Samuel Peploe Beach scene 1907
Don’t let the Fed try to solve what they have caused.
Amid the recent financial market volatility, the interest rates on some long-dated government bonds have fallen below the level for short-term debt. Called a “yield curve inversion,” this has been a traditional warning sign for the economy: If smart investors see more risk two years ahead than 10 years down the road, it can’t be good for near-term growth. In response, President Donald Trump and others have upped demands for a U.S. Federal Reserve rate cut. So do U.S. central bankers care about what Trump called the “crazy inverted yield curve” or not? Policymakers have been trying to get a handle on the issue for a while, with no consensus on whether a curve inversion today means the same thing it did in the past. Here are selected comments of Fed policy makers over the last two years on the issue:
Dec. 1, 2017: “There is a material risk…if the (Federal Open Market Committee) continues on its present course” – St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard. He was off by a few months, expecting a yield curve inversion late in 2018, but Bullard as well as Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan flagged early on what might happen if the Fed continued to hike, as it did throughout last year. Aug. 20, 2018: “I pledge to you I will not vote for anything that will knowingly invert the curve and I am hopeful that as we move forward I won’t be faced with that.” – Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic. The comment captured the Fed’s dilemma at that point. The economy was growing faster than expected and seemed robust enough to warrant rate increases. Bostic voted for two more by the end of the year. Yet through the year, bond spreads narrowed.
Will fail for the same reason Abenomics has and does: you can’t force people to spend. The more you try, the more afraid they become and the less they actually will spend.
China’s state planner said on Friday it will roll out a plan to boost disposable income this year and in 2020 to spur consumption as the economy slows. The plan will include further reforming the Hukou system – a family registration program that serves as a domestic passport and regulates rural-to-urban migration, and expanding channels for making non-salary income, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). She did not elaborate.
Data this week showed China’s economy stumbled more sharply than expected in July, with retail sales pointing to growing consumer caution, as the intensifying U.S. trade war took a heavier toll on businesses and consumers. Second-quarter growth slowed to a near 30-year low. China has been trying to quicken its urbanization process through relaxed requirements for obtaining Hukou in urban areas, although it keeps a strict cap in top-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
Sounds like an invitation to me.
Hong Kong’s police are confident they have the resources to continue battling pro-democracy protesters, even if violence escalates further, pouring cold water on concerns that the authoritarian mainland might need to intervene. Three senior commanders said they were unaware of any plans by China to bolster their own ranks with mainland troops or police officers, even if the political chaos worsens. And they admitted that any move to do so would place the city’s police force in uncharted waters. But, they insisted, the issue was moot because the local force could handle the crisis.
“I can’t envisage it,” said one senior commander. “At the operational level we have considerable depth. I think we have the determination, the cohesiveness and the depth of resources to keep going.” The three officers agreed to sit down with a group of foreign journalists on condition of anonymity so they could speak more freely during the worst unrest the force has faced since leftist riots in the late 1960s. Hong Kong’s summer of rage was sparked by broad opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. [..] With neither Beijing nor Hong Kong’s leaders willing to offer any compromises, the police have become the loathed face of the government.
The chant “hak geng” — corrupt cops — has become routine, both from protesters and, more recently, local residents infuriated by police engaging in near nightly battles in their neighbourhoods. Protesters, rights groups and the UN’s rights chief have accused police of using excessive force, with videos of teargas and rubber bullets generating renewed public outrage each weekend.
Alastair draws mighty big conclusions.
Conflict is popping up everywhere: A major portion of the Turkish army stands ready to invade parts of Syria (though invasion may have been averted for now); PM Modi may just have ignited the next round of Kashmir wars with Pakistan with his Hindu ‘nationalist’ putsch to annex Muslim majority Jammu-Kashmir; Japan has started a mini trade war with South Korea; Turkey is bracing for a face-off with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the East Mediterranean; the Yemen war is heating up with the war increasingly being fought inside southern Saudi Arabia; the US-Iran and the Syria conflicts simmer, and Hong Kong has boiled-over into violence. What is going on? Is there some unifying thread connecting this sudden outbreak of widespread global tension? Of course all these conflicts have their separate background contexts.
