, a closer analysis reveals that the PCR has actually been pretty spotty and that false positives abound. Thankfully, the New York Times is once again on the case. “Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive; Maybe It Shouldn’t Be,” according to NYT reporter Apoorva Mandavilli. Essentially, positive results are getting tossed around way too frequently. Rather, they should probably be reserved for individuals with “greater viral load.” So how have they’ve been doing it all this time you ask? “The PCR test amplifies genetic matter from the virus in cycles; the fewer cycles required, the greater the amount of virus, or viral load, in the sample . .. the more likely the patient is to be contagious.”

Unfortunately, the “cycle threshold” has been ramped up. What happens when it’s ramped up? Basically, “huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus” are deemed infected. However, the severity of the infection is never quantified, which essentially amounts to a false positive. Their level of contagion is essentially nil. How are they determining the cycle threshold? If I didn’t suspect that it was based on maximizing the amount of “cases,” I would find the determination pretty arbitrary. More than a few of the professionals on record for Times report appear pretty perplexed on this vital detail which is essentially driving “clinical diagnostics, for public health and policy decision-making.”

Read more …

They don’t know what they’re doing.

“Lockdowns temporarily reduce infections and associated deaths. But they do so only by deferring them to the period after they are lifted.”

England Underestimates The Costs Of Lockdown At Its Peril (Jonathan Sumption)

Suppose there is nothing that governments can do to stop the spread of Covid-19. What then? It is not a hypothetical question, as England is discovering. “We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature,” the prime minister observed in Saturday’s Downing Street press conference. But humility learns from experience, and there was no sign of that in the measures he then went on to announce. In my opinion, the problem with lockdowns is that they are indiscriminate, ineffective in the long term, and carry social and economic costs that outweigh their likely benefits. Lockdowns temporarily reduce infections and associated deaths. But they do so only by deferring them to the period after they are lifted. Members of the government’s Sage group pointed this out back in February.

“Measures which are too effective,” they said, “merely push all transmission to the period after they are lifted, giving a delay but no substantial reduction in either peak incidence or overall attack rate.” In the meantime, these restrictions prolong the crisis, slow down the process by which the population acquires a measure of natural immunity, and cause immeasurable collateral damage. This is what we are experiencing now. Lockdowns are indiscriminate because they do not distinguish between different categories of people whose vulnerabilities are very different. Some are young, some old. Some have had the disease and enjoy a measure of immunity while others do not. Some live alone and are starved of company, others have their families around them. Some live in rural Cornwall, where the reproduction rate is low, others in Liverpool, where it is high.

Allowing people to make their own judgments, tailored to their own circumstances and those of the people around them, is not only a more humane and rational response to the pandemic. It also directs resources to where they are actually needed. Instead, ministers treat the entire population as an undifferentiated mass. This one-size-fits-all approach is irrational. The result is to inflict an appalling injustice on the young, who are unlikely to become seriously ill but are bearing almost all the burden of the counter-measures. The average age at which people die with Covid-19 is over 82. As of 3 November, the Office for National Statistics reports that 49,420 out of 55,311 deaths involving Covid-19 were among people aged 65 or older. The risk of death for young people is very small. They are not the ones who are filling NHS beds.

Yet their job prospects are being snuffed out. The spectacle of bright engineering graduates and talented musicians forced into unemployment, or to take jobs in which their training will go to waste, is a savage indictment of current policies. It is the old and vulnerable whom we should be protecting from the virus. Care homes should be better managed and resourced. Older people who live outside such institutions may shield themselves from infection, if they choose to, though some may prefer to take the risk. But the young and healthy should not be deprived of the ability to live fulfilling and productive lives simply to spare the old and vulnerable from taking precautions for their own safety. The lower proportion of positive test results from older people since the summer suggests that many of them are already doing so.

Read more …

Political persecution?!

Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited To US But Can Also Appeal (BBC)

A long-running effort to extradite file-sharing site mogul Kim Dotcom to the US has been left in limbo after a Supreme Court decision in New Zealand. The court ruled that he can be returned to the US to face copyright charges – but has also overturned another lower court’s decision, effectively granting him the right to appeal. Mr Dotcom himself described the ruling as a “mixed bag”. The legal wrangling is likely to continue. The court ruled that Kim Dotcom and his three co-accused were liable for extradition on 12 of the 13 counts the FBI is seeking to charge them with. But it also ruled that the Court of Appeal had erred in dismissing judicial review requests from Mr Dotcom, and granted him the right to continue with them.

The FBI alleges that Megaupload facilitated copyright infringement on a huge scale, but Mr Dotcom’s lawyers argue that the website was never meant to encourage copyright breaches. If he is extradited, he faces a lengthy jail term. In response to the ruling, he tweeted a statement from his lawyers which read: “For the Dotcom team, and especially for Kim and his family, it is a mixed bag.” “There is no final determination that he is to go to the United States. However, the court has not accepted our important copyright argument and in our view has made significant determinations that will have an immediate and chilling impact on the internet.”

The controversial figure founded file-sharing site Megaupload in 2005, and made millions of dollars from advertising and premium subscriptions. At one point, he boasted that it was responsible for 4% of internet traffic. In 2012, he was arrested when armed police stormed his Auckland home in a dramatic dawn raid, which was later to become the subject of its own legal enquiry, when Mr Dotcom sued for damages. A district court in New Zealand ruled in 2015 that he could be extradited, but a series of appeals and judicial reviews followed. Lawyers for Mr Dotcom argued that his actions did not amount to criminal offences in New Zealand, and were therefore not extraditable.

Read more …

And who goes to jail?

Bayer Takes Over $10 Billion Write-Down Over Monsanto Roundup Weed Killer (RT)

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer said it’s facing a double hit from a higher legal bill for claims relating to weed killer Roundup and €9.25 billion ($10.8 billion) in impairments on Monsanto-related agriculture businesses. According to the company, the write-downs were driven by weaker demand from farmers due to low biofuel prices and an increase of about $750 million in the costs of settlement terms with US plaintiffs over Roundup. As a result, the losses before interest and tax amounted to €9.4 billion ($10.9 billion) in the third quarter. “The impact of the (coronavirus) pandemic is placing additional strain on our Crop Science Division. We are also facing negative currency effects,” Chief Financial Officer Wolfgang Nickl said as quoted by Reuters.


Nickl explained that a massive depreciation of the Brazilian real was weighing heavily on the firm’s business in the world’s second-largest agricultural market. Bayer said it was unable to say what part of the impairment was attributable to legacy Monsanto businesses, saying only that two-thirds of the write-downs were due to currency and interest rate effects. Bayer has been under fire and facing a wave of lawsuits in the US over Roundup since its 2018 takeover of Monsanto for about $63 billion. The deal made Bayer the world’s largest supplier of seeds and pesticides. In June, Bayer struck an $11 billion outline agreement with US plaintiffs’ lawyers, but a judge later took issue with a side arrangement on future cases that may yet be lodged, known as a class plan.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 052020
 


DPC On the beach, Coney Island 1907

 

After Pakistan’s Lockdown Gamble, COVID19 Cases Surge (R.)
Most COVID-19 Cases In BC Have Strains From Europe And Eastern Canada (CBC)
Authors Retract Influential Lancet Article That Found HCQ Risks (R.)
ECB Gives Another Shot Of Stimulus As Economy Reels (R.)
Japan’s Household Spending Falls At Record Pace As Virus Stalls Economy (R.)
China Can’t Take Over US Security Presence in SE Asia: Singapore PM (SCMP)
US Schools Lay Off Hundreds Of Thousands, Setting Up Lasting Harm To Kids (R.)
Medical Martial Law: Liberalism’s Final Capitulation (Pear)
Trump Fires Back At Critics Murkowski, Mattis And Kelly (JTN)
Rosenstein Slams McCabe, Obstruction Theories, 1000 Former Prosecutors (Turley)
The Hunt For The Origins Of The Russia Collusion Narrative (JTN)

 

 

Seen a whole new bunch of utterly sickening videos again. As I said a few days ago, nothing has changed with policing in the US other than that now everyone has a camera.

But i don’t think it’s much use to post all that mindless violence here.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 4 at + 129,990. A new record. The increase in cases warrants much more attention than it gets.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 22,406
• Brazil + 31,890
• Russia + 8,831
• India + 9,908
• Chile + 4,664
• Pakistan + 3,895
• Mexico + 4,442

 

 

New daily highs in Covid-19 cases and deaths for India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico.

Another 20,000+ cases and another 1,000+ dead in the United States.

 

 

Worldometer puts global new deaths for June 4 at + 5,499.

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 6,724,096 (+ 127,595 from yesterday’s 6,596,501)

Deaths 393,553 (+ 5,132 from yesterday’s 388,421)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A curious initiative.

 

 

Taleb principles

 

 

Pakistan may be more inclined towards lifting a lockdown due to its poverty, but the cost will in the end almost certainly be much higher because of it, both in economic terms and in lives.

After Pakistan’s Lockdown Gamble, COVID19 Cases Surge (R.)

Four weeks ago, with its most important festival coming up and millions of people facing starvation as economic activity dwindled, Pakistan lifted a two-month-long coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Imran Khan has said despite rising infections and deaths, the country would need to learn to “live with” the virus to avert pushing tens of millions living on daily wages into destitution. Now, a Reuters review of government data shows over 20,000 cases of the virus were identified in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, and more than double that figure were identified in the three weeks since. To be sure, testing rates have also increased. But of those tested, the daily average of positive results climbed from on average 11.5% in the three weeks before the lockdown was lifted, to 15.4% on average in the subsequent three weeks.

The ratio is around 23% this week, according to the data. Pakistan has officially identified over 80,000 cases of COVID-19, with 1,770 confirmed deaths. “Those numbers are concerning, since they do suggest there may still be widespread transmission in certain parts of the country,” said Claire Standley, assistant research professor at the Department of International Health at Georgetown University. [..] According to a letter seen by Reuters, a committee of experts backed by the local health department in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, told the provincial government the lockdown needed to continue. The letter said random testing suggested more than 670,000 people in the provincial capital Lahore had likely contracted the virus, many of them asymptomatic.


Pakistan lifted its lockdown on May 9, about two weeks before the Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and is celebrated with family gatherings and feasting. Transport and most businesses have re-opened but cinemas, theatres and schools remain closed. There has been growing debate among experts globally on whether populous developing nations can afford comprehensive social distancing measures to contain the coronavirus while avoiding economic ruin.

Read more …

Very useful research, albeit a bit too localized.

Most COVID-19 Cases In BC Have Strains From Europe And Eastern Canada (CBC)

Strains traced to Europe and Eastern Canada are by far the largest source of COVID-19 infections in B.C., according to new modelling presented by the provincial government Thursday. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry revealed the results of genomic tracing of different strains of the virus, showing that of those samples that have been sequenced, early cases linked to travel from China and Iran appear to have been well contained, leading to relatively few other infections. But beginning in March, with an outbreak that began with the Pacific Dental Conference in Vancouver, infections with strains from Eastern Canada and Europe spiked dramatically.

“One of the people that we knew was positive and had attended that conference had previously been in Germany during his incubation period before he became ill,” Henry said. Strains traced to Washington state have also been linked to a large number of cases, particularly in long-term care homes in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Henry explained that this kind of tracing is possible because the genome of the virus changes relatively quickly, but not as fast as diseases like influenza. She also announced nine new confirmed cases of the virus on Thursday, for a total of 2,632 to date. No new deaths have been recorded, leaving B.C.’s total at 166.


The new cases announced Thursday include four people who have already recovered, people that Henry described as epidemiologically linked to previous patients who have tested positive. This means these four people were close contacts of known cases and developed symptoms of COVID-19, but may not have had access to testing at the time.

Read more …

As I commented yesterday: when they say they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources”, that means they never could, because they never had access to the data or the sources. We know this because it’s not as if either has dramatically changed since publication, or they would have mentioned it.

Authors Retract Influential Lancet Article That Found HCQ Risks (R.)

An influential medical journal article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients was retracted on Thursday, adding to the controversy around a drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump. Three of the authors of the article retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data in the study. The anti-malarial drug has been controversial in part due to support from Trump, as well as implications of the study published in British medical journal the Lancet last month, which led several COVID-19 studies to be halted. The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and that they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”


The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, the chief executive of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction. [..] Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that relied on Surgisphere data and shared the same lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, was also retracted for the same reason. The observational study published in the Lancet on May 22 said it looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.

