Sep 142019
 
 September 14, 2019  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Kazimir Malevich Spotrsmeny 1931

 

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)
Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)
More Than Ever, Mike Pompeo At Helm Of Trump Foreign Policy (AFP)
Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)
Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)
McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)
Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)
Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)
Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)
Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)
A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)
‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

 

 

Wonder who’s behind this, and who will get the blame. Not the same thing.

Saudi Arabia Oil Facilities Ablaze After Drone Strikes (BBC)

Drone attacks have set alight two major oil facilities run by the state-owned company Aramco in Saudi Arabia, state media say. Footage showed a huge blaze at Abqaiq, site of Aramco’s largest oil processing plant, while a second drone attack started fires in the Khurais oilfield. The fires are now under control at both facilities, state media said. A spokesman for the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said it had deployed 10 drones in the attacks. The military spokesman told al-Masirah TV, owned by the Houthi movement and based in Beirut, that further attacks could be expected in the future. Saudi officials have not yet commented on who could be behind the attacks.


“At 04:00 (01:00 GMT), the industrial security teams of Aramco started dealing with fires at two of its facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais as a result of… drones,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported. “The two fires have been controlled.” Abqaiq is about 60km (37 miles) south-west of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, while Khurais, some 200km further south-west, has the country’s second largest oilfield. The Abqaiq plant turns sour crude into sweet crude, producing up to 7 million barrels a day. Aramco says it is the world’s largest “crude oil stabilisation plant”. Saudi security forces foiled an attempt by al-Qaeda to attack the Abqaiq facility with suicide bombers in 2006. The Khurais oilfield came on line in 2009 and is the nation’s second-largest after Ghawar. Khurais reportedly produces 1.5 million barrels a day with estimated recoverable oil reserves of more than 20 billion barrels.

Read more …

A circus of evil clowns.

Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears (BBC)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to remain in prison when his jail term ends because of his “history of absconding”, a judge has ruled. He was due to be released on 22 September after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. But Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again. The Australian, 48, is fighting extradition to the US over allegations of leaking government secrets. He will face a full extradition hearing next year, starting on 25 February, after an extradition request was signed by the then home secretary Sajid Javid in June. Assange received a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison, south-east London, after being found guilty of breaching the Bail Act in April.


He was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations – which he has denied. District judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video-link: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. “When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.” She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”. “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

Read more …

“Pompeo has risen because he is careful to follow Trump’s lead.”

More Than Ever, Mike Pompeo At Helm Of Trump Foreign Policy (AFP)

Speaking at the White House after John Bolton’s surprise exit as national security adviser, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo couldn’t hide a smile of satisfaction. With the departure of Bolton, Pompeo has become the undisputed king of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy – with the exception, that is, of Trump himself. The former soldier, lawyer and businessman has made a quick ascent in Washington since arriving as a Kansas congressman elected in the 2010 right-wing populist “Tea Party” movement. But many speculate that Pompeo will choose not to stay long in his newly powerful position, enticed by an opening to represent Kansas in the Senate next year – perhaps with an eye on running for the top prize in the 2024 presidential election.


First tapped as CIA director before moving to the State Department last year, Pompeo is so close to Trump that the president last year said he was his only advisor with whom he has never argued. Expectations even rose that Trump would name Pompeo to replace Bolton — a rare dual-role as national security advisor and secretary of state last held by Henry Kissinger. Trump on Thursday ruled out the possibility but called Pompeo “fantastic” and said, “I get along with him so well.” Yet Pompeo’s power, analysts say, comes with a paradox. While Bolton, a Washington insider for over four decades, bulldozed his way to steer US foreign policy to the right on issues from Iran to Venezuela, Pompeo has risen because he is careful to follow Trump’s lead.

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“..what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU..”

Hopes Of Clean Break With EU Are Nonsense: Ex-Brexit Official (G.)

Claiming a no-deal Brexit represents a clean break with the European Union is “nonsensical”, according to Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the EU. Boris Johnson has promised to extricate the UK from the EU on 31 October “come what may” – and has hinted that he could try to get around legislation mandating him to request a Brexit delay. The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, whose party trounced the Tories in May’s European elections, has been urging the PM to deliver a “clean break Brexit” by leaving without a deal. But Rycroft, who was the most senior civil servant at DexEU until March this year, told the Guardian a no-deal Brexit would mark the beginning of a complex series of negotiations.

“It is not a clean break: what it does is it takes us legally out of the EU. But what it can’t do is undo all of the very close economic ties that we have with the EU, on which so much of our trade as a country depends. And nor would we want to undo all of the close security ties that we have with the EU,” he said. “And because of the importance of those ties both for the EU and the UK, it will remain hugely important to have those expressed through a formal relationship. In other words, we’re going to have to negotiate – and that negotiation on the future relationship starts with citizens, money and the border on the island of Ireland. “So the notion that no deal somehow means that we can turn our backs on the EU and break all our ties is just nonsensical.”


Rycroft spent part of his career at the Scottish Office and in the Scottish Executive before working in Nick Clegg’s office during the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government, and helping to coordinate Whitehall’s approach to devolution from the Cabinet Office. He gave a speech on Monday warning that politicians should be thinking carefully about how to protect the union with Scotland and Northern Ireland after Brexit – deal or no deal. “Clearly at the moment, political time has collapsed: everything has become very short term, everyone’s worrying about what’s happening not even next week but tomorrow,” he said. “In those circumstances it’s very different to be lifting their eyes to a more distant horizon. How do we manage as a country, if and when we come out of the EU?”

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Councils are powerless.

Scores Of Councils Say Food Shortages A Risk If UK Crashes Out Of EU (Ind.)

Scores of local councils have said a no-deal Brexit could result in food, medicine and fuel shortages in their constituencies – with many stating that crashing out without an agreement could lead to civil unrest and damage to social care. Official documents from 63 councils uncovered by the People’s Vote campaign have revealed local authorities fear that fundamental services could suffer and others could be cut if the UK crashes out of the EU. It follows the release of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer planning paper, which warned lorries could face delays of up to two and a half days at Dover, and that protest and public disorder would take up “significant” police resources.


Of the councils that released their Brexit “risk registers”, more than two-thirds said food shortages could grip their local area. Many also said this could lead to unchecked contaminated food entering the supply chain. More than half warned of medicine supplies being put at risk, while 59 per cent said fuel could also become scarce leading to a breakdown in their ability to deploy services – on top of the damage caused to the general public. And just under two-thirds said civil unrest, increased tensions between communities and public disorder could be sparked, including Dartford council which warned of an “increase in hate crime” as the area had “always been a target” for extreme right wing groups.

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What do you mean they can’t find evidence?

McCabe Lawyer Presses Justice Department To Drop Criminal Case (R.)

A lawyer for former FBI official Andrew McCabe pressed U.S. prosecutors on Friday to drop their politically sensitive case against him, citing reports that suggest they may be having trouble securing criminal charges. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating McCabe, the FBI’s former No. 2 official, for more than 1-1/2 years over allegations he misled internal investigators about his decision to share internal communications with a reporter at the height of the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors and senior officials within the Justice Department, including Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, have recommended moving forward with criminal charges, according to sources familiar with the investigation.


But they might have encountered another hurdle. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a federal grand jury investigating the case had been called back to consider evidence, but had left without returning an indictment. Grand juries are used in the U.S. legal system to assess the validity of possible criminal charges in major cases. To obtain an indictment, U.S. prosecutors typically need to convince the grand jury there is probable cause that a crime has been committed, which is a lower legal standard than that needed to secure a guilty verdict at trial. Proceedings are conducted in secret.

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How does Flynn pay his legal bills?

Tectonic Rumblings (Kunstler)

After Mr. Trump won the 2016 election, he moved to appoint General Flynn as his National Security Advisor. Within a few days, FBI director James Comey pulled off an entrapment gambit to incriminate General Flynn over a conversation he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak — as if incoming high officials for foreign policy are not supposed to associate with foreign ambassadors. You understand now that the government had continued its surveillance of General Flynn for years, including tapping his phone when he moved into his White House office. That enabled Mr. Comey to set up a perjury trap. The General was successfully sandbagged this time, kicked offstage, and conned into a guilty plea. He’s been awaiting sentencing for more than a year.

A few months ago, General Flynn fired his old lawyers and hired Sidney Powell, an attorney who literally wrote the book on discovering prosecutorial misconduct in the case of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, whose prosecution over Mickey Mouse comped hotel bills was thrown out of court by the same Judge, Emmet Sullivan, who presides in the US versus Flynn. Ms. Powell has now declared that she intends to prove “egregious prosecutorial conduct” and suppression of exculpatory evidence against the DOJ lawyers who ran the case against General Flynn. The government never would have had a case if they revealed the FBI’s internal memos on General Flynn.


Attorney Powell is seeking to have the case thrown out of court. The FBI and the DOJ lawyers who conducted the prosecution have stonewalled the court on producing the documents at issue. Judge Sullivan may sense that he’s seen this movie before. The case took on a life of its own long before William Barr was confirmed as attorney general and one wonders if he has any role in ending this damaging farce. Legal protocol may require Judge Sullivan to complete the case one way or another. I wrote in this space a year ago that General Flynn had been subject to prosecutorial misconduct. Now, I’ll venture to assert that if Judge Sullivan does not throw the case out, Mr. Trump will step in and pardon General Flynn, and in doing so will make it clear exactly how and why he was run into court in the first place.

Read more …

Matt Taibbi on the story I covered early this week in Pulp Fiction Media

Latest Russian Spy Story Looks Like Another Elaborate Media Deception (Taibbi)

It’s a characteristic of third world countries to have the intelligence world and the media be intertwined enough that it’s not always clear whether the reporters and the reported-about are the same people. When you turn on the TV in Banana Republics, you’re never sure which group is talking to you. We’re now in that same paradigm in America. CNN has hired nearly a dozen former intelligence or counterintelligence officials as analysts in the last few years. Their big get was former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but they also now have former deputy FBI chief Andrew McCabe, former FBI counsel James Baker, and multiple former CIA, NSA, and NSC officials.


Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan has an MSNBC/NBC gig, as does former CIA and DOD chief of staff Jeremy Bash, and several other ex-spooks. The Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, who doubles as the CEO of one of America’s largest intelligence contractors. This odious situation is similar to 2003-2004, when cable networks were tossing contributor deals to every ex-general and ex-spook they could find while they were reporting on the Iraq invasion. At one point, FAIR.org found that 52 percent of the sources in network newscasts were current or former government officials. The numbers now aren’t quite that skewed, but CNN and MSNBC both employ former senior intelligence officials who comment upon stories in which they had direct involvement, especially the Russia investigation.

Read more …

Don’t want to turn into a gossip site, but the difference between 2 weeks and 5 years is a tad much.

Felicity Huffman Shows Rich & Famous Can Get Away With ANYTHING (RT)

That actress Felicity Huffman will go to jail for only 14 days over college entrance fraud shows there are really two justice systems in the US: one for the rich, famous and politically correct – and another for everyone else.
The ‘Desperate Housewives’ star pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to falsify her daughter Sophia’s SAT – a college admissions test – and was sentenced to two weeks in jail, 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine and a year of supervised release. Altogether, a slap on the wrist to a Hollywood celebrity. It did not take long for her case to be contrasted with the fate of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who falsified a residency document in 2011 to enroll her son in a better school. McDowell ended up getting jailed for five years for first-degree larceny, and would have faced an even longer sentence had she not made a deal with prosecutors.


Comparing the two cases is absolutely apples to apples. That McDowell was later charged with selling drugs to undercover police officers and given a concurrent sentence does not change the severity of her initial punishment – 130 times longer than was meted out to Huffman. Could it be that it’s because Huffman is white and McDowell is black, and the US justice system is irreparably racist, as a lot of people have argued? Another possibility could be Huffman’s fame, fortune – and politics. After her arrest in April, Huffman was revealed to have donated over $10,000 to Democrats, including over $1,500 to the Senate campaign of Kamala Harris – the tough-on-crime prosecutor in San Francisco and California, now running for president.

Read more …

What do you guys think, will all regulators comply? How about the public? Do you want to board a 737 MAX?

Crisis-Hit Boeing Readies Huge Effort To Return 737 MAX To The Skies (R.)

As Boeing sets its sights on winning approval to fly its 737 MAX within weeks, following a six-month safety ban, engineers around the world are rolling out plans for one of the biggest logistical operations in civil aviation history. Inside Boeing’s 737 factory at Renton, Washington, south of Seattle, workers have pre-assembled dedicated tool kits for technicians tasked with installing software updates and readying over 500 jets that have sat idle for months, insiders said. Across the globe, Boeing teams are hammering out delivery schedules – and financial terms – with airline customers who have been forced to cancel flights, cut routes and fly aging jetliners while they await the MAX’s return.

Although regulators must still approve the jets for flight, Boeing and airline staff and executives say the world’s largest planemaker is weeks into an elaborate blueprint for production, maintenance and delivery that one source said involves 1,500 engineers – as many as it takes to design a small new jet. Another likened the logistics to a nation “going to war.” Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Engineer John Hamilton called the previously unreported mobilization more like an elaborate “ballet,” which includes synchronizing 680 suppliers of everything from carbon brakes to pilot seatbelts.


[..] Once regulators certify the MAX for flight, Boeing will have to mobilize hundreds of mechanics and pilots to bring the roughly 250 stored aircraft out of hibernation. Airlines estimate the process – which includes installing new software, changing fluids and cycling the engines – will take 100 to 150 hours per jet, and months in total for Boeing. In one example highlighting the minute risks that could upend months of planning, a team of employees is analyzing years of data on December snowfall at an airport in rural Moses Lake, Washington – where Boeing has parked some 100 jets – to predict demand for aircraft anti-freeze and runway performance.

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I know Snowden needs to sell his book, but the Guardian? Really? The paper runs a smear campaign against Assange, without whom Snowden would be in a very different set-up.

A Person The Most Powerful Government In The World Wanted To Go Away (G.)

