Aug 192020
 


Joel Meyerowitz New York City 1963

 

 

No, no matter how much I read and watch, I can’t shake the idea (less so as I go along, actually) that the Democrats don’t really, honestly, want to win the 2020 presidential election. Obviously, there are many in the party who do, and voters too, but not the ones pushing the levers and pulling the strings. Those, whoever they may be, that are picking candidates, setting policy, maintaining media contacts, doctoring spins.

Because is there anyone among you who has ever seen a worse candidate than Joe Biden? I’m not just talking about his dementia and gaffes, but you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who can use Biden and enthusiasm -let alone inspiration, or even better: exhilaration- in one sentence that doesn’t include the word “no”. And isn’t that the #1 requirement for a candidate?

They ostensibly went with Kamala Harris to provide some of that, if we may believe the press. She’ll whip up the voters into wild bouts of inspiring enthusiasm! Only, Kamala bowed out of the primaries even before 2020 started, after spending $40 million -part of which is still not paid off- because she was stuck at 2% support and couldn’t generate … any enthusiasm.

What you got is a really old man who couldn’t get a toddler excited about ice cream, and a token black woman who nobody even in her own party likes. Mix those ingredients into a convention that attracts just half the viewers of the 2016 one and generates the excitement level of an infomercial for kitchen appliances, and is it any wonder I doubt that the “behind the curtain party” is in this to win?

As for the political program, the agenda, there is really only one item on it: Donald Trump. And no matter how many millions of times it may be repeated in speeches and news articles, NOT being something is in the end NOT a positive message. You’re supposed to win on your own merit, not someone else’s perceived lack of merit. Newsflash: “MOST BIDEN SUPPORTERS SAY THEIR VOTE IS AGAINST TRUMP RATHER THAN FOR BIDEN – WSJ/NBC News poll”.

This bit from the Guardian on Monday sums it up nicely, and it veers into late night comedy territory while doing it (what more can one ask for?):

Virtual Democratic Convention Kicks Off With Emphasis On Unity

The Democratic national convention begins on Monday with a star-studded lineup and heavy emphasis on unity aimed at presenting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the US’s best hope for healing a deeply divided nation[..]

The Dems have a hard enough time uniting their own party, let alone the nation. And there’s not a Trump supporter who would move into their camp – other than the odd washed up GOP politician.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on the eve of the convention found Biden with a nine-point lead over Trump nationally [..] According to the survey, Biden holds a wide advantage over Trump on nearly every issue except the economy, which voters say is a priority this election.


[..] Biden’s selection of Harris has exhilarated supporters, who showered the campaign with a stunning $48m in the 48 hours after she was announced as his running mate.[..]

What, so now they’re only $50 million or so behind?

Democrats anticipate the excitement around Harris’s historic candidacy as the first Black woman nominated for national office by a major party, will build momentum around the convention [..] Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPac, a super Pac focused on Black Democrats: “I think there is also real relief that there is a ticket people can believe in, and get behind and push over the finish line.”

Excitement, exhilaration are words that don’t seem to mean anymore what they used to.

[..] the people who were in the Bernie campaign, the people in the Biden campaign, and people outside of both of those campaigns – have really worked hard to create an effective and genuine popular front against Donald Trump,” Weaver said, adding: “Trump is a very unifying factor.”


[..] Howard Dean, a former chair of the DNC who has attended every party convention since 1980, said the new format could work in Biden’s favor. Unlike Trump, who feeds off the energy of crowds at rallies but can look wooden and uncomfortable when reading from a teleprompter, Biden, Dean said, “does better on television than he does at a podium”. “This helps him because he will be on TV projecting calmness, reasonableness and thoughtfulness,” he said. “And that’s what people are desperate for right now.”

Isn’t it great that not feeling comfortable reading from a teleprompter 24/7 in your basement has now become a negative quality? I know, it’s hard to keep up.

But then there was the reality check from CNN on Sunday. Double digit leads vanished (coincidence?) just as Kamala caused all that exhilarating excitement:

Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High

[..] on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election [..] 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error [..]

Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%.

It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall. Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.

The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).

 

The picture painted, especially amongst the most dedicated anti-Trumpers, is of course that Biden can’t lose; that’s what they all want, right? Well, think about it: CNN lives off of Trump, and so does a large part of the MSM. But then again, they made their beds and they’ll have to lie in them. The Democratic Party, however, does not. They are free to sabotage their own campaign.

And as I said above, there are many signs that MAY indicate that they are doing just that. The selection of Joe Biden, the basement strategy, the subsequent “appointment” of Kamala Harris, the near-dead convention. Do appreciate, please, that we have no idea how Biden and Kamala were “selected”. How did Biden all of a sudden rise to the top of the crop from seemingly nowhere? Where did Kamala come from post-primary mayhem? Did Joe personally pick her? Do you believe that?

But okay, if you don’t think that they would sabotage their own campaign, flip things around: if they WOULD have wanted to make sure they’d lose the election, what would they have done, you know, the donors behind the veil, plus maybe the Obamas and Clintons? Wouldn’t they perhaps have picked Biden and Kamala, whom very few people appeared to actually like, find sympathetic, prior to them being selected for their respective roles? Why not select people that DO resonate with voters without you having to forcefully shove them down their throats?

Why would a bunch of power-hungry folk (as all politicians and their sponsors are) want to screw up their own chance at obtaining power? Well, the lack of good candidates may well be a factor, but there’s something much bigger: the US economy, like most if not all western economies, is wobbling precariously on a precipice, and about to fall off. As I labeled it recently: The Bottom Is Falling Out.

Our entire present reality is still somewhat new, the COVID pandemic, its fallout, the bailouts, the government checks, the sick and the dead, but at some point it will all start to become a “normal” part of life. That doesn’t mean, however, that the economy will return to “normal” (whatever anybody ever thought that meant).

An enormous number of businesses will never reopen, entire fields will be obliterated, re: tourism, airlines, a large swath of retail stores. The unemployment that generates will be with us for many years. The Great Depression will become a mere footnote in most history books.

And the parties in charge in various countries, including the GOP in America, will be the ones blamed for most of the ensuing problems. If you’re a Democrat behind-the-curtain wizard, wouldn’t you at least consider saying: I think I’ll pass for this round, and let Trump take the heat?

Just so, you know, you can continue your cooperation with CNN, NYT, WaPo, FBI, and blame Trump every single day and 1000 times on Sunday for everything that falls apart, while continuing to generate clickbait profits ? If all you got to show for your grand ambitions is Joe Biden, it must seem a really appealing course of action.

Besides, you don’t appear to have any better candidates than Biden -at least not centrist ones-, but don’t forget that neither do the Republicans once Trump is gone. Da Donald is set to leave a huge hole behind where he once pontificated. And just about any Democrat except for Joe Biden could step right into that hole (pun intended).

 

 

 

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Jan 302020
 


Ben Shahn “Just one more bolt of cloth”, county fair, central Ohio 1938

 

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)
New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)
WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)
Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)
Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)
Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)
The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)
GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)
White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)
‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)
Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)
Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)
Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)
US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)
France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)
Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

 

 

It’s no time to put the 2019-nCoV coronavirus on the backburner. The numbers out today are shocking.

• Deaths +29% (from 132 to 170)
• Confirmed cases +29% (6062 to 7814)
• Suspected cases +32% (from: 9239 to 12167)
• Severe cases +10% (from 1239 to 1370)
• Discharged from hospitals in mainland China: 124

 

A new sequence popped up -not sure from where- to accompany our familiar Fibonacci sequence. This new one is less “extreme”, but still says 1 million deaths 3 weeks from now:

 

 


Fibonacci

 

And there is ever more talk of infection and fatalities numbers being hidden and/or lowered:

[..] as research published in the Lancet claims the true mortality rate is actually close to 11% (the official rate is 2%-3%). That is a big one!

 

I like this map:

 

 

 

Given that we have known forever and a day that the next pandemic would come, see my article yesterday, 2019-nCoV, all these reactions and measures should come out of a playbook. They do not, it’s improv theater.

Coronavirus Deaths Leap In China As Countries Struggle To Evacuate Citizens (G.)

China reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, as countries struggled to evacuate citizens still trapped in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began. The death toll rose to 170 on Thursday – up from 132 reported on Wednesday, a rise of 29%. The number of confirmed cases in China now stands at 7,711, up from 5,974 a day earlier. It is understood that 162 of the deaths – or 95% – are in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province and one in the south-western province of Sichuan.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which initially downplayed the severity of the disease, has warned all governments to be “on alert”, with the UN agency’s emergency committee due to meet later on Thursday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency. The WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr Michael Ryan, said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China – in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – were of “great concern”. The US and Japan have started evacuating citizens, and other countries are poised to send chartered flights to the city, amid reports that some evacuations had been held up by delays in obtaining permission from the Chinese authorities.