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The idea: save the banks so they can lend money at higher rates than they borrow at from the ECB. Utterly crazy and useless.

ECB Gives Another Shot Of Stimulus As Economy Reels (R.)

Just months after a raft of crisis measures, the ECB again expanded its money-printing scheme to cushion a potential fall in output of up to 12% this year, even as governments spend record amounts to preserve jobs while restrictions keep businesses shuttered. “The euro area economy is experiencing an unprecedented contraction,” ECB President Christine Lagarde said. “There has been an abrupt drop in economic activity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain it.” The ECB’s move, coming just weeks after Germany’s Constitutional Court tried to curb its powers, was also seen as an act of defiance, with one of the European Union’s most powerful institutions making clear it would not take orders from national courts.

Thursday’s decision extended the ECB’s emergency bond purchase scheme to mid-2021 and increased it by 600 billion euros to 1.35 trillion euros. That should allow the bank to buy up most of the new debt euro zone governments are issuing to overcome the pandemic. Three sources told Reuters that figure was a compromise after policymakers discussed an expansion of between 500 billion and 750 billion euros. Markets rallied on the decision, with bond yields on the bloc’s periphery tumbling, suggesting the measures would give a bigger boost to nations such as Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic and struggling with high debt levels.


Ten-year Italian yields fell by 14 basis points, but perhaps more importantly the gap between Italian and German bonds, a key benchmark, narrowed by 16 basis points. The ECB’s bond purchases come on top of big German spending plans and an ambitious European Union fiscal package, pointing to the biggest coordinated effort in the euro’s 20-year history. ECB staff dramatically revised downward their baseline scenario for euro zone output this year to a contraction of 8.7% from the modest 0.8% rise they forecast only in March.

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After ten years of Abenomics failure, here comes deflation again. Only now Abe can blame a virus.

Japan’s Household Spending Falls At Record Pace As Virus Stalls Economy (R.)

Japan’s household spending fell at the fastest pace on record in April as the coronavirus shut down travel and dining-out in the world’s third-largest economy, and prospects of higher jobs losses chilled consumer sentiment. The dismal number will keep policymakers under pressure to prevent a larger decline in the economy, which is expected to fall deeper into recession this quarter. Household spending tumbled 11.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, marking the fastest pace of decline since comparable data became available in 2001. The decline was slower than a median forecast of a 15.4% fall and followed March’s 6.0% decline.

Many analysts expect consumption to have bottomed out in April or May, as businesses re-open after last month’s lifting of nationwide lockdowns. But any rebound will be slow and fragile, as companies and households remain wary of spending, they say. “Unless effective vaccines are developed, a strong recovery cannot be expected for the foreseeable future,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. Friday’s data showed some winners and losers. Spending on bars, plane tickets, hotels and amusement parks tanked by around 90% as households were forced to stay home, the data showed.


On the other hand, stay-home policies boosted spending on pasta by 70%, instant noodles by 43% and sanitary goods like face masks by 124%, it showed. Overall, however, an expected rise in job losses and the hit to household sentiment from the pandemic will weigh on consumption, analysts say. “A lot of people are out of work and couldn’t look for jobs during lockdowns in April. Wages are likely to fall too, which will weigh on consumption,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. “Japan’s economy will rebound in July-September if there’s no renewed spike in infections. Even so, it may take until 2023 or 2024 for the economy to return to pre-COVID levels.”

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“Any confrontation between these two great powers is unlikely to end as the Cold War did, in one country’s peaceful collapse..”

China Can’t Take Over US Security Presence in SE Asia: Singapore PM (SCMP)

The US security presence “remains vital to the Asia-Pacific region,” and China would be unable to take over that role in Southeast Asia even with its increasing military might, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said. In an article published by Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Lee wrote that China’s competing maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea meant that countries in the region will “always see China’s naval presence as an attempt to advance those claims”. He also wrote that many Southeast Asian nations are “extremely sensitive” about perceptions that China has influence on their sizeable ethnic Chinese minorities.

“Despite its increasing military strength, China would be unable to take over the United States’ security role,” he wrote, adding that a US withdrawal in North Asia would compel Japan and South Korea to contemplate developing nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s growing threat. Lee’s article comes as tensions between the US and China continue to escalate, with the world’s biggest economies sparring on everything from 5G networks to the South China Sea to responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic. Singapore has been one of the most outspoken countries in Asia calling for the US and China to avoid a destructive clash that would force smaller countries to choose sides.


“Asia-Pacific countries do not wish to be forced to choose between the United States and China,” Lee wrote, echoing comments he’s made previously. “They want to cultivate good relations with both.” Lee warned that if the US tried to contain China, or if Beijing sought to build an exclusive sphere of influence in Asia, the two countries “will begin a course of confrontation that will last decades and put the long-heralded Asian century in jeopardy”. “Any confrontation between these two great powers is unlikely to end as the Cold War did, in one country’s peaceful collapse,” he wrote.

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You mean worse damage to kids than the school system itself inflicts? I’d say it’s a toss-up at best.

US Schools Lay Off Hundreds Of Thousands, Setting Up Lasting Harm To Kids (R.)

In April alone, 469,000 public school district personnel nationally lost their jobs, including kindergarten through twelfth-grade teachers and other school employees, a Labor Department economist told Reuters. That is more than the nearly 300,000 total during the entire 2008 Great Recession, according to a 2014 paper by three university economists financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. The number of public school teachers hasn’t recovered from that shakeout, reaching near-2008 levels only in 2019. Multiple school district administrators, public officials and teaching experts have warned that the current school personnel job loss will last for years, hurting the education of a generation of American students. It also could be a drag on economic recovery, for one thing because school districts are big employers.

The Labor Department reported on May 8 that 20.5 million non-farm workers lost jobs in April, including 980,000 government workers. Of those, 801,000 were local government employees. Although the Labor Department report does not break out the number, 469,000 of the 801,000 local government workers were K-12 public school teachers and other school personnel, the department economist told Reuters. School districts in poor areas face the most punishing blows. A Brookings Institution paper in April predicted that education layoffs “would come at the worst possible time for high-poverty schools, as even more students fall into poverty and need more from schools as their parents and guardians lose their own jobs.”


Low-income districts are particularly troubled because of plunging revenue amid the Covid-19 recession. Districts rely for revenue on local property taxes and state subsidies. Poorer districts, where property tax revenue is low, rely on states for most of their income. With states hit hard by falling income and sales taxes, aid to school districts is dwindling in many places. [..] April was an especially cruel month for education. The Labor Department report said that in addition to the 469,000 K-12 personnel, state-run colleges and universities laid off 176,000 professors and other employees. Private schools, including well-known colleges and universities and K-12 private schools, were down by 457,000.

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Don’t choose sides. There is only one.

Medical Martial Law: Liberalism’s Final Capitulation (Pear)

Liberals elected Barack Obama in 2008, laughed, cheered, cried, and then they went to sleep for eight years. They thought that Obama would do the heavy lifting for them. Instead he went from bombing three countries to bombing seven, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize for nothing. Obama looked the other way as the Police Occupied Zuccotti Park, Black Lives Didn’t Matter, and Dakota Pipelined. Obama imprisoned and tortured whistleblowers, and he became the deporter-in-chief. He bailed out the banks, while millions of families lost their homes. Obamacare enriched insurance companies and big-pharma. Gitmo stands as the legacy of Obama’s droning wedding parties and funerals, and for all his broken promises. His answer to climate change was Artic drilling, and fracking the USA.

Obama and the liberal class are the reason we have Trump. The rich do not care about any of the liberal class’s identity politics and correctness. It costs the rich nothing to make those concessions. The liberals are not willing to fight for anything of importance, and the corporatists know it. The corporatists don’t care if Trump or Biden is the next president. Bernie or bust! Fugget about it: Bernie Sanders is just a sheepdog, a foil, a professional wrestler, and Kabuki theater. Bernie is the Senator from Lockheed and Israel. He is a carnival huckster, herding the liberal suckers into the big tent. The DNC will be happy to keep Trump. They get to keep their jobs, their power, their influence, and the gravy train keeps on rolling.


Nancy Pelosi will still get her kicks from gourmet chocolate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will keep making arm-waving rants to an empty House, Ilhan Omar will kowtow to the Zionist lobby, and the Congressional Black Caucus will vote against blacks. Liberals will grandstand politically correct platitudes, while the banks, corporations, military-industrial complex, Israel, and the well-connected get unlimited hand-outs. Lest I forget, fake liberal Rachel Maddow and her ilk in the media will still get paid $30 thousand a night for “Russia-Russia-Russia!”, and the New York Times will endorse every regime-change war, just as it has done for the past 150 years. And Liberals will commiserate with each other, preach to their dwindling choir, blame everybody except themselves, and waste another four years without organizing any opposition.

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Much ado about nothing at all. Clickbait.

Trump Fires Back At Critics Murkowski, Mattis And Kelly (JTN)

President Trump on Thursday unleashed Twitter attacks against former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, pledging to see the latter unseated during her next election. Trump said he will campaign against Murkowski and endorse a candidate who challenges her. Earlier on Thursday, Murkowski said that she is “struggling” with whether to support the president in the upcoming election. “Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski. She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else,” Trump tweeted.


“Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!” Trump also tweeted the text of a note in which his former attorney John Dowd excoriated James Mattis, the former Defense Secretary who on Wednesday issued a scathing rebuke of the president. The president urged people to read the note that Dowd wrote lambasting Mattis. “Perhaps, your anger is borne of embarrassment for your own failure as the leader of Central Command,” Dowd said to Mattis in the note.

And Trump’s former Chief of Staff John Kelly did not escape the president’s fiery criticism on Thursday either. The Washington Post quoted Kelly disputing Trump’s claim that he fired Mattis and requested his resignation. “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly said. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honorable man.” Trump lobbed several tweets about Kelly, including one in which he said Kelly “was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked away into obscurity.”

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Rosenstein has resolved not to go quiet.

Rosenstein Slams McCabe, Obstruction Theories, 1000 Former Prosecutors (Turley)

Yesterday, we did our first live blogging on a hearing with former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. There was a lot of broken china after the hearing was over. Indeed, the most interesting aspect was that some of the greatest damage for the Democratic narrative occurred during ill-considered questions from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) who elicited a series of answers supporting the Trump Administration and the purpose of further hearings. Rosenstein ultimately supported the need for further investigations into FBI misconduct, supported the Durham investigation, categorically dismissed claims that Trump committed obstruction of justice, and most importantly stated that he would not have signed off on the continued surveillance under the FISA for Carter Page if he knew the truth about claims of Russian collusion.

That was just a few of the highlights. He also dismissed objections from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the “1000 prosecutors” who were so widely cited as claiming that there was clear criminal conduct by Trump. The most important moment came at the beginning of Rosenstein’s testimony when he acknowledged that there were serious flaws and misconduct involved in the Russian investigation and that, if he knew then what he knows now, he would have put a stop to it, including refusing to sign off on the continued of the FISA surveillance on Page. He also repeatedly said in contradiction to the Democratic senators that he believed that there was a need for further investigation and that much more needs to be known about what occurred, including the source of “disinformation” in the Steele dossier and whether Steele was used by Russian intelligence and other sources for nefarious purposes.


On the investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham, Rosenstein repeatedly endorsed the need to look into the entire Russian investigation and added “Attorney General Barr is trusting US attorney Durham to do that. I think that’s a reasonable decision.” Rosenstein also acknowledged that we still need to know more about the disinformation and that an investigation is warranted on the Steele dossier and other related issues.

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And now come the rest. Everyone but Obama and Biden. But that won’t save them.

The Hunt For The Origins Of The Russia Collusion Narrative (JTN)

Hollywood once gave us the Cold War thriller called “The Hunt for Red October.” And now the U.S. Senate and its Republican committee chairmen in Washington have launched a different sort of hunt made for the movies. Armed with subpoenas, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., want to interrogate a slew of Obama-era intelligence and law enforcement officials hoping to identify who invented and sustained the bogus Russia collusion narrative that hampered Donald Trump’s early presidency. And while Graham and Johnson aren’t exactly Sean Connery and Alex Baldwin, they and their GOP cohorts have a theory worthy of a Tom Clancy novel-turned-movie: The Russia collusion investigation was really a plot by an outgoing administration to thwart the new president.