The world’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden, says he has detected a softening in public hostility towards him in the US over his disclosure of top-secret documents that revealed the extent of the global surveillance programmes run by American and British spy agencies. In an exclusive two-hour interview in Moscow to mark the publication of his memoirs, Permanent Record, Snowden said dire warnings that his disclosures would cause harm had not come to pass, and even former critics now conceded “we live in a better, freer and safer world” because of his revelations.

In the book, Snowden describes in detail for the first time his background, and what led him to leak details of the secret programmes being run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s secret communication headquarters, GCHQ. He describes the 18 years since the September 11 attacks as “a litany of American destruction by way of American self-destruction, with the promulgation of secret policies, secret laws, secret courts and secret wars”. Snowden also said: “The greatest danger still lies ahead, with the refinement of artificial intelligence capabilities, such as facial and pattern recognition. “An AI-equipped surveillance camera would be not a mere recording device, but could be made into something closer to an automated police officer.”


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Moscow is not such a bad place. It beats Belmarsh.

‘If I Happen to Fall out of a Window, You Can Be Sure I Was Pushed’ (Spiegel)

Book a suite in a luxury hotel in Moscow, send the room number encrypted to a pre-determined mobile number and then wait for a return message indicating a precise time: Meeting Edward Snwoden is pretty much exactly how children imagine the grand game of espionage is played. But then, on Monday, there he was, standing in our room on the first floor of the Hotel Metropol, as pale and boyish-looking as the was when the world first saw him in June 2013. For the last six years, he has been living in Russian exile. The U.S. has considered him to be an enemy of the state, right up there with Julian Assange, ever since he revealed, with the help of journalists, the full scope of the surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency (NSA).


For quite some time, though, he remained silent about how he smuggled the secrets out of the country and what his personal motivations were. Now, though, he has written a book about it. It will be published worldwide on September 17 under the title “Permanent Record.” Ahead of publication, Snowden spent over two-and-a-half hours patiently responding to questions from DER SPIEGEL.

Read more …

 

Vintage Australia map from 1773

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 132019
 
 September 13, 2019  Posted by at 7:03 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Max Ernst Untitled 1913

 

No, I don’t want to talk about last night’s US Democrats’ debate. That’s just lousy comedy. But I’ll admit I’m happy to see Tulsi Gabbard demolished DNC favorite Kamala Harris’s chances before the same DNC managed to get rid of Tulsi. She should have been at that debate just for having that kind of influence.

Instead, unfortunately, and I’m almost apologizing, I have to revisit Brexit yet again. Hey, at least it’s better comedy. But I’ve addressed it a bit much lately. I did find it interesting to see Julian Assange’s view the other day in Assange, Varoufakis, Brexit. After all, Julian’s been in Britain for so long he could probably apply for citizenship. That makes his view more interesting than for instance mine, I think.

By the way, he was in court again today, Friday the 13th. Or not really in court, he appeared via videolink. Only to be subjected to more derogatory nonsense from the British court system. I’m sure he saw that coming, he never even requested bail, but still. These people lack all decency.

Julian Assange To Stay In Prison Over Absconding Fears

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to remain in prison when his jail term ends because of his “history of absconding”, a judge has ruled. He was due to be released on 22 September after serving his sentence for breaching bail conditions. But Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard there were “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again. [..] District judge Vanessa Baraitser on Friday told Assange, who appeared by video-link: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end.


“When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.” She said that his lawyer had declined to make an application for bail on his behalf, adding “perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings”. “In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

I don’t even want to get into the reasoning behind that insulting behavior. But it does make one think about the deep dive the UK justice system has taken. I would propose no longer using the word Justice to describe it. A court system that functions as political theater it not worthy of the title.

 

And that’s a good link back to Brexit. A few days ago two different courts in the Once-United Kingdom, the Inner House of Session of Scotland and the High Court of England and Wales, issued entirely opposite judgments on the legality of the prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson’s government.

Or, rather, to get the details right, the Scottish court said the matter was ‘justiciable’, and the prorogation was unlawful, while the English court simple said the case was not ‘justiciable’, and it’s Parliament that has to decide on this. Yes, the same Parliament that has effectively been shut down.

Longtime friend of the Automatic Earth, Mike ‘Mish’ Shedlock, has been running quite a series of articles on Brexit lately. Since he’s American, his views are no more relevant than mine, but whereas I am -or try to be- fully neutral on the issue, Mish is a fervent supporter of Brexit. He sees it as something fair and just. I have my doubts on that, but I do agree with Mish that the EU is a pretty bad institution.

It’s just that I also think the UK has prepared itself very poorly for leaving the EU, and that this lack of preparation will end up hurting the British population, a substantial part of which is already suffocating under a yoke of extreme austerity. Britain is very much still a class society, and Boris Johnson and his ilk will be fine, but millions of others will not.

 

I saw something in Mish’s latest today that I though I’d highlight. See, I think it’s obvious that there are not two, but three ‘factions’ in the UK today where Brexit is concerned. There are those who want to Remain in the EU, there are those who want to Leave no matter how or what, and as we’ve seen a lot off late, there are many who want to leave but only if a deal with Brussels has been agreed.

Now, the tendency has become, as the bickering worsens, to group that third faction, which wants a deal before leaving, in with those who want to Remain. If you’re not with us you’re against us. This has appeared as a sort of tactical move for the Leave campaign. Here’s Mish quoting Eurointelligence:

If the Supreme Court, as we expect, does not intervene on prorogation, that leaves Hilary Benn’s legislation – requiring Johnson to seek an extension to the Art. 50 withdrawal period – as the main tactical approach left for Remainers.

It’s obvious that those seeking that extension are not only Remainers. Many are not, there are for instance a lot of Labour party members and voters who favor Leave, but with a deal. Jeremy Corbyn himself is one of them. There are many in the Conservative party who want to leave only with a deal. 21 MPs were banned from the party for exactly that. Casting these people in with the Remainers may be a dangerous game.

Beacuse let’s play with the numbers a little. If that third faction, Leave With A Deal, makes up one third of all Leave voters, which seems quite reasonable if not even lowballing it, than what does that do to the 51.89% majority for Leave in the June 23 2016 referendum? I’ll go with 51%, easier to play with. One third of 51% is 17%. Add that to the 48% who voted Remain, and you’re at 65%. Almost 2/3 doesn’t want to Leave without a deal.

That leaves the ‘pure’ Leavers with just 34%, little more than a third of total votes. Does that still sound like The Will of the People to you? And the people behind Boris Johnson who wish to push Leave through even if there is no deal (some would prefer that) can say all they want, but Boris doesn’t even have a majority in Parliament anymore.

If you must suspend Parliament to push through something that will affect the country for decades and that 2/3 of people don’t want, you are on very thin ice. And it doesn’t look like you’re executing The Will of the People, at all. Because many would not have voted Leave if they had been told it could take place without that deal.

And of course when you see EU commission head Juncker’s successor Ursula von der Leyen setting up an office for the “Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life”, you too think “get me out of this asylum, and fast”, but you can’t do that unless that is The Will of the People.

This will end with the Supreme Court deciding what that will is. Which is far from ideal. But Boris can call an election; he just needs to agree not to Leave without a deal. Because that is the Will of 2/3 of the People’s chosen representatives.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper this week defined British politics as “what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.”

Good theater. I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

Sep 112019
 
 September 11, 2019  Posted by at 1:26 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

 

A friend of mine here in Athens, Greece, named Wayne Hall, who’s of Australian descent but moved here at about the time Napoleon headed for St. Petersburg, and works as a translator and language teacher, sent me a mail a few days ago that I thought was interesting.

In particular, Wayne referred to a video I didn’t know existed, of Julian Assange hosting a get-together in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the night of the Brexit referendum, June 23, 2016, that includes a video (sound) link to Yanis Varoufakis who was in Rome at the time.

Julian was receiving visitors and broadcasting! How times have deteriorated, it’s heart-rendering, and it’s so painfully good to see him here in better days…. That video is below. The sound quality of Varoufakis speaking is really bad, and I don’t have the equipment here to work on that, but Wayne was kind enough to transcribe it. See also below.

What I found especially intriguing is the difference in view between the two: Varoufakis wanted (wants) the UK to stay in the EU, in order to reform it from within. And he thinks (thought) that his cross-European party, DiEM 25, can play a role in that. Even though it has no seats in the EU parliament, not then, and not now.

Assange, on the other hand, was pretty much pro-Brexit. He was quite clear about this (a few hours before the referendum results were in):

[..] if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far. And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this.

That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted. And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy.

So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Once again, testimony to Julian’s profound insight if not intelligence. And testimony to how much he is missed, withering away in solitary confinement in a prison for terrorists while he should be explaining our world to us.

Still, Varoufakis has some good points as well I find:

The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels.

Wayne has some more well-argued thoughts on the difference in thinking between Assange and Varoufakis. Here he is:

 

 

Wayne Hall: I am Wayne Hall and I’m speaking from Athens. I have a message for the Unity 4j network in defence of Julian Assange and first and foremost for the Greek group. Many if not most of Julian’s defenders in Europe are on the Left. In the US the situation is different but here we are talking about Europe. Some of Julian’s Leftist defenders even criticize him for not being Left himself. If he is not a Leftist what is he?

I think he would say that the question of truth and falsehood should take priority over political identity and that this is particularly urgent because at this moment the world is approaching a situation of near total domination of either falsehood in public discussion or else of censorship. At the moment a hot issue in Europe is Britain’s relations with the European Union. It is certainly more discussed than Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning or Wikileaks.

I have proposed the idea of opening a discussion under the title “From Wikileaks to Brexit” and I have been confronted with this question “what is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit?” The first point I would like to make in response to this is to remind people, or inform people, because most probably they will not know, that on the day of the Brexit referendum (23rd June 2016) that has led to the current situation in relations between Britain and the EU, Julian Assange organized a comprehensive debate on Brexit with a wide range of activists, scholars and other citizens, and made it available through live streaming.

At that time Julian was still in the Ecuadorian Embassy and was able to receive visitors, have access to the internet and speak to the public. This was changed on 28th March 2018 and on 11th April 2019 Assange was expelled from the Embassy, tried and imprisoned. At the moment he is being held incommunicado and also prevented from preparing for the hearing on extradition to the United States, to be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917. The hearing in England is programmed for 25th February 2020.

The discussion on Brexit hosted by Julian Assange has characteristics that are not present in the Brexit debate as it is being conducted today. The Assange discussion strives for impartiality and a plurality of viewpoints, mostly sincere, unscripted viewpoints of a kind that seem today, unfortunately, to be disappearing from public discussion.

Hopefully this offers the beginning of an answer to the question “What is the connection between Wikileaks and Brexit”? The participant in the discussion that is featured in the following video is Yanis Varoufakis, former Finance Minister in the first six months of the 2015 to 2019 SYRIZA government headed by Alexis Tsipras. Varoufakis resigned from this government in protest at its surrendering to pressures from the Troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Assange’s and Varoufakis’ stance on the Brexit issues are not the same. Assange is more or less favourable to Brexit. Varoufakis and the citizens’ movement he founded, DiEM25, campaigned against it, saying that the issue was not that Britain should withdraw from the EU but that the EU should become an entity with which British people and people in other EU member countries would wish to be associated.

Assange asked Varoufakis an important question just before the result of the referendum became known. He said, if the Remains side wins, will there be any pressure at all for the kinds of changes in the EU that DiEM25 seeks to promote? Varoufakis replied that DiEM will see to it that the pressure continues. But is this what has happened, even though it is the Leave side, not the Remain side, that won the referendum? There has been a separation between the Assange question and the Brexit question.

A defence campaign for Julian Assange is under way but it faces a mainstream media blackout. A recent concert by Pink Floyd member Roger Waters was totally ignored by the channels that the majority of people watch. Was DiEM25 able to help get this concert into the mainstream media? And in any case, was Roger Waters’ message the same as what Julian’s message would have been if he had been able to speak for himself? Has the campaign against Brexit, against Trump and against Boris Johnson displaced the campaign for democracy? And is democracy favoured when a British Prime Minister is prevented from being able to call an election?

All because of a change in the electoral law voted on the initiative of the Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg in 2011 to make it more difficult for his coalition partner the Tory David Cameron to bring down the fragile Tory-Lib Dem coalition government that was in power at that time. How much is the media talking about this factor? How much is it being mentioned by DiEM25? Doubtless it would be mentioned by Julian Assange but he is no longer a participant in public discussion. If disinformation and censorship is becoming universalized and control over it almost total, the question of right wing versus left wing politics becomes a secondary issue.

Not to be ignored but not given priority over accuracy and availability of correct information. This is a basic component of Julian Assange’s world view. On 8th September 2019 Labour members of the House of Commons sang “The Red Flag” as they supported the moves against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to call an election. Is the symbolism of this enough to open minds?

 

 

Transcript for the video


Introduction:

The Brexit referendum took place on 23rd June 2016 to ask if the United Kingdom should remain a member of, or leave the European Union. Julian Assange, at that time being given political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy but also free from the restrictions later imposed by the successor Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno, was still able to receive visitors, organize meetings and use the internet. He held a marathon videorecorded discussion of Brexit with a variety of activists, journalists, public figures and supportive citizens. The referendum resulted in 51.89% of votes being in favour of leaving the EU. One of the people Assange interviewed was Yanis Varoufakis.

 

Julian Assange: This is Brexit club, live streaming at Brexitclub.eu throughout the evening as we count the Brexit vote from here inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. I’m Julian Assange. This embassy, some of you probably know, has been under a police siege for the last four years, incredibly. Here at the centre of the siege we have Yanis Varoufakis calling in from Rome. He is the immediately former Finance Minister of Greece, who famously negotiated with Schaeuble and the European Central Bank in relation to the Greek bailout. Naomi Colvin, the London director of the Courage Foundation. She represents a number of people who are being extradited from the UK. Craig Murray,former ambassador to Usbekistan. A Scot, so he’ll have some social perspective. He’s come down…. Where in Scotland, Craig?

