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

Read more …

“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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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:

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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.

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“..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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Sep 122019
 


Joan Miro Montroig, la iglesia y el pueblo 1918

 

 

Ok, the mailing lists still don’t work, and now the site layout is skewed too after a WordPress update. Lovely. Apologies. Working on it.

 

 

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)
The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)
No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)
£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)
ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)
Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)
Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)
Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)
Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)
The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

 

 

Excellent from Declassified on how and why the Guardian started setting up vicious smear campaigns of Assange, Jeremy Corbyn and others.

How the UK Security Services Neutralised The Guardian (Declassified)

On 20 July 2013, GCHQ officials entered The Guardian’s offices at King’s Cross in London, six weeks after the first Snowden-related article had been published. At the request of the government and security services, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson, along with two others, spent three hours destroying the laptops containing the Snowden documents. The Guardian staffers, according to one of the newspaper’s reporters, brought “angle-grinders, dremels – drills with revolving bits – and masks”. The reporter added, “The spy agency provided one piece of hi-tech equipment, a ‘degausser’, which destroys magnetic fields and erases data.”

Johnson claims that the destruction of the computers was “purely a symbolic act”, adding that “the government and GCHQ knew, because we had told them, that the material had been taken to the US to be shared with the New York Times. The reporting would go on. The episode hadn’t changed anything.”

Yet the episode did change something. As the D-Notice Committee minutes for November 2013 outlined: “Towards the end of July [as the computers were being destroyed], The Guardian had begun to seek and accept D-Notice advice not to publish certain highly sensitive details and since then the dialogue [with the committee] had been reasonable and improving.” The British security services had carried out more than a “symbolic act”. It was both a show of strength and a clear threat. The Guardian was then the only major newspaper that could be relied upon by whistleblowers in the US and British security bodies to receive and cover their exposures, a situation which posed a challenge to security agencies.

[..] In 2018, however, The Guardian’s attempted vilification of Assange was significantly stepped up. A new string of articles began on 18 May 2018 with one alleging Assange’s “long-standing relationship with RT”, the Russian state broadcaster. The series, which has been closely documented elsewhere, lasted for several months, consistently alleging with little or the most minimal circumstantial evidence that Assange had ties to Russia or the Kremlin. [..] The string of Guardian articles, along with the vilification and smear stories about Assange elsewhere in the British media, helped create the conditions for a deal between Ecuador, the UK and the US to expel Assange from the embassy in April.

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Security Services rule the world.

The Consequences of the Bush-Era Assault on Civil Liberties (Taibbi)

A judge last week ruled the federal government’s Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), which secretly categorized more than 1 million people as “known or suspected terrorists,” is unconstitutional. Like a number of “War on Terror” reforms instituted in the Bush years, the TSDB’s unconstitutionality was obvious from its inception. Indeed, the very idea that we needed to “take the gloves off” in our post-9/11 “State of Exception” was an original selling point of some of these programs.

The TSDB is cousin to the No-Fly List (a different and more restrictive list ruled unconstitutional in 2014), the Distribution Matrix (the drone assassination program also known as the “Kill List”), the STELLAR WIND warrantless surveillance program, multiple expansions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the broadened use of National Security Letters to obtain private data without warrant, the “Enhanced Interrogation” program the rest of the world calls torture, and countless other War on Terror initiatives that were and are clear violations of the spirit of the constitution.

[..] The Kill List, the TSDB, and all the secret surveillance programs pose the same problem: they exist more or less completely apart from meaningful public oversight. They’re bureaucratic states within states. For instance, part of the PATRIOT Act governing the issue of National Security Letters (NSLs) – by which the FBI can demand that private companies turn over subscriber information, billing records, and other private data – allows the government to place gag orders on recipients of such letters. Because of this, we only have a faint idea of what NSLs look like. In one rare case, a man named Nicholas Merrill balked and sued when his company was issued a National Security Letter. In that case, the government argued that even releasing the existence of the letter would compromise national security.

This is frightening given that a) no courts need to approve the issuance of such letters, and b) the quantity of such demands is massive. Over a ten-year period, the government reportedly issued over 300,000 NSLs, at one point reaching a pace of 60,000 issued per year. The Merrill case in 2015 represented the first time a gag order was lifted on one of these operations. The recent watchlist lawsuit should remind us we’re assassinating, torturing, snooping on, and blacklisting people all over the world, by means of a continually expanding federal bureaucracy that exists outside of any specific mission, and refuses to recognize the oversight authority of courts or congress.