[..] For much of the last two years, the exact theory that congressional Republicans held about the bungled, corrupt Russia probe — where collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was ultimately disproven and FBI misconduct was confirmed — was always evolving. But after explosive testimony this week from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who openly accused the FBI of keeping him in the dark about flaws, failures and exculpatory evidence in the case, the GOP believes it may prove the Russia case was a conspiracy to use the most powerful law enforcement and intelligence tools in America to harm Trump.

[..] “There are millions of Americans pretty upset about this,” Graham said this week. “There are people on our side of the aisle who believe this investigation, Crossfire Hurricane, was one of the most corrupt, biased criminal investigations in the history of the FBI. And we’d like to see something done about it.” Graham tried to take action to approve 50-plus subpoenas from the Senate Judiciary Committee to witnesses on Thursday but was forced to delay a week. Johnson, meanwhile, successfully secured about three dozen subpoenas to get documents and interviews with key witnesses from his Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.


Evidence is growing, Johnson said, that there was not a “peaceful and cooperative” transition between the Obama and Trump administrations in 2017. “The conduct we know that occurred during the transition should concern everyone and absolutely warrants further investigation,” he said. With Rosenstein’s testimony now behind them, the senators have some lofty targets for interviews or testimony going forward, including fired FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, ex-CIA Director John Brennan, and the former chiefs of staff for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

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Obama, Biden And Democratic Party Desperately Try To Co-Opt Protest. They Think We’re Stupid!

 

 

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Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

 

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)
Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)
Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)
Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)
SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)
Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)
London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)
West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Migrant Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

 

 

Central banker who makes an excellent case against central bank interference in interest rates. But he doesn’t even get it himself, so how can a petty journalist? The idea that somehow magically conditions will (re-)appear that favor raising rates is as faulty as it is dumb. There is no way back. They’ve entered a black hole, they’ve crossed the event horizon.

ECB’s Knot Says Low Rate Policy Risks Becoming Counterproductive (R.)

Interest rates in the euro zone could remain historically low for years, but the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ultra-loose monetary policy risks becoming counterproductive, ECB governing council member Klaas Knot said in an interview published on Monday. “I do not have a crystal ball, but I cannot rule out that the current low interest rate environment could last another five years”, Knot told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. “This worries me, because temporarily low interest rates are something quite different from persistently low interest rates.” The Dutch central bank president said the current low rates lead to excessive risk taking among investors, while younger generations on the other hand might feel forced to keep increasing their savings.


“From a macro-economic perspective that would be undesirable,” Knot said. “And it is also an example of how our low interest rate policy may eventually shoot itself in the foot. If people start saving more in response to the low interest rates, this will add further downward pressure on inflation.” Knot is a frequent critic of the ECB’s ultra-easy monetary policy, and slammed the bank’s new stimulus measures earlier this year as disproportionate. The Dutchman has repeatedly said he is looking forward to the strategic review of ECB policy, promised by its new President Christine Lagarde, and has called for the bank to adopt a more flexible inflation target. “The balance between positive and negative effects of the low interest rates is shifting in the wrong direction”, he told the paper.

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High crimes.

Doomsday Debt Machine: Impeach Congress, Too! (Stockman)

If bringing one’s country to fiscal ruin were an impeachable offense, you’d have to impeach the entire city of Washington. On December 16 the gross Federal debt breached a new level to $23.1 trillion, while the net debt after $401 billion of cash weighed in at $22.71 trillion. The latter monstrous figure is notable because on June 30, 2019 it stood at $21.76 trillion. So what has happened in the last 167 days is a $948 billion increase in the Uncle Sam’s net debt, which amounts to a gain of $5.7 billion per day – including, as we like to say, weekends, holidays and snow days.

Worse still, not a single dollar of that gain got absorbed in government trust funds. The Treasury float held by the public actually rose by $953 billion. So why in the world do the knuckleheads on bubblevision not understand where the spiking rates and ructions in the repo market came from? The law of supply and demand is still operative, and the US Treasury is literally flooding the bond pits with new supply. Even at the bottom of the Great Recession, Uncle Sam did not drain $5.7 billion per day from the bond market.


But nary a soul down in the Imperial City has noticed this borrowing eruption at the tippy-top of the business cycle, which now teeters on borrowed time at a record 127 months of age. Instead, this very day the Congress is busily engaged in what is a fair approximation of abolishing the election process at the heart of American democracy. We will address today’s hideous impeachment Gong Show below. But here we note that every talking head showing up on the screen today is claiming that the market can keep on bubbling higher because the pending impeachment of the nation’s 45th president is a great big nothingburger. Au contraire!

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It’s not easy to even imagine, but there are people who see Pelosi as a hero. That they need to quote Leon Panetta to make that case should say enough. Still, after, Russiagate, Mueller, Ukrainegate, Pelosi refusing to send article to the Senate, this is just deaf, dumb and blind.

Nancy Pelosi: The Woman Who Stood Up To Trump (G.)

In December 2018, weeks after the Democrats’ conquest of the House, the soon-to-be speaker arrived for a White House meeting with Donald Trump. The subject was a government shutdown but the subtext was a showdown between the most powerful woman in American politics and the president of the United States. In the extraordinary, televised exchange that followed, Trump sought to undermine Nancy Pelosi, whom he repeatedly addressed as “Nancy”, by reminding his audience in the Oval Office – and those watching at home – that she had yet to secure the 218 votes needed to reclaim the speakership and was “in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now”. Her response was sharp and sure. “Mr President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting.”

It was the first test of a new power dynamic in Washington and when it ended, there was little disagreement over who had won. Pelosi emerged from the White House wearing a now-famous burnt-orange coat, sunglasses and the triumphant smile of a woman who has never forgotten the advice imparted to her by the late Louisiana congresswoman Lindy Boggs: “Darlin’, know thy power and use it.” That 15-minute Oval Office meeting marked the beginning of a struggle between Pelosi and Trump that culminated last week in the president’s impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Pelosi, dressed in funeral black, banged down her speaker’s gavel to finalize the vote, binding together their legacies for all time.

It was not how Pelosi, who once said Trump was “not worth” impeaching, had hoped to end a year that began with her historic, second ascension to the speakership. Pelosi, the first – and only – woman ever to serve as Speaker of the House, would rather be remembered for legislative accomplishments – the Affordable Care Act above all – than for impeachment. But Trump, Pelosi said, left her “no choice”. She quoted Thomas Paine: “The times have found us.” In the wake of Trump’s impeachment, however, Democrats believe there was perhaps no leader better suited to the times. “She is, thank God, the exact right person in the right place at the right time,” said Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary and CIA director and a California native who’s known Pelosi for decades.

“I’m not sure anybody else would have had the experience or capability to be able to do what she has done.” “Donald Trump really has met his match with Nancy,” Panetta added. Her grace under fire as speaker has earned comparisons to Sam Rayburn, the country’s longest-serving speaker, who died in 1961. One Democrat called her an “as good or better” legislative leader than Lyndon Johnson, who was a Senate majority leader before he was president. And when the question is asked whether a female presidential candidate can beat Trump in 2020, the Democrats point to Pelosi, who “does it every single day”.

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It’s OK for the FBI to break the law 6 ways from Sunday because Schiff doesn’t like the guy they spied on. And it’s not even 2020 yet.

Adam Schiff Has ‘No Sympathy’ For FBI Victim Carter Page (ZH)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it’s hard to feel sympathetic for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, despite the fact that he was spied on by the FBI after the agency fabricated evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After the FISA court denied their request, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith fabricated evidence to exclude the fact that Page was a CIA source, with “positive assessment,” despite the fact that the CIA informed Clinesmith of Page’s prior work for the agency. Schiff, however, has no love for Page despite DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz finding 16 significant ‘errors’ in the FBI’s FISA applications used to surveil Page.


“I have to say, you know, Carter Page came before our Committee and for hours of his testimony, denied things that we knew were true, later had to admit them during his testimony,” Schiff told PBS News’ Margaret Hoover. “It’s hard to be sympathetic to someone who isn’t honest with you when he comes and testifies under oath. It’s also hard to be sympathetic when you have someone who has admitted to being an adviser to the Kremlin.” Hoover countered, noting “But then was also informing the CIA,” to which Schiff replies “Yes, yes.” “Which we didn’t know about,” replied Hoover. “Who was both targeted by the KGB but also talking to the United States and its agencies and that should have been included, made clear, and it wasn’t, according to the inspector general,” Schiff responded.

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When is the last time Australia had an actual politician? How is the entire country not a province for US and UK bankers to loot?

SmoCo Sneaks Home Amid The Ashes Of His Government (MB)

There are moments in politics when everything that has come before is crystalised in a moment. Malcolm Turnbull branded himself a phony when he leapt into bed with the Coalition’s right wing. Tony Abbott captured himself when he recommended Prince Phillip be offered an Australian knighthood. Before him, John Howard made himself a political legend when he threw children overboard. Julia Gillard did it in her act of backstabbing. Kevin Rudd did it when he dumped climate change mitigation for Big Australia. Paul Keating branded himself forever with the “recession we had to have”. So on and so forth. These are moments when the truth about a leader’s character is revealed for all to see and branded that way forever more.

For Keating it was arrogance. For Howard it was opportunism. For Rudd it was narcissism. For Gillard it was illegitimacy. For Abbott it was archaic ineptitute. For Turnbull it was hollowness. That moment arrived last week for Scott Morrison. He will henceforth be remembered as SmoCo, the guy that fled to Hawaii – sand, sun and Mai Tais – as his nation burned to the ground. No doubt his minders will kid themselves that he can spin his way out of it. That the marketing guru will find a new angle to shift the blame elsewhere. They are wrong. The Morrsion Government is now covered in ash and forever will be. Over Christmas tables across the nation for the next week, SmoCo will be a combined laughing stock and object of incredulous anger.

SmoCo of the “quiet Australians” has become instead the incredible vanishing PM. In truth, it’s not all SmoCo’s fault. His party is really to blame. It has made destructive climate politics the centre of its value system for thirty years. It has unilaterally blockaded global action. It has embraced and defended carbon interests. It has ruined the debate with pseudo-science. It has trashed energy policy and twisted mitigation policy to such an extent that Australia now faces combined environmental and energy calamity. From day one, it has divided and conquered instead of uniting and acting.

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Another one of those discussions that cannot be avoided or ignored. Still, Sanders and Warren haven’t found the solution yet.

Why Public College Should Be Free (Covert)

Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans to reduce the exorbitant cost of college. But there’s an emerging rift: On one side, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed making public college free for all; on the other, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar want to make it free for only a slice of the population. The latter worry that by providing free college to everyone who wants it—including, in Buttigieg’s words, “the children of millionaires and billionaires”—too many resources will be squandered on the rich. In reality, we already subsidize college for kids from wealthy families, and those further down the income scale would benefit the most if public institutions were free.

In 2017, the most recent year for which we have data, all of the tuition and fees charged by public colleges came to $75.8 billion. That’s less than what the federal government spends to subsidize the cost of college. In the same year, the government disbursed about $160 billion in the form of student loans, grants, and tax breaks to help make higher education less of a burden on American families. Certainly the students who take advantage of those federal funds use them to go to a variety of higher education institutions, not just public colleges. But it would be more efficient to simply eliminate public college tuition than to spend all that money propping up institutions through a maze of grants and tax breaks.

Right now, the government’s money flows largely to well-off students. After student loans, the biggest chunk of student aid is delivered through the tax code; excluding loans, it makes up more than half of all aid. In 2012 the federal government gave $34 billion in tax breaks, a billion more than it spent on Pell Grants for those in financial need. And most of that money is going to the wealthiest families. In 2013, for example, families that made $100,000 or more a year captured more than half of the tuition and fees deduction as well as the exemption for dependent students.

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Murray is a proud Scot.

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people. It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30. Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.


I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage: “The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self determination. For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future. The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.”

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Colonialism takes many forms.