A British flight to bring about 200 nationals back to the UK was unable to take off as planned on Thursday. The Foreign Office said it was “working urgently” to organise a flight to the UK “as soon as possible”. Australia is yet to gain permission from the Chinese government to evacuate hundreds of its citizens, and New Zealand has launched a separate rescue mission from its neighbour, though a timeline is still unclear. France, South Korea and other countries are also pulling out their citizens or making plans to do so. About 250 French citizens and 100 other Europeans will be flown out of Wuhan on board two French planes this week.

Businesses are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak. Several airlines, including British Airways, have suspended services to China, while Toyota, Ikea, Foxconn, Starbucks, Tesla and McDonald’s were among major companies to temporarily freeze production or close large numbers of outlets in China. [..] Almost 200 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday are undergoing three days of testing and monitoring at a Southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Read more …

2019-nCoV moves slower than Spanish flu, giving it more time to infect more people.

New Coronavirus Spreads As Readily As 1918 Spanish Flu, Linked To Bats (LAT)

Chinese scientists racing to keep up with the spread of a novel coronavirus have declared the widespread outbreak an epidemic, revealing that in its early days at least, the disease’s reach doubled every week. By plotting the curve of that exponential growth and running it in reverse, researchers reckoned that the microbe sickening people across the globe has probably been passing from person to person since mid-December 2019. Scientists in China are also closing in on the source of the aggressive new germ — bats. The furry flying mammals may have been the original host of the coronavirus now crisscrossing the world, says one of three scientific studies released on Wednesday. But it may be another wild animal sold in Wuhan City’s Huanan Seafood Market that served up the virus to humans, who quickly began passing it to others through close contact.

[..] All three of the new studies — two published by the British journal Lancet and a third in the New England Journal of Medicine — were conducted by scientists working in China. And all focused on some of the first patients seen with a pneumonia caused by 2019-nCoV. One of the studies published in Lancet probed the genetic connections among viral samples drawn from nine infected patients, eight of whom had visited the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. The second study in Lancet culled data on the disease progression and outcomes of 99 infected patients who were admitted to Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan with symptoms of pneumonia.

The New England Journal of Medicine study, performed by researchers at China’s leading public health agency, mapped the early spread of pneumonia cases caused by the virus and used the results to create a transmission timeline. That accounting offered the most authoritative gauge to date of the emerging epidemic’s rate of growth. The new findings underscore the fact that it may take stern domestic measures to bring the fast-moving virus under control in China. One of the research teams calculated that in its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. That measure, called the epidemic’s “serial interval,” reflects the average span of time that elapses from the appearance of symptoms in one infected person to the appearance of symptoms in the people he will go on to infect.

In the early stages of the outbreak, each infected person who became ill is estimated to have infected 2.2 others, according to the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. That makes the new coronavirus roughly as communicable as was the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed 50 million and became the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. The new epidemic, however, is moving more slowly than the Spanish flu. That’s because 2019-nCoV takes longer to induce coughing, fever and breathing difficulties in a newly infected victim. “It’s concerning that case reports are increasing, and increasing in a way that’s consistent with pretty efficient human-to-human transmission,” said Derek Cummings, a University of Florida expert in the spread of infectious diseases.

Read more …

WHO also too slow.

WHO: Coronavirus Spread Outside Of China Is Of ‘Grave Concern’ (CNBC)

The spread of a fast-moving virus outside of China is of “grave concern” and has prompted the World Health Organization to reconvene an emergency meeting this week to decide whether it’s become a global health emergency, WHO officials said Wednesday. The coronavirus has spread to a handful of people through human-to-human contact outside of China, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said at a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters Wednesday. “These developments in terms of the evolution of the outbreak and further development of transmission, these are of grave concern and has spurred countries into action,” Ryan said, adding that he just returned from China on Wednesday.


“What we know at this stage, this is still obviously a very active outbreak and information is being updated and changing by the hour.” The coronavirus outbreak has killed 132 people in China and sickened more than 6,150 across more than a dozen countries across the globe. Ryan said there are currently 71 cases outside of China in 15 other countries. The WHO declined at two emergency meetings last week to declare the virus a global health emergency. Since the first patient was identified in Wuhan on Dec. 31, the number of coronavirus cases has mushroomed to 6,061 in mainland China as of Wednesday morning, exceeding the total number of SARS cases in that country during the 2003 epidemic.

Read more …

“Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan [..] during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province..”

People need a new mask every 4 hours. Most workers in mask -making factories are on holiday.

Hubei Province Has Severe Shortage Of Medical Supplies – Governor (CGTN)

There’s currently a severe shortage of medical supplies, not just in Wuhan but in surrounding cities as well, the governor of Hubei Province, Wang Xiaodong said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The first thing I want to do when I wake up every morning is to figure out how to get disposable protective clothing,” people in a hospital procurement department in Huanggang, a city lying 76 kilometers away from Wuhan and where over 1,000 suspected cases of the new coronavirus, told Yicai. “Medical supplies in our hospital can only support one day work, we cannot receive patients without masks and protective clothing,” he added, “It’s almost out of stock, and we have nowhere to buy.”

Some of our medical staff wear raincoats and disposable garbage bags as shoes covers to protect themselves. In the isolation ward of a county-level hospital in Huanggang City, doctors said they usually stay there for hours without coming out, because they have to save supplies. Wang stressed at the press conference the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Huanggang City, and vowed to prevent it from becoming the second Wuhan. Among the five million migrants who left Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei Province, during the Chinese Spring Festival, 60 to 70 percent of them went to other cities in the Hubei Province, according to migration data released by Baidu Map. Huanggang city and Xiaogan city, both about two-hour drive from the Wuhan city, are the top two infected areas.

[..] On Wednesday, the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) responded to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the anti-graft body of the Communist Party of China – about the mask shortage, as well as the supply and production concerns. For now, the mask shortage has become a country-wide problem since the new coronavirus outbreak spread domestically. Everyone who goes outside is suggested to wear mask. But the problem is it’s hard to get one. Besides experts suggested the use of normal surgical masks, people have to replace it every four hours. Facing such a huge demand, the whole country is expected to have a supply shortage at least in the short term, especially in the period when the majority of workers are on holiday during the Spring Festival.

Read more …

Solomon is methodical as usual.

Joe Biden’s ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Memo To Media Doesn’t Match The Facts (Solomon)

Former vice president Joe Biden’s extraordinary campaign memo this week imploring U.S. news media to reject the allegations surrounding his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company makes several bold declarations. The memo by Biden campaign aides Kate Bedingfield and Tony Blinken specifically warned reporters covering the impeachment trial they would be acting as “enablers of misinformation” if they repeated allegations that the former vice president forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, who was investigating Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden worked as a highly compensated board member.


Biden’s memo argues there is no evidence that the former vice president’s or Hunter Biden’s conduct raised any concern, and that Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin’s investigation was “dormant” when the vice president forced the prosecutor to be fired in Ukraine. The memo calls the allegation a “conspiracy theory” (and, in full disclosure, blames my reporting for the allegations surfacing last year.) But the memo omits critical impeachment testimony and other evidence that paint a far different portrait than Biden’s there’s-nothing-to-talk-about-here rebuttal.

Read more …

One of the questions yesterday in the Senate (paraphrased): who decided, and when, that the Hunter and Joe Biden thing was a debunked ‘Conspiracy Theory’?

Ukraine Ex-Prosecutor In Burisma Case Demands Criminal Probe Of Biden (RT)

Former top prosecutor of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, has filed a criminal complaint with the state authorities, claiming former US Vice President Joe Biden strong-armed Kiev into firing him in order to stop the Burisma investigation. In the complaint Shokin sent to the Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) on Tuesday, the former prosecutor requests that Biden be charged with “interference with the activities of a law enforcement officer.” The document was obtained by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Shokin urged the SBI to kick-start a pre-trial investigation into the alleged crime committed by Biden, who he claims was illegally pressuring Ukrainian officials into ousting him from office while using a $1 billion loan guarantee as a leverage.

Noting that Biden, in his official capacity as the second-in-command in the US political hierarchy, repeatedly visited Ukraine in late 2015 and early 2016 to persuade high-ranking officials to remove him, Shokin argued that “as a result, he curtailed an objective investigation criminal proceedings on the facts of unlawful activities of persons associated with the company Burisma Holdings Limited (Cyprus), including the son of the specified high-ranking official [Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from 2014 till 2019].” Shokin specifically refers to the recently released documentary series ‘UkraineGate: Inconvenient facts,’ by French investigative journalist Olivier Berruyer, which challenges the Western media claims that the corruption investigation into Burisma was “dormant” at the time Biden was lobbying for Shokin’s dismissal.