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They’re ignoring Parliament. Risky strategy. Especially since a first court has now declared prorogation is unlawful. Before Supreme Court next week.

No-Deal Brexit Papers Warn Of Shortages And Riots (BBC)

Riots on the streets, food price rises and reduced medical supplies are real risks of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a government document has said. Ministers have published details of their Yellowhammer contingency plan, after MPs voted to force its release. It outlines a series of “reasonable worst case assumptions” for the impact of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the paper confirmed the PM “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it”.


Michael Gove, one of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet colleagues who has been given responsibility for no-deal planning, said “revised assumptions” will be published “in due course alongside a document outlining the mitigations the government has put in place and intends to put in place”. However, ministers have blocked the release of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension. Mr Gove said MPs’ request to see e-mails, texts and WhatsApp messages from Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief aide, and eight other advisers in Downing Street were “unreasonable and disproportionate”. Publishing the information, he added, would “contravene the law” and “offend against basic principles of fairness”.

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“Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”.

£8 Billion Bet on No Deal Crash-Out by Boris Johnson’s Leave Backers (Byline)

From the financial data publicly available, Byline Times can reveal that currently £4,563,350,000 (£4.6 billion) of aggregate short positions on a ‘no deal’ Brexit have been taken out by hedge funds that directly or indirectly bankrolled Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign. Most of these firms also donated to Vote Leave and took out short positions on the EU Referendum result. The ones which didn’t typically didn’t exist at that time but are invariably connected via directorships to companies that did. Another £3,711,000,000 (£3.7 billion) of these short positions have been taken out by firms that donated to the Vote Leave campaign, but did not donate directly to the Johnson leadership campaign.


Currently, £8,274,350,000 (£8.3 billion) of aggregate short positions has been taken out by hedge funds connected to the Prime Minister and his Vote Leave campaign, run by his advisor Dominic Cummings, on a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Does this £8 billion bet explain why the Prime Minister has said that he would rather “die in a ditch” before asking the EU for an extension? Is it the reason why Johnson is willing to defy the Benn Act that stops a ‘no deal’ Brexit? Is the £8 billion any kind of motivation to prorogue Parliament? Under the Ministerial Code, Government ministers must have “no actual or perceived conflicts of interest”. But what could be a bigger conflict of interest than those bankrolling the Prime Minister also having a vast financial interest in a catastrophe for Britain?

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How big will Draghi be?

ECB To Turn Stimulus Taps Back On To Prop Up Ailing Economy (R.)

The European Central Bank is set to unveil fresh stimulus measures on Thursday to prop up the ailing euro zone economy, but its exact moves are far from certain and a decision that underwhelms markets risks pushing up borrowing costs. With other major central banks easing monetary policy, Germany at risk of falling into recession and inflation expectations sliding, ECB President Mario Draghi has all but promised more support, putting all of the bank’s remaining tools in play. However Draghi, who hands over the leadership of the central bank to Christine Lagarde at the end of October, will face push back from more conservative members of his Governing Council.


Some policymakers have voiced concerted, public opposition to more radical stimulus measures, particularly the restarting of bond purchases, known as quantitative easing. Also, Draghi’s dovish talk has raised investors’ expectations so high that it will be difficult to fully deliver on them, leaving the ECB at risk of disappointing. This could see market interest rates increase, rather than fall. While the ECB has a wide range of policy instruments at its disposal, each comes with complications, from questionable efficacy and big side effects.

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No, seriously, they have a “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life”

Ridiculous EU Commissioner Roles Show Why People Hate Brussels Bureaucracy (RT)

Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled her new team of EU Commissioners. Their job descriptions and responsibilities are nebulous, oddly overlapping and bound to cause confusion. This is European bureaucracy at its worst.
Most Europeans pay scant attention to the detailed inner workings of Brussels politics, precisely because of the bewildering nature of its bloated bureaucracy. Von der Leyen, the EU Commission President, has gone and made it worse. The former German defense minister has steered away from traditional ministerial titles and opted for more Orwellian-sounding names – the kind you need to google to decipher what they actually mean.