West Africa Renames CFA Franc But Keeps It Pegged To Euro (R.)

West Africa’s monetary union has agreed with France to rename its CFA franc the Eco and cut some of the financial links with Paris that have underpinned the region’s common currency since its creation soon World War Two. Under the deal, the Eco will remain pegged to the euro but the African countries in the bloc won’t have to keep 50% of their reserves in the French Treasury and there will no longer be a French representative on the currency union’s board. Critics of the CFA have long seen it as a relic from colonial times while proponents of the currency say it has provided financial stability in a sometimes turbulent region.

“This is a historic day for West Africa,” Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said during a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in the country’s main city Abidjan. In 2017, Macron highlighted the stabilizing benefits of the CFA but said it was up to African governments to determine the future of the currency. “Yes, it’s the end of certain relics of the past. Yes it’s progress … I do not want influence through guardianship, I do not want influence through intrusion. That’s not the century that’s being built today,” said Macron. The CFA is used in 14 African countries with a combined population of about 150 million and $235 billion of gross domestic product.

However, the changes will only affect the West African form of the currency used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo – all former French colonies except Guinea Bissau. The six countries using the Central African CFA are Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, – all former French colonies with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. The CFA’s value relative to the French franc remained unchanged from 1948 through to 1994 when it was devalued by 50% to boost exports from the region.

Read more …

Another attack on Assad, under a different guise. We eagerly await comment from Bellingcat and the White Helmets. And what’s that smell?

Erdogan Says Turkey Can’t Handle New Refugee Wave From Syria, Warns Europe (R.)

Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped. Turkey currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world, and fears another wave from the Idlib region, where up to 3 million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory. Syrian and Russian forces have intensified their bombardment of targets in Idlib, which Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to recapture, prompting a wave of refugees toward Turkey.

Speaking at an awards ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday night, Erdogan said more than 80,000 people were currently on the move from Idlib to Turkey. “If the violence toward the people of Idlib does not stop, this number will increase even more. In that case, Turkey will not carry such a migrant burden on its own,” Erdogan said. “The negative impact of the pressure we will be subjected to will be something that all European nations, especially Greece, will also feel,” he said, adding that a repeat of the 2015 migrant crisis would become inevitable. He also said Turkey was doing everything possible to stop Russian bombardments in Idlib, adding that a Turkish delegation would go to Moscow to discuss Syria on Monday.

[..] Turkey is seeking international support for plans to settle 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that its forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized from the Kurdish YPG militia in a cross-border incursion in October. Ankara has received little public backing for the proposal and has repeatedly slammed its allies for not supporting its plans. Turkey’s offensive was also met with condemnation from allies, including the United States and European countries. “We call on European countries to use their energy to stop the massacre in Idlib, rather than trying to corner Turkey for the legitimate steps it took in Syria,” Erdogan said on Sunday, referring to the three military operations Turkey has carried out in Syria.

After a global refugee forum in Geneva last week, the United Nations refugee agency said states pledged more than $3 billion to support refugees and around 50,000 resettlement places. But, Erdogan, who attended the forum, said on Sunday that sum was not enough. U.N agencies say hundreds of people have been killed in Idlib this year after attacks on residential areas. Russia and the Syrian army, which is loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, both deny allegations of indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and say they are fighting al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 062019
 


Paul Gauguin When are you getting married? 1892

 

 

It wasn’t really the plan to make this a series, but it seems to have turned into one. Part 1 is here: The Fed Detests Free Markets. Part 3 will follow soon. And yeah, I did think perhaps I should have called this one “End The Fed” Is No Longer Enough. Because that’s the idea here. But what’s in a name?

 

 

Okay, let’s talk a bit more about finance again. Though I still think this requires caution, because the meaning of the terminology used in such conversations appears to have acquired ever more diverse meanings for different groups of people. Up to the point where you must ask: are we really still talking about the same thing here?

I’ve said multiple times before that there are no more markets really, or investors, because central banks have killed off the markets. There are still “contraptions” that look like them, like the real thing, but they’re fake. You can see this every time a Fed chief opens their mouth and every single person involved in the fake markets hangs on their lips.

They do that because that Fed head actually determines what anything will be worth tomorrow, not the markets, since the Fed buys everything up, and puts interest rates down so more people can buy grossly overpriced property and assets, and allows companies to buy their own shares so nobody knows what they’re worth anymore.

The Fed today is in the business of propping up zombies. And when I say the Fed, that also means the ECB and BOJ, western central banks. I won’t get into the PBOC here, but they’re not far behind.

Recently, Christine Lagarde, the new ECB head, said the most incredible thing (at least to my ears, I guess not to hers):

We should be happier to have a job than to have our savings protected … I think that it is in this spirit that monetary policy has been decided by my predecessors and I think they made quite a beneficial choice.

Who on earth ever claimed jobs vs savings is some necessary or inevitable “choice”? Why should it be? If this were true, isn’t that a sign that something is terribly wrong? That you can have a job, but you can’t save anything? And aren’t the central banks to blame for that then?

The entire system has been built for decades around the notion that people save, either to purchase big items, or for their old age, and that people put money into their pension systems. And now central banks come along and in no time destroy what has been valid for all these years. And they never even warned about it.

Anyway, after Lagarde’s remarks, I guess the Fed’s Jay Powell felt he couldn’t be left behind and said:

US central bankers see a “sustained expansion” ahead for the country’s economy, with the full impact of recent interest rate cuts still to be felt and low unemployment boosting household spending, Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell said on Wednesday in remarks that brushed aside any worries of a looming slowdown.

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” and the current level of interest rates “appropriate,” Mr Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the joint economic committee of congress, a panel that includes some members from the House of Representatives and Senate.


His comments tracked closely to those in his news conference last month after the US central bank cut rates for the third time this year and signaled it was likely done reducing borrowing costs absent a significant change in the economic outlook. Despite “noteworthy risks” including slowing global growth and fallout from the US-China trade war, “my colleagues and I see a sustained expansion of economic activity … as most likely,” Mr Powell said in his prepared remarks for the hearing.

Former Goldman and Bear Stearns banker, and friend of the Automatic Earth, Nomi Prins, tweeted yesterday: “Tuesday, the Fed added $95 billion in liquidity to financial markets. Today, Fed’s vice chair told Congress, “The Board’s latest [review] confirms the current health of the banking system. It depicts a stable, healthy, and resilient banking sector…” The Fed’s official for supervision and regulation told Congress, “The Board’s latest Supervision and Regulation Report… describes steady improvements in safety and soundness, with a gradual decline in outstanding supervisory actions at both the largest & smallest organizations..”

“The baseline outlook remains favorable,” Powell said. That must be why they have been pulling out all the stops and invented new ones, for a decade+. Bernanke, Yellen, the lot of them, all because the baseline has remained so favorable. Why would anyone want to listen to this guy, who so obviously dabbles in complete nonsense? Well, because he’s the one giving the money away.

I think I can tell Mr. Powell what the “full impact of recent interest rate cuts” will be, what it will feel like, and it won’t be anywhere near what he pretends it will be. I must think he knows that too, or he’s an utter fool, and I don’t think he is. He’s just doing a job, while he’s worth $100 million, and that job is very different from how it’s presented to the public.

I’ll tell you about that full impact in part 3 of this Fed essay, which I left on the shelf for a long time because I thought people would declare me nuts, but which now, with increasing chatter of a next recession, maybe can be exposed to daylight. It’s about how grave the damage is that central banks have inflicted on their economies, something I never see discussed. Powell and Draghi/Lagarde and Kuroda are not just the ones giving the money away, they’re also taking it away, just not from the same people. And that latter part is much more important to societies and economies.

A third quote, just to complete the “circle”, deals with BOJ chief Kuroda; it’s from a June 2019 Reuters article entitled How Japan Turned Against Its ‘Bazooka’-Wielding Central Bank Chief:

The direction taken by the BOJ could determine whether Japan’s banking sector avoids a hard landing and whether Abe or his successor will lean on the central bank to take the most extreme step remaining: printing money for the explicit purpose of financing a national debt that is now more than twice the size of Japan’s economy. That could risk a costly downgrade by credit rating agencies for Japan, and, by extension, Japanese corporate borrowers.

The spurning of Kuroda-nomics also has political implications. It is part of a broader public dissatisfaction with what has been labeled “Abenomics” – the prime minister’s plan to reflate the economy out of prolonged stagnation through a combination of aggressive monetary easing, bold fiscal spending and fundamental structural reforms in the economy.


“Kuroda’s radical stimulus kept interest rates low, allowing politicians to delay reforms to get Japan’s fiscal house in order,” said Koichi Haji, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute. “The foot-dragging could cost Japan dearly. The options left for the BOJ all seem extreme.”

Options left for the BOJ will be even more extreme because Japan’s Birth Rate Has Hit Its Lowest Level Since Records Began In 1899. As a Dutch comment on that report said: “by 2050 there will be one working Japanese for every child or pensioner [..] Japan adopted a law in April designed to make it easier for foreigners to work in Japan. The goal was to attract 350,000 foreign workers. 8 months later, just 400 had arrived”.

And just this week we read that Japan is preparing another $120-$230 billion stimulus package. Extreme has become normal in no time. Only, the ratings agencies could lower their rating for Japan, because of this. Then again, why should they do it only for Japan? Everyone’s in “extreme” territory, or as Ben Bernanke called it in 2008, “uncharted territory”. Same difference.

 

But Lagarde is right on one thing: it is “the monetary policy decided by her predecessors” that has destroyed savings -and pensions-. How on earth she can call that “beneficial” is very hard to grasp. What is the goal, what is all these central bankers’ goal? That in the end nobody has any savings or pensions anymore, and they all must go into debt or perish? That would create entire societies made up of zombies. And that’s “policy”?

It’s policy to spin a fantasy tale so people like Jay Powell can claim that “the baseline outlook remains favorable” and “sustained expansion” lies ahead for the economy, and it’s policy to pay for that fantasy with money that belongs to savers and pensioners, and that you can then hand out to a bunch of zombie “investors”. That’s policy.

The role of today’s central bankers is possible only because the public are made to think these are very smart people that have the interest of Joe Blow at heart, and because they have “unlimited resources” to make stocks and bonds and the housing market look good. But what would happen if Joe Blow knew what is going on?

The Fed is now considering “policy” that “makes up for lost inflation”. No, stop laughing, I’m serious. Their extreme policies in uncharted territory have failed so dismally, they’ve obviously not been extreme enough.

Once they’ve gone down the path of extreme stimulus (not that they call it that), there’s no way back. Because they’ve just destroyed the markets, and then they go: let’s see how the markets react to that. Well, they don’t. They’re dead. You killed them. There are parties left who love feeding off of your free money teats, but they’re not the markets or even market participants. They’re rich socialists. But they’re also the only ones the Fed cares about.

Still, a central bank that doesn’t have the population at large, at the center of its policies, is a scourge on a society and/or country. And it should be abolished. But in the case of the Fed, ECB and BOJ, it is probably already too late for that. They have done their damage. “End The Fed” is no longer enough. Societies need to develop emergency measures to counter the damage done, or face untold misery, unrest and eventually, revolution.

People don’t see this, because these central banks -temporarily- taper over the disaster they’ve wrought with their “policies”. Time for the media to step in? No, it’s too late for that too, and besides, what media? They’ve been silent all along, why would they speak up now?

More in part 3.

 

 

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Nov 292019
 


Paul Gauguin Tahitians at rest (unfinished) 1891

 

To be completely honest, I wrote -most of- the second part of this a while ago, and then I was thinking this first part should be part of the second, if you can still follow me. But it doesn’t really, it’s fine. I wanted to write something to address how little people know and acknowledge about how disastrous central bank policies have been for our societies and economies.

Because they don’t, and they have no clue, largely and simply because of the way central banks are presented both by themselves and by the financial press that covers them. Make that “covers”. Still, going forward, we will have no way to ignore the damage done. All the QE and ZIRP and NIRP will turn out to be so destructive for us all they will rival climate change or actual warfare. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

 

You see, free markets are a great idea in theory. Or you can call it “capitalism”, or combine the two and say “free market capitalism”. There’s very little wrong with it in theory. You have an enormous multitude of participants in an utterly complex web of transitions, too complex for the human mind to comprehend, and in the end that web figures out what values all sorts of things, and actions etc., have.