Berruyer, founder of the popular anti-corruption blog Les Crises, said that he collected documents that show that the investigation into the gas company was in full swing at the time. Shokin’s own words to that effect have receive only a passing mention, or no mention at all in the mainstream US media outlets, however. In a recent interview with ABC News, Shokin said that his office was handling six investigation into Burisma at the time of his resignation.

Read more …

“One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.”

The Choice is Now Between Witnesses and Dictatorship (Turley)

While I disagreed with Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz on this theory of impeachment, I recently praised his presentation in the Senate as a cogent and well-constructed case for the defense. Clearly, his colleague Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe does not share my view. He denounced Dershowitz’s argument as “remarkably absurd and extreme and dangerous.” In this presentation, Dershowitz defended his own switch on the issue of the prerequisite of criminality for impeachment by noting that Tribe had also switched his view. Tribe went further to declare that the choice was now between witnesses and “dictatorship.” Even as someone who favors witnesses, I fail to see the imminent danger of dictatorship on the issue. Indeed, I understand the reluctance over witnesses aside from any desire to protect Trump.

I believe senators have a legitimate interest in not creating precedent allowing the House to impeachment on such a slipshod and incomplete record. That is why I proposed an alternative solution. On MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” Tribe that, if the President succeeds in blocking witnesses, “You will harm not only the country today but you will leave a lesson for future presidents that will be terrible to the Republic. It will not be a constitutional democracy but it will be a dictatorship.” The use of O’Donnell’s show to warn of authoritarianism was curious since the host recently declared that his show would not invite Trump defenders because they are all “liars.”

Tribe however had particularly caustic remarks for Dershowitz as advancing an “absurd” argument that “it doesn’t matter if a president uses the vast powers of his office to shake down an ally and help an adversary in order to get dirt on an enemy and corrupt an election.” He spoke directly to Senators and added “So I implore you, if you are inclined to vote to acquit this president, don’t do it on the ridiculous basis that abuse of power, because it’s not a statutory crime and is rather open-ended, is not a basis to remove.” One senator who may not be inclined to listen is Mitch McConnell who Tribe has called “McTurtle” and a “flagrant d**khead.” I have previously discussed my disagreement with Dershowitz’s theory, including what I believe is a misreading of the trial of Andrew Johnson and defense of Justice Benjamin Curtis. This however is a good-faith academic dispute and I felt that Dershowitz raised some interesting point. While I was not persuaded, it is unfair to characterize them as “absurd.”

Read more …

However this turns, more ugliness is ensured.

GOP Reportedly Has Votes To Block Witnesses In Early End To Impeachment (ZH)

Hours after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Hunter Biden would be a “relevant witness” in President Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Republicans seem to think there aren’t enough votes to call witnesses following a morning meeting between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) which lasted approximately 30 minutes. According to The Hill, the meeting “was seen as a sign by several senators that Democrats will fail to convince four Republicans to join them in calling for witnesses. Without a vote to hear from witnesses, the trial could end as soon as Friday.” Murkowski, one of a handful of Senate Republicans thought to be leaning towards witnesses, appears to have changed her mind.


“We’re going to get it done by Friday, hopefully,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) following a Senate GOP lunch meeting on Wednesday which was held after McConnell and Murkowski spoke. “I think I can say the mood is good,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), adding “If I had to guess, no witnesses.” “We’ll be in a place where I think everyone is going to have their mind made up and I believe that we’ll be able to move to a verdict and the witness question will be clear at that point,” Braun added. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – who has forcefully advocated for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton after a leaked manuscript from his upcoming book claims President Trump directly tied Ukraine aid to investigations into the Bidens – said nothing after the lunch, which Murkowski did not attend.

Read more …

Letter sent 3 days before NYT article. So when Bolton was told the info was secret, he decided to leak it?!

White House Told Bolton His Book Contains ‘TOP SECRET’ Information (ZH)

The White House told former national security adviser John Bolton that his tell-all book contains “significant amounts of classified information,” including some which is “TOP SECRET” and could harm national security. “Under federal law and the nondisclosure agreements your client signed, as a condition for gaining access to classified information, the manuscript may not be published or otherwise disclosed without the deletion of this classified information,” the letter continues. Notably, the letter, sent from the National Security Counsel to Bolton’s attorneys, was sent three days before the manuscript mysteriously leaked to the New York Times on the eve of the Senate impeachment proceedings – sparking a debate over calling Bolton as a witness in the trial.


As we noted on Tuesday, the identical twin brother of Democratic impeachment witness Alexander Vindman, Yevgeny Vindman, is reportedly in charge of reviewing all publications by current and former officials at the National Security Council (NSC), according to Breitbart News – which would ostensibly include Bolton’s manuscript. Meanwhile, House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff insisted on Wednesday that Trump’s impeachment trial won’t be fair unless Bolton testifies. Where have we seen this before?

Read more …

Not looking good. “..but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke..”

‘GAME OVER,’ Trump Declares, As Old Bolton, Schiff Videos Surface (Fox)

A string of newly resurfaced video clips of former national security adviser John Bolton spurred President Trump and his supporters Wednesday to highlight what they described as serious credibility questions – raised by both Democrats and Republicans — amid the Senate impeachment trial, as the president tweeted, “GAME OVER!” In his tweet, Trump linked to an interview of Bolton in August 2019 where he discusses Ukraine policy. In the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview clip, Bolton made no mention of any illicit quid pro quo, and acknowledged, as Republicans have claimed, that combating “corruption” in Ukraine was a “high priority” for the Trump administration.

Bolton also called Trump’s communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “warm and cordial,” without mentioning any misconduct. It seemingly contradicted reported assertions in Bolton’s forthcoming book that Trump explicitly told him he wanted to tie military aid to Ukraine to an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden. (Zelensky has said his communications with Trump involved no pressure for any investigation.) Separately, Fox News has identified clips of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., now the lead House impeachment manager, in which he says Bolton had a distinct “lack of credibility” and was prone to “conspiracy theories.” This week, Schiff said Bolton needed to testify in the impeachment trial as an important and believable witness.


“This is someone who’s likely to exaggerate the dangerous impulses of the president toward belligerence, his proclivity to act without thinking, and his love of conspiracy theories,” Schiff told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on March 22, 2018, when Trump named Bolton national security adviser. “And I’ll, you know, just add one data point to what you were talking about earlier, John Bolton once suggested on Fox News that the Russian hack of the DNC [Democratic National Committee] was a false flag operation that had been conducted by the Obama administration,” he said. “So, you add that kind of thinking to [former U.S. attorney] Joe diGenova and you have another big dose of unreality in the White House.”

[..] speaking to CNN on Monday, Schiff took a different approach – calling Bolton essential to the “search for truth.” “I think for the senators, and I’m just not talking about the four that have been so much the focus of attention, for every senator, Democrat and Republican, I don’t know how you can explain that you wanted a search for the truth in this trial and say you don’t want to hear from a witness who had a direct conversation about the central allegation in the articles of impeachment,” Schiff said on CNN’s “New Day.” Seemingly responding to charges of hypocrisy, Schiff remarked on the Senate floor late Wednesday: “I’m no fan of John Bolton, but I like him a little more now than I used to.”


[..] “Democrats are currently begging Mitt Romney to agree with them that John Bolton should swoop to the impeachment trial and save the day, but remember: you’re a despicable Trump-loving apologist if you said ahead of time that this entire thing would be a joke,” mused journalist Michael Tracey.

Read more …

The legacy of Obama, Hillary, John McCain and Victoria Nuland. Who’s in court for this?

Ukraine Investigates Ex-President Poroshenko Over Embezzlement (RT)

Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau has opened a probe against former president, Petro Poroshenko, who is suspected of abuse of power, embezzlement “on a grand scale” and allegedly stealing US aid funds. The case against the ex-president was opened following a complaint by a group of Ukrainian MPs and the nation’s High Anti-Corruption Court demanding the authorities investigate embezzlement and misappropriation of the foreign financial aid at the time of Poroshenko’s term in office, a Ukrainian MP Renat Kuzmin said in a Facebook post.