Instead of getting a commissioner for dealing with defense or foreign policy, for instance, we are getting a “Commissioner for a Stronger Europe in the World.” There will also be a “Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight” who will apparently deal with policy-making and regulation and a “Commissioner for an Economy that Works for People.” It’s all very ‘Ministry of Truth’-esque. One particular title has backfired spectacularly. The “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life” will be dealing, partially, with immigration policy. The name has already been slammed as “fascist,” “grotesque” and, my favorite, an “infelicitous semantic choice” due to the alleged implication that Europeans need to be “protected” from immigrants.

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Riddance. Good.

Trump Blasts ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Bolton (Hill)

President Trump blasted his former national security adviser John Bolton from the White House on Wednesday, saying he had been fired after making “some very big mistakes” and that he did not get along with others in the administration. In a public rebuke of a top aide that would have been extraordinary before the Trump White House, Trump said Bolton had “set us back” and that the adviser had disagreed with the president on various national security issues. He slammed a mistake Bolton made early in his tenure at the White House when he discussed a “Libyan model” in the context of North Korea — which that country took as a sign that its leadership could meet the fate of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.


While he insisted he had gotten along with the adviser, he also ridiculed Bolton for getting the United States involved in the Iraq War. “So, John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes,” Trump said a day after his abrupt ousting of Bolton. He said the “Libyan model” remark had set back talks with North Korea and was “not a good statement to make.” “And it set us back, and frankly he wanted to do things — not necessarily tougher than me — You know John’s known as a tough guy. He’s so tough he got us into Iraq … but he’s actually somebody I had a very good relationship with. But he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.”


Bolton to spend more time with his family

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What kind of job is that anyway?

Three Bolton Aides Resign From Trump White House After His Exit (Hill)

Three aides to national security adviser John Bolton are resigning from the White House a day after news broke of Bolton’s high-profile departure from the Trump administration, Reuters reported. According to the news agency, the White House received resignations on Wednesday from the trio of staffers, who have reportedly worked with Bolton for years: Bolton’s former spokesman, Garrett Marquis; his former communications director, Sarah Tinsley; and Christine Samuelian, who served as Bolton’s scheduler. Marquis said in a statement obtained by Reuters Wednesday that “it was an honor to serve my country, and I wish the president and the administration success moving forward.”


The Hill has not yet confirmed the departures with the White House. The departures came a day after Trump announced that he had fired Bolton via Twitter, citing disagreements they had over “many of his suggestions.” “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning,” Trump said in a pair of tweets on Tuesday morning.

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If you can’t get your money out, why invest?

Investors Concerned Over China’s Capital Controls, Lack Of Transparency (SCMP)

China’s biggest investment fair was intended to project the image that the country is fully open for business, but instead it has been dominated by foreign firms complaining that local governments are still making it a difficult place to operate. Delegates in Xiamen this week suggested that local governments are ignoring advice from Beijing as it aims to increase market access and level the playing field with domestic companies, meaning that the implementation of reforms to make it easier for foreign firms to operate in China still have not gone far enough. As it undergoes pressures caused in the most part by the trade war with the United States, Beijing is redoubling its efforts to woo investment by lavishing promises of fair treatment on foreign investors and giving VIP treatment to the likes of Telsa CEO Elon Musk.

But capital controls that restrict the flow of money into and out of the country, as well as lack of transparency in the bidding processes involving local governments, were among specific concerns raised during a panel discussion at the annual China International Fair for Investment and Trade. “In the past, when it comes to tenders and bidding, everyone would immediately turn to the company identity. This happened very often. This is a foreign company, that is a state company and this is a private company,” said Wang Jie, vice-president of Schneider Electric China, which manufactures and distributes electrical components. “Sometimes it’s not explicit, but it would be like, ‘This is an important project, maybe it isn’t appropriate for a foreign company.’”

[..] Zhou Bing, vice-president for Dell Greater China, said that it is important to have more flexibility in cross-border capital flows to boost trade, with China currently maintaining strict controls that can effectively shut off outflows. This can prove to be a major disadvantage for overseas investors who want to know that they can transfer their money out of China after it has been invested. “We are a typical company in the processing trade business here,” said Zhou, referring to a company that imports components into China to assemble them into finished goods before being exported. “So, it means there’s massive amount of capital flowing in and out [of China]. Right now, it’s still relatively smooth, but in the long term, do we want to keep our capital in China, do we keep our profit in China? It depends on how open the policy is.”