I don’t think capitalism in itself is a bad thing; what people don’t like is when it veers into neo-liberalism, when everything is for sale, when communities or their governments no longer own anything, when roads and hospitals and public services and everything that holds people together in a given setting is being sold off to the highest bidder. There are many things that have values other than monetary ones, and neo-liberalism denies that. Capitalism in itself, not so much.

It’s like nature, really, like evolution, but it’s Darwin AND empathy, individuals AND groups. The problem is, and this is where it diverges from nature, you have to make sure the markets remain free, that certain participants -or groups thereof- don’t bend the rules in their own favor. In that sense it’s very similar to what the human race has been doing to nature for a long time, and increasingly so.

 

Now, if you limit the discussion to finance and economics, there would appear to be one institution that’s in an ideal place to make sure that this “rule-bending” doesn’t take place, that markets are fair and free, or as free as can be. That institution is a central bank. But whaddaya know, central banks do the exact opposite: they are the ones making sure markets are not free.

In the ideal picture, free markets are -or would be- self-correcting, and have an inbuilt self-regulating mechanism. If and when prices go up too much, the system will make sure they go lower, and vice versa. It’s what we know from physics and biology as a negative -self correcting- feedback loop. The self-correcting mechanism only activates if the system has veered too much in one direction, but we fail to see that as good thing when applied to both directions, too high and too low (yes, Goldilocks, exactly).

It’s only when people start tweaking and interfering with the system, that it fails. Negative feedback vs positive feedback are misunderstood terms simply because of their connotation. After all, who wants anything negative? But this is important in the free markets topic, because as soon as a central bank starts interfering in, name an example, housing prices in a country, the system automatically switches from negative feedback to positive -runaway- feedback, there is no middle ground and there is no way out anymore, other than a major crash or even collapse.

 

Well, we’re well on our way to one of those. Because the Fed refused to let the free market system work. They, and the banks they represent, wanted the way up but then refused the way down. And now we’re stuck in a mindless positive feedback loop (new highs in stocks on a daily basis), and there’s nothing Jay Powell and his minions can do anymore to correct it.

The system has its own correction mechanism, but Greenspan, Bernanke, Yellen and now Powell thought they could do better. Or maybe they didn’t and they just wanted their banker friends to haul in all the loot, it doesn’t even matter anymore. They’ve guaranteed that there are no free markets, because they murdered self-correction.

Same goes, again, for ECB and BOJ; they’re just Fed followers (only often even crazier). In fact since they have no petrodollar, they don’t just follow, they have to do the Fed one better. Which is why they have negative interest rates -and the US does not -yet-: it’s the only way to compete with the reserve currency. Of course today even the Fed, and “even even” the PBOC, are discussing moving to negative rates, and by now we’re truly talking lemmings on top of a cliff.

“Let’s throw $10 trillion at the wall just so home prices or stock prices don’t go down!” Yeah, but if they’ve been rising a lot, maybe that’s the only direction they can and should go. It may not be nice for banks and so-called “investors”, but it’s the only way to keep the system healthy. If you don’t allow for the negative feedback self-correction, you can only create much bigger problems than you already have. And then you will get negative feedback squared and cubed.

 

Unless, of course, you have stellar economic growth, and you find unparalleled amounts of oil, and you have a growing population with way more kids born than people dying. But in case you don’t, you’re merely making an initially relatively minor problem much much worse with QE and ZIRP.

What central banks have been doing is they’ve utterly destroyed savings and pensions, i.e. the only thing “ordinary” people had to stave off their own personal collapse and that of their communities. ZIRP and NIRP move all those savings and pensions towards the bankers. And yes, pension funds may have moved into equities from bonds, and they may look good momentarily, but the current parade of new highs in stock markets only exists because of central banks’ QE and ZIRP.

There are tons of zombie enterprises in the world, many of whom have been kept alive by central bank policies, but wait till it becomes evident that the pension funds and systems themselves have turned into zombies. That’ll wake you up. Because who’s going take care of grandma, or her daughter, in a few years’ time? One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Jay Powell.

 

This has gotten so long already I’ll leave the part 2 I mentioned above to be its own, separate, part 2. Soon.

 

 

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Oct 012019
 


Paul Gauguin Sunken lane 1884

 

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)
Civil War On (Kunstler)
Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)
Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)
US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)
No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)
Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)
Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)
UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)
France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)
Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

 

 

Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT, lived through the Yugoslavia civil war.

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)

Critics have reacted to President Donald Trump’s Twitter warning about his impeachment causing a civil war with both shrieks of outrage and jokes. Notably absent: any self-awareness of what such a war would be like or how to avoid it. “If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal,” Texas televangelist Robert Jeffress said Sunday night on Fox News. Trump quoted him in a tweet the next morning, and Twitter lost its collective mind. The typical response was to accuse Trump of calling for a new civil war, mind-reading what he must have really meant by the quote. He was “priming his base” to think of war, according to unnamed “experts of fascism,”a liberal comedian argued in just one example.

Others dismissed the very notion of a civil war as crazy, joking about bringing the potato salad and biodegradable forks – or hamberders and covfefe – to the fight, as soon as they get out of yoga class, using the hashtag #CivilWarSignup. There were also scornful takes about Americans being too fat to fight, or rural Americans being too scared to “take the subway in New York or drive in Los Angeles,” much less take a rifle and “take their country back from elite urbanites.” It’s unclear whether the people joking about bringing food to the fight were deliberately channeling the spirit of Washingtonians who turned out to the first Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, in June 1861, as if it were a picnic, bringing baskets and blankets to enjoy the show.

As anyone who’s studied that era of US history knows, their glee quickly turned to horror and panic, when the Union army lost – and they found themselves shoved aside on crowded roads leading back to Washington by the routed troops in blue. Wars never go as planned. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, who also gets a vote. If there is one ironclad rule of war through the ages, no matter the level of technology, that is it. Yet the corollary is that civilians always forget about it, and it comes back to bite them.

Read more …

“Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?”

Civil War On (Kunstler)

Someone in Impeachmentville is not paying attention. Of course, diverting the rubes is exactly the point of the latest CIA operation to negate the 2016 election. Has nobody noticed that there is treaty between Ukraine and the USA, signed at Kiev in 1998 and ratified by the US Senate in 2000. It’s an agreement on “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.” Here, read the cover letter for yourself:

What part of the following do Nancy Pelosi and the news media not understand? “The Treaty is self-executing. It provides for a broad range of cooperation in criminal matters. Mutual assistance available under the Treaty includes: taking of testimony or statements of persons; providing documents, records, and articles of evidence; serving documents; locating or identifying persons; transferring persons in custody for testimony or other purposes; executing requests for searches and seizures; assisting in proceedings related to restraint, confiscation, forfeiture of assets, restitution, and collection of fines; and any other form of assistance not prohibited by the laws of the requested state… ([etc].”


How does this not permit Mr. Trump asking the president of Ukraine for “assistance” in criminal matters arising out of “collusion with Russia,” as specified within the scope of Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor activities? For instance, the matter of CrowdStrike. The cybersecurity firm was co-founded by Russian ex-pat Dmitri Alperovitch, who also happens to be a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian think tank funded by Ukrainian billionaire, Viktor Pinchuk, who donated at least $25 million to the Clinton Foundation before the 2016 election. Crowdstrike was the company that “examined” the supposedly hacked DNC servers, while somebody in the Obama administration prevented the FBI from ever seeing them. Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?

Read more …

Obvious nonsense though it may be, people will continue to accuse me of supporting Trump. But you can’t accuse Ron Paul of that.

Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)

You don’t need to be a supporter of President Trump to be concerned about the efforts to remove him from office. Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced impeachment proceedings against the President over a phone call made to the President of Ukraine. According to the White House record of the call, the President asked his Ukrainian counterpart to look into whether there is any evidence of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election and then mentioned that a lot of people were talking about how former US Vice President Joe Biden stopped the prosecution of his son who was under investigation for corruption in Ukraine.

Democrats, who spent more than two years convinced that “Russiagate” would enable them to remove Trump from office only to have their hopes dashed by the Mueller Report, now believe they have their smoking gun in this phone call. It this about politics? Yes. But there may be more to it than that. It may appear that the Democratic Party, furious over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, is the driving force behind this ongoing attempt to remove Donald Trump from office, but at every turn we see the fingerprints of the CIA and its allies in the US deep state. In August 2016, a former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, wrote an extraordinary article in the New York Times accusing Donald Trump of being an “agent of the Russian Federation.”

Morell was clearly using his intelligence career as a way of bolstering his claim that Trump was a Russian spy – after all, the CIA should know such a thing! But the claim was a lie. Former CIA director John Brennan accused President Trump of “treason” and of “being in the pocket of Putin” for meeting with the Russian president in Helsinki and accepting his word that Russia did not meddle in the US election. To this day there has yet to be any evidence presented that the Russian government did interfere. Brennan openly called on “patriotic” Republicans to act against this “traitor.” Brennan and his deep state counterparts James Comey at the FBI and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an operation, using what we now know is the fake Steele dossier, to spy on the Trump presidential campaign and even attempt to entrap Trump campaign employees. Notice a pattern here?

Read more …

Too predictable to be newsworthy.

Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)

Media attention will intensify on Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. The former first lady, senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate is ready for another round in the public arena. She has a new book arriving, written with the help of a very close relative. Behold. Here comes “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience” — all 464 pages of it. Indeed, the new book of essays now landing on the shelves is written by Mrs. Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton, is published by Simon & Schuster. Some informed observers speculate the book could be yet another indicator — along with increased public appearances and commentary — that Mrs. Clinton pines for a political comeback.


What kind of comeback? Oh, maybe the bumper stickers will read BIDEN/CLINTON 2020, WARREN/CLINTON 2020 — or even CLINTON/CLINTON 2020. Who the heck knows? “Word on the political street now is the rumbling that the impeachment probe launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be the crack that opens the door for another presidential run by Hillary Clinton. This time, the thinking goes, Hillary would be running with vindication that the 2016 election was ‘stolen’ from her and she can ascend in 2020 to reclaim the mantle for her party and the majority of the country that voted for her,” writes Nate Ashworth, editor in chief of Election Central.

Read more …

Wolf Richter mostly manages to deny his own headline.

US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)

If the US dollar loses its hegemony as a global reserve currency, it would be a sea change globally, and specifically for the US economy. Today, we got the next installment in that saga, via the IMF’s quarterly COFER data on foreign exchange reserves. Total global foreign exchange reserves in all currencies ticked up 1.1% from the first quarter, to $11.7 trillion. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves rose only 0.7% to $6.79 trillion, and their share of total global foreign exchange reserves fell to 61.63%, down from 61.86% in the prior quarter. And this has been going on for years in baby steps:

The US dollar’s share of global reserve currency declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other currencies. Compared to the mega-moves in the 1970s, the recent moves have been muted. Nevertheless, the current share of USD-denominated foreign exchange reserves of 61.63% is the lowest since the year-end in 2013. The bump in 2014, 2015, and 2016 has now been unwound:

These US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves are US Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, and other financial assets that central banks other than the Fed are holding in their foreign exchange reserves. The Fed’s own holdings of Treasury securities and Mortgage-Backed Securities are not included in “foreign exchange reserves.” However, the Fed’s holdings of foreign-currency denominated assets are included in the other currencies. Unlike some other central banks, the Fed holds just a smidgen in foreign currency assets – currently $20.6 billion worth, compared to, for example, China’s $3.1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.


[..] The chart below shows the dollar’s slowly declining but still hegemonic share of foreign exchange reserves, the euro’s essentially flat share, and the other reserve currencies’ comparatively tiny share. The renminbi (RMB) is the short red line near the very bottom:

To shed some light on the tangle of currencies at the bottom of the chart above, it’s useful to look at them without the US dollar and the euro overshadowing the neighborhood:

Read more …

Inflation is not Europe’s problem. The ECB is.

No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)

Unemployment in the eurozone declined to 7.4% in September, its lowest level since August, 2008, the EU’s statistics institute Eurostat said Monday. But this good news about the European economy helps underline the predicament the European Central Bank has long struggled with: the persistent low level of inflation. The ECB has undershot its official price stability target, set at “below but close to 2%”, every year since 2013. Keeping the eurozone on that steady inflation path is the only official remit of the ECB. It hasn’t been tasked with other economic policy objectives, like the U.S. Federal Reserve on employment, or the Bank of England on supporting the government’s economic objectives.