Kuzmin, a member of the Opposition Platform – For Live party, also published the anti-corruption bureau’s documents, confirming that the case against Poroshenko had been launched. The papers state that the former president and some “unknown people” from his administration are suspected of embezzling “on a grand scale,” subsequent legalization of criminally obtained funds, and abuse of power. The MP himself said that the investigation would look into the misappropriation of funds provided to Ukraine in the form of international aid, including by the administration of the former US President Barack Obama.

Poroshenko did not react directly to the accusations against him. Instead, his lawyer told the media that the ex-president plans to file as many as 14 lawsuits seeking moral compensation from Ukraine’s National Bureau of Investigations, the anti-corruption bureau and the police. His lawyer also denounced the investigation against his client as political persecution instigated by the administration of the current president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The news comes just months after Poroshenko’s ally, Kiev mayor and three-time world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko was also accused of embezzlement and even treason by the anti-corruption bureau.

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At what point will Sidney Powell subpoena Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Laufman et al?

Flynn’s Defense Files Motion Saying His Former Legal Team “Betrayed Him” (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn filed a supplemental motion to withdraw his guilty plea Wednesday citing failure by his previous counsel to advise him of the firm’s ‘conflict of interest in his case’ regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act form it filed on his behalf, and by doing so “betrayed Mr. Flynn,” stated Sidney Powell, in a defense motion to the court. Flynn’s case is now in its final phase and his sentencing date, which was scheduled for Jan. 28, in a D.C. federal court before Judge Emmet Sullivan was changed to Feb. 27. The change came after Powell filed the motion to withdraw his plea just days after the prosecutors made a major reversal asking for up to six months jail time.

The best case scenario for Flynn, is that Judge Sullivan allows him to withdraw his guilty plea, the sentencing date is thrown-out and then his case would more than likely would head to trial. Powell alleged in a motion in December, 2019 that Flynn was strong-armed by the prosecution into pleading guilty to one count of lying to FBI investigators regarding his conversation with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Others, close to Flynn, have corroborated the accounts suggesting prosecutors threatened to drag Flynn’s son into the investigation, who also worked with his father at Flynn Intel Group, a security company established by Flynn.

In the recent motion Flynn denounced his admission of guilt in a declaration, “I am innocent of this crime, and I request to withdraw my guilty plea. After I signed the plea, the attorneys returned to the room and confirmed that the [special counsel’s office] would no longer be pursuing my son.” He denied that he lied to the FBI during the White House meeting with then FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka. The meeting was set up by now fired FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was also fired for lying to Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigators. Strzok was fired by the FBI for his actions during the Russia investigation.

[..] Powell noted in Wednesday’s motion that Flynn’s former defense team at Covington & Burling, a well known Washington D.C. law firm, failed to inform Flynn that their lawyers had made “some initial errors or statements that were misunderstood in the FARA registration process and filings.” She also reaffirmed her position in the motion that government prosecutors are continuing to withhold exculpatory information that would benefit Flynn.

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High time for someone to investigate what being in the European Banking Union will cost banks from other countries in order to save Deutsche.

Deutsche Bank Posts Larger-Than-Expected Loss In Q4 And Full Year (R.)

Deutsche Bank posted a 1.6 billion euro loss in the fourth quarter of 2019, bringing the total loss for the year to 5.7 billion euros as the bank undergoes a costly overhaul, the lender said on Thursday. It was the third consecutive quarterly loss and fifth annual loss in a row for Germany’s top bank. The results were worse than expected. Analysts on average forecast Deutsche would lose 1 billion euros in the quarter and 5 billion euros for the full year. The figures conclude a turbulent decade for Deutsche, which lost a cumulative 15 billion euros over the last five years, more than wiping out the 9 billion euros in profit during the previous five years. The share price fell 82% during the course of the decade.

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Call Putin.

US Announces 3 New Bases In Iraq After Govt Demands Full Withdrawal (MPN)

Less than a week after millions of Iraqis took to the streets demanding the U.S. military leave for good, the United States announced that is planning to build three new military bases in Iraq, according to military news service Breaking Defense. The three sites chosen – Erbin, Sulimania and Halabja – are all extremely close to Iran, with Halabja (the site of the 1988 chemical weapons attack) just eight miles from the border. The news will come as a shock to the Iraqi parliament, who earlier this month voted overwhelmingly (with some abstentions) to expel American forces from the country.

But the U.S. government has flatly refused to leave. “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East,” said State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, adding, “We strongly urge Iraqi leaders to reconsider the importance of the ongoing economic and security relationship between the two countries… We believe it is in the shared interests of the United States and Iraq to continue fighting ISIS together.” Earlier this month the U.S. decided to send an extra 3,000 troops to the region.

President Trump responded by threatening sweeping mass punishments against the Iraqi people. “We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it…If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever,” he said. U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s are thought to have killed over one million people, including over half a million young children. Successive U.N. diplomats in charge of Iraq during the sanctions denounced them as genocide against its people. Trump said his sanctions would make the ones on Iran look tame by comparison.

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Time for Trump to nip this in the bud. There is no other choice.

France To Send Warships To Support Greece In Turkish Standoff (G.)

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has welcomed a decision by France to dispatch war frigates to the eastern Mediterranean as a standoff with Turkey over regional energy reserves intensifies. With tensions between Athens and Ankara causing growing international alarm, Mitsotakis described the vessels as “guarantors of peace”. “The only way to end differences in the eastern Mediterranean is through international justice,” he told reporters after holding talks in Paris with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defence.”

Mitsotakis was in the French capital on a visit aimed at rallying EU support at a time when hostile relations with Turkey have eclipsed all other issues on the agenda of his near seven-month-old government. Macron pledged France would step up its strategic bond with Greece, accusing Turkey of not only exacerbating regional tensions but failing to stick to its promised course of action in war-torn Libya. “I want to express my concerns with regard to the behaviour of Turkey at the moment … we have seen during these last days Turkish warships accompanied by Syrian mercenaries arrive on Libyan soil. This is an explicit and serious infringement of what was agreed [at last week’s peace conference] in Berlin. It’s a broken promise.”

[..] Greece’s defence minister, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, recently went as far as to warn that armed forces were “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement” in the face of heightened aggression from Ankara. Rejecting Turkish demands that Greece demilitarise 16 Aegean islands, he accused Turkey of displaying unusually provocative behaviour. The demand, made by his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, follows a dramatic surge in recent months in the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets. “Greece does not provoke, does not violate the sovereign rights of others, but it doesn’t like to see its own rights violated,” said Panagiotopoulos.

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When will we see the studies reporting on the effects of phones on people’s lives? If not now, it’ll likely be too late for many.

Most Children Sleep With Mobile Phone Beside Bed (BBC)

More than half of children say they sleep with their mobile phone beside their bed, according to an annual survey of young people’s use of media. The Childwise report found children getting mobiles at an earlier age, with most now having their own phone by the age of seven. The average time spent on mobiles by seven to 16-year-olds is three hours and 20 minutes per day. Researcher Simon Leggett says mobiles can “dominate children’s lives”. When phones are always so close at hand, as a “private and personal technology”, Mr Leggett says it can be tough for parents to put limits on how children use them.

The survey, based on interviews with 2,200 children in the UK aged five to 16, shows the pivotal place of the mobile phone in young lives. There are 57% who always have the phone beside their bed and 44% who feel “uncomfortable” if they are ever without a phone signal. There are 42% who say they keep their phone on them at all times and never turn it off. Even though the average age of owning a phone is becoming younger, the step up to secondary school at the age of 11 is still the point at which many children get a phone and ownership becomes “almost universal”.

[..] YouTube, a veteran by online standards, remains dominant, used by 61% of children every day, mostly on mobile phones. It is the favourite app and website of this age group, used as the most typical starting point for videos, particularly “funny” clips, listening to music, “how to” tutorials or watching programmes. This is followed by Snapchat, Instagram and this year’s fast-riser, Tik Tok, with WhatsApp also among the most regularly used. Showing the speed of change, Facebook is not even in the top 10 of favourites.

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2020 so far…

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Jan 162020
 
 January 16, 2020  Posted by at 11:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


G. G. Bain Asbury Park, Jersey Shore 1914 (just 35 years before Springsteen was born)

 

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)
Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)
CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)
Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)
Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)
What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)
Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)
Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)
US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)
“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)
Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)
Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

 

 

I was amazed and profoundly Bizarro puzzled watching this attempt at a solemn procession, designed to make it look like this was some time-honored tradition on the Hill (no such thing). I read somewhere they were going to present the articles in a wooden box, but I guess they couldn’t find any. Topped off with Pelosi having dozens of pens printed for the occasion. Entertainment for the echo chamber.