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It’s not just America, the whole world should think this over. Inequality doesn’t last.

The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They? (New Yorker)

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, at the age of twenty-five, was sent by France’s Ministry of Justice to study the American penal system. He spent ten months in the United States, dutifully visiting prisons and meeting hundreds of people, including President Andrew Jackson and his predecessor, John Quincy Adams. On his return to France, he wrote a book about his observations, “Democracy in America,” the first volume of which was published in 1835. Many of the observations have weathered well (he noted, for instance, how American individualism coexisted with conformism). Others have not. For example, Tocqueville, who was the youngest son of a count, was deeply impressed by how equal the economic conditions in the United States were. It was, at the time, an accurate assessment.


The United States was the world’s most egalitarian society. Wages in the young nation were higher than in Europe, and land in the West was abundant and cheap. There were rich people, but they weren’t super-rich, like European aristocrats. According to “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700,” by the economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of the population was more than twenty per cent in Britain but below ten per cent in America. The prevailing ideology of the country favored equality (though, to be sure, only for whites); Americans were proud that there was a relatively small gap between rich and poor. “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Thomas Jefferson bragged to a friend.

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Sep 112019
 
 September 11, 2019  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Robert Frank White Tower, New York 1948 (Frank died yesterday, aged 94)

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton (Ind.)
‘You’re Fired!’ Trump Cuts Loose Of His Dog Of War (George Galloway)
In A Fracturing World, Central Banks Still Stuck Together (R.)
European Banks Paid ECB €23 Billion Since 2014… And Now Face Disaster (ZH)
Brexit’s Puppet Master Has More Strings To Pull (R.)
Ireland, Boris Johnson Both Eye Return To EU’s Original Brexit Backstop (Ind.)
Johnson Can’t Escape The Clutches Of May’s Zombie Brexit Deal (Behr)
Israel PM Netanyahu Vows To Annex Occupied Jordan Valley (BBC)
Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley Annexation Pledge Is a PR Stunt (RT)
California Passes Landmark Gig Economy Rights Bill (BBC)
‘One America News’ Claims Defamation In $10 Million Suit vs Rachel Maddow (ZH)

 

 

There are still people who are sad to see him go.

Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton (Ind.)

Donald Trump said he fired John Bolton, writing in a tweet he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions” and adding he would announce a replacement for his hawkish national security adviser sometime next week. “I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” the president wrote on Tuesday. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.” “I thank John very much for his service,” he added. “I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.” Mr Bolton then tweeted a statement of his own shortly after the president’s announcement, writing: “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow.'”


Mr Bolton also reportedly told CNN’s Robert Costa shortly after his dismissal: “Let’s be clear, I resigned, having offered to do so last night.” The reason for Mr Bolton’s departure was not immediately clear, although it has been suggested that he disagreed with the president’s aborted plan to hold peace talks with the Taliban at Camp David this week, days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Mr Bolton was also an outspoken advocate of regime change in Iran. Although Mr Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama signed with Tehran, he is known to oppose military action in the Middle East.

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“So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.”

‘You’re Fired!’ Trump Cuts Loose Of His Dog Of War (George Galloway)

The blowing up of Donald Trump’s attempt to end the 18-year Afghan War was the straw which broke the camel’s back for the US president, who on Tuesday fired his national security adviser John Bolton.
Trump’s attempt to bring to a close the longest war in US history – longer, in fact, than their direct involvement in WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War put together – was to be his own “Camp David moment.” It would have mimicked both Carter and Clinton’s “triumphs” there with Arafat and Begin and Arafat and Rabin (neither of which have in fact turned out to be triumphs but were wonderful photo-ops).

Bolton’s rearguard action and the Taliban’s killing of a single US soldier there in the week of the summit brought the Camp David caper crashing down, much to the president’s fury, and prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to boast that the US had killed a thousand Taliban in the previous 10 days. But it was not one damn thing, but one damned thing after another, which has caused the final forking of the “bureaucratic tape-worm” John Bolton, who has slithered through every right-wing administration in living memory.

[..] John Bolton, like so many others, was a “chicken-hawk,” always ready to fight to the last drop of somebody else’s blood. He evaded the draft during the Vietnam War because as he said himself “I didn’t want to die face down in a South East Asian rice paddy.” Nothing wrong with that, if he hadn’t continued to “support” the war and wave off to the paddy-fields the 58,000 Americans who did die, face-down, in the war he dodged. So, farewell then, John Bolton. You killed a lot of folks. Thanks to God and President Trump you will kill no more.


Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

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But what if they start competing?

In A Fracturing World, Central Banks Still Stuck Together (R.)

The last time major central banks shifted gears together, it was a cooperative move to keep the financial crisis of a decade ago from becoming a full-bore, worldwide depression. Now, a new round of global ratecutting risks taking on a competitive edge as policymakers try to stay ahead of rising trade tensions, a volatile investment climate, and a shift in the political mood from shared support for globalization to a more zero-sum battle over a slower-growing world economy.

[..] If the Fed and ECB do as expected at their upcoming meetings, BOJ officials will be torn between how a stressed financial system may respond to ever lower rates, and how Japanese exporters may be damaged if the yen rises in value as a result of the actions of those other central banks. European officials, disappointed that elected leaders haven’t spent aggressively to boost economic growth, are sparring over how much lower already negative rates can go without causing problems, how expansive other ECB programs should become, and what good any of it might do. At the Fed, policymakers are split over whether to cut a lot, a little or not at all.

In each case, officials are reckoning with the fact that their economies and financial systems have become so tied together that fully independent policymaking, insofar as it ever was possible, may be a thing of the past. “We really thought monetary policy had things under control,” and would be able to offset whatever programs elected leaders chose to pursue, even a trade war, said Tara Sinclair, an economics professor at George Washington University. “Does that work in a super low interest rate world and in a very integrated world?” when central banks may have lost much of their traditional influence over the domestic economy.

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What purpose does the ECB serve?

European Banks Paid ECB €23 Billion Since 2014… And Now Face Disaster (ZH)

Earlier this morning, there was an added wobble in European bond prices after an unconfirmed MNI report said the ECB could delay the launch of QE on Thursday and make it data dependent. While skeptics quickly slammed the story, saying it was just a clickbait by MarketNews … it does highlight just how sensitive the bond market is to an announcement of aggressive easing by the ECB when it meets on Thursday, Sept 12, where consensus generally expects a significant easing package, including a -20bp rate cut (followed by -10bp cut later on), coupled with roughly €30 billion in sovereign debt QE for 9-12 months, coupled with enhanced forward guidance.

There is just one problem: while it is unclear if any further easing by the ECB will do anything to stimulate the Eurozone economy, one thing is certain – further easing will only cripple Europe’s banks. In fact, as Goldman writes in its ECB preview, “further rate cuts are a very uncomfortable prospect for the [banking] sector” and estimates that a -20bp cut could lead to an aggregate €5.6bn (-6%) profit cut for 32 €-banks under the bank’s coverage; worse, a further -10bp cut, as per GS macro forecasts, increases the hit to -10% (-€8.3 bn). Overall, 19 banks in Goldman’s coverage face a >10% EPS cut, and 8 banks face as much as a 20% EPS hit.

Then there is Europe’s head on collision with a recession: the weakening rate outlook has been accompanied by >20% fall in €-bank shares (SX7E) since 2H18 and -4% cuts to their consensus Net Interest Incomes (for 2020E). According to Goldman, so far ~40% of the share price decline could be explained by NII cuts; the rest falls into the ‘other’ domain, “where political risk features notably.” Here is the problem in one sentence, and chart: since negative rates were introduced in 2014, European Banks have paid €23BN to the ECB!

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“He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”

Brexit’s Puppet Master Has More Strings To Pull (R.)

Cummings, who alongside fellow campaigner Matthew Elliott, drove Vote Leave to victory in the 2016 referendum is cast by allies as a ruthless strategist who cares little for the conventions of traditional British politics. He provoked a row inside Westminster when he sacked a 27-year-old adviser to finance minister Sajid Javid. The adviser, Sonia Khan, was escorted by armed police from Downing Street without Javid’s knowledge. Former Prime Minister John Major cast Cummings as an overmighty “political anarchist” who should be sacked as Johnson’s de-facto chief of staff before he poisoned British politics beyond repair.

Cummings’s response? “Trust the people” – a slogan used by government advisers to cast Johnson’s Brexit-supporting team as the true servants of the people fighting a London political and financial elite that wants to thwart their will. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday that the United Kingdom was in dangerous territory as voters were concluding that parliament was hindering Brexit. He said the government would respect the law but that interpretations of the law can sometimes be complex. “At this point, our view is that resignation is the most likely,” U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said. “In our view, neither seeking to defy the law, nor encouraging the EU not to grant an extension, are likely to succeed.”