Inflation in the eurozone stood at an annual 1% in August, according to Eurostat. The closest the ECB was to its target was last year, when inflation reached 1.8%. That was up from 1.5% in 2017, and 0.2% in both preceding years. The risk of debilitating deflation – falling prices – was the rationale behind the ECB’s first massive quantitative easing program, launched in 2015. The central bank is now citing the financial markets’ declining inflation expectations for 2021 as the main reason for its latest monetary easing package, announced on September 12: They have fallen from 1.8% to 1.5% since the beginning of this year, according to ECB chief economist Philip Lane.

Read more …

“..the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level..”

Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)

The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established. Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company’s UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war. The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences. What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees to pursue external interests”, while the MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.

The 77th Brigade’s headquarters is located west of London. It brought together a number of existing military units such as the Media Operations Group and the 15 Psychological Operations Group. At its launch, the UK media was told that the new unit of “Facebook warriors” would be around 1,500 strong, and made up of both regular soldiers and reservists. In recent months, the army has been approaching British journalists and asking them to join the unit as reservists.

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In reality, he’s preparing to blame everyone else for his own failures. And Dominic Cummings will blame Boris.

Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Boris Johnson is to attempt a last-ditch charm offensive on EU leaders to get a Brexit deal over the line, after delivering his proposals for a new withdrawal agreement to Brussels as early as the end of this week. With EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier viewed in Downing Street as a stickler for rules who will be hard to shift from the deal struck with Theresa May, Mr Johnson is keen to speak with key European leaders who may be ready to show flexibility ahead of the crunch Brussels summit on 17 October. Plans were made to fly the prime minister to the funeral of ex-president Jacques Chirac for talks in the margins with sympathetic leaders, but it was decided the opportunity did not justify breaking off his attendance at the Conservative conference in Manchester.


London believes a key to any deal will be securing the acceptance of Irish premier Leo Varadkar and German chancellor Angela Merkel. News that negotiator David Frost has finalised a legal text of the UK proposals – said by a senior government source to be “game changing” – emerged as ministers attending cabinet admitted that they were not absolutely sure what the PM plans to do if his hopes of a deal fall flat. With speculation that the plan is known only to a tiny circle around Mr Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, housing minister Esther McVey said she did not “know what is necessarily going on in Boris’s head”, while even chancellor Sajid Javid when asked if he knew what the PM would do could say only that “I think I do”.

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And you thought they’d steer clear of hammering Good Friday…

UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)

The UK has proposed the creation of a string of customs posts along both sides of the Irish border as part of its effort to replace the backstop, RTÉ News understands. The ideas, which would be highly controversial, are contained in proposals sent from London to the European Union – extracts of which have been seen by RTÉ News. The proposals would effectively mean customs posts being erected on both sides of the border, but located perhaps five to ten miles ‘back’ from the actual land frontier. This is because under British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK is insisting that Northern Ireland remain completely outside the EU’s customs union for industrial goods and agri-food products.

Even more controversial is a proposal that the goods moving from a so-called “customs clearance site” on the northern side of the border to a similar site on the southern side would be monitored in real time using GPS via mobile phone data, or tracking devices placed on trucks or vans. The ideas are contained in one of four so-called ‘non-papers’ submitted by UK officials during recent technical discussions in Brussels. Under the British proposals, both the UK and EU would create what are believed to be called “customs clearance sites”, but to all intents and purposes a customs post. Traders would have a choice of either a straightforward customs declaration which would have to be lodged and cleared on either side of the border, or the so-called ‘transit’ system.

Under a transit scheme, the exporter becomes a registered ‘consigner’ at base, and the importer becomes a registered ‘consignee’. The method requires a bond from a financial institution to guarantee that the relevant customs duty, excise and VAT have been paid and that the goods do not go illegally off the beaten track en route. The UK proposals have been discussed in technical talks with the European Commission’s Brexit Task Force under Michel Barnier. However, the details of the four non-papers have not been disclosed to EU member states.

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Macron playing Napoleon again. He can’t stop himself.

France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)

French President Emmanuel Macron is convinced that now is the right time to reset relations with Russia. He has therefore made it a diplomatic priority to restore a climate of trust between Paris and Moscow. Three compelling reasons underlie this move… First and foremost, the international strategic context has changed dramatically. China is rising, while the United States, although still the world’s dominant power, is distancing itself from its global responsibilities. And Russia, with an aging, shrinking population and a huge, largely uninhabited landmass, is a natural prey for China’s long-term ambitions. European leaders should not resign themselves passively to seeing Russia, lacking any other alternative, align with China.

Instead, they should try to convince Russians that their future is with Europe, and not as China’s junior partner in a deeply unbalanced relationship. Russia’s destiny lies in the West, not the East. Moreover, although Russia is no match for China, it has returned as a serious global actor. Many current conflicts, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, simply cannot be addressed without involving Russia. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

And while it might be impossible to restore the bipolar world of the Cold War years, at least the US would be forced to recognize the importance of a modernized and operational Russian army that could intervene in the former Soviet sphere and beyond. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

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If these revelations don’t stop Assange’s extradition, nothing will. And Britain will be nothing but a deep black hole.

Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

A private security company organised 24/7 surveillance of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. This included confidential meetings between Assange and members of his legal team. The surveillance was provided directly to the CIA. These revelations could possibly jeopardise the viability of the US extradition case. But within this story there lies another that raises serious questions about the establishment media and allegiances. According to El Pais, Spanish security firm UC Global was responsible for the surveillance of Assange when he was a guest of the Ecuadorian government at their London embassy. UC Global, a firm with an address in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), was hired by Senain, the former Ecuadorian intelligence service, ostensibly to provide protection for Assange.


However, it’s now been revealed that the company’s owner David Morales passed on the results of the operations to the CIA. He even installed a video streaming service direct to the US. Also monitored were meetings between Assange and his lawyers, including Melynda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Baltasar Garzón. After Rafael Correa was replaced by the right-wing Lenín Moreno as president of Ecuador in May 2017, the latter cancelled the UC Global contract. Moreno then issued a new contract to Ecuadorian company Promsecurity. Video recordings and photos taken by that firm were subsequently used in an extortion attempt.

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Sep 262019
 
 September 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Paul Gauguin By the stream, autumn 1885

 

House To Grill Trump Intel Chief About Whistleblower Report (R.)
House Backs Release Of Trump Whistleblower Complaint 421-0 (R.)
Biden Campaign Blasts Republican Request For Classified VP Documents (Pol.)
Fury And Mistrust As The Brexit Pressure Cooker Blows Its Top (Sky)
Financial System Disappearing into Black Hole – Egon von Greyerz (USAW)
How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance (WS)
The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates (Brown)
New Weapons for the ECB (Varoufakis)
Boeing Settles First Lion Air Lawsuits For At Least $1.2 Million Apiece (R.)
Beijing Vows To Retaliate After US Hong Kong Human Rights Bill Approved (SCMP)
Salisbury Attack Novichok Bottle Was Not Recovered For 4 Months (Ind.)

 

 

It’s time for a lot of people to take a lot of very deep breaths and count to ten a million times. The UK is imploding on rhetoric, and in the US people convince themselves they see diametrically opposed things in the exact same material, much of which they‘ve never even read or watched.

There is such a thing as the future of your country and your (grand-)children that must also be considered, guys and gals. You will all have to live together.

House To Grill Trump Intel Chief About Whistleblower Report (R.)

President Donald Trump’s top intelligence official will be grilled by U.S. lawmakers on Thursday over the administration’s handling of a whistleblower report central to an impeachment inquiry into the president. The acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, will testify to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee after refusing to share the complaint with Congress, despite a law requiring that it be sent to lawmakers after an inspector general’s determination that it was urgent and credible. Maguire has been in his position for less than two months.


While the formal impeachment inquiry announced on Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is led by Democrats, some of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined them in calling on the administration to send the report to Congress. Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees were allowed to see the complaint on Wednesday. “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said after reading the document.

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We agree then.

House Backs Release Of Trump Whistleblower Complaint 421-0 (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 421-0 on Wednesday for a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to release a whistleblower complaint to Congress, despite the administration letting them view the classified document at secure locations in the U.S. Capitol. Two House members voted present and 10 did not vote. The document is central to the impeachment inquiry into the Republican president announced on Tuesday by the Democratic House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after reports that Trump had tried to put pressure on Ukraine’s president to help smear a political rival.


The Senate passed a similar resolution by unanimous voice vote on Tuesday. Republicans joined Democrats in backing the release of the document, after many lawmakers argued that Trump’s associates were defying a law calling for whistleblower complaints to be sent to Congress if they are found to be credible.

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Doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Biden Campaign Blasts Republican Request For Classified VP Documents (Pol.)

The Biden campaign slammed the Republican National Committee on Tuesday night for urging former Vice President Joe Biden to release the transcripts of his calls with Ukrainian and Chinese leaders, saying it would not be legal or even physically possible for Biden to do that. “Imagine our disbelief that Republicans called for Joe Biden to break the law and release classified transcripts he doesn’t have access to or permission to release, given their track record for holding politicians who commit crimes accountable and their general ethical and moral conduct across the board,” Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said in a statement provided exclusively to POLITICO.


On Tuesday afternoon, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel called for Biden to release the transcripts of his calls during his years as VP “while his son was conducting shady business deals in those countries.” There’s no indication that Hunter Biden did anything illegal in his business dealings in Ukraine. “With their newfound sense of transparency, will they also ask President Donald Trump to release his tax returns, something he promised to do nearly four years ago?” Ducklo added.

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What kind of country will it be, whatever happens?

Fury And Mistrust As The Brexit Pressure Cooker Blows Its Top (Sky)

Brexit has been a pressure cooker for our government, our parliament, our political parties, our MPs and for all of us too – and finally the tensions really erupted. Back in business after the Supreme Court ruled the government’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful and therefore void, the whole place was absolutely furious from the moment Geoffrey Cox took to the dispatch box at 11.30am to the close of play nearly 12 hours later. The attorney general, the prime minister’s warm up act, he quickly set the tone. Yes this was a government which had been admonished by the Supreme Court for proroguing parliament unlawfully. But there would be no apologies, contrition or regret.

Instead the government’s top legal brain unleashed an unfettered attack on parliament, working himself into a frenzy as he raged against the “spineless” Labour frontbench and “cowardly” MPs for refusing to grant the prime minister an election. “This parliament is a disgrace,” he boomed to the jeering of opposition MPs. “This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit, It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.” He charged on: “The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas!” MPs raged. Labour’s Barry Sheerman shaking in anger as he accused the attorney general of having “no shame all”. “To come here with his barrister’s bluster to obsfucate the truth – a man like him, a party like this and a leader like this to talk about morals and morality. It’s a disgrace.”

With the stage set, Mr Johnson was straight into character as he arrived in the parliament, unrepentant and indignant as he tried to goad his opponents into tabling a motion of no-confidence in the government. The people versus the parliament election, Mr Johnson cast himself as the prime minister trying to deliver on the biggest popular vote in history while ‘the establishment’ – be it the parliament or the courts – block his path. The language provocative and incendiary as he sought to portray his political rivals as anti-democratic and treacherous. Parliament was “refusing to deliver on the priorities of the people” while Jeremy Corbyn and his cronies “do not trust the people. They are determined to throw out the referendum result, whatever the cost.””We will not betray the people who sent us here,” he bellowed as MPs erupted in fury.

Complaints that his inflammatory words were being cited in death threats were dismissed as “humbug”. When he told MPs that the “best way” to honour Jo Cox, who was murdered in the 2016 referendum, was to “get Brexit done”, the chamber moved past boiling point and into complete meltdown. Some MPs walked out of the chamber in protest. Others left in tears.

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“The balance sheet . . . of the Fed is going to go from around $4 trillion to $40 trillion. It is going to go to $100 trillion before this is over.”