House Delivers Articles Of Impeachment To Senate (ZH)

Update (1745ET): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Wednesday shortly before they were delivered to the Senate, where the US president faces trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “So sad, so tragic for our country, that the actions taken by the president to undermine our national security, to violate his oath of office and to jeopardize the security of our elections, has taken us to this place,” Pelosi said shortly before using several ceremonial pens to sign the articles. The articles were ceremonially walked through the US Capitol to the US Senate.

Trump’s impeachment trial will begin Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the chamber’s floor. On Thursday, the House managers will present the impeachment articles to the full Senate at noon, and Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in the senators at 2 p.m., McConnell said. Then the Senate will notify the White House of the pending trial and summon Trump to answer the impeachment articles and send his lawyers, he said. “So the trial will commence in earnest on Tuesday,” McConnell said. The next step in the process will be a formal reading of the impeachment charges against Trump on the Senate floor by the seven House prosecutors Thursday morning.


Update: As expected, the House of Representatives officially voted Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate and approved the House’s impeachment managers. The vote to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate and approve the impeachment managers was 228-193. Democratic Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson was the only Democrat to vote nay, breaking with the rest of his party. House Republicans all voted together. [..] After waiting four weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will finally transmit the two articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, and that they have chosen seven impeachment managers to prosecute the case during the upcoming trial.


Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the articles of impeachment…

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“Anderson Cooper says CNN “obtained” the audio recorded by CNN microphones on the CNN debate stage..”

Warren Told Sanders He Called Her A Liar On National TV (R.)

The mystery of what presidential rivals Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders said to each other in a heated exchange after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate has been solved, with debate host CNN revealing that Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television. In an exchange caught on camera after the debate but unable to be heard by the television audience, Sanders responded to Warren that it was she who had called him a liar. Moments earlier Warren had refused to shake Sanders’ hand. The two U.S. senators and liberal standard bearers in the Democrats’ nominating contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November had been locked in a dispute before and during the debate over an allegation by Warren that Sanders had told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman could not be elected president.


Sanders disputed that claim before and during the debate but Warren insists it’s true. CNN said on Wednesday that its microphones had caught the post-debate exchange and released its contents. After failing to shake Sanders’ hands, Warren said: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” “What?” Sanders replied. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren repeated. Sanders replied: “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.” Warren said: “Anytime.” Sanders said: “You called me a liar. You told me – all right, let’s not do it now.” Another Democratic candidate, billionaire Tom Steyer, who was standing behind the two, said: “I don’t want to get in the middle. I just want to say ‘hi’ to Bernie.”

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Matt is much too kind to CNN: “Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.”

CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful (Matt Taibbi)

CNN debate moderator Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders in the Tuesday debate in Des Moines: “CNN reported yesterday — and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement — that, in 2018, you told her you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” Not “did you say that,” but “why did you say that?” Sanders denied it, then listed the many reasons the story makes no sense: He urged Warren herself to run in 2016, campaigned for a female candidate who won the popular vote by 3 million votes, and has been saying the opposite in public for decades. “There’s a video of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States,” he said. Phillip asked him to clarify: He never said it? “That is correct,” Sanders said.

Phillip turned to Warren and deadpanned: “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?” That “when” was as transparent a media “fuck you” as we’ve seen in a presidential debate. It evoked memories of another infamous CNN ambush, when Bernard Shaw in 1988 crotch-kicked Mike Dukakis with a question about whether he’d favor the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife, Kitty. This time, the whole network tossed the mud. Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging.

The cycle began with a “bombshell” exposé by CNN reporter MJ Lee. Released on the eve of the debate, Lee reported Warren’s claim that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win in a December 2018 meeting. Lee treated the story as fact, using constructions such as, “Sanders responded that he did not think a woman could win,” and “the revelation that Sanders expressed skepticism that Warren could win.” Lee said “the conversation” opened a window into “the role of sexism and gender inequality in politics”: The conversation also illustrates the skepticism among not only American voters but also senior Democratic officials that the country is ready to elect a woman as president … Although Lee said she based the story on “the accounts of four people,” they were “two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter,” and “two people familiar with the meeting.” There were only two people in the room, Sanders and Warren. Lee’s “four people” actually relied on just one source, Warren.

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Cold feet? If the Dems get their witnesses and Trump does not, the 21st century equivalent of pitchforks can’t be far.

Sen. Rand Paul Says GOP Will Shaft Trump (GP)

Senator Rand Paul warned his colleagues who plan to let the Democrats choose witnesses that they will lose their reelections. Senator Paul, who has seemingly been leading the charge to defend the president during this process, also explained that he would vote for Rep. Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to have to testify, especially since Schiff has a staff member who is friends with the whistleblower — potentially making him a material witness. Additionally, Sen. Paul stated that he wants the impeachment process to be over as soon as possible, but that if the Democrats are allowed to call witnesses, President Trump must be afforded the same right.

When asked if any other Republicans have been supportive of Sen. Paul’s assertion that he wants to call in the whistleblower and Hunter Biden to testify, he asserted that there are a lot of people who do, but that they have been quiet. “There’s a lot of people who are quiet, so I’ve been kind of loud,” Sen. Paul said. “My goal in this is to be done with the impeachment as soon as possible, and probably the best way to do that is actually no witnesses — but, if we’re going to have witnesses we should have witnesses from both sides. In our interview, Sen. Paul warned that his Republican colleagues may be in trouble when they go up for re-election if they defy the president and allow Democrats to run amok, like they did in the House.

“What I keep trying to convince my colleagues, particularly the ones that might vote to allow the witnesses that the Democrats want to call, is that if they do that and they don’t vote to allow the president to bring his witnesses in, I think the Republican base and Trump supporters are going to be very very unhappy with them. I think it will have electoral consequences — which is sort of my way of saying that maybe they should reconsider having any witnesses at all,” Sen. Paul said. “My hope is some will reconsider and we will just be done with one vote.” [..] Sen. Paul explained that if there does end up being a vote for each individual witness, which could potentially be dozens, he believes that only the ones who are antagonistic to the president will get through.

This means that “Hunter Biden, Joe Biden and the whistleblower may not pass a majority vote.” He said that if this is how witnesses are decided, the senate will end up with a situation like the House did — a lopsided witness list that would be mostly people hostile to the president. When asked if he had any other specific witnesses in mind that he was looking to hear, besides Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, Sen. Paul said that “if they end up approving witnesses like Bolton, who I think are harmful, I will insist on a motion that says the president should get to call all witnesses that he or his team deem to be necessary to his defense.” “I don’t want to limit it, I’m not his lawyer, I don’t want to tell him who he has to call — I’m just going to say anyone. ‘Anyone’ includes people he has mentioned, like Hunter Biden and Joe Biden,” Sen. Paul said.

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The meme is still not dead.

Americans Beware! Russia Can Hack Your Brain (Bridge)

I suppose it is necessary, considering the bleak and humorless times we live in, to immediately start by acknowledging that the headline is meant as satire, what Webster defines as a form of “ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” In other words, nyet, the Kremlin does not have a hotline to the American brain that can trigger card-carrying Democrats to enter a catatonic trance on Election Day and vote against Joe Biden, or any of the other flawless Democratic gems for that matter. By this time, especially following the release of the Mueller Report, you would think that conspiracy theories involving Russia and American democracy would have subsided; instead they’ve only escalated as the U.S. enters the hot end of the 2020 presidential election campaign.

Courtesy of Bloomberg: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, according to two officials familiar with the matter… Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there.” So how exactly does Russia, in a scene straight out of A Clockwork Orange, tap into the frontal lobe section of the U.S. electorate and cause them to lose all confidence in their political favorites?

“A signature trait of Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘is his ability to convince people of outright falsehoods,’ William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement. ‘In America, [the Russians are] using social media and many other tools to inflame social divisions, promote conspiracy theories and sow distrust in our democracy and elections.’” Yes, somehow those dastardly Russians have outsmarted the brightest and best-paid political strategists in Washington, D.C. by brandishing what amounts to some really persuasive memes over social media, and for just rubles on the dollar. The techies at Wired went so far as to call this epic assault on the fragile American cranium, “meme warfare to divide America.”

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Putin is not power hungry. He would love to be able to step back. But he fears for Russia, he fears the US neocons will take it as soon as he leaves.

What Is Russia’s Putin Up To? (BBC)

It came out of nowhere. Even ministers in the Russian government apparently did not see their departure coming. Was it a case of a new working year in Moscow – out with the old and in with the new? But it was clear Vladimir Putin, 67, had change in mind. With four years to go before he leaves office, and 20 years already served, it was clear he was planning ahead. A new government, led by Mikhail Mishustin, a technocrat who turned Russia’s hated tax service into an efficient operation, and the end of a man who has worked hand in glove with Mr Putin since he became president. Dmitry Medvedev even filled in as president for four years, because under the constitution Mr Putin could not.