Craig Murray: Edinburgh.

Julian Assange: To join us. And Srecko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher, who perhaps can give us an Eastern European perspective. He’s also involved in something that Yanis Varoufakis founded, which is the DiEM25 movement, which is the movement from the Left, essentially, to create ideas and structure a unity for a new and better Europe, not the Europe we have now, which I think most people concede has an enormous democratic deficit.

Yanis, your thoughts from Rome, where you are now. (He’s not from Rome. He’s Greek).

Yanis Varoufakis: Well you know we’re all pigs after all, you know. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, even Spain. We’re all the swine of Europe. Well, Julian, you say that from where I’m standing it seems that the “remain” may have a small lead. It’s not clear yet. As we know DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe movement that you were so kind as to refer to a moment ago – and which of course you have signed the Manifesto of.

Julian Assange: That’s right, which I have signed the Manifesto of I must confess and which I helped, with some words……

Yanis Varoufakis: Unlike you, as a movement, we have campaigned vigorously in favour of a radical “in” vote, not the kind of “in” votes or “remains” that Cameron has been campaigning for, which together with Hillary Clinton, Francois Hollande, Wolfgang Schaueble, Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Barack Obama and all the other contributors to the loss of the European Union legitimately, technically and so on. We’ve been campaigning for a radical “in” and “against” the European Union approach, to struggle within the European Union institutions in order to usurp them, in a sense.

A standard dialectical position about how to enter a particular set of institutions and try to change them from within through confrontation, not just mere reform. One way or the other, my view – and I think it’s where we differ is that the British people have clearly given the ambivalence that they are displaying on the runup to the referendum and I’m sure that that ambivalence will be demonstrated today….

And we’re saying that the establishment, both in London and in Brussels, has spectacularly failed with Brexit. The British people are disenchanted. They’ve had a gutful of the policies that have come from Brussels, as well as the austerian authoritarianism from the British establishment, even those who are voting for Brexit, like Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tories. The only quarrel that they have with the practice is that they want to be able to rule over the British people without any impediments from Brussels. And it is clear to us in DiEM25 that if “remain” wins, even though we campaigned for “remain”, we are not in any mood for celebration.

We rejected the logic of the European Union, the creation of the Brexit. But we also reject the logic of “business as usual”, which is the establishment view in Brussels and in London. And as of today, whatever the result might be we are going to promote, continue promoting a radical agenda for confronting the Establishment in London and Brussels and Paris everywhere and to put in practice the ideas that can be linked to. . Bring together European democrats in a fight to democratize Europe. And therefore we see 24th June as the beginning of a very long campaign. We certainly don’t see it as the beginning of “business as usual” or the end of some process.

Julian Assange: Do you think there are opportunities, Yanis, in the case of a “remain” result, of course, you know the Junckers of this world, the Camerons, respectively I suppose, European federalists and Transatlanticists will be celebrating, trying to suggest that it was a landslide, for example. I think that is highly unlikely. It seems like it is going to be a very close vote, whichever way it is. Do you think that there is an opportunity to take hold. Is there an opportunity at all if there is a “remain” outcome?

Yanis Varoufakis: Oh there is always an opportunity and we are going to make sure there is one. We will carve one out of the Establishment’s hopes for “business as usual”. We’re not going to allow them to celebrate. We’re going to make sure that the scare that they got from this referendum, and they did get a major scare, is going to be magnified. And we are going to try to utilize that fear that the popular will has instilled into their souls by coalescing around a democratic campaign from Ireland to Greece, from the Baltics all the way to Portugal. We’re not going to allow them to even imagine that they can continue doing what they have been doing all those years.

And in any case the European crisis, including immigration, even though it has a gigantic human cost in terms of actual lives that are being diminished as a result of this crisis, nevertheless this crisis is going to make sure that they cannot be allowed to celebrate. They know that they are clueless. They have no idea as to stabilize this undemocratic, antidemocratic, European Union, and it is the peoples of Europe that have an opportunity to seize upon the democratic process that culminates in this referendum in order to create the space we need for an integrating democracy in Europe and for making sure that they have sleepless night after sleepless night.

Julian Assange: Tomorrow, Yanis, when the result is known and I guess the work must start, tomorrow, across the weekend, on Monday, if it’s a leave, what is the call by DiEM to heed the lessons of a Leave vote?

Yanis Varoufakis: I’d like to speak personally for a moment and then on behalf of DiEM. I can do that too but I think it is more honest and straightforward to speak personally. I happen to be a politician who last year was crushed by Brussels, crushed by Berlin, crushed by Frankfurt, where the European Central Bank is domiciled. and vilified by the scandal press, throughout Europe, in Greece, the world over. And yet in this campaign I campaigned for remaining in the EU.

Not because of any love lost between me and the European Union but because of the particular judgements that we need an internationalist agenda, we need a narrative of binding people together, within the European Union against the European Union. I believe in being honest to people like Wolfgang Schaeuble, Jean-Claude Juncker, my own comrades who remain now in the European Union completely surrendered to its ways and means and the idea that there is no alternative logic, and I say to them: We radicals who opposed Brussels argue for Remain.

We went, I went, personally, to Birmingham, to Ireland, to Wales, to Ireland, to London, to Scotland, and campaigning for the British people to stay in. And the British people turned it down. And they turned it down not because they didn’t want to listen to me. They turned it down because you, the Establishment of the European Union has made such a deep mess of the European Union that it was impossible to convince them to continue to accept you as the established order of Europe. So we tried to save the European Union from you, and you who are supposed to be the custodians of the European Union have failed so badly.

Julian Assange: I mean, to my mind, if there is a successful Leave vote, and I mean we have some vote counts here, but they’re very early. 146,000 England-wide Leave votes 136,000 Remain votes. I don’t think you can say very much on that. Actually, here we have some slightly updated but still very early. Remain on 49.5%. Brexit on 50.5%. The vote counts are only 150,000 so it doesn’t really mean anything statistically. But, what was I saying? So yes, if there is a Leave or even if the vote is very close, which it surely is, it is something that calls into question the political legitimacy of the European Union in the way it has been conducted so far.

And really it’s quite incredible that it came to this. That the European Union as a political structure was so unadaptable to the political calls upon it that it was not able to hand out the appropriate concessions to show that it had political legitimacy by doing what people wanted.

And regardless of what that structure is, any structure which manages a nation state or collection of nation states has to be able to keep political legitimacy. So I think that there is a very strong argument that the structure is a failure. Regardless of what side of politics you are on. A structure that cannot dynamically adapt to the political expediencies around it to regain political legitimacy when it is eroding is a failed structure.

Yanis Varoufakis: It is very much so. Indeed I dedicated a whole book recently on precisely that. And I’ve described the European Union as a postwar cartel of heavy industry which was pretty adept at creating consensus around it throughout Europe. Think of the period of growth when it was distributing monopoly profits throughout Europe and in a way which was very unequal but nevertheless it created alliances between different social groups for instance there was a Greek monopoly that gave the profits to farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy.

Cartels that could be good at distributing the goodies during the good times but they are pretty appalling and inefficient when it comes to distributing burdens in periods of crisis and particularly when it comes to arresting the crisis through macroeconomic adjustment policies which recycle surpluses and deficits in a way that is macroeconomically sustainable. And Europe has really failed in this task especially since 2008. And you don’t have to wait for today’s result, or tonight’s result to be given. Just look at the Eurobarometers. The Eurobarometer is an official European Union opinion poll which is controlling over time. …..

Julian Assange: And what is it? It’s a port for the EU.

Yanis Varoufakis: The vast majority of Europeans declared that they have confidence in the institutions of the European Union. Percentages above 65-70%. In some countries more than 80%. If you look at the same data today on the same questions. “Do you trust the institutions of the European Union?” in most countries you get below 50%. In some countries you get below 35%. So there is no doubt about it.

 

 

NOTE: the video continues after the conversation with Varoufakis, and I didn’t want to cut it off.

 

 

 

 

Sep 102019
 
 September 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Marc Chagall The painter to the moon 1917

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)
Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)
Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)
MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)
Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)
Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)
Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)
And The Word Was God (Kunstler)
How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)
Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

 

 

At this stage, what’s the difference between 1,000% and 2,000%?

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)

Total potential debt for the U.S. by one all-encompassing measure is running close to 2,000% of GDP, according to an analysis that suggests danger but also cautions against reading too much into the level. AB Bernstein came up with the calculation — 1,832%, to be exact — by including not only traditional levels of public debt like bonds but also financial debt and all its complexities as well as future obligations for so-called entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and public pensions. Putting all that together paints a daunting picture but one that requires nuance to understand. Paramount is realizing that not all of the debt obligations are set in stone, and it’s important to know where the leeway is, particularly in the government programs that can be changed either by legislation or accounting.


“This conceptual difference is important to acknowledge because this lens is often used by those who wish to paint a dire picture about debt,” Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, chief U.S. economist at AB Bernstein, said in the report. “While the picture is dire, such numbers don’t prove we are doomed or that a debt crisis is inevitable.” Crisis measures cut both ways — sometimes a seemingly smaller level of debt can cause outsized problems during times of economic stress, such as during the financial crisis. And larger levels of debt can be sustained so long as other conditions, like leverage levels, or debt to capital, are manageable.

Read more …

He lost all 6 of his first 6 votes. Unique.

Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has lost his second attempt to trigger an early general election in his sixth humiliating Commons defeat since becoming prime minister. Ahead of parliament being suspended by the government for five weeks, MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit again deprived the prime minister of the required votes for an early poll in the last major showdown of the current session. Less than a week after his first bid to seek an election was scuppered, Mr Johnson again asked the Commons to vote on a motion to bypass a law setting out that the next vote should not take place until 2022.


From Dutch newspaper NRC

Read more …

5 whole weeks, But trust me, they won’t be silent weeks.

Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)

Parliament has officially been suspended for five weeks, with MPs not due back until 14 October. Amid unusual scenes in the House of Commons, some MPs protested against the suspension with signs saying “silenced” while shouting: “Shame on you.” It comes after PM Boris Johnson’s bid to call a snap election in October was defeated for a second time. Opposition MPs refused to back it, insisting a law blocking a no-deal Brexit must be implemented first. In all, 293 MPs voted for the prime minister’s motion for an early election, far short of the two thirds needed. Parliament was suspended – or prorogued – at just before 02:00 BST on Tuesday.


As Speaker John Bercow – who earlier announced his resignation – was due to lead MPs in a procession to the House of Lords to mark the suspension, a group of angry opposition backbenchers appeared to try to block his way. It is normal for new governments to suspend Parliament, but the length and timing of the prorogation in this case has sparked controversy.

Read more …

Wonder how they’re going to go about not complying.

MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s government has suffered another humiliating Commons defeat, as MPs ordered the release of internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over the decision to suspend parliament. The emergency motion – passed by 311 to 302 votes – means the government will also be forced to publish its no-deal planning documents under Operation Yellowhammer. Put forward by the ex-Tory MP Dominic Grieve, the motion orders ministers to surrender the documents by Wednesday and includes the private communications of Mr Johnson’s chief-of-staff, Dominic Cummings. It demands “all correspondence, whether formal or informal in both written and electronic form” relating to the prorogation sent by officials since the day before Mr Johnson’s arrival in office on 24 July.


And their emergency motion makes clear this should include messages sent via the WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal apps, by text or iMessage and from “private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted”. It lists nine individuals in Mr Johnson’s administration, including Mr Cummings, Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain and Beatrice Timpson. Mr Grieve, who is now sitting as an independent MP after losing the Tory whip, said public officials had given him information relating to prorogation that informed him “they believed the handling of this matter smacked of scandal”.

Read more …

Europe at least pretends it has bigger fish to fry. Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France will be hit, but many others truly don’t care much.

Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)

Reason No. 1: the economy, and an end to uncertainty. Trust Macron to come back swinging at the next EU council meeting mid-October, when a possible request for an extension might be discussed if U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson abides by the law voted by Parliament. In March, the French president argued that it would be a waste of time. Others were in favor of granting the U.K. a longer extension, of up to a year. The irony is that Macron defends the same line as the hardest Brexiteers — mainly that there is a cost to uncertainty that at some point may exceed the cost of a no-deal Brexit. [..]

Reason No. 2: Diplomacy, and an EU desire to move on. A new European Commission is taking over on Nov. 1 — the day after the Brexit deadline — and Europe has challenges of its own to focus on. The influence of euroskeptic governments and movements on the EU’s deliberations is the first challenge, just as the EU has embarked on the tough discussions over its multiyear budget. Europe also needs to come together on the many challenges it is facing: whether to boost joint defense capabilities or what policy to adopt toward Russia, for example, in addition to optimizing its positioning vis-à-vis U.S. President Donald Trump. [..]

Reason No. 3: Politics, and the fact that Brexit isn’t a European domestic problem. For EU leaders, there is little political capital to lose by playing hardball with London. Brexit has never been a European problem, and it never figured as a topic in the many national electoral campaigns that have taken place since the Brexit referendum in 2016. EU leaders don’t even really care about the possible blame game that would follow a hard Brexit, if they appear to have slammed the door on London.

Read more …

Facebook is the opposite of privacy, that’s its business model.

Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)

A federal judge on Monday ordered Facebook to face most of a nationwide lawsuit seeking damages for letting third parties such as Cambridge Analytica access users’ private data, calling the social media company’s views on privacy “so wrong.” While dismissing some claims, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said users could try to hold Facebook liable under various federal and state laws for letting app developers and business partners harvest their personal data without their consent on a “widespread” basis. He rejected Facebook’s arguments that users suffered no “tangible” harm and had no legitimate privacy interest in information they shared with friends on social media.


“Facebook’s motion to dismiss is littered with assumptions about the degree to which social media users can reasonably expect their personal information and communications to remain private,” Chhabria wrote. “Facebook’s view is so wrong.” A Facebook spokeswoman said the company considered protecting people’s information and privacy “extremely important,” but believed its practices were consistent with its disclosures and “do not support any legal claims.” Lesley Weaver and Derek Loeser, two of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in a joint statement that they were pleased with the decision, and “especially gratified that the court is respecting Facebook users’ right to privacy.”