But why so many at the same time? Well, in a word, it’s all about change — about the recognition that we are at the cusp of major changes. The world is beginning to pre-position. Take, for example, the about-turn by the UAE (heretofore, a major agitator for an Iran confrontation) reaching out to Iran. Much of this Gulf State fervour for confrontation with Iran arose on the rebound from the Obama move to normalise with Iran (through the JCPOA). The Gulf States feared losing the umbrella of the US protection which, it was believed, inoculated these monarchies as much from repression of their internal reformists, as from Iran. Then, with the arrival of President Trump, the opportunity seemed to present itself again to lock-in that US ‘guarantee’ by inciting the new President, already obsessed with his notion of Iranian ‘malignity’ into action.
But suddenly, the Gulf chimaera of Trump retarding a resurgent Iran through inflicting a couple of generations worth of missile damage on its infrastructure faded under the desert heat. When Iran took the initiative with its counter-pressures, the US finally did not react, either to Hormuz, or to the loss of its high-spec drone. It’s not over yet: Iran remains a grave flash-point, but in the region it is understood that the US neither has the political will, nor the capacity, for protracted military action (as opposed to a quick ‘one and done’, to which Iran has promised substantial retaliation). This sense of a ‘shift’ has been reinforced by Trump’s repeat last month of his call for withdrawal from Syria, and by his almost indecent haste in trying to exit Afghanistan. The omens are plain: America is on its way out from the Middle East.
Noteworthy because of Whitney Webb’s comment:
“He was a child rapist w sex slaves and NBC calls the “news” of US flags at half mast lowered to honor this creep a “solemn sight”.
Have we reached rock bottom as a nation yet? Sure looks like the press has.”
The American flags on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island were lowered to half-staff four days after he died in an apparent jailhouse suicide. A boat captain cruising past Little St. James, located off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, captured images and videos of the solemn sight Wednesday night. “It was a real moment out there and it just felt so heavy,” said Captain Kelly Quinn, owner of Salty Dog Day Sails. “I didn’t feel there was a realness of the end of Jeffrey Epstein until I saw that. That was a lot more literal.”
It wasn’t clear who lowered the two flags on opposite ends of the 70-acre island. But Quinn is nearly certain it was one of the employees Epstein hired to staff his lavish estate. “They’re doing this as a remembrance, but the irony is he’ll only be remembered for the deviance,” said Quinn. Quinn said the American flag on the nearby island that Epstein owns, Great St. James, was also flying at half-staff on Wednesday.
Why oh why did they stage this ‘chance’ encounter? Why even try to make it look like one? And where is she now?
Jeffrey Epstein’s former gal pal Ghislaine Maxwell isn’t holed up in her British manor or summering on the Massachusetts coast. The Post found the socialite hiding in plain sight in the least likely place imaginable — a fast-food joint in Los Angeles. Maxwell, 57, the alleged madam to the multimillionaire pedophile, was scarfing down a burger, fries and shake al fresco at an In-N-Out Burger on Monday while reading “The Book of Honor: The Secret Lives and Deaths of CIA Operatives,” a nonfiction best seller by journalist Ted Gup. Sitting alone with a pet pooch, she was surprised to be found and told an onlooker, “Well, I guess this is the last time I’ll be eating here!”
Maxwell, accused in court papers of providing sex slaves for Epstein and engaging in threesomes with the financier and underage girls, had not been photographed in public since 2016. The daughter of the late, disgraced publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell has not been charged with any crimes but could find herself in the feds’ crosshairs following Epstein’s apparent jailhouse suicide Saturday.
And why not? He had bought the entire jail.