Mr Medvedev, the unpopular head of the United Russia party, is not going away, but his new role as deputy head of Russia’s security council is far more behind the scenes. “It’s a golden parachute. It means he is in reserve, as the security council is Putin’s closest inner circle – his own mini-government,” says Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Mr Putin is coming to the same point he reached after his second term, when Dmitry Medvedev deputised for him. But this time the president will not take a false backseat as prime minister. It now appears that Mr Putin’s fourth term as president will be his last. On the face of it, it means more powers for parliament – selecting the prime minister and approving the cabinet, for a start. But that won’t happen yet. Mr Putin has chosen Mr Medvedev’s successor and parliament will have to ratify him.

[..] One of the standout proposals is making the State Council a formal government agency enshrined in the constitution. At the moment it is an advisory body packed with 85 regional governors and other officials including political party leaders. It is so large that when it meets it fills a hall in the Kremlin. But Mr Putin clearly has designs on its future. One theory is that he could become a new, powerful leader of the State Council. “The very fact he’s started a discussion on the State Council is that he’s maybe trying to create another place where power resides, where he can step above the presidential post,” Mr Baunov suggests.

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From the right.

Bloomberg Is Wasting His Money Attacking Teflon Don (DC)

They say money can’t buy you love, but billionaire Michael Bloomberg is living proof that it can’t buy you common sense, either. Bloomberg has now spent $200 million on his campaign to defeat President Donald Trump — but that hasn’t put him on track to earn a single delegate. The long-shot Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is also shelling out roughly $10 million for a 60-second ad during the Super Bowl. His campaign previously announced that it would spend $100 million on an online ad campaign going after the president. But does anyone understand what Bloomberg plans to do for America? Has all that money passed on a clear political message?

Bloomberg remains fifth in the crowded Democratic field with only eight weeks to go until Super Tuesday. Internal data from one of his rivals suggested he is not polling above 10 percent in any of the four early voting states or the 15 that follow in March. The massive campaign spending coming from the former mayor is unheard of politically. No one is setting up a field operation that is even close to what Bloomberg is spending to influence American politics. “Mike Bloomberg is either going to be the nominee or the most important person supporting the Democratic nominee for president,” Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, recently told NBC News. “He is dedicated to getting Trump out of the White House.”

Since his late entrance into the race in November, he has hired more than 800 staff members and is opening a dozen offices in Ohio, nine in Michigan, and 17 in Florida. His campaign has repeatedly said that their mission is to make sure Trump loses in 2020, whether Bloomberg wins the nomination or not. Apparently, like other Democrats and media bigwigs, Bloomberg hasn’t been paying attention for the past few years.

Ever since Donald Trump walked down the escalator in Trump Tower and announced he was running for president, he has been the target of a relentless attack by the media. A recent study found that 90 percent of all coverage he received in 2018 was negative. From the “Access Hollywood” tape to voting to impeach him, opponents of Trump have thrown everything they can at him to change public opinion, but nothing sticks. A Media Research Center analysis found that 93 percent of the coverage of the impeachment on ABC, CBS and NBC was negative. Evening news viewers of these networks heard 72 positive statements vs. 981 negative statements about the president since September 24.

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The other day we saw how the US builds giant monopolies. This is why: they’re the only ones making money. That this is due to share buybacks, who cares as long as the press don’t ask questions?

Over 40% Of Listed US Companies Don’t Make Money (ZH)

It’s absolutely stunning how the Fed/ECB/BoJ injected upwards of $1.1 trillion into global markets in the last quarter and cut rates 80 times in the past 12 months, which allowed money-losing companies to survive another day. The leader of all this insanity is Telsa, the biggest money-losing company on Wall Street, has soared 120% since the Fed launched ‘Not QE.’ Tesla investors are convinced that fundamentals are driving the stock higher, but that might not be the case, as central bank liquidity has been pouring into anything with a CUSIP. The company has lost money over the last 12 months, and to be fair, Elon Musk reported one quarter that turned a profit, but overall – Tesla is a blackhole. Its market capitalization is larger than Ford and General Motors put together. When you listen to Tesla investors, near-term profitability isn’t important because if it were, the stock would be much lower.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in the past 12 months, 40% of all US-listed companies were losing money, the highest level since the late 1990s – or a period also referred to as the Dot Com bubble. Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida, provided The Journal with a chart that shows the percentage of money-losing IPOs hit 81% in 2018, the same level that was also seen in 2000. The Journal notes that 42% of health-care companies lost money, mostly because of speculative biotech. About 17% of technology companies also fail to turn a profit.


A more traditional company that has been losing money is GE. Its shares have plunged 60% in the last 42 months as a slowing economy, and insurmountable debts have forced a balance sheet recession that has doomed the company. Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows for small companies, losing money is part of the job. About 33% of the 100 biggest companies reported losses over the last 12 months.

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Less transport. Good for the climate.

US Freight Shipments Plunge at Fastest Rate since 2009, Hit 2011 Level (WS)

Shipment volume in the US by truck, rail, air, and barge plunged 7.9% in December 2019 compared to a year earlier, according to the Cass Freight Index for Shipments. It was the 13th month in a row of year-over-year declines, and the steepest year-over-year decline since November 2009, during the Financial Crisis. The Cass Freight Index tracks shipment volume of consumer goods and industrial products and supplies by all modes of transportation, but it does not track bulk commodities, such as grains. As always when things get ugly, the calendar gets blamed – Christmas fell on a Wednesday, as it does regularly.

More realistically, December was also the month when Celadon Group, with about 3,000 drivers and about 2,700 tractors, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased operations — the largest truckload carrier ever to file for bankruptcy in US history. It rounded off a large wave of bankruptcies and shutdowns of trucking companies in 2019, most of them smaller ones, but also some regional carriers, and on December 9, Celadon. Rail traffic in December capped off a miserable year, with carloads down 9.2% year-over-year in December, and container and trailer loads (intermodal) down 9.6%, according to the Association of American Railroads. For the 52-week period, traffic of carloads and intermodal units fell 5%. The 7.9% year-over-year drop of the Cass Freight Index pushed it below a slew of prior Decembers, including December 2011. The top black line represents 2018, the fat red line 2019:

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Will Australians ever wake up to their political reality?

“It’s Unthinkable” Australia Sells Arms To Countries Accused Of War Crimes (G.)

Human rights groups say it is “unthinkable” that Australia has been secretly exporting arms to the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries whose militaries have been consistently accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Guardian revealed on Tuesday that the Australian government had approved the export of weapons to the Democratic Republic of Congo four times in 2018-19. It has also issued more than 80 weapons export permits to Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The DRC has been gripped by successive waves of violence, rebellions, protests and political turmoil for decades. As recently as Friday, the United Nations warned ethnic killings and rape occurring in the DRC represented crimes against humanity.

Save the Children estimates more than five million people have been forced to flee their homes in the DRC alone, and says millions of children are “desperately in need of humanitarian assistance”. The chief executive of Save the Children Australia, Paul Ronalds, said the public would be shocked to learn their government was approving weapons sales in such an environment. “The fact we weren’t previously aware that Australia was exporting weapons to the DRC says it all really,” Ronalds told the Guardian. “It is unthinkable that Australian arms could potentially be fuelling these conflicts, and it’s kept a secret from the public.

“The public has a right to know where Australian-made arms are going, especially when taxpayers’ money is being used to market the industry to the world.” [..] Over the 2018-19 financial year, Australia issued 45 weapons export permits to the United Arab Emirates, 23 to Saudi Arabia, 14 to Sri Lanka and four to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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“Some as young as 11″. But of course that’s no reason to go talk to Ghislaine.

Virgin Islands Alleges Epstein Used Private Island To Abuse And Traffic Girls (G.)

Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein continued to sexually abuse and traffic young women and girls to his private island as recently as 2018, with potentially hundreds of previously unknown victims, a new lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit, filed by the attorney general of the Virgin Islands, cites new evidence that Epstein used a computerized database to track women and girls – some as young as 11 – to Little Saint James island, a private estate Epstein purchased in 2016. According to the lawsuit, one girl attempted an escape by swimming, but was later found and had her passport confiscated. According to Wednesday’s complaint, Epstein and his alleged accomplices “trafficked, raped, sexually assaulted and held captive underage girls and young women” at his Virgin Islands properties.