Read more …

“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters.

But for many Hong Kongers, China is that country.

Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)

Hong Kong’s embattled leader warned the United States on Tuesday not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing. Millions of people have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain in 1997. Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.


The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status. But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits”. “It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters. “I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.” [..] Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.

Read more …

Jim standing up for teaching proper language skills.

And The Word Was God (Kunstler)

Enough about me. Obviously, the racial shuffle has been going on for decades in the New York City school system, but in these times of white privilege and intersectionality, the escape routes of G & T and SP must be plugged. No extra gruel for you! But I have a remedy for the persistent problem of underperformance, one that has not really been tried: intense concentration, starting in preschool and going forward as long as necessary, in spoken English. Language is the foundation of learning, certainly of reading skill, and too many children just can’t speak English. Without it, they’ll be unable to learn anything else, including math. The reasons for their poor language skills are beside the point.


Whether they are newcomers from foreign lands or the descendants of slaves, they need to learn how to speak English and to do it correctly, with all the tenses and correct verbs. They need to be intelligible to others and to themselves to make sense of the world. The resistance to this idea would be mighty and furious, I’m sure. Some people will always be smarter than others, but the disparities at issue are badly aggravated by poverty in language. We don’t even pretend to want to take the obvious steps to correct this, even though it is obviously correctable. Learning anything puts people out of their comfort zone, so that can’t be used as an excuse. Diversity in language is a handicap, and it does not make you specially abled. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

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I used to rant a lot against the Fauxbel, haven’t for a bit. But my friend Steve Keen is involved in this round.

How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)

Who shaped our world more Neil Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, or the King of Sweden? By any standards, 1969 was a momentous year. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, half a million people came to Woodstock to hear Jimi Hendrix, and the Stonewall riots kicked off the gay liberation movement. The same year, less well remembered, an event in Stockholm arguably shaped our world today even more. And not for the best. Fifty years ago this year, the King of Sweden presented with royal pomp the first ever Nobel medals in economics. The prize has been dogged by controversy ever since. Alfred Nobel the founder of the awards never wanted an economics prize, his descendants want it scrapped and the economist F.A. Hayek said it was dangerous.

That’s not the half. Serious thinkers argue that the prize in ‘economic sciences’, as it’s called, has given economic ideas which favour the rich and powerful the gloss of scientific truth. The prize, still paid for every year by Sweden’s Central Bank, has helped weaken democratic control of money, they argue, and helped one school of economic thought – known as neoclassical – dominate the rest. It has contributed to a crisis of conformity in economics and trouble well beyond the ivory tower. This narrow economic thinking celebrated by the Nobels has often ignored, and exacerbated, the multiple crises staring us in the face: ecological breakdown, financial crashes, and politically toxic inequality.

Take the 2018 winner William Nordhaus: his models may have delayed action on climate change. Or consider the 1997 winners Robert Merton and Myron Scholes: their hedge fund had to be bailed out to the tune of $3.6 billion less than a year after they won the prize. Or wrap your head around the equations of the 1996 winner, James Mirrlees, whose work contributed to plummeting tax on the super-rich around the world. All of these “contributions” are described as economic science: the political values and choices inherent in the models are rarely acknowledged or discussed. Debate is closed down.

Read more …

It may have started again. Erdogan is threatening to send over 5.5 million refugees and migrants if a safe area in northern Syria in not funded by the west.

Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

At east 207 migrants landed just on the island of Lesvos early on Monday, bringing the total number of illegal migrants landing on all Aegean islands over the weekend to 726. As migrant flows increase, Greek premier Mitsotakis said that Turkey should not try to coerce either Greece or Europe in its attempts to receive support for a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria. Turkey is currently proposing to resettle one million refugees there, and it may reopen the route for illegal immigrants to flow into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.


“Mr. Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee (issue),” Mitsotakis told a news conference in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. “Europe has given a lot of money, six billion euros in recent years, within the framework of an agreement between Europe and Turkey and which was mutually beneficial,” the Greek PM said.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 092019
 
 September 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:48 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Maya 1939

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)
Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)
Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)
EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)
China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)
Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)
Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)
States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)
Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)
Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

 

 

Really, what is not to like about the Brexit comedy? it’s the British doing what they do best. Parliament will vote for a law that forces Boris to send a letter to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50, and he plans to send a second letter saying he doesn’t want that extension.

Anyway, Supreme Court it always would be. But can that court tell parliamentarians or a prime minster what to do, or are they above the court in legal standing, as a lower court suggested last week? Too late to get a constitution now. But not too late to make this much more chaotic still.

There is even a plan for the UK to shut down the EU.

Brexit Heading For Dramatic Supreme Court Showdown (Ind.)

The battle for Brexit is heading for a nailbiting showdown in the Supreme Court in late October – when the deadline for crashing out of the EU will be just days away – after Boris Johnson’s new strategy was revealed. Ministers plan to manufacture a legal fight to avoid directly breaking the law when compelled to ask for a further Article 50 extension, while also sidestepping the requirement to comply with it. The “plan B” paves the way for an unprecedented constitutional crisis after parliament’s deadline for seeking a Brexit delay passes on 19 October – with the threat of the prime minister being jailed for contempt of court. With the deadline for crashing out on 31 October, it will be a race against time to force Mr Johnson to Brussels before Halloween, or to bring him down in a vote of no confidence and send a replacement.

Labour condemned the strategy as behaving like “every tinpot dictator on the planet throughout history” – demanding that Mr Johnson obey the “duty” imposed by parliament. No10 is also reported to be considering sending a letter to the EU requesting a Brexit extension, in order to meet the conditions passed by MPs last week, but then immediately sending another saying the government does not actually want a delay. Legal experts, including former attorney general Lord Falconer, warned that this would still breach the law. If Mr Johnson disregards some or all of the bill’s requirements – which is set to receive royal assent on Monday – this could lead to an emergency judicial review in the courts by MPs.

The unprecedented case would start in the High Court and the expectation is that it would very quickly move to the Supreme Court, almost certainly before 31 October. And it triggered an extraordinary warning from the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, to obey “the rule of law”, as he denied he was poised to follow Amber Rudd by resigning.

Read more …

“..he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet…”

Boris Johnson ‘Sabotage’ Letter To EU ‘Would Break Law’ (G>)

A former supreme court justice has said Boris Johnson would be in contempt of court if he applied for article 50 extension while simultaneously trying to get the EU to reject it. Reports in the Daily Telegraph suggested that the prime minister has drawn up plans to “sabotage” parliament’s efforts to force through a Brexit extension to prevent the UK leaving the bloc without a deal. He is said to be considering sending an accompanying letter to the EU alongside the request to extend article 50, which would say the government does not want any delay to Brexit. Lord Sumption, a former supreme court justice, said it would not be legal for the prime minister to ask for an extension while rubbishing the request at the same time.


He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The bill or the act as its about to become says that he’s got to apply for an extension. Not only has he got to send the letter, he’s got to apply for an extension. And to send the letter and then try and neutralise it seems to me to be plainly a breach of the act.” A Downing Street source said: “We intend to sabotage any extension. The ‘surrender bill’ only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won’t be offered a delay. Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too.” Sumption said he had read the bill and there was not “the slightest obscurity” about what the government was obliged to do. [..] Sumption said Johnson would not only be in contempt of court if he failed to do what the bill states, he risked the resignation of the justice secretary, the attorney general, and other members of his cabinet.

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“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.”

Johnson Has Reneged On Good Friday Agreement Vows, Says EU (G.)

European officials have accused Boris Johnson of reneging on pledges to uphold the Good Friday agreement, ahead of the prime minister’s first meeting with his Irish counterpart. Johnson will meet the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin on Monday at a tumultuous moment in the Brexit process, with only 52 days until the UK’s departure. Talks are set to be tense as fears grow in Dublin and Brussels that the British prime minister is backsliding on promises to protect the tightly knit economic and social links on the island of Ireland. “The commitment to all aspects and all the provisions of the letter and spirit of the Good Friday agreement recently seems to be taken more lightly than before,” a senior diplomat from a continental member state told the Guardian.

“This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.” A senior official working for the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told diplomats this week that the UK had reneged on commitments to protect north-south co-operation on the island of Ireland, a key pillar of the Good Friday agreement. Alarm bells were set off by Johnson’s recent letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, which declared his government could not endorse a commitment made by Theresa May in a December 2017 EU-UK joint report. The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, fuelled concerns that the government was seeking to back out of past commitments, when he tweeted that the government was “committed to no infrastructure on the NI border”.

Such comments were seen in Brussels as “meaningless” words that marked a significant dilution of the promise to uphold an open border. The May government pledged to protect “north-south cooperation” on the island of Ireland in the 2017 joint report, widely seen in Brussels as a landmark in Brexit talks.

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Something tells me Dominic Cummings will have more before this is over.

EU’s Ex-Legal Chief Says Johnson’s Plan To ‘Shut Down EU’ Will Fail (Ind.)

Brussels’ former top law officer has rubbished Boris Johnson’s extraordinary plan to sabotage the EU and make it ‘no longer legal’, arguing it makes no sense. Downing Street has threatened to render the bloc no longer “legally constituted”, paralysing its decision making, to force EU leaders to cave in to the UK’s demands. But Jean-Claude Piris, formerly the director-general of the EU Council’s legal service, said the idea – refusing to appoint a new commissioner – would fail to shut down the EU, as No 10 hoped. “The Commission can continue to work and decide legally,” Mr Piris wrote on Twitter, citing a precedent dating back to 1999. Instead, he said: “The UK will be brought to the EUCJ [the European Court of Justice] for violation of its obligation.”


Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour’s bloc of Euro-MPs, echoed the criticism, tweeting: “Nonsense idea that Johnson could paralyse EU to force it to expel UK. “If he refuses to nominate a Commissioner, the UK would be in breach of the treaty – that being so, EU Commission not at fault and can operate legally.” In a dramatic escalation of its battle with Brussels, No 10 believes it can put the EU in breach of its own legal duty for all 28 member states to be represented on its executive branch. The UK would be “disrupting” Brussels life to such a degree that member states will then make it clear they will refuse to grant an Article 50 extension – even if asked for – it hopes. A source told The Independent: “We will turn the pressure onto the EU to show how difficult it will be for them if the UK is still hanging around.”

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That’s a lot.

China’s Exports To US Fell 16% In August As Trump Escalates Trade War (CNBC)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August as shipments to the United States slowed sharply, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for a seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signalled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that a falling yuan would offset some cost pressure and looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. China let its currency slide past the key 7 per dollar level in August for the first time since the global financial crisis, and Washington labelled it a currency manipulator.

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“..the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations..”

Air China Denies Plans To Take Over Cathay Pacific (R.)

Air China has no plans to take over Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, an independent director of the state-owned Chinese carrier told the South China Morning Post newspaper. “Based on what I know, I wouldn’t think that is anywhere on the agenda, no way,” Air China non-executive director Stanley Hui told the newspaper when asked if the carrier, a 30% shareholder, might seek to buy Cathay outright. The Hong Kong airline has become the biggest corporate casualty of anti-government protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis.


Cathay Chairman John Slosar last week announced plans to step down in November, less than three weeks after CEO Rupert Hogg left amid mounting regulatory scrutiny. Air China is Cathay’s second-largest shareholder, behind manager Swire Pacific with a 45% stake. Long-time Swire executive Patrick Healy was last week appointed as Slosar’s replacement.

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No flights tomorrow either. Big airline.

Nearly All British Airways Flights Canceled As Pilots Go On Strike (CNN)

British Airways says it was forced to cancel “nearly 100 per cent” of flights for Monday and Tuesday after the British pilots union went ahead with a strike. The strike was called for by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) amid a heated dispute over pay with the airline. BALPA said Sunday on Twitter that it put forward a proposal to the carrier’s management Wednesday, but had yet to receive a reply. British Airways said in a statement posted Monday it remains “ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”


The airline said it was forced to cancel so many flights because “with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.” Customers who had flights booked for Monday and Tuesday will likely “not be able to travel as planned,” British Airways said. The airline also advised customers not to go to the airport. Members of the pilots union voted 93% in favor of a strike in July. BALPA said last week that it would be willing to call it off if British Airways returned to the negotiating table. According to its website, BALPA represents more than 10,000 pilots in the United Kingdom — more than 85% of all commercial pilots who fly there.

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And Facebook in a different probe. But Google is CIA.

States Expected To Target Google In New Antitrust Probe (AP)

A group of states led by Texas is expected to announce an investigation into Google on Monday to examine whether the Silicon Valley tech giant has gotten too big and effective at stomping or acquiring rivals. The probe is the latest blow against big tech companies as antitrust investigations ramp up in the U.S. and around the world. A separate group of states announced an investigation into Facebook’s dominance on Friday. The Department of Justice , the Federal Trade Commission and Congress are also conducting probes.


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has said only that the investigation will look at “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.” Reports in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal say Google will be the primary target. Google expects state attorneys general will ask it about past similar investigations in the U.S. and internationally, senior vice president of global affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog post Friday . Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a market value of more than $820 billion and controls so many aspects of the internet that it’s hard to imagine surfing the web for long without running into at least one of its services. Experts believe the antitrust probe could focus on at least one of three aspects of Google’s business that have caught regulators’ eyes.

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Background: renowned Greek film director Costa-Gravas has made a movie based on Varoufakis’ book “Adults in the Room,” which recounts Yanis’ dealings with the EU. It was presented at the Venice film festival this week. Well, the Greek press still doesn’t like him (but they dare not ignore Costa-Gavras either). And because of the structure of the press, neither do many Greeks. But they make it about how Yanis presents himself, and sure, maybe it’s too much about him at times. But really, it should be about his ideas, about substance. Unfortunately, those ideas go above their paygrade and understanding. So appearance it is then…

Yanis Varoufakis’ Close-Up (K.)