The day after he was taken off suicide watch, disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein spent at least two hours locked up alone with a young woman, in a private room reserved for inmates and their attorneys, according to an attorney who was visiting the prison that day. “The optics were startling. Because she was young. And pretty,” said the visiting attorney, who asked that his name not be used because he didn’t want to create friction with the prison administration. He speculated the woman could be a lawyer—NBC News has reported that Epstein paid members of his team to sit with him in a room for eight hours a day for attorney-client meetings, allowing him to avoid his cell.
The visiting attorney went to the Manhattan Correctional Center on July 30, a day after Epstein was reportedly taken off suicide watch and transferred into the Special Housing Unit (SHU). During the hours the visiting attorney was present, it wasn’t Epstein’s main lawyer, Reid Weingarten, or other named attorneys who visited him. “If I was him, I would have hired… an old bald guy,” said the lawyer, who said the young woman was in there with Epstein for at least two hours when he was there. He also pointed out that the room is locked when prisoners go in, after their handcuffs are removed, and unlocked only when prisoners leave and handcuffs are put back on.
[..] Epstein’s daily occupation of the room in the SHU was a sore point for attorneys trying to visit their clients. Instead of waiting 15 minutes for a room, the wait could stretch for two hours, as it was that day. “They wouldn’t move anybody until he got where he was going, which is what they used to do with El Chapo, too,” the visiting attorney said. There are 12 attorney visiting rooms at MCC, but only two are for attorneys visiting SHU clients. That means Epstein was monopolizing a scarce resource. n
This is from March 4 2011. All this was known at the time. Epstein was only arrested more than 8 years later.
He attended the Queen’s birthday party in 2000!
The Duke of York’s billionaire paedophile friend kept a secret journal, described as “The Holy Grail” by lawyers, which listed his alleged under-aged victims and the celebrity guests he entertained at his Florida mansion. Jeffrey Epstein used the “black book” to log contact details of the girls that gave massages to him and his friends and those of his powerful and famous associates, such as Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. A servant at the £4 million manor in Palm Beach, where Prince Andrew enjoyed daily massages during several stays, stole the journal and initially kept it secret from investigators. He is now in prison after attempting to sell it for $50,000 (£31,000). Epstein, 58, was accused of sex offences by more than 20 under-aged girls.
They alleged that after being recruited as masseuses by aides including Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the late tycoon Robert, they were seriously assaulted and then paid hundreds of dollars. The billionaire financier, who attended The Queen’s birthday party in 2000, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008, having secured a plea bargain that prevented full criminal trials. He later settled more than a dozen multi-million dollar civil lawsuits from his alleged victims out of court. The previously undisclosed journal, however, “detailed the full scope and the extent of Epstein’s involvement with underage girls”, according to lawyers for several alleged victims.
It contained the names of girls that Epstein allegedly abused in “Michigan, California, West Palm Beach, New York, New Mexico, and Paris”, according to court papers. It also listed extensive contact details for Epstein’s house guests, who had “no connection whatsoever” with alleged offences, including Mr Clinton, the former US President, and Mr Trump, the famous businessman. It could not be confirmed last night whether the book contained contact details for the Duke. One lawyer for Epstein’s alleged victims said: “I would bet he is, because he is that good a friend”.
Well, Truman tried after WWII…
Donald Trump is fond of bragging about his conspicuous wealth and buying power, plastering his name over buildings and gilding the elevators of Trump Tower. But his latest reported aspiration is on the extravagant side, even for him: to purchase Greenland from Denmark. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US president has “expressed interest” in buying the expansive icy territory and has asked his aides to explore the possibility. He has even sought the view of the White House counsel, though the Journal noted his inquiries came “with varying degrees of seriousness”. News that Trump had set his sights on acquiring a meaty chunk of the Kingdom of Denmark set Twitter aflutter on Thursday night.
Pundits tried in vain to find a real estate valuation for the 811,000 square miles on Zillow, while others attempted to calculate Greenland’s worth in pickled herring. Despite the levity the idea has provoked, it is not entirely in the realm of fantasy. In 1946 US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100m but was rebuffed. There was a more successful precedent dating back to 1917 when the US acquired the Danish West Indies, rebranding them the US Virgin Islands. The US military already has a major airbase on Greenland, on the north-west of the island. The base has 600 personnel and is important in the country’s global radar system.