Financial System Disappearing into Black Hole – Egon von Greyerz (USAW)

Europe is starting QE again with $20 billion a month, but that’s nothing compared to what is coming. . . . The panic that started with central banks in the summer in late July and August was, to me, the first step towards total chaos in the world that we will be seeing in the months and years to come. They (central bankers) see it clearly. They know the banking system is absolutely on the verge of collapse. They know Deutsche Bank (DB) and CommerzBank, too, are down 95%. If you show this chart to a child and ask where is that likely to go, it is likely to go to zero. DB, with their $50 trillion in derivatives, there is no chance they will survive. Of course, Germany and the ECB is panicking because that will affect the whole banking system worldwide.

This is why they have started to print money now because there is a massive liquidity problem, and that’s Germany, which is the best country in the EU from the point of economics. Then you take Italy, Spain, France and Greece and they are in a real mess. This is why the whole system is on the verge of disappearing into a black hole. . . . With the U.S., there is massive liquidity pressure there too.” The massive amount of money printing to keep the fiat system afloat is just starting. EvG contends, “This is just a practice round. This is just more money at this point. The balance sheet . . . of the Fed is going to go from around $4 trillion to $40 trillion. It is going to go to $100 trillion before this is over.

All of these bubble assets that are based on just credit and credit expansion are going to implode measured in real terms, measured in gold. I expect the stock market and the property market to lose at least 95% or more in real terms. . . . The next up cycle for gold (and silver) has started. The next phase of this market has started, and it is going to go on for a long, long time. It is going to go to levels that will be hard to believe today.

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People suffer and die.

How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance (WS)

The annual cost of the average health insurance family plan through employers — employer and employee contributions combined – rose another 4.9% in 2019, to $20,576. This is up 255% from 20 years ago, having soared five times faster than the Consumer Price Index (+52%). Employees paid about 29% of the premium for family coverage ($6,015 annually, red portion) and employers paid about 71% ($14,561 annually, blue portion). Over the past 20 years, the employee contribution has increased by 290%. These are among the findings of the annual survey of over 2,000 companies, both small (3-199 employees) and large (200+ employees), including non-federal public employers, by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Employers and employees both are groaning under the relentlessly ballooning weight of health insurance costs. And the numbers are large: 153 million Americans are covered by employer sponsored health insurance. At companies with few lower-wage workers, the employee contribution for family coverage was on average $5,968 annually. But at companies with many lower-wage workers, the employee portion for family coverage was $7,047 annually. “The single biggest issue in health care for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are,” KFF CEO Drew Altman said. “Costs are prohibitive when workers making $25,000 a year have to shell out $7,000 a year just for their share of family premiums.”


Many lower-wage workers cannot afford the contributions and forego the health insurance even if their companies offer it. As a result, at companies with many lower-wage workers, only 33% of the workers are covered by the employer’s health insurance, compared to 63% at the other companies. For single coverage of the employee only, the annual cost of the average health insurance premium — employer and employee contributions combined — rose 4.2% in 2019, to $7,188, with the employee paying 17% or $1,242 (up from 14% in 1999) and the employer paying 83% or $5,946 (down from 86% in 1999).

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“Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt.”

The Disaster of Negative Interest Rates (Brown)

EU member governments have lost the sovereign power to issue their own money or borrow money issued by their own central banks. The EU experiment was a failed monetarist attempt to maintain a fixed money supply, as if the euro were a commodity in limited supply like gold. The central banks of member countries do not have the power to bail out their governments or their failing local banks as the Fed did for U.S. banks with massive quantitative easing after the 2008 financial crisis. Before the Eurozone debt crisis of 2011-12, even the European Central Bank was forbidden to buy sovereign debt. The rules changed after Greece and other southern European countries got into serious trouble, sending bond yields (nominal interest rates) through the roof.


But default or debt restructuring was not considered an option; and in 2016, new EU rules required a “bail in” before a government could bail out its failing banks. When a bank ran into trouble, existing stakeholders–including shareholders, junior creditors and sometimes even senior creditors and depositors with deposits in excess of the guaranteed amount of €100,000–were required to take a loss before public funds could be used. Also included in Italy were subordinated bonds that were owned not just by well-off families and other banks but by small savers who in many cases were fraudulently mis-sold the bonds as being risk-free (basically as good as deposits). The Italian government got a taste of the potential backlash when it forced losses onto the bondholders of four small banks. One victim made headlines when he hung himself and left a note blaming his bank, which had taken his entire €100,000 savings.

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Making sense.

New Weapons for the ECB (Varoufakis)

Fortunately, an effective weapon can immediately be built to all four of these standards: ECB conversion bonds. A sketch of their announcement follows: “Henceforth, whenever a eurozone government bond matures, the ECB will issue a conversion bond with a face value equivalent to the Maastricht-compliant portion of the member-state’s total public debt. The bond’s purpose is to service, at low interest rates that only the ECB can fetch, member states’ Maastricht-compliant public debt (up to 60% of GDP) – conditional on member states’ commitment to redeem the bond and afford it seniority over all other debts (presumably serviced at higher interest rates).”

To give a numerical example, if a member state’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 90%, the ECB conversion bond services €667 of each €1,000 of maturing state debt. The less the member state has exceeded its Maastricht debt limit, the larger the percentage of its public debt that will be serviced at the ultra-low ECB bond yields. Immediately, we see how this interest rate differential encourages discipline and eliminates the fear of moral hazard that the present quantitative easing program has elevated to dangerous levels. Note also that, besides minimizing moral-hazard risks, the new ECB bonds meet the other three standards. Their issuance requires no discretionary powers by the ECB as it follows directly from the existing Maastricht limits.

They would provide eurozone banks the missing safe asset they need to wean themselves off bonds issued by often-weak national governments (while creating a safe asset for foreigners to buy with their euros). Finally, ECB conversion bonds would allow interest rates in surplus countries like Germany to rebound, because the ECB would no longer need to buy German bunds as a condition for purchasing Italian bonds. [..] Technically speaking, ECB conversion bonds are the obvious replacement for the failing quantitative easing program. Only the misplaced fear of debt mutualization stands in their way.

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It seems like only yesterday that they offered $120,000. Wait, that WAS yesterday.

Boeing Settles First Lion Air Lawsuits For At Least $1.2 Million Apiece (R.)

Boeing Co has settled the first claims stemming from the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX in Indonesia, a U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyer said, and three other sources said that families of those killed will receive at least $1.2 million apiece. Floyd Wisner of Wisner Law Firm said he has settled 11 of his 17 claims against Boeing on behalf of families who lost their relatives when a brand-new MAX crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 soon after take-off, killing all 189 aboard. Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe declined comment. Boeing did not admit liability in its 11 settlements, Wisner said.


The claims, each representing one victim, are the first to be settled out of some 55 lawsuits against Boeing in U.S. federal court in Chicago and could set the bar for mediation talks by other Lion Air plaintiffs’ lawyers that are scheduled through next month, three people familiar with the matter said. Wisner said he could not disclose the amount of the settlements because of a confidentiality agreement with Boeing. The three people familiar with the matter said families of Lion Air victims, who were nearly all from Indonesia, are set to receive at least $1.2 million each. That amount would be for a single victim without any dependents.

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“If passed, it would, among other actions, require the US to sanction Chinese officials deemed responsible for “undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong…“

Beijing Vows To Retaliate After US Hong Kong Human Rights Bill Approved (SCMP)

China said it would “hit back forcefully” at the United States after the US Congress officially pushed ahead with a bill to support democratic freedoms in Hong Kong by putting pressure on Chinese authorities. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 moved through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, setting the stage for votes in both chambers in the coming weeks. The bill could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against the Hong Kong government.


If passed, it would, among other actions, require the US to sanction Chinese officials deemed responsible for “undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong” and require the US president to review Hong Kong’s special economic status. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement on Thursday that the bill was an attempt to “wantonly interfere in China’s domestic affairs” and had shown the “malicious intention of some in the US Congress to contain China’s development”.

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This must be the strangest thing I’ve read in a long time. The claim is that the Novichock used in the first (Skripal) incident was found after the second incident. But we know that bottle was sealed, and couldn’t have been used on Skripal. How is this a story then to be published today?

Salisbury Attack Novichok Bottle Was Not Recovered For 4 Months (Ind.)

Investigators took almost four months to recover the bottle which contained the deadly novichok nerve agent for almost four months after it was used in an assassination attempt in Salisbury. After it was placed on the front door of former double agent Sergei Skripal on 4 March 2018, a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle which was used to smuggle the nerve agent into the UK, was not recovered until 27 June. Police believe two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, then used a secret pump to spread the nerve agent on Mr Skripal’s front door in March 2018. The former Russian military intrelligence officer and his daughter Yulia were both left seriously ill and a further six people were exposed to novichok in Salisbury, which saw large swathes of it’s town centre shut down as police investigated.


Nick Bailey, a police officer, also fell seriously ill after being exposed to the substance while investigating the case. The source of the novichok was found almost four months later, after the death of Dawn Sturgess. Ms Sturgess was given the perfume bottle as a gift by her partner Charlie Rowley, who had found it in a charity shop bin on 27 June 2018. She died from exposure to the nerve agent three days later. Mr Rowley fell seriously ill but later recovered.

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He’s getting an award.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 132019
 
 September 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Marc Chagall The watering trough 1925

 

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)
Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)
US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)
US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)
Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)
Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)
US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)
Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)
Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)
The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

 

 

A Scotsman taking down the Queen.

The Dogs in the Street Know (Craig Murray)

There are some very obvious facts in British politics which nobody seems to be saying. Joanna Cherry stated in her successful court case that “the dogs in the street know” that the real reason that Boris Johnson had prorogued parliament was to prevent parliament from having an effective say on the outcome of Brexit. The documents that the government was forced to produce to the Scottish Courts proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that was indeed Johnson’s motive. So why are we expected to believe that what you knew and I knew, what Joanna Cherry knew, what the very dogs in the street knew, was not known to the Queen?

Do we really believe that the Queen was “misled” and that she and her courtiers were the only people in the entire country who actually believed that Johnson just wanted the longest prorogation for 89 years to prepare a really good Queen’s speech? Are we really expected to believe that the Queen had not noticed that Brexit was at a crucial stage and the effect that prorogation would have on parliament’s say in the process? This is obviously complete and utter nonsense. The Queen has better sources of information than any of us and knew exactly what was happening. She was not “misled” by Boris Johnson, she was his ally in a common purpose. She absolutely understood both the context and the effect of the prorogation. All this utter nonsense about the Queen being “lied to” and “misled” is part of this strange myth of the ultimate goodness of authority which is a recurring theme in human societies.

Peasants died under the knout while building the Trans-Siberian railway thinking “if only the good Tsar knew.” The Queen is not a naive figure of Christ like innocence taken in by Boris Johnson, she is an ultra wealthy woman of very conservative views embedded in a social circle dominated by very rich and reactionary people. To repeat what I have repeatedly explained, it was unconstitutional for the Queen to appoint Boris Johnson in the first place when it was plain as a pikestaff that he could not command a parliamentary majority. That initial crime (and I use the word advisedly) was compounded by the decision to prorogue parliament to enable her no majority Prime Minister to govern. In a sane world we should be getting out the pitchforks. Instead people are tut-tutting about the poor Queen being misled.

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Prior to his election to Speaker, Bercow was a longtime member of the Conservative Party.

Speaker Bercow Warns Boris Johnson Against Disobeying Brexit Law (BBC)

John Bercow has vowed “creativity” in Parliament if Boris Johnson ignores the law designed to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Commons Speaker also said in a speech that the only possible Brexit was one backed by MPs. A new law, passed before the suspension of Parliament, forces the PM to seek a delay until 31 January 2020, unless a deal or no-deal exit is approved by MPs by 19 October. The PM has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay. Delivering a lecture in London, Mr Bercow said: “Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period.” He said it would be a “terrible example to set to the rest of society”.


“The only form of Brexit which we will have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed,” he said. “Surely, in 2019, in modern Britain, in a parliamentary democracy, we – parliamentarians, legislators – cannot in all conscience be conducting a debate as to whether adherence to the law is or isn’t required.” He called it “astonishing” that “anyone has even entertained the notion”. If the government comes close to disobeying the Act, the MP said that Parliament “would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully”. “If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he added.

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Hmm. Should McCabe run free?