The term “narcissist,” which has become almost a permanent fixture in any description of Yanis Varoufakis – in tones ranging from the deliberate and angry to the lighthearted and playful, sometimes to the point of absolving him of his sins – is inadequate. A man who writes a book while simultaneously envisioning himself as a big-screen hero does not simply fall into the category of garden-variety delusions of stardom because his actions are rife with intent. Viewing reality through the realm of fiction neither clears nor burdens an official of complicity with regard to how he managed the country’s economic affairs and the stance he adopted more generally, and especially when this concerns an exceptionally crucial period.


Walking down the red carpet does not instantly transform Varoufakis from a former finance minister (who is co-credited with a memorandum and capital controls) into a movie star. The Venice International Film Festival – the glamour, the camera flashes, the gowns – and the reviews of critics neither erase nor transfer political responsibility. The publicity shone on Greece as a result of Costa-Gavras’ film “Adults in the Room,” based on Varoufakis’ book of the same title, shifts the focus of the conversation from the intentions and rules according to which officials with institutional responsibilities ought to abide, to the rule-free realm of art. It takes it away from the need for political figures to answer for their actions and omissions, to the extremely capacious realm of film production and artistic creativity.

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Noah.

Australia Launches Emergency Relocation Of Fish (G.)

Faced with a looming ferocious summer with little rain forecast, the New South Wales government has embarked on a Noah’s Ark type operation to move native fish from the Lower Darling – part of Australia’s most significant river system – to safe havens before high temperatures return to the already stressed river basin. Researchers have warned of other alarming ecological signs that the Lower Darling River – part of the giant Murray-Darling Basin – is in a dire state, following last summer’s mass fish kills. Professor Fran Sheldon, from Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute, said only one surviving colony of river mussels had been found along the river and there were signs that river red gums were under severe stress.


“If the river red gums die, and some are hundreds of years old, there will be a domino effect. Banks will collapse, there will be massive erosion and it will send sediments down the river.” “These sort of ecological collapses are much harder and expensive to reverse,” she warned. The New South Wales government announced a $10m rescue package last week to mitigate the effects of the river crisis on native fish this summer. The NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, said the unprecedented action would provide “a lifeline for key native species ahead of an expected summer of horror fish kills”. “We’re staring down the barrel of a potential fish Armageddon, which is why we’re wasting little time rolling out this unprecedented action,” Marshall said.

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Aug 072019
 
 August 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Dora with bun 1937

 

The Future Of Britain Is In The Hands Of Unelected Svengali Cummings (Oborne)
No-Deal Brexiteers Are Winning Because They Want It More (Sky)
UK Too Desperate To Secure US Trade Deal – Larry Summers (G.)
Brexit: Michael Gove Accuses ‘Wrong And Sad’ EU Of Intransigence (G.)
Met Police Examine Vladimir Putin’s Role In Salisbury Attack (G.)
China State Banks Seen Supporting Yuan In Forwards Market (R.)
Forget China, The Fed Has A Much Bigger Problem On Its Hands (ZH)
Papua New Guinea Asks China To Refinance Its National Debt (G.)
Chinese Port Plans Put Pacific Back In Play (R.)
Pentagon Set to Prevent “Unacceptable” Turkish Invasion Of Northern Syria (ZH)
The Mainstream Media Wants the Mifsud Story to Just Go Away (ET)
Epstein’s Mysterious Manhattan Apartment Building On East 66th Street (BI)

 

 

Conservative journalist/editor Peter Oborne says the exact same thing I said a few days ago in A Tale of Two Cummings. Boris Johnson is just a figurehead.

Nigel Farage is complaining that the Tories want him and his Brexit party to step aside, but that’s Cummings and his polls that show Farage is too unpopular.

The Future Of Britain Is In The Hands Of Unelected Svengali Cummings (Oborne)

Cummings is no longer in the shadows, operating behind the scenes — this Svengali is out in the open. Indeed, he seems to relish being seen in public, striding ostentatiously into Downing Street every morning. Now, we are all familiar with his shaven head, scruffy T-shirts, crumpled appearance and contemptuous and appraising eyes, his newspapers and bundles of documents carried in a Vote Leave bag. According to some papers, and many ministers and civil servants I have spoken to recently, this is the man who is truly running Britain. It’s Cummings who oversees the No 10 grid which controls the timing of announcements and public events. It’s in this capacity that he dispatches the PM up and down Britain, photographed in hospitals, sharing selfies with nurses, and on construction sites wearing a hard hat.


It is also Cummings, not Johnson, who determines political strategy — hence the huge public spending announcements on health, extra police and other issues. Indeed, it looks very much as if Johnson has become the public face of Cummings. And this, I am afraid, is profoundly disturbing. No one ever voted for Cummings, he has little experience of life outside politicking yet he has been given unprecedented power at a moment of immense crisis in the national fortunes. Within hours of Johnson becoming Tory leader two weeks ago, newly anointed special adviser Cummings called ‘his’ staff together in the magnificent Downing Street first-floor state room. He told them that he plans to deliver Brexit ‘by any means necessary’.

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Quoting Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen. Some wish it to happen. Others make it happen.”

No-Deal Brexiteers Are Winning Because They Want It More (Sky)

Consider this: we now have a prime minister and a government, buttressed by a not inconsiderable rump of the Conservative party, who have made it clear that there is not a convention they are not willing to break, an institution they are not willing to smash, a precedent they are not willing to burn, in the pursuit of their goal. The PM and his coterie have said that they would prorogue parliament because it might stand in their way; that they are willing to schedule an election far in excess of the usual time limits because it would ensure our exit on the 31 October. In so doing they would therefore go against yet more precedent in pursuing a highly tendentious policy during an election period (where normally a caretaker administration would do little of controversy).


And now, we have news that the prime minister would squat in Number 10 after he loses a confidence vote in the House of Commons. He is even willing to do so, apparently, if the Commons coalesces around an alternative prime minister, despite the fact the Cabinet Manual (the closest we have to a constitution) makes it clear that this is quite unacceptable and that it would risk the neutrality of the Queen. All of this would be constitutional vandalism. Brexit then, “whatever the cost”, as Dominic Cummings has said. It is a nihilistic vision of politics and indeed, a most unusual one for self-described “Conservatives” but it is, relentless and clear-sighted. Indeed, its recklessness has imbued this administration with a strange purpose and energy.

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Larry craves attention.

UK Too Desperate To Secure US Trade Deal – Larry Summers (G.)

The former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has said he does not believe that a “desperate” UK would manage to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington, as Dominic Raab, the new foreign secretary, heads to the US to scope out the potential for such an agreement. Summers, who was a senior official under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said the UK was in a weak position when it came to negotiating with trade partners. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “Britain has no leverage, Britain is desperate … it needs an agreement very soon. When you have a desperate partner, that’s when you strike the hardest bargain.”


Despite warm words from Donald Trump about a trade deal, Summers said: “We have economic conflict with China and, even on top of that, the deterioration of the pound is going to further complicate the negotiating picture. “We will see it as giving Britain an artificial comparative advantage and make us think about the need to retaliate against Britain, not to welcome Britain with new trade agreements.” Even if the two countries could come to an agreement, Summers said, the UK was in a weak negotiating position. “Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions,” he said. “You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”

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The UK says the EU doesn’t want to talk, and vice versa. The demand to take the backstop out is a perfect dealbreaker. It can only lead to a no-deal Brexit. Re: Cummings.

Brexit: Michael Gove Accuses ‘Wrong And Sad’ EU Of Intransigence (G.)

Michael Gove has accused the European Union of intransigence over Brexit talks, calling it “wrong and sad”, as divisions between the UK and Brussels became further entrenched with the government seemingly intent on a no-deal departure. Gove, who is in charge of no-deal preparations, reiterated Boris Johnson’s position that the only route to progress would be the EU starting again with withdrawal negotiations, something Brussels has repeatedly and consistently ruled out. Adding to the impression of Johnson’s hardening position, newly released government read-outs of the prime minister’s phone calls with a series of EU leaders over recent days showed he delivered the same uncompromising message to them.

While the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, insisted on Tuesday that a no-deal departure was not inevitable, both he and the country’s finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, warned of a significant and long-term change to relations between the countries if it did happen. Downing Street has increasingly pushed the message that Brexit will happen on 31 October under any circumstances – even intimating that No 10 believes the mandate of the 2016 Brexit referendum would overrule even a blocking vote in parliament.

There is increasing worry among some MPs that Johnson could try to force through a no-deal Brexit against the will of the Commons, with his de facto chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, reportedly threatening No 10 staff with the sack if they dissent. The government’s official position is still that it is seeking a formalised departure, albeit only if Brussels ditches the Irish backstop border insurance policy and reopens the withdrawal agreement.

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And of course Britain is anxious to keep the Skripal narrative going. In reality, all it would take is to present the man.

Met Police Examine Vladimir Putin’s Role In Salisbury Attack (G.)

Scotland Yard has examined the role of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury, it has been revealed. Putin is assessed by UK intelligence agencies as having been “likely” to have approved of the attack in March 2018 on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter, both of whom were left seriously ill but survived. Dawn Sturgess later died after coming across a discarded perfume bottle used by two Russian intelligence agents to carry the military grade nerve agent. Two Russian agents have been charged over the attack, and Britain wants them extradited and has issued a European arrest warrant (EAW) and Interpol red notice for their detention.


The Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said the investigation into the attack was continuing. Basu said the issues involved in bringing charges over the attack were complex. “You’d have to prove he [Putin] was directly involved,” he said. “In order to get an EAW, you have to have a case capable of being charged in this country. We haven’t got a case capable of being charged. “We’re police officers, so we have to go for evidence. There has been a huge amount of speculation about who is responsible, who gave the orders, all based on people’s expert knowledge of Russia. I have to go with evidence.”

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“The movement in forward points may reflect a tightening in USD (dollar) liquidity..”

China State Banks Seen Supporting Yuan In Forwards Market (R.)

China’s state banks have been active in the onshore yuan forwards market this week, using swaps to tighten dollar supply and support the Chinese currency, four sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The spot value of the yuan has fallen sharply this week against the dollar as tensions between China and the United States escalated and prompted fears that their trade war could shift into a currency war. The sources said banks had conducted significant amounts of buy-sell swaps in the onshore market on Tuesday. Buy-sell swaps help to reduce the supply of dollars that the market can access to short-sell the yuan. “Yesterday big banks were all selling one-year onshore forward swaps, then in the afternoon the spot dollar-yuan fell,” said a trader at a foreign bank in Shanghai.


One state bank also was seen active in offshore forward swaps, two traders at foreign banks with knowledge of the matter said. On Wednesday, one-year onshore dollar-yuan forwards were at 175 points, down from 321 points on Monday, according to Refinitiv data. One-year offshore dollar-yuan forwards were at 459 points, down from 640 points on Monday. “The movement in forward points may reflect a tightening in USD (dollar) liquidity when some market participants need to buy spot dollars and sell them back in forwards. Meanwhile, the spot and outright moves were also partly due to a stabilization in RMB (yuan) sentiment on Tuesday,” said Frances Cheung, head of macro strategy for Asia at Westpac in Singapore.

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Liquidity.

Forget China, The Fed Has A Much Bigger Problem On Its Hands (ZH)

The Fed may have launched its first easing cycle since 2007 and liquidity-sapping quantitative tightening may finally be over, but Powell may have a much bigger problem on his hands – one which has nothing to do with China, and everything to do with a dramatic drain of liquidity in the market over the next two months.

We first hinted at this last week when we noted that as part of the recently completed debt ceiling deal, instead of taking its time in replenishing the cash balance (green line in the chart below), the US Treasury will scramble to rebuild its cash balance up to $350 billion, from today’s level of $133 billion (gray line), a process which as we said last Wednesday will “significantly tighten up liquidity in the banking system and potentially result in turmoil in funding and money markets as the world is flooded with an issuance of T-Bills” as the Treasury seeks to fill the $217 billion cash hole, which will lead to a substantial liquidity withdrawal from the broader financial system as shown in the following Nordea chart.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that traditionally such a rapid liquidity withdrawal leads to weaker risk appetite, a far stronger USD and lower treasury yields, while widening the LIBOR/OIS spread and further depressing the already negative EURUSD cross-currency basis. While we cautioned about all this last week (even before the FOMC announcement), it appears that our appreciation of just how severe this problem may be for the Fed and capital markets was overly optimistic, because according to a new analysis by Bank of America’s Mark Cabana, the Fed may have no choice but to resume Quantitative Easing and start expanding its balance sheet again – potentially as early as 4Q – in order to ease funding pressures expected during the coming wave of Treasury supply.

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Debt denominated in dollars by any chance?

Papua New Guinea Asks China To Refinance Its National Debt (G.)

Papua New Guinea has asked China to refinance its entire government debt in a blow to Australia’s attempts to counter China’s influence in the region. The request marks a “significant shift” in regional politics and PNG’s allegiances, according to Pacific experts. Australia has traditionally been the largest aid donor and most important ally of PNG, but in recent years ties between China and PNG have strengthened. PNG’s prime minister, James Marape, visited Australia two weeks ago at the invitation of his counterpart, Scott Morrison, in his first international visit since becoming the Pacific nation’s leader at the end of May.

In a speech during his visit, Marape said he wanted PNG to move away from an “aid-donor” relationship with Australia within 10 years, and step up alongside its neighbour as a leader in the Pacific region. However, on Tuesday, after a meeting with Xue Bing, the Chinese ambassador in Port Moresby, Marape requested that China refinance its debts of A$11.8bn (27bn kina, or US$7.95bn). PNG’s debt sits at around 32.8% of its GDP. “[The prime minister] requested the ambassador to inform Beijing on a bid to assist the government of PNG refinance its existing country’s K27bn debt,” said Marape’s office in a statement seen by the Guardian.