In July last year, Epstein faced federal sex trafficking and conspiracy charges for allegedly exploiting dozens of women and girls in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He had previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to a Florida state prostitution charge and completed a 13-month jail sentence. Epstein pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges. He died by suicide in a New York jail cell in August. According to Denise N George, attorney general for the US Virgin Islands, the suit aims to recoup damages from Epstein’s estate, estimated to be worth $577.7m. This suit marks the first against Epstein’s estate by the American territory or any government entity. George enlisted her office’s independent investigators and court documents from other cases to allege that Little Saint James was the epicenter of a decades-long sex trafficking scheme.

Read more …

“Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7.”

Julian Assange at the Westminster Magistrates Court (OffG)

Another slot of judicial history, another notch to be added to the woeful record of legal proceedings being undertaken against Julian Assange. The ailing WikiLeaks founder was coping as well as he could, showing the resourcefulness of the desperate at his Monday hearing. At the Westminster Magistrates Court, Assange faced a 12-minute process, an ordinary affair in which he was asked to confirm his name, an ongoing ludicrous state of affairs, and seek clarification about an aspect of the proceedings. Of immediate concern to the lawyers, specifically seasoned human rights advocate Gareth Peirce, was the issue that prison officers at Belmarsh have been obstructing and preventing the legal team from spending sufficient time with their client, despite the availability of empty rooms.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way – it is a breach of a defendant’s rights.” Three substantial sets of documents and evidence required signing off by Assange before being submitted to the prosecution, a state of affairs distinctly impossible given the time constraints. A compounding problem was also cited by Peirce: the shift from moving the hearing a day forward resulted in a loss of time. “This slippage in the timetable is extremely worrying.” Whether this shows indifference to protocol or malice on the part of prosecuting authorities is hard to say, but either way, justice is being given a good flaying. The argument carried sufficient weight with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to result in an adjournment till 2 pm in the afternoon, but this had more to do with logistics than any broader principle of conviction.

As Baraitser reasoned, 47 people were currently in custody at court; a mere eight rooms were available for interviewing, leaving an additional hour to the day. In her view, if Assange was sinned against, so was everybody else, given that others in custody should not be prevented from access to counsel. (This judge has a nose for justice, albeit using it selectively.) As things stand, Peirce is aiming to finalise the exhibits for submission to the prosecution by January 18. The government deadline for responding to those documents will be February 7. The case proceeding itself was adjourned till January 23, and Assange will have the choice, limited as it is, of having the hearing at the Westminster Magistrates Court or Belmarsh.

Read more …

 

The Taleb approach to forest fires. Antifragility.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Oct 072019
 
 October 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Print your own Assange mask

 

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)
DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)
Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)
In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)
Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)
Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)
Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

 

 

Not even close.

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)

Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: “TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY”. The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou.


It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids. The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.

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When will the MSM start publishing about the “DNC-UKRAINE SCANDAL”? The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016…

DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)

The Blaze has released an audio recording that they recently obtained that appears to show Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, admitting that he tried to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. The connection between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian government was veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, “who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration” and then “went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee,” Politico reported.

Chalupa was working directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the United States to raise concerns about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, according to Politico, she indicated that the Embassy was working “directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.” The Ukrainian embassy political officer who worked at the embassy at the time, Andrii Telizhenko, stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. The Blaze highlighted an email from WikiLeaks from Chalupa to Louise Miranda at the DNC:


“Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.” The Blaze then reported that Sytnyk, who eventually “was tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016,” released a “black ledger” on Manafort during the 2016 presidential election that eventually led to Manafort’s downfall.

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Republicans drowning in donations.

Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Republican senators are “choking” on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. At his second appearance in Spokane, Washington, in as many days, the famed Watergate sleuth discussed the precarious situation GOP lawmakers find themselves in as Trump faces controversy for encouraging foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter. “I know Republican senators, and they are choking on this,” Woodward said on Friday, according to the Spokesman-Review. “Whether they say that’s too much, I don’t know.” Some Republicans in the upper chamber have begun to break ranks after Trump openly encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens on Thursday.

Among those who have vented publicly are Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as well as Texas Rep. Will Hurd in the House. Trump, who claims his overtures were about corruption and not crippling a political opponent in the 2020 election, repeatedly castigated Romney on Saturday, even calling for his impeachment. In a discussion with college students on Thursday, Woodward said the situation for Trump is getting “more serious each day” and predicted that impeachment in the House “is almost certainly going to happen to Trump.” He added, “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”


On Friday, Woodward acknowledged that Trump encouraging foreign countries to investigate the Biden family is “probably not criminal,” but he nonetheless referred to the controversy as being wide in scope. Speaking of the House impeachment inquiry, Woodward said, “They’re looking through a keyhole, and it’s a panorama.” Woodward also noted how some Republicans in the Senate are seeing an advantage from the Democrats’ impeachment venture. He mentioned that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic who has become one of his most vociferous defenders, is seeing an influx of donations. Woodward said the South Carolina Republican told him he “couldn’t count the money fast enough.”

Read more …

Erdogan blames the US for not establishing the safe zone.

In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again threatened this weekend to initiate a military incursion into northeast Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are based (and bolstered locally by small American bases), saying an offensive “both on land and air” would come “as soon as today or tomorrow.” Like many threats of an “imminent” invasion, it appears this proverbial can will be kicked further down the road, as presidents Trump and Erdogan held a “last minute” phone call on Sunday, where it appears the two leaders came to some level of an understanding. They discussed Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” east of the Euphrates in Syria — which Erdogan has long urged a resistant Washington to cooperate militarily on — and though exact details of the exchange weren’t published, they agreed to meet in Washington next month upon Trump’s invitation.

“Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease with U.S. military and security bureaucracies not doing what is required by the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said, adding that the two men agreed to meet,” Reuters reported of the call. As we reported previously, Turkey’s military is reportedly on high alert, ready to carry out the Turkish president’s orders on short notice, after a longtime military build-up along the border. “We will carry out this operation both on land and air as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” the Turkish president added.


He further slammed the prospect of cooperating with the US on a US-Turkey administered safe zone “a fairytale” given Washington’s recalcitrance regarding Syria’s Kurds, the ethnic group’s militias of which Turkey considers “terrorists”. The Kurdish dominated and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has vowed it will treat any invading Turkish soldiers as an act of war. In a statement the SDF said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked (Turkish) attack into an all-out war” to defend its region in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

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Given what Dominic Cummings thinks of Farage, hard to see him taking up a job with much publicity.

Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)

London may not be planning to nominate a commissioner to Brussels but if it does, some say there’s only one option: Nigel Farage. Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Telegraph’s Chopper Brexit Podcast that the Brexit Party member of the European Parliament would be the obvious choice to be the U.K.’s European commissioner, if Brexit is delayed and the country is able to nominate one. “I think we should appoint somebody with about twenty years experience … we should appoint somebody who’s incredibly well-known throughout the institutions, somebody who can be absolutely relied upon at all times to support our exit from the European Union,” he said.


“And therefore I unashamedly back Nigel Farage to be our next European commissioner in the event, in the unfortunate event, should it transpire, though I think it unlikely, that we have to remain in.” Baker, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs in the U.K. parliament, said the idea would be “inspired by the film Armageddon,” referring to a 1998 science fiction movie. There is a scene where “they’re trying to save the world, and so what they do is they land on the asteroid, and they put a nuclear weapon in the heart of the asteroid, and Nigel Farage is that nuclear weapon,” Baker said. “I’ve reason to think he might say that he would accept such an offer,” Baker added, while noting that “my sympathy for Nigel Farage, which has not always been at very high levels, has dramatically increased the more that I am demonized.”

Read more …

A traumatized people. Too easily forgotten.

Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)

Remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo unleashed wind and rain from the Atlantic across the area, a rural pocket of County Fermanagh that marks Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. “Stay back, stay high, stay dry,” advised the authorities, and residents duly hunkered down. Lorenzo passed without major damage. [..] Around Gortmullan, businesses and ordinary people were left wondering if – and where – to seek cover, a dilemma dating from the 2016 referendum result that now thrummed with urgency. “We’re setting up new companies on both sides of the border,” said Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, which supplies building materials.

Customs checks would be bad enough, but Johnson’s apparent plan to give the Stormont assembly a veto over trading arrangements verged on surreal, said McCaffrey. Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 and shows little sign of reviving. “The future of how we trade is to be decided every four years by an assembly that hasn’t sat in three years? Bizarre.” Such was the challenge of Storm Boris. Perhaps it was hot air, a plan destined for oblivion to be superseded by who knows what. Or perhaps it was a blast of what is to come in a no-deal crash-out, or a deal negotiated in the next few weeks or after a general election. The uncertainty was head spinning.