Trump travels to Denmark next month in his first official visit to the kingdom, though Greenland is not thought to be on the agenda. The Journal reported that the president raised the issue at a dinner last year in which he said he had heard Denmark was finding its financial support to the self-governing territory burdensome.
We need to go through the docs.
On Wednesday, former Google employee Zachary Vorhies went public as the whistleblower who spoke with Project Veritas in June, revealing the political bias in Google’s “Machine Learning Fairness” program. He also told the story of police storming his home to perform a “wellness check” after he was outed as a “leaker” and after Google had sent him a demand letter. Project Veritas released its video with Vorhies (whose identity was masked), exposing the bias in the “Machine Learning Fairness” program and its hidden camera interview footage showing a Google executive describing her work on algorithms to prevent “the next Trump situation.” Shortly afterward, the whistleblower received a demand letter from Google.
Vorhies said he complied with Google’s demands, including sending any Google documents he retained. But he also sent those documents to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. An anonymous account — which Vorhies said he believes belongs to a Google employee — outed him as a “leaker” on Twitter, and then he was approached by law enforcement at his residence in California. San Francisco police received a call from Google which prompted a “wellness check.” “They got inside the gate, the police, and they started banging on my door… And so the police decided that they were going to call in additional forces. They called in the FBI, they called in the SWAT team. And they called in a bomb squad,” Vorhies told Project Veritas.
A city with a grand history.
Time is running out for Jakarta. One of the fastest-sinking cities on earth, environmental experts warn that one third of it could be submerged by 2050 if current rates continue. Decades of uncontrolled and excessive depletion of groundwater reserves, rising sea-levels, and increasingly volatile weather patterns mean swathes of it have already started to disappear. Existing environmental measures have had little impact, so authorities are taking drastic action: the nation will have a new capital. Its location could be announced imminently, according to local reports. “The capital of our country will move to the island of Borneo,” Indonesian leader Joko Widodo said on Twitter.
Relocating the country’s administrative and political heart may be an act of national preservation, but it effectively sounds the death-knell for Jakarta where many of the city’s 10 million residents have little means of escape. [..] Built in an earthquake zone, on swamplands, near the confluence of 13 rivers, the city’s foundations have been further stressed by unchecked development, heavy traffic, and poor urban planning. Jakarta doesn’t have a piped water system in its northern reaches, so local industry and millions of residents tap into its aquifers. This rampant groundwater extraction causes land subsidence, which is making Jakarta sink by as much as 25 centimetres (10 inches) a year in some areas — double the global average for major coastal cities.
An abandoned, submerged mosque is seen next to a giant sea wall in Jakarta
The first slaves arrived even before the Mayflower did.
Many Americans’ introduction to US history is the arrival of 102 passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. But a year earlier, 20 enslaved Africans were brought to the British colonies against their will. As John Rolfe noted in a letter in 1619, “20 and odd negroes” were brought by a Dutch ship to the nascent British colonies, arriving at what is now Fort Hampton, then Point Comfort, in Virginia. Though enslaved Africans had been part of Portuguese, Spanish, French and British history across the Americas since the 16th century, the captives who landed in Virginia were probably the first slaves to arrive into what would become the United States 150 years later.
Four hundred years on, the captives’ arrival has informed nearly every major moment in American history, even if that history has been framed around anyone but Africans and African Americans. “Historians, elected political figures [and] community leaders would prefer to sort of imagine the United States as a kind of mythic, Anglo-Saxon Christian place,” says Michael Guasco, an early American history professor at Davidson College. In 1992, Toni Morrison told the Guardian: “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.”
Arrival of a Dutch slave ship with a group of African slaves for sale at Jamestown, Virginia, 1619. MPI/Getty Images
A Boston advertisement for a cargo of about 250 ‘fine healthy negroes’, recently arrived from Africa on the slave ship Bante Island. Circa 1700. MPI/Getty Images