“He suggested that both the Bank of PNG and [China’s] People’s Bank will take the lead with the department of treasury in ensuring that consultations are under way,” the statement continued. “It suggest a significant shift in the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea and China,” says Matthew Clarke, professor of international development at Deakin University. “In the past Australia would have been the natural country to turn to for this sort of refinancing, but now we see China’s place in the region shift and it becomes potentially a much more dominant player in the donor relationship.”

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“The United States, and allies including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their diplomatic postings in the Pacific to counter China’s influence..”

Chinese Port Plans Put Pacific Back In Play (R.)

Early in the morning, before sunrise, low tide on the Samoan island of Savai’i reveals the remnants of an old American airstrip, washed away by decades of erosion, cyclones and tsunamis. The World War II site in Asau, which also hosts a 1960s-era concrete wharf in its well-protected natural harbor, is being considered for a new port to be developed by China, according to the Samoan government and the area’s highest ranking chief, Masoe Serota Tufaga. The proposed construction of a facility that could be turned into a military asset in hostile times has worried the United States and its regional allies, which have dominated international influence in the vast waters of the South Pacific since 1945.

Sitting at his coconut and cocoa plantation on the hills above the port site, Tufaga told Reuters he would abide by any government deal for a Chinese-developed port even though he was concerned about Beijing’s growing influence. “The government and China came here to look at it – they offered it,” said 71-year-old Tufaga, who has the final say over land-use agreements affecting Asau. “If China wants to operate this, it’s too hard for us to say to the government, no, we can not allow China here. The people are looking for some jobs. “That’s right – it’s money. It’s money.”

The United States, and allies including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their diplomatic postings in the Pacific to counter China’s influence, and warning island nations that Beijing-funded projects needed to make financial sense. China is using “predatory economics” to destabilize the Indo-Pacific and the United States is working with its partners to address the region’s pressing security needs, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in Sydney on Sunday.

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Erdogan bluff. I hope.

Pentagon Set to Prevent “Unacceptable” Turkish Invasion Of Northern Syria (ZH)

Turkey has for days been poised to unilaterally invade northern Syria over US objections, which Ankara officials say is to establish a 32 kilometer (20 mile) zone inside the war torn country, giving Turkey complete control of a region where the Syrian Kurdish YPG operates (People’s Protection Units). Turkey has long considered the US-backed group, which forms the core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to be a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. The Pentagon has condemned the impending Turkish unilateral move, with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper telling reporters early Tuesday that it would be unacceptable and thwarted by Washington, though it’s unclear how far the Pentagon would be willing to go.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests that the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said. Crucially, according to ABC News, US officials “have made clear that an invasion is an extremely risky venture that could threaten the safety of U.S. forces working with the SDF…”. On Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his forces would launch an operation in Syria east of the Euphrates River at an unspecified start date, and noted that the US and Russia had been notified. In ongoing negotiations this summer the US and Turkey have clashed over just such a “safe zone,” given Turkey wants the area completely clear of Kurdish armed groups, which the Pentagon simultaneously backs.

Turkish defense officials have lately threatened their “patience is limited” as the army builds up its forces along the border. The Foreign Ministry on Friday warned, “We won’t let this process be dragged out. If our expectations aren’t met, we are fully capable of taking whatever measures [are needed] to ensure our national security.”

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If Mifsud is an FBI asset, there are zero Russians left in the story.

The Mainstream Media Wants the Mifsud Story to Just Go Away (ET)

John Solomon of The Hill is reporting that an audiotape containing professor Joseph Mifsud’s deposition has been given to both U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigators and to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I can report absolutely that the Durham investigators have now obtained an audiotape deposition of Joseph Mifsud, where he describes his work, why he targeted George Papadopoulos, who directed him to do that, what directions he was given, and why he set that entire process of introducing Papadopoulos to Russia in motion in March of 2016, which is really the flashpoint the starting point of this whole Russia collusion narrative,” Solomon told Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

“I can also confirm that the Senate Judiciary Committee has also obtained the same deposition,” he said. Mifsud, who I have written about extensively in previous columns, is the key that turns the lock to the lid of this Pandora’s box that we refer to as “Spygate.” So I’m wondering why Solomon appears to be the only mainstream reporter pursuing this Mifsud story. I suspect it’s because many DNC Media outlets, after having fallen deeply and passionately in love with the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, are reluctant to call attention to something that would be the final nail in its coffin. The last thing the mainstream media wants right now would be for Mifsud to go on the record with both Durham’s investigative team and with Congress to say he was working for the FBI and was only pretending to be a Russian agent.

If Mifsud was an FBI asset sent to entrap Papadopoulos, then there are no real Russian agents anywhere in this entire Trump-Russia collusion story. Ponder what that means for a minute. You can’t save the Russian collusion narrative, if you can’t find any real Russians anywhere in the story. The FBI under James Comey will then be seen as having engaged in an operation to entrap people, and “Russian agents” turn out to be fakes working for the FBI and who were making fake offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign.

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But nobody knew a thing.

Epstein’s Mysterious Manhattan Apartment Building On East 66th Street (BI)

Before his extended stay in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center began in July, disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein dwelled in some of the city’s most exclusive real estate, laying his head in a palatial Upper East Side townhouse and conducting his mysterious business out of a landmarked mansion on Madison Avenue. But it hasn’t been all private islands and 7,000-acre ranches for the half-billionaire. For decades Epstein has run some of his operations quietly out of a squat Second Avenue residential building owned by his brother, Mark Epstein, and frequently visited by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. According to property records and court filings, Jeffrey Epstein has long housed girlfriends, associates, employees, and businesses in a handful of units at 301 East 66th St.

There are 200 units at the address, and the majority of them are owned on paper by his brother’s development firm, Ossa Properties. While Ossa nominally owns the units connected to Jeffrey Epstein, the aforementioned records and filings show that Epstein effectively controls them. The postwar white-brick high-rise sits atop a nail salon, a coffee shop, and an Italian restaurant along a traffic-choked stretch of Second Avenue. Topped by a green canopy, the front door opens to a doorman guarding a hallway that leads to a light-filled lobby decorated with two couches and an armchair. Though the building shares a ZIP code with Epstein’s townhouse, its share of the neighborhood east of Park Avenue is less upscale, catering more to families and young professionals than foreign heads of state.

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Aug 032019
 


Edward Hopper The long leg 1935

 

Last weekend, I noticed that two of the main newsmakers were both named Cummings, one in the US, the other in the UK. At first glance they don’t look like family, but I’ll readily admit I can’t be sure of that. What I do know is that both are symbolic of what’s wrong with the political systems they figure in.

Also last weekend, I saw a comment somewhere, think it was Twitter, that said something in the vein of: let’s hope the British don’t make the same mistake with Boris Johnson that the Americans made -and make- with Donald Trump, that is, labeling every single thing he does as “Bad”, because then they would lose all of their credibility, fast.

 

Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings. Not related.

 

And I thought: that could have been my comment, that’s how I look upon the whole political circus too. The entire blind demonization of Trump has only made him stronger, and the loss of credibility of the ‘accusers’ is a major factor in that. Not everything that goes wrong in America is Trump’s fault, it can’t be. But for large segments of the press, and their affiliated politicians, that has been the message for three years now.

And then you wake up one morning after -another- hearing, this time that of Robert Mueller, which you lost again, and you find that nobody believes you anymore, or cares, except for those who’d believe anything you say whatever it is anyway, and all of the time. But that also means you don’t reach anyone new, anyone not already in your echo chamber.

Right before the Mueller hearings, Jerry Nadler once again stated that Mueller had ‘very substantial evidence’ Trump is ‘guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors'”. But not one iota of any such ‘substantial evidence’ was addressed by Mueller in the hearings. And that hurts Nadler’s credibility to no end.

 

After three years, there’s no more time and space for empty allegations. Just watch Rachel Maddow’s plunging ratings. She lost some 25% of her viewers in the first half of this year. The Democrats would do well to take that into consideration before they speak out again. The latest episode a week ago started with Trump calling out Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on his comments about the border and telling him to take care of Baltimore first.

When Trump said Baltimore was rat infested, a million Democrats called him a racist for it, as in: he wasn’t talking about rats, he was really talking about black people. And subsequently we find out that Baltimore indeed has a substantial problem with rats, various other rodents, garbage, you name it. And one thinks: stop doing it, stop calling him names, stop calling every single thing he does “Bad”. Elijah Cummings has been one of many people doing just that.

Y’all need to stop it because you’re losing. You have been losing for those entire three years. You helped Maddow and the WaPo and NY Times make a fortune with their 24/7 empty allegations, but in the process you’ve been murdering your own party. If you want to fight Trump, you’ll have to do it with facts and evidence, mere innuendo no longer works, those days are gone. You need to change strategy, urgently, you have less than a year to do so.

And talking about the MSM, you also need to stop only watching and reading those sources. Because they don’t provide a wide enough picture, they put blinders on you. It’s what’s been so profitable for them. But not for your party, though it may seem to be.

But yeah, you look at the line-up of ‘candidates’, most of whom appear completely lost in the ‘field’, and you must wonder what 2020 will bring for your party. There’s Kamala and Biden on the right, and then there’s Bernie and Warren on the left. And you just know the DNC is going to pull another Bernie 2016 move. They don’t want the left, they don’t want the Squad, and they’re conspiring against Tulsi Gabbard too. It’s not the empire that’s coming for Tulsi, it’s the DNC.

 

If I were you, I’d first make sure the DNC gets no say in the choice of your candidate. I’d say disband the whole thing. They are responsible to a large extent for the losing pro-Hillary tactics that have made Trump that much stronger and got him elected. They are behind the whole Russiagate disaster, and the party must urgently distance itself from that. How you can do that without major internal cleansing, I don’t see.

If I were you, I would get rid of Nadler and Adam Schiff and Cummings and a whole lot more faces. Make a fresh start. As things are, the only people who will vote for you are those who would anyway, the echo chamber inhabitants. But the Democrats need additional voters too, swing voters, the already converted are simply not enough.

I see voices promoting an everything-on-red gamble for Michelle Obama, but that reeks far too much of desperation. Then again, betting on Biden or Kamala doesn’t look to be a winner either. The best person might well be Bernie, but the party made clear in 2016 they don’t want him. Personally, I would like to see a Bernie/Warren ticket, because it would give Americans a choice between truly different ideas and options.

Then again, Bernie keeps you far too close to being the War Party with his Russia comments. Americans deserve better. Embrace Tulsi Gabbard’s voice, even if you don’t want her as your candidate. The people love her, even if the DNC does not. She can get you votes you wouldn’t otherwise get. But overall, I don’t see much hope for you next year. Unless you manage to crash the economy before Christmas. Or Easter at the latest. How about Halloween?

 

If only because then there’s the other Cummings who made the news this week, Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings. I referenced the movie The Uncivil War a while back, and one thing I think I learned from it is that this Mr. Cummings doesn’t play second fiddles. He only agreed to run the VoteLeave campaign that in the end won the Brexit vote when he was given free rein. I think the same thing might have happened now.

He’s agreed to run Boris Johnson’s “Brexit by Halloween” program on the condition that nobody, very much including Boris himself, gets in his way. In 2016, Cummings pushed Boris forward because his polling data told him Nigel Farage was too unpopular and would cost too many votes (yes, the same Farage who has since pretended he was the big winner). But Cummings had no high opinion of Boris either, and still doesn’t.

What that adds up to is that the real boss in no. 10 is not even the PM nobody elected, it’s a guy who got handed the power by that unelected PM in a backroom meeting. And once Dominic Cummings has delivered Brexit, he’ll vanish into the shadows again, where he feels best. Given his past criticisms of Brexit, as well as the entire political system, it could all be more about the win, the kill, then about the value of what it will achieve. He’s not a politician anyway because he’s not a puppet. Cummings is a puppeteer. Boris, well, you get the picture.

 

Mind you, Brexit may well be a great idea. Just not this way, certainly not this way. The EU has turned into a very questionable club, no doubt. But does anyone at all have the idea that the UK will be well-prepared when they leave that club at Halloween? The thing I find problematic is that all UK laws, regulations, treaties over the past 40 years were agreed to in team efforts with Brussels. London signed them all.

That is a lot of laws and treaties and pieces of paper. Everything modern, everything that didn’t exist 40 years ago, think communications, internet etc. etc., will be part of that. Are they going to leave but still use all those thousands of pages of legislation anyway to regulate their “new” country? I don’t know how they see that, and frankly I don’t think they know either. They seem to just have been bickering amongst themselves for 3 years, and left preparation on the backburner.

Are their businesses prepared for reams upon reams of new paperwork, digital or not? I can’t be sure, but I don’t see it. And then there’s the Irish border, and the backstop. Westminster largely acts as if that’s a minor nuisance, and Paddy will fall into line, but today it’s not just a matter of talking to Dublin, but of talking to Brussels as well.

And you can despise the EU all you want, but they have no choice but to stand with Ireland. They can’t say: let’s ditch the backstop, that is not an option, Brexit would make the Irish border the border of the EU. And if Cummings and Boris want to head for a no-deal Brexit regardless, Good Friday will be as good as dead. Does Dominic Cummings really want to be held responsible for that? Hard to believe. Boris perhaps, but Cummings?

Boris and his people insist there won’t be new border crossings, that technology can save the day, and do the work away from the border. Haven’t seen them explain it though, and certainly not in any detail. But I did see a video the other day of someone involved in the Good Friday negotiations explaining what would happen.

He said, paraphrased: “you put cameras on -or near- that border, there’ll be militants shooting them down. Then you need police to protect the cameras, and they’ll shoot at the police. So you must bring in the army to protect the police, and you’re right back to the Troubles”. The Irish border is still a highly fragile combustible situation. And if Boris insists on not having a backstop, it’s hard to see how new Troubles can be avoided. The Good Friday Agreement came into effect less than 20 years ago, in December 1999.