The Cabinet Manual, which sets out the laws, rules and conventions on the operation of government, says if the prime minister resigns on behalf of the government then Queen Elizabeth will invite the person who appears most likely to be able to command the confidence of lawmakers to serve as prime minister and form a government. A Conservative Party lawmaker said he thought Johnson would resign soon after the EU summit, ensuring that he is not blamed for any delay to Brexit. “The question is: what has Cummings got up his sleeve?” said a former Conservative adviser. “He is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with. He thinks several steps ahead, thrives on chaos and has sat in a bunker for three years thinking about this: so what is he going to do?”

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“..the Northern Ireland-only backstop..”

Ireland, Boris Johnson Both Eye Return To EU’s Original Brexit Backstop (Ind.)

The British and Irish governments are both eyeing a return to the EU’s original Brexit backstop plan, rejected by Theresa May, as a way of breaking the deadlock, reports suggest. The so-called “Northern Ireland-only” backstop was rejected by the former prime minister during talks because it put a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea – a move strongly opposed by the DUP and many Tories. It was replaced in the withdrawal agreement by the current UK-wide backstop – which was rejected by Brexiteers for another reason: because it could tie the whole UK to the EU customs union indefinitely.

[..] In an interview with the Irish Times, Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan – who is set to be put in charge of trade talks with the UK – said the direction of travel was towards the old backstop. “Yes,” he replied when asked whether it was back on the agenda. “The taoiseach has indicated in the last 24 hours that the Northern Ireland-only backstop is quite an interesting idea to revisit.” He added: “I remain hopeful that the penny is finally dropping with the UK that there are pragmatic and practical solutions can actually be introduced into the debate at this stage – albeit at the eleventh hour – that may find some common ground between the EU and the UK.” British officials in Brussels flatly deny that there is any intention to return to the original backstop. A UK spokesperson said that “any deal must involve the abolition of the anti-democratic backstop”.

[..] A return to something resembling the Northern Ireland-only backstop could ultimately make sense politically for Mr Johnson, given he may no longer have to rely on DUP votes for a majority after a general election – if he wins a majority, as polls suggest is possible. The DUP’s opposition to a border in the Irish sea would no longer be as much of an issue. The change would also technically allow Mr Johnson to claim he had ditched the current backstop, which he has put down as a red line. Whether moving back to a Northern Ireland-only situation would be accepted by Tory Brexiteers as satisfactory is another matter.

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Affable Boris vs Bullying Boris.

Johnson Can’t Escape The Clutches Of May’s Zombie Brexit Deal (Behr)

One reason to suppose that Johnson is malleable on the detail is that on 29 March he voted for May’s deal – the same one he denounces as an affront to democracy. The hypocrisy is not surprising, but it does illuminate that tension in Johnson’s self-image, between the wannabe statesman and the Trump tribute act. One enjoys the hobnobbing with world leaders at global summits, the other is an accomplice in vandalising the architecture of a rules-based international order.

The same tension is expressed in domestic politics. There is affable Boris who thought he could charm his way to an elegant Brexit solution, unify his party and woo the country with a healing message. He was barged aside by bullying Boris who purges dissent from his party and stokes division in the country. One belongs to the old Tory party that venerated stability and reached out to liberal voters. The other leads a new revolutionary leaver party, recruiting admirers of Nigel Farage for a nationalist insurgency.

The Downing Street calculation appears to be that a majority is most easily won by stripping the Conservative party down and reassembling it as something unconservative. Johnson will run as a populist tribune, the man who would rather be “dead in a ditch” than surrender to tricky continentals and their Westminster collaborators. It might work. Current polling doesn’t offer much of a guide when the vital choices have been punted to the end of October. That doesn’t leave much time for the prime minister to tweak May’s Brexit deal and, in defiance of all the odds, persuade a hostile parliament to vote for it. But that doesn’t mean he has given up on the idea.

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Election time.