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Must Face Criminal Charges (CNBC)

Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe has failed in his efforts to convince the Justice Department not to file potential criminal charges against him for allegedly lying to federal agents, NBC News reported Thursday. Lawyers for McCabe, who has not been charged in the case, reportedly met last month with a top Justice official the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and in what were believed to be talks seeking to dissuade then from filing criminal charges. The Washington Post reported last week that federal prosecutors for months have been using a grand jury to investigate McCabe, a critic of President Donald Trump.

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They have to ASK?

US House Panel Wants Boeing To Allow Employee Interviews On 737 MAX (R.)

Congress on Thursday asked Boeing Co’s chief executive to make several employees available for interviews as part of a congressional probe into the design, development and certification of 737 MAX aircraft involved in two crashes that killed 346 people. House of Representatives Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio and Representative Rick Larsen, who chairs the aviation subcommittee, said in a statement that while Boeing has provided substantial documents and shared senior management’s perspective, “it’s important to the committee’s investigation to hear from relevant Boeing employees.”

The committee plans another Boeing hearing in the coming weeks and previously asked whistleblowers to come forward with any information about the plane’s development. Boeing has provided more than 300,000 pages of documents, a person briefed on the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Boeing said in a statement it was “deeply disappointed the committee chose to release private correspondence given our extensive cooperation to date. We will continue to be transparent and responsive to the committee.”

[..] CEO Dennis Muilenburg said at an investor conference on Wednesday that the company is still targeting “early fourth quarter for getting the airplane back up in the air” but added that “ultimately return-to-service timing will be determined by the regulator.” The FAA has repeatedly said it will not certify the plane to fly again until it is safe to do so. The European Aviation and Space Agency said on Tuesday it “intends to conduct its own test flights separate from, but in full coordination with, the FAA. The test flights are not scheduled yet, the date will depend on the development schedule of Boeing.”

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If they’re pressuring Israel, they much be pressuring others too.

US Pressures Israel To Drop China ‘Belt And Road’ Investments (ZH)

As China executes on its “Belt and Road” global trade scheme, more than 130 countries who have either committed to or expressed interest in the $600 billion initiative have been hard at work expanding their infrastructure to accommodate Beijing’s ambitious plan. And while President Trump has been pounding the table in an ongoing US-China trade war, progress made on Belt and Road threatens to reduce US leverage over Beijing – putting US allies such as Israel, which extended a 25-year offer for the operation of the Haifa terminal to state-controlled Shanghai International Port Group – in a tricky position, according to Bloomberg’s Ivan Levingston.

“With national elections approaching on Sept. 17, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can ill afford to alienate the Trump administration on its signature international issue. Trump has endeared himself to Netanyahu by transferring the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the disputed Golan Heights. Netanyahu reciprocated by naming a new Golan settlement after Trump and praising the American leader for, among other things, quitting the Iranian nuclear accord. “Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office, but Israel has never had a better friend than you,” Netanyahu told the president during a March trip to the White House. An October Pew study found that 69% of Israelis had confidence in Trump’s performance as president, and many of Netanyahu’s campaign ads prominently feature the U.S. leader.” -Bloomberg

Of note, China is currently Israel’s second-largest trading partner with around $11.5 billion in annual transactions in 2018, according to the report. Meanwhile, the United States has pressed Israel to create a buffer with China in the interest of national security – which would look something like the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (the same one that rubber-stamped Russia’s purchase of 20% of America’s Uranium). “Israel and Israeli companies are quickly coming to the realization that it’s going to be difficult to sustain business as usual in work with China while keeping the United States as the primary partner,” said Daniel Shapiro, Barack Obama’s US ambassador to Israel.

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How is Huawei linked to Belt & Road?

Huawei CEO Offers To License 5G Technology To American Companies (F.)

Zhengfei Ren, the CEO and founder of Huawei offered an olive branch to the Trump administration: License the Chinese telecommunications giant’s 5G technology to American companies, with the caveat that the U.S. government ““the U.S. side has to accept us at some level for that to happen.” Currently, the use of Huawei equipment is banned from U.S. networks over concerns that it could be used by the Chinese government as a method to spy or disrupt telecom systems. The offer [..] would essentially allow the U.S. to finally get in the race for 5G supremacy which is now dominated by Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, Ericsson of Sweden and Nokia from Finland.


“Huawei is open to sharing our 5G technologies and techniques with U.S. companies, so that they can build up their own 5G industry. That would create a balanced situation between China, the U.S. and Europe,” told Ren to the newspaper. [..] Ren added that the U.S. companies would be allowed to modify as they see fit the software code used to run any of Huawei’s 5G equipment or even change it and use their own. [..] Ren added that the American licensees will be able to sell their 5G equipment based on Huawei’s intellectual property anywhere in the world, except in China.

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“We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds..”

Mnuchin Says 100-Year Treasury Bond Possible (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the United States will issue 50-year bonds if there is “proper demand,” a moved aimed at “derisking” the government’s $22 trillion of debt and locking in low interest rates. “We are going to start with 50 years, and if the answer is, 50-years is successful, we’ll consider 100-year bonds,” Mnuchin said in an interview with New York Times’ DealBook and streamed online live, adding that he began looking into the possibility of ultra-long U.S. bonds two years ago. The longest-dated U.S. Treasury currently is 30 years.


U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a different fix for the rising cost of the record U.S. debt, calling on Wednesday on the “boneheads” at the Federal Reserve to reduce interest rates to below zero so as to reduce interest-rate payments. The Fed is widely expected to cut interest rates by a modest quarter of a percentage point next week when U.S. rate-setters meet. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other policymakers see U.S. economic conditions as still generally favorable despite a global slowdown and a still-unresolved U.S.-China trade war, and they have consistently pushed back against the notion of negative rates or of setting rates to cater to political pressure.

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Is something moving?

US Justice Department To Release Name Of Shadowy Figure In 9/11 Case (R.)

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday said it would release the name of an individual sought by people who are suing the government of Saudi Arabia for alleged involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks. U.S. prosecutors in New York said in a court filing that Attorney General William Barr had decided not to invoke state secrets and will share the person’s name with attorneys involved in the case. The decision could help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their family members, who charge in a long-running lawsuit that the Saudi government supported the hijackers who crashed jet liners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, killing nearly 3,000 people.


The Saudi government has repeatedly denied involvement in the attacks. The Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The case, filed in 2003, received a boost in 2016 when Congress passed a law making it easier to sue foreign governments for alleged involvement in terrorism. The plaintiffs have been trying to obtain redacted material from a 2012 FBI report which indicated the agency was investigating two Saudi officials, Omar al-Bayoumi and Fahad al-Thumairy, and said there was evidence that a third, unnamed party had ordered them to help the hijackers. Attorneys will now get to learn the name of that person, though their identity will remain under seal.

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Scary people.

Trump’s Taliban Talks Led by Neocon Operation Cyclone Agent (MPN)

John Bolton wasn’t the only veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan now charged with resolving it. Nor was he the only PNAC veteran in the Trump administration. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the top American official in the negotiations, was a PNAC charter member and has been quietly overseeing the destruction of Afghanistan for most of his political career — longer than the Taliban has existed as an organization. Khalilzad worked closely with late National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who took a leading role in Operation Cyclone under President Carter. The secret CIA program pumped the Afghan Mujahideen up with cash, weapons, training, and jihadist school books.

The Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center — a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden — would become key to this endeavor. Brzezinski’s aim, as he stated, was to give the Soviets their own Vietnam quagmire. Back then, his message to the Mujahideen fighters that would become al-Qaeda and the Taliban was: “Your cause is right and God is on your side.” Even after the devastating attacks of September 11, Brzezinski defended the decision to support the Mujahideen in the name of defeating the Soviet Union.

The United States’ support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and later Bosnia, was intended to bleed the Soviet Union. It is no surprise that the same leeches — the Taliban and al-Qaeda — that were trained by the United States, would turn on their masters. In the case of the Taliban, clinging on to the U.S. for nearly two decades, slowly sucking away all the while. In the case of al-Qaeda, the attacks on the World Trade Center dealt massive blows. The end-game tactics mirror the CIA’s philosophy in training the Mujahideen against the USSR. U.S officials like Khalilzad would spend decades in luxurious buildings in and around Washington while the people of Afghanistan would continue to suffer nearly another two decades of conflict because of their policies.

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Wolf Richter sees the ECB falling to bits. Wonder what Lagarde is doing these days.

Palace Revolt at the ECB, Legitimacy of Policy out the Window (WS)

ECB President Mario Draghi, who is on his way out, will, as we’re learning more and more, do anything to push his agenda and make it stick at the ECB long after he leaves, but whatever his agenda may be, it’s clearly unrelated to the European economy which has been buckling under the consequences of his agenda: the destructive weight of negative interest rates and QE. And in the process, he is destroying the legitimacy of the ECB’s policy. The latest incident was on Thursday. During the press conference following the ECB’s policy meeting, he lied to reporters, claiming that the “consensus was so broad there was no need to take a vote,” when in fact he had a revolt on his hand during the meeting by the presidents of the national central banks that represented half of the economy of the Eurozone, and by members of the Executive Board.

Among the key policy changes the ECB announced on Thursday was the restart of QE to the tune of €20 billion a month and a tiny 10-basis point cut in its deposit rate, from the old negative -0.4% to the new negative -0.5%. The announcement also included a provision to help banks – which have been getting re-crushed by these idiotic negative interest rates – to survive those negative interest rates: the ECB would exempt part of the banks’ deposits at the ECB from negative rates in a two-tier system. It was the QE portion of the decision that had triggered the unprecedented revolt during the meeting. “Officials with knowledge of the matter” told Bloomberg that during the contentious meeting, the members of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board who vigorously opposed the restart of QE included but was not limited to:

• Jens Weidmann, President of the Bundesbank • Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France • Klaas Knot, President of the Dutch central bank • Ewald Nowotny, Governor of the Austrian central bank • Ardo Hansson, Governor of the Bank of Estonia • Sabine Lautenschlaeger, Member of the Executive Board • Benoit Coeure, Member of the Executive Board. The countries of the five heads of the national central banks, from Weidmann to Hansson, account for about half of the economy of the Eurozone. They opposed the restart of QE, but there was no vote – which is common in ECB proceedings when there is a consensus. But there was no consensus. And Draghi simply imposed his agenda.

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Mistake perhaps. But hardly an honest one, if you read Wolf Richter’s piece above. The ECB IS the mistake.

The New ECB QE Is A Mistake. Here Is What It Should Have Done (Lacalle)

The ECB is creating a dangerous bubble and should not have cut rates by 10bps nor added a new purchase program of €20 billion per month. 1) Eurozone states are already financing themselves at negative rates. There is no need for lower rates and this disguises real risk. This has saved governments more than 1 trillion euro in interest expenses. 2) The ECB has not abandoned its stimulus. It repurchases all maturities, launched a liquidity injection (TLTRO) in March 2019 and balance sheet stands at almost 40% of eurozone GDP. 3) Excess liquidity is 1.7 trillion euro. More liquidity does not lead agents to spend/invest more. There is no higher solvent credit demand because monetary policy perpetuates overcapacity and zombifies the economy. Share of zombie companies has soared c30% since 2013 (BIS).

4) Interest rates are already negative. This has caused a 23 billion euro loss for banks (according to Scope Ratings) and a worrying rise in junk debt demand. 5) There is no evidence of a need for more credit growth. Rather the opposite. The ECB believes the eurozone problem is one of excess saving and lack of demand when it is of excess debt and oversupply. 6) Negative rates zombify the economy and are a massive transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors to the indebted and inefficient. 7) The ECB already accumulates a disproportionate amount of sovereign debt as well as corporate bonds of issuers that never had a problem financing themselves at low rates. This disguises risk and creates an enormous bubble.

8) The problem of the eurozone is not one of lack of stimuli, but an excess of them. Governments burden the productive private sector with higher taxes and unnecessary regulations, so economic surprise falls despite massive stimulus. 9) When this fails or -even worse- explodes, central planners will likely blame “markets” or “lack of stimulus” to repeat. 10) Saying that negative rates are “demanded” by investors is a sad excuse. Financial repression leads economic agents to take more risk for lower yields and central banks go from lenders of last resort to enablers of financial bubbles.

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