The dysfunctional political systems Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings are part of may appear to be dysfunctional for different reasons. But the role of the media in both cases is very similar. The media wants to be -and define- the message, because that’s where the money is, and the power.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1156316342141759492

 

 

 

 

Jul 302019
 
 July 30, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Odilon Redon The winged man (The fallen angel) 1880

 

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)
EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)
Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)
Things to Come (Kunstler)
Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)
US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)
Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)
The World is Not Enough (Statista)
Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

 

 

In currency markets, sterling is still worth 10% more than the euro, not 15% less. Three years ago it was worth 25% more. Scary to think what a no-deal Brexit could do. Well, unless you’re a short seller.

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)

The pound has sunk well below €1 at Britain’s biggest airports – while the dollar is at parity. At the ICE desk at Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, The Independent was quoted £117 for buying €100 – making each pound worth just 85 euro cents. At Gatwick airport on Monday night, the rate was £1 = €0.90. With commission added to a €100 transaction, the cost in sterling was £116. The interbank rate at 7am sank below £1 = €1.09, as the downward pressure on the pound continued. The currency market has marked down sterling as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit appears increasingly likely. At the peak of the holiday season, prices for British travellers will be at a two-year high.


The best rates for the euro found by The Independent were for “click and collect” transactions at London bureaux de change: €1.08 at branches of Thomas Exchange Global or ICE at Waterloo station. The interbank rate for dollars was £1 = $1.21, but Moneycorp at Gatwick airport was quoting parity: £1 = $1. Anyone changing £1,000 into the US currency and immediately back to sterling would lose over one-third of their money, receiving just £648.

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I don’t see how they could scrap the backstop, Brussels must stand up for its member state, Ireland. No choice. For Brussels, Ireland is a full-fledged nation. For London, it still doesn’t appear to be.

Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)

Boris Johnson is refusing to sit down for talks with EU leaders until they agree to ditch the Irish backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, despite invitations to meetings from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron. His official spokeswoman said the prime minister had made clear that he wanted to strike a deal, but that there was no point in holding face-to-face talks unless the EU agreed to reopen the agreement. But on a visit to the Trident nuclear base at Faslane in Scotland on Monday, Johnson painted a more optimistic picture of the prospects for talks, telling reporters there was “ample scope” to achieve a new deal.

He said: “We are not aiming for a no-deal Brexit at all. What we want is to get a deal and I’ve had some interesting conversations with our European partners. I’ve talked to [the European commission president] Jean-Claude [Juncker] and Angela Merkel and we’re reaching out today to [the Irish prime minister] Leo Varadkar. The feeling is, yes there’s no change in their position, but it’s very, very positive.” But he added: “They all know where we are: we can’t accept the backstop, it was thrown out three times, the withdrawal agreement as it stands is dead and everybody gets that. But there is ample scope to do a new deal and a better deal.”

While Johnson has spoken to Merkel and Macron, there are no plans to accept their invitations to visit without a change in their position on the backstop. Irish officials are understood to view the delay in contacting Varadkar as indicative of an unwillingness to enter serious talks. Varadkar is adamant that the backstop must stay to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market.

Read more …

Blame Games ‘R’ Us.

EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)

European Union officials have rejected Dominic Raab’s claim that negotiating a free-trade deal would be “much easier” after a no-deal Brexit. While the foreign secretary contends that leaving the EU without an agreement would ease the way to solving the disputed Irish border question, European sources fear a no-deal Brexit would trigger an acrimonious blame game. “It would mean the complete breakdown of political relations and I don’t think there would be much trust on the EU side with the Tories, or with the prime minister,” a senior diplomat said. “Eventually we would get around it because we are pragmatic, but this would be really, really bad, because of all the rhetoric around blaming.”


A second diplomat, speaking before Raab’s intervention, argued that all contact would cease after a no-deal Brexit. “Our phones will not be connected at that time … I don’t think they will be connected to someone who has reneged on their obligations,” they said. European officials agree that a precondition of talks would be a British pledge to honour the three core parts of the withdrawal agreement – citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement. At the weekend, the EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told Der Tagesspiegel the UK’s credit rating would be hit if Boris Johnson carried out his threat not to honour payments promised to the EU. Tanja Fajon, the Social Democrat member of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “To negotiate a free trade agreement usually takes years and I believe the UK doesn’t have that time after a no-deal Brexit.”

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The UK has been instrumental in defining EU law for 40 years. Now they want to cherry-pick? That would put any future trade deals at risk. Unfair competition.

Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit chief wants to scrap Theresa May’s commitment to protect British workers’ rights, and has suggested Brexit is an opportunity to escape the EU’s “heavy labour market regulation”, The Independent can reveal. Just two months ago David Frost said he was opposed to the approach advocated “by the leaders of both major political parties”, and argued that EU rights should not automatically be written into law after Brexit. Mr Frost, former chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was appointed last week by Mr Johnson to replace Olly Robbins as Downing Street’s EU chief, a role that will see him leading any future talks with Brussels.

“Business organisations have often in the past criticised the EU’s drift towards heavy labour market regulation,” Mr Frost said in May 2019 in an article reproduced on the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry website. “So I will take some persuading it will be a good outcome if the EU is able to set new UK labour market rules without any UK say – as currently seems to be envisaged by the leaders of both major political parties.” Theresa May committed the government to maintaining the current level of European Union workers rights, and also went even further, legislating for parliament to automatically be given votes on staying aligned with the bloc’s rules when future legislation emerges.

The “dynamic alignment” plans were unveiled by the government in a failed bid to get Labour MPs to back the withdrawal agreement. Additionally, during the transition period included in the withdrawal agreement, the UK would have to accept rights with no say at all, as rejected by Mr Frost. Brussels has also suggested the UK would have to stay aligned with future EU workers’ rights, as well as environmental and social legislation, past the end of the transition period – if it wants a trade agreement. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the bloc would seek non-regression clauses to ensure Britain does not backslide on rules and try to undercut its neighbours.

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“Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing. ”

Things to Come (Kunstler)

The economic contraction ahead will put this borderline psychotic country through some interesting ch-ch-ch-changes. Mr. Trump now fully owns the Potemkin status quo of record stock markets poised against a withering rot of human capital at the core of an industrial society in sunset mode. Leadership at every corner of American life — politics, business, media — expects an ever-higher tech magical updraft of fortune from an increasingly holographic economy of mere fugitive appearances in which everybody can get more of something for nothing. The disappointment over how all this works out will be epic.

Globalism is wobbling badly. It was never what it was cracked up to be: a permanent new plateau of exquisitely-tuned international economic cooperation engineered to perfection. It was just a set of provisional relations based on transient advantage. As it turned out, every move that advantaged US-based corporations blew back ferociously on the American public and the long-term integrity of the social order. Sinister as it seems, the process was simply emergent: a self-organizing evolution of forces previously set in motion. And, like a lot of things in history, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Off-shoring” US industry jacked up corporate profits while it decimated working class livelihoods. In return, that large demographic got “bargain shopping” at Walmart, a life of ever-upward revolving debt, and dead downtowns. The country got gigantic trade deficits and government debt loads. In effect, globalism compelled America to borrow as much as possible from the future to keep running things the way they were set up to run. Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing.

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What is real in China?

Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)

On Monday, Jinhe Biotechnology and Liande Automatic Equipment disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to suspend their plans to sell bonds. On Sunday night, four companies — Hunan Baili Engineering Sci&Tech, Jiaao Enprotech Stock, MLS Co., and Woer Heat-Shrinkable Material Co. – disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the CSRC to suspend their IPOs in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Regulators also stopped four IPOs on Shanghai’s Star Market, which itself debuted just last week with great fanfare. The 25 stocks listed on it gained 140% on the very first day, followed by steep declines the second day.


[..] On Sunday, two companies disclosed that their bond offerings were stopped by regulators, according to Yicai. On Friday, seven companies disclosed that their bond offerings have been halted. In total, regulators suspended 46 IPOs and bond offerings, based on filings made at the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, including Shanghai’s Star Market, as of Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. The reason: these companies had chosen Ruihua Certified Public Accountants as their auditors. Ruihua, the second largest audit firm in China, has been embroiled in scandals involving large amounts of fake data, including fake cash, on its clients’ books. The fakeness of this cash became obvious when these companies defaulted on debt that they could have easily serviced with the cash they claimed to have on their books but didn’t. And Ruihua had just signed off on those fake books.

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“..the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies..”

US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)

A month after President Donald Trump said he would allow U.S. companies to resume selling to blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei HWT.UL, his administration has done little to clarify what sales will be permitted. The lack of clarity on what U.S. firms can supply to the world’s top producer of telecommunications equipment as long as it’s on a so-called “entity list” is likely to cast a shadow over this week’s U.S.-China trade negotiations in Shanghai. Trump had pledged to allow the sales as a goodwill gesture to President Xi Jinping when the two met last month and agreed to restart talks to try to resolve their year-long trade war.


China, for its part, agreed to restart large-scale agricultural purchases. U.S. chipmakers cheered Trump’s announcement, which administration officials clarified afterwards meant the government would issue export licenses in cases where there is no national security risk and where the items are “non-sensitive” and readily replaced by rivals. But the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies, sowing uncertainty in the industry and in Beijing. “At this stage, there is mass confusion,” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce official, adding that the plan for case-by-case decisions “maximizes the uncertainty.”

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No information is safe.

Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)

Capital One Financial Corp said on Monday that personal information including names and addresses of about 100 million individuals in the United States and 6 million people in Canada were obtained by a hacker who has been arrested. The suspect, a 33-year-old former Seattle technology company software engineer identified as Paige Thompson, made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. According to a complaint filed in the District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, Thompson posted information from her hack, which occurred between March 12 and July 17, on coding platform GitHub. Another user saw the post and notified Capital One of the breach.


Law enforcement officials were able to track Thompson down as the page she posted on contained her full name as part of its digital address, the complaint said. Capital One said it identified the hack on July 19. A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s office said it was not immediately clear what the suspect’s motive was. The incident is expected to cost between $100 million and $150 million in 2019, mainly because of customer notifications, credit monitoring and legal support, Capital One said. The hacker did not gain access to credit card account numbers, but about 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers were compromised, Capital One said. Other personal information accessed included phone numbers and credit scores.

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Are we immune to this yet?

The World is Not Enough (Statista)

Earth Overshoot Day came on July 29 this year. This is the second time the day, which marks the time at which humanity has used up its allotment of natural planetary resources for the year, occurred in the month. It had occurred in August between 2010 and 2017. The day, whose existence is highlighted by the NGO Global Footprint Network, means that all humans on Earth for this year have already used up more natural resources than mother nature can reproduce annually. Emissions, but also of resources like wood or fish and the use of land for crops, are among the things counted in when calculating Earth Overshoot Day.


Industrialized nations have the biggest share in pushing its date forward, as seen in the organization’s country profiles. The U.S. is the biggest offender. If all nations lived like U.S. residents, the resources of five Earths would be needed each year in order for the natural environment to regenerate. The U.S. overshoot day is therefore on March 15. Australia, which had been ahead of the U.S. for some years, now had its overshoot day on March 31, with 4.1 “Earths” used annually. India was among the countries whose style of living would use up less than a whole Earth each year if practiced globally, which also has to do with poverty still being widespread in the country.

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“The scariest thing about climate change is what it will make us do to each other.”

Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

Not far from my grandmother’s house is a ghost city. At Angel Mounds on the Ohio river about eight miles west of Evansville, there are a few visible earthworks and a reconstructed wattle-and-daub barrier. There is almost nothing left of the people who build these mounds; in a final insulting erasure, the site is now named after the white settler family who most recently farmed the land. There are traces of other dead villages along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, mounds scattered from present-day Indiana to Arkansas and Alabama. In southern Illinois, a few miles from the Missouri border, hidden among empty corn and soy fields, is the center of that dead civilization’s gravity: the lost city of Cahokia.

Cahokia was larger than London, centrally planned, the Manhattan of its day. Most people there would have come from somewhere else. There were defensive foundations, playing fields, and a magnificent temple. There would have been sacred ceremonies and salacious gossip. It must have been a very exciting place to live. And then, relatively abruptly, it ceased to exist. We know of the city only because of the physical traces left behind. Few stories of Cahokia have survived; it disappeared from oral tradition, as if whatever happened to it is best forgotten. The archaeological record shows traces of the desperation and bloodshed that almost always accompany great upheavals: skeletons with bound hands, pits full of strangled young women.

The North American Drought Atlas, a historical record of climate conditions pieced together from the rings of old trees, provides a hint of what might have happened. The tenth century CE, when the Cahokia civilization would have developed, marked a distinct shift in the regional climate from persistent drought to rainier conditions more suitable for agriculture, centralization, and civilization. But the good times were not to last. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the climate swung back toward drought. This shift was likely associated with shifting temperature patterns in the ocean that affected the jet stream, pulling cool air down from the Arctic and displacing rainfall patterns.

These changes are attributable to some combination of natural internal climate variability and externally forced changes from solar activity and increased volcanic eruptions. Their effects were profound. In Europe around the same time, a confluence of natural factors perhaps related and perhaps separate from the forces drying out the Mississippi Valley caused it to rain heavily in the summer of 1314. The rains continued into the winter, and then into the next year, and then the next. Crops rotted in the fields, and the entire continent went hungry. Contemporaneous historical records complain of rain and famine, villages forced to eat dogs and cats, the dead, and even each other.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 152019
 


Jack Delano L. Logan, boilermaker at the roundhouse in the Proviso yard in Melrose Park, near Chicago 1942

 

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)
UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)
Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)
China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)
China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)
China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)
US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)
Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)
Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)
Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)
Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)
Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)
Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

 

 

The theme is better than the article, but that’s fine once in a while. Is the Longest Expansion in actual fact the Longest Recession?

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)

I say “It’s been a great recession” because we never actually left the Great Recession. Rather than the longest expansion in US history, we’ve been enduring the longest recession in US history ever since the dot-com bust. The above chart shows the GDP growth rate, and the REAL GDP “growth” rate, which has actually been contraction, not growth, for the past two decades if measured by historic standards. So long as GDP is growing, (above 0 on the chart above), we’re in expansion. Whenever GDP is shrinking (below 0 on the chart below), we’re in recession. So, when you see financial commentators writing or talking about “the longest expansion on record,” this month, translate that in light of this article.