Israel PM Netanyahu Vows To Annex Occupied Jordan Valley (BBC)

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex part of the occupied West Bank if he is returned to office next week. He would apply “Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea”, a policy certain to be backed by the right-wing parties whose support he would need for a coalition. Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat said such annexation moves would “bury any chance of peace”. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 but stopped short of annexation. Mr Netanyahu, who leads the right-wing Likud party, is campaigning ahead of general elections next Tuesday. Polls suggest Likud is neck-and-neck with the opposition centrist Blue and White party and may struggle to form a governing coalition.


Palestinians claim the whole of the West Bank for a future independent state. Mr Netanyahu has previously insisted that Israel would always retain a presence in the Jordan Valley for security purposes. In a televised speech the PM said: “There is one place where we can apply Israeli sovereignty immediately after the elections. “If I receive from you, citizens of Israel, a clear mandate to do so… today I announce my intention to apply with the formation of the next government Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.” Mr Netanyahu also said he would annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but this would need to wait until the publication of US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited plan for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

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“..he could be indicted as early as mid-October..”

Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley Annexation Pledge Is a PR Stunt (RT)

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been desperate to drum up voter support across various sections of the Israeli population as the September 17 election inches closer, and his most recent pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, a part of the occupied West Bank, is no more than yet another empty campaign promise, political and defense commentator Amir Oren told RT. “He cannot annex any inch of the occupied territories… the most important [reason] is that peace with Egypt and with Jordan is based upon the UN Security Council resolution 242 from November of 1967 forbidding the acquisition of territories by force.”


Netanyahu knows that risking the collapse of the entire regional security system is a “non-starter,” and his grand announcement is merely a “way to focus attention on himself,” Oren argued. The PR stunt is also aimed at helping Netanyahu to rebrand himself as a strong leader able to deal with the Iran ‘menace’ and the Palestinian issue, as most recently he has been making headlines for the allegations of corruption he faces. “He is trying to shift attention from his corruption scandals, he could be indicted as early as mid-October, he wants people to talk about himself as a world-class leader in league with Putin and Trump.”

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The gig economy is an even hollower term than the service economy.

California Passes Landmark Gig Economy Rights Bill (BBC)

Lawmakers in California have passed a law that paves the way for gig economy workers to get holiday and sick pay. Assembly Bill 5, as its known, will affect companies such as Uber and Lyft, which depend on those working in the gig economy. Some estimates suggest costs for those firms would increase by 30% if they have to treat workers as employees. But opponents of the bill say it will hurt those that want to work flexible hours. The business models of gig economy companies are already under strain – Uber lost more than $5bn in the last quarter alone.


Some estimates suggest that having to treat workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, could increase costs by as much as 30%. Uber and rival ridesharing service Lyft joined forces to push back again the bill. They suggested a guaranteed minimum wage of $21 per hour instead of the sweeping changes the bill would bring. But that pledge wasn’t enough to sway California’s Senate, and the state’s governor Gavin Newsom is expected to soon sign the bill into law.

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High time someone takes Maddow to court, but Sputnik is not a strong point.

‘One America News’ Claims Defamation In $10 Million Suit vs Rachel Maddow (ZH)

Conservative television network One America News (OAN) is suing Rachel Maddow for $10 million after she referred to the network as “paid Russian propaganda”. OAN filed the defamation suit in federal court in San Diego, according to AP. OAN is a small, family owned conservative network that is based in San Diego and has received favorable Tweets from the President. It is seen as a competitor to Fox News. OAN’s lawsuit claims that Maddow’s comments were retaliation after OAN President Charles Herring accused Comcast of censorship. The suit said that Comcast refuses to carry its channel because “counters the liberal politics of Comcast’s own news channel, MSNBC.”

It was about a week after Herring e-mailed a Comcast executive when Maddow opened her show by referring to a Daily Beast report that claimed an OAN employee also worked for Sputnik News, which has ties to the Russian government. Maddow said: “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right-wing news outlet in America really literally is paid Russian propaganda. Their on-air U.S. politics reporter is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Except Maddow, likely still upset from spending 3 years trying to promulgate a Russian hoax that didn’t exist, didn’t quite get her facts straight. Big surprise.

OAN said in its lawsuit that while reporter Kristian Rouz was associated with Sputnik News, he worked solely as a freelancer for them and was not a staff employee of OAN. And the lawsuit includes a statement from Rouz stating that while he has written some 1,300 articles over the past 4 and a half years for Sputnik, he has “…never written propaganda, disinformation, or unverified information.

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