It is only the longest expansion on record if you change the way you calculate GDP from the way previous records were calculated. It’s sort of like saying, “This person ran the longest marathon in history,” but not memtion that we’ve reduced the length of the kilometer or mile by which we measure marathons. The government (and the Fed) love to cook the books. They do it under the guise that old numbers really were not all that accurate, but if that were truly the reason, why is it the “corrections” and “adjustments” always serve to make the present regime’s numbers look better? (Perhaps people doing the calculations in the past were willing to be more conservative in terms of how much they patted themselves on the back for how well they were doing?)

Read more …

Brexit will hit like a hammer. Not because Brexit itself is such a bad idea, but because a bunch of complete wankers have been working it out.

UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)

Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers. Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support. Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read. The survey of 1,290 frontline family support workers from 616 organisations across the UK was published by the poverty grants charity Buttle UK.


It said it was undertaken to provide a “thermometer reading” of the lives of some the UK’s most vulnerable families. It comes amid rising concern that alongside headline increases in relative poverty in recent years – more than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution. Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.

Read more …

Stimulus!

Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)

Chinese growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades in the second quarter with the US-China trade war and weakening global demand weighing on the world’s second-biggest economy, official data showed Monday. The slowdown makes it more difficult for president Xi Jinping to fight back forcefully against the US, which is using tariffs as leverage to try to force Beijing into opening up its economy. The 6.2% figure released by the national bureau of statistics on Monday was in line with forecasts by analysts and down from an expansion of 6.4% in the first quarter. The GDP figures are within the government’s target range of 6.0-6.5% for the whole year, down from the 6.6% growth China posted in 2018.


“Economic conditions are still severe both at home and abroad, global economic growth is slowing down and the external instabilities and uncertainties are increasing,” said bureau spokesman Mao Shengyong. “The economy is under new downward pressure,” he said. Beijing has introduced measures this year to boost the economy, but they have not been enough to offset a domestic slowdown and softening overseas demand made worse by a punishing trade war with its biggest trading partner country, the US. Exports to the world rose only 0.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year. Analysts widely expect Beijing will step up support for the economy in coming months and the prospect cheered investors in China where stocks rose.

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Chinese factories don’t stop producing when there are no clients. That why there’s Belt and Road.

China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)

China’s daily crude steel output rose to record levels in June, according to Reuters calculations, even as anti-pollution production curbs pushed whole-month production slightly lower, official data showed on Monday. The world’s biggest steel producer churned out 87.53 million tonnes of crude steel last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. That was down from a record 89.09 million tonnes in May – the first monthly drop this year – as the government stepped up its drive to cut smog, but still well above 80.2 million tonnes in June 2018 as daily output grew.


Average daily output of steel was around 2.92 million tonnes, calculations showed, compared with 2.87 million tonnes in May. The monthly drop for June came as the smog-prone northern province of Hebei, which accounts for a quarter of China’s total steel output, ordered local governments to bring forward capacity cuts and anti-pollution measures to meet annual air quality targets. The Hebei cities of Handan and Tangshan extended production curbs until August. Analysts expect the restrictions, if fully implemented, will have a bigger impact than curbs usually imposed in winter to restrict smog, and will trim blast furnace operations by around 40% in the region.

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There were two headlines for this artilce, the one I used and, kid you not: “China home price growth cools in June, but investment quickens”

China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)

Growth in China’s new home prices cooled in June as sales shrank for a second month, but building starts and investment quickened, providing a cushion for the slowing economy while Beijing claims some wins in reducing market froth. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities grew 0.6% in June from a month earlier, easing from a 0.7% gain in May, according to Reuters calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Monday. That marked the 50th straight month of price gains. Most of the cities still reported higher prices. Sixty-three of the total 70 cities surveyed by the NBS reported higher prices in June, down from 67 cities in May.


On an annual basis, home prices increased 10.3% in June, easing from 10.7% in May. The weakness mainly came from tier-1 cities. Prices in China’s four top-tier cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – rose an average of 0.2% from a month earlier, slowing from a 0.3% uptick in May. For tier-2 cities, which include most of larger provincial capitals, home prices grew 0.8% in June, identical with the previous month’s advance. Despite still elevated prices in some of China’s biggest cities, many analysts are still bearish on the market’s overall outlook this year as demand in smaller cities – which account for 70% of sales by floor area – will likely falter, and as Beijing has not indicated it will ease nationwide property curbs anytime soon.

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Article quotes westerners who say everything’s fine, and also suggests it’s not at all.

China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)

Xinjiang, a fraught region where flare-ups of interethnic violence have led to unprecedented levels of surveillance, is one of the fastest growing areas for tourism in China. Armed police and frequent checkpoints have not dampened the flow of vacationers visiting the region, which in 2018 saw a 40 percent increase year-on-year of visits – mainly from domestic tourists – outstripping the national average by 25 percent, according to official figures. Business has grown steadily over the years mainly because “Xinjiang is very stable”, explained Wu Yali, who runs a travel agency in the region. Though tourists are not used to the high-level of security at first, “they adapt after a few days,” she told AFP. But travellers are barred from witnessing the most controversial part of Xinjiang’s security apparatus: the network of internment camps spread across the vast region.


Many of these facilities are outside main tourist hubs and are fenced off with razor-wired walls. On a six-day trip to the region last month, AFP reporters encountered roadblocks and were turned away by security forces upon nearing some camps. China describes the facilities as “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking “trainees” learn Mandarin and job skills. “The violence that is being inflicted on the bodies of Uighur and other Muslim people…has been rendered invisible,” said Rachel Harris, who studies Uighur culture and music at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. “For a tourist who goes and travels around a designated route, it all looks nice,” she told AFP. “It’s all very quiet and that’s because there’s a regime of terror being imposed on the local people.”

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For both the US and EU, the solution to this is clear: help people fix their countries so they can live there and prosper. Unless we do that, the problems will persist and grow.

US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)

The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, then postponed before telling reporters on Friday that it would proceed, was expected to target hundreds of recently arrived families in about 10 cities who had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States. Immigrants and their advocates were bracing for mass arrests, but by Sunday night there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.


“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update. Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta. There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas. “Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.

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It has become their main identity. Like Novichok is a Monty Python skid.

Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)

The British government appears to be more and more aping a Monty Python-type farce with each passing day. Soon the absurd ensemble will be complete if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt becomes the next prime minister. This week the mandarins at the Ministry of Funny Walks ruled that two internationally respected Russian news media channels were banned from attending a global conference on “press freedom”. RT and another Russia-based news outlet Sputnik were refused permission by the British government to participate in the Global Conference for Media Freedom, held in London. A British Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their earlier role in spreading disinformation.”

The irony of it. The British government is peddling unsubstantiated accusations (more accurately, ridiculous slander) against Russian media which is then invoked as “justification” for censorship at a much-vaunted international conference supposedly dedicated to freedom of the press. You could hardly make the farce up. It’s a kind of cross between George Orwell and Monty Python. What the British government is doing is blatantly ramping up the media war against Russia. London is giving a license for further outrageous repression of Russian news media, as well as piling on demonization of Russia as a state.

[..] It is bitterly ironic that an independent journalist like Julian Assange of the Wikileaks website is being currently detained in a maximum security British prison on trumped-up extradition charges to the US for spying – when Assange’s real “crime” is that he exposed American and British war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Arguably, Assange’s credibility and appreciation among ordinary citizens the world over is much higher than either of the US or British governments, or their mainstream media. The same dichotomy applies to the two above-mentioned Russia-based news channels. Not able to cope with hearing the critical message, the British government has resorted to shooting the messenger. However, the British and international public can see what’s going on here, and so the “emperor” is hastily, clumsily trying to cover up the embarrassment from being exposed.

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Spruik. Good word. Good article too. “..bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction..”

Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)

Collective violence, such as torturing a publisher for journalism, requires more than persecuting authorities, mobbing states and media smear campaigns to survive. Those who orchestrate and perpetrate state-sanctioned violence depend crucially and fundamentally upon one other thing. That thing is bystanders. Atrocity does not take place without passive, complacent, compliant bystanders: citizens watching silently, declining to take a stand, even as their leaders say one thing at global media conferences and do precisely the reverse in the real world.

Passive bystanders are the social pillars of atrocity, fashioned from “kindly people, struggling to evaluate the actions they are agents or accomplices in” writes Professor of Philosophy, Adam Morton. The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, who died screaming as neighbours listened on, prompted psychologists to investigate the processes by which kindly people might become agents and accomplices in horror, such torturing a journalist in Belmarsh while elites parse media freedom at exclusive conference dinners, practically next door. A simple and pedestrian psychological culprit emerged, known as diffusion of responsibility. In numerous research paradigms since 1964, when witnessing an emergency among a group of seemingly unconcerned others, most people will fail to intervene.

The more people that are present, and the less alarmed they all appear to be, the less inclined is each individual to act. The ensuing collective stasis is driven partly by a diminished sense of personal responsibility, and partly by conformity, or a reluctance to stand out. Such prosaic group processes, on display in spades at the Global Media Freedom Conference, can paradoxically make it easier to commit violence before a sea of onlookers than before one or two passers-by. Which is just as well for the elites in London holding Julian Assange bound and gagged in Belmarsh, metaphorically speaking, while listening to Amal Clooney and embracing a joint statement by four Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, with a straight face.

Peace psychologist Ervin Staub writes, “The passivity of witnesses, internal bystanders who are part of the population… affirms perpetrators and allows the unfolding of the evolution of violence”. He adds, “bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction”.

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The EU will have to act. But it’s the last thing they want to do.

Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in waters off Cyprus if the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government does not accept a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriots, Ankara’s foreign minister has said. Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that both parties on the divided island cooperate in exploration and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions in the region have risen after Turkey told energy firms not to work with the Greek Cypriot government, and sent two ships to drill off the island. Cyprus issued arrest warrants for the crew of one of the ships, and the European Union is discussing curbing contacts and funds for Turkey in response.


The dispute stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus, linked to the 45-year-old split of the island and Ankara’s rejection of agreements Cyprus has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones. In an article for the Cyprus Post published on Sunday, Cavusoglu said that until Greek Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akinci on Saturday to work with Turkish Cypriots, Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work, “with determination and without change.”

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The old elites are back in charge, and the country will feel it. So what is the EU going to do? Side with the right wing?

Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras appears confident that the country can enter a “virtuous cycle” of growth, strengthen market confidence and negotiate a deal with its lenders to trim a high primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in exchange for an acceleration of reforms and investments now that a center-right government is in power. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the central banker also said that he would welcome a judicial inquiry into what he describes as a “coordinated effort” by the previous administration to malign his character and prevent him from carrying out his duties.

“Success in restarting the Greek economy… will depend on whether the new government, taking advantage of market confidence, adopts policy measures to attract new investments,” Stournaras said. “If these measures are forward-looking and reliable, the Greek economy will soon enter a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle of reliability, credibility and growth,” the central banker said. This “virtuous cycle” of strengthened credibility, Stournaras said, could lead to rating upgrades, which would be “a key condition to a review of the primary surplus target.” This, he added, would “give the economy the room it needs to grow.”

Commenting on the new government’s plan to introduce a series of tax reductions in order to ease the burden on the middle class, Stournaras said that “changing the fiscal policy mix with a lightening of the tax load (including social security contributions) on workers and businesses is imperative.” He added that while the previous government’s policy of high taxation managed to stem the growth of public debt thanks to large primary surprises, it also suppressed the economy’s growth potential.

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The new PM has promised new agreements with the EU. But they can’t give him any, other than superficial ones.

Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)

The high primary surplus targets may be one of the toughest legacies passed down to the new administration by the Alexis Tsipras government. An agreement with creditors for reducing the target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product is a key priority for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which analysts and economists speaking to Kathimerini say is feasible but only under specific conditions. “The reduction of the targets for the primary surpluses will be a difficult uphill road for the Greek government, mainly because the northern European states are not so willing to accept the idea of a level below 3.5 percent for the medium term,” says Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group. “For the time being no such negotiation is expected, but this is possible for the targets after 2021,” he predicts.


Raffaella Tenconi, an economist at Wood, appears to agree, saying that “the maximum likely is a 0.5 percent of GDP discount for 2021 and 2022 – a short window until it drops to 2 percent,” but reminds that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “again said there is no big reason to change the goals.” Rahman adds that “what Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government have to do is first build a relationship of confidence with the creditors, second proceed with structural reforms so as to send the right message, and third to continue the fiscal policy and adhere to what has been agreed in order to bring to negotiation in Brussels the reductionn of targets. This is an issue concerning 2021.” Teneo Intelligence Co-President Wolfango Piccoli comments that “only a fool would have expected a positive stance from the creditors about reducing the primary surplus target the day after the election.”

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Just about the very first thing the right wing government has done. Count me not surprised.

Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

Labor and Social Affair Minister, Nikos Vroutsis, has cancelled a ministerial decision regarding the issuing of social security number (AMKA) to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied refugee children and non-EU nationals. The decision, in fact a circular signed by three SYRIZA ministers for Health, Migration and Social Solidarity was issued on June 20, less than a month than the general elections. Justifying his decision to block the issue, Vroutsis said that the Issue of AMKA to non-EU nationals will be re-examined and new directives will be published.


The Social security number is essential to access services in Health, Education and Labor. To the immediate and harsh criticism by SYRIZA that conservative New Democracy will implement harsh policies to services provided to refugees and migrants living in Greece, Vroutsis responded with a tweet: “A few days before the election, SYRIZA issued an easily disproved circular, opposed to the law that provides AMKA to third-country nationals in arbitrary way. Labor ministry services were opposing this. I abolished it immediately. Our Country is not an unfenced backyard.”

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Jul 042019
 


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.