[..] The 310-mile border, drawn in 1922 during the partition of Ireland, bristled with military patrols and fortifications during the Troubles. The 1998 Good Friday agreement and the EU’s single market rendered it invisible, helping to seal the peace. [..] A complex web connects the economies on both sides of the border. Trade in goods is worth about £5.2bn. About a third of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports are sold to the Republic, while about a quarter of its imports come from the south. Downing Street says electronic paperwork and a “very small number” of physical inspections at traders’ premises would limit disruption. Farmers and business leaders dispute that. Some warn of disaster. Diageo, which makes Guinness and Baileys, estimates a hard border could cost it £1.3m, based on an estimate of an hour’s delay for each of the 18,000 beer trucks that traverse the border each year. Smaller businesses with tight margins could face ruin.

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How could this ever happen? “The parties anticipate that this agreement will not be made part of any public record. If the United States receives a Freedom of Information Act request or any compulsory process commanding the disclosure of the agreement, it will provide notice to Epstein before making that disclosure.”

An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison (MJ)

But not limited to: It was just a four-word phrase, a bit of plain contractual verbiage, but even now, more than a decade later, Spencer Kuvin has a hard time expressing just how bizarre it was. “It’s incredibly odd language,” said Kuvin, an attorney in Florida. “I’ve never seen it before in a non-prosecution agreement.” Kuvin and I were talking about the infamous and inexplicable 2007 plea deal offered by then–US Attorney Alexander Acosta, last seen slinking out of the Labor Department’s back door. Kuvin had represented three of Epstein’s victims at the time of the agreement, and Kuvin is still exercised about the deal, in particular its brief immunity clause that continues to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators.

According to a ruling by US District Judge Kenneth Marra in February 2019, “from between about 1999 and 2007, Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls…at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.” The ruling goes on to describe a child sex ring: “In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

But back in 2007, Epstein was charged only with procuring an underage girl for prostitution, having struck an unbelievable sweetheart deal with Acosta. Epstein served 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail, of which six days a week were spent on work release in his high-rise office, a limo chauffeuring him to and from jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal on its face is incredibly favorable to Epstein. If you look closer, things get even better for him:


“The United States also agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” The four women named had allegedly helped recruit underage girls for Epstein at his direction. But that four-word phrase “but not limited to” gave a free pass to anybody who would have helped Epstein acquire or traffic underage girls for sex. How could the government agree to immunize “any potential co-conspirators” of an alleged serial child rapist? The question is at the center of so many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s life and death.

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Me when I see this, I’m thinking Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.

Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)

Amid one of the worst food crises in recent memory, Chinese farmers are reportedly trying to breed larger pigs as the African swine fever – less affectionately known as ‘pig ebola’ – has destroyed over 100 million pigs, between one-third and a half of China’s supply of pigs by various estimates, causing pork prices to explode to levels never seen before. As Beijing scrambles to make up for the lost domestic supply with imports, even desperately waiving tariffs on American pork products in what China’s politicians tried to sell to their population (and Washington) as a “gesture of goodwill”, farmers in southern China have raised a pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

Once slaughtered, these giant mutant pigs can fetch a, well, giant price on the market. Here’s more from Bloomberg: “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.” Soaring pork prices have encouraged small and large farms to experiment with DIY genetic experimentation, in the name of raising pigs that are about 40% heavier than the ‘normal’ weight of 125 kilos.

“High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.”

Read more …

The entire case is falling to bits.

Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration. In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president.

Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.


The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Jul 262019
 


Edward Hopper Sailing 1911

 

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 

There’s Bernie and the Squad, the declared socialists, who will never be accepted as leaders by a party so evidently predicated upon support for the arms industry. And they in turn can’t credibly support candidates who do. The Democratic Party will never be socialist, they will have to leave the label behind in order to share that message and remain believable.

But without them, what will be left? Joe Biden, or perhaps Hillary silently waiting in the wings? I don’t see it. Not after Mueller, not after two-three years of gambling all on red anti-Trump. At least the Squad have an identity, got to give them that. Whether it will sell in 2019 America is another thing altogether.

I personally think the term socialist is too tainted, on top of being too misinterpreted, for it to be “electable”, but I also understand there are large swaths of the US population who are in dire straits already with a recession on the horizon, but 2020 seems too soon. And I would ditch the term regardless. It’s like painting a target on your back for Trump and Hannity to aim at.

If you remember the 2016 campaign and the clown parade on stage with the likes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush glaring at the headlights, you know that the GOP has issues that are very similar to those of the Dems. But Trump came along.

The Dems have no Trump. They do have a DNC that will stifle any candidate they don’t like (Bernie!), though. Just think what they would have done if Trump had run as a Democrat (crazy, but not that crazy).

 

The UK’s issues are remarkably similar to those of the US. Only, in their case, the socialists have already taken over the left-wing party (if you can call the Dems left-wing). This has led to absolute stagnation. Tony Blair had moved Labour so far to the right (which he and his Blairites call center, because it sounds so much better), that injecting Jeremy Corbyn as leader was just too fast and furious.

So they labeled Corbyn an anti-semite, the most successful and equally empty smear campaign since Julian Assange was called a rapist. Corbyn never adequately responded, so he couldn’t profile himself and now the Blairites are again calling on him to leave. Oh, and he never gave a direct answer to the question of Brexit yes or no either. Pity. Corbyn’s support among the people is massive, but not in the party.

Which is why it’s now up to Boris Johnson to ‘deliver the will of the people’. And apparently the first thing the people want is 20,000 more policemen. Which were fired by the very party he at the time represented first as first mayor of London and then foreign minister, for goodness sake. His very own Tories closed 600 police stations since 2010 and will have to re-open many now.

Some survey must have told him it polled well. Just like polling was an essential part of pushing through Brexit. There’s a very revealing TV movie that came out 6 months ago called Brexit: The Uncivil War, that makes this very clear. The extent to which campaigns these days rely on data gathering and voter targeting will take a while yet to be understood, but they’re a future that is already here. Wikipedia in its description of the film puts it quite well:

 

After the opening credits, [Dominic] Cummings rejects an offer in 2015 by UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and political strategist Matthew Elliott to lead the Vote Leave campaign due to his contempt for “Westminister politics”, but accepts when Carswell promises Cummings full control.

The next sequences show Cummings outlining the core strategy on a whiteboard of narrow disciplined messaging delivered via algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools. Cummings rejects an approach by Nigel Farage and Arron Banks of Leave.EU to merge their campaigns, as his data shows Farage is an obstacle to winning an overall majority.

[..] In a eureka moment, Cummings refines the core message to “Take Back Control”, thus positioning Vote Leave as the historical status quo, and Remain as the “change” option. Cummings meets and hires Canadian Zack Massingham, co-founder of AggregateIQ, who offers to build a database using social media tools of [3 million] voters who are not on the UK electoral register but are inclined to vote to leave.

[..] In the final stages, high-profile senior Tory MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson join the Vote Leave campaign emphasising the need to “Take Back Control”, while Penny Mordaunt is shown on BBC raising concerns over the accession of Turkey. Gove and Johnson are shown as having some reticence over specific Vote Leave claims (e.g. £350 million for NHS, and 70 million potential Turkish emigrants) but are seen to overcome them.

 

Dominic Cummings, played in the movie by Benedict Cumberbatch, is an independent political adviser who belongs to no party. But guess what? He was the first adviser Boris Johnson hired after his nomination Wednesday. Cummings didn’t want Nigel Farage as the face of Brexit, because he polled poorly. He wanted Boris, because his numbers were better. Not because he didn’t think Boris was a bumbling fool, he did.

And now Cummings is back to finish the job. Far as I can see, that can only mean one thing: elections, and soon (it’s what Cummings does). A no-deal Brexit was voted down, in the same Parliament Boris Johnson now faces, 3 times, or was it 4? There is going to be a lot of opposition. Boris wants Brexit on October 31, and has practically bet his career on it. But there is going to be a lot of opposition.

He can’t have elections before September, because of the summer recess. So perhaps end of September?! But he has Dominic Cummings and his “algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools”. Without which Brexit would never have been voted in. So if you don’t want Brexit, you better come prepared.

Cummings and his techies weren’t -just- sending out mass mails or that kind of stuff. That’s already arcane. They were sending targeted personalized messages to individual voters, by the millions. Algorithms. AI. Tailor made. If you’re the opposition, and you don’t have those tools, then what do you have exactly?

Already thought before it all happened that it was funny that Boris Johnson’s ascension and Robert Mueller’s downfall were scheduled for the same day. There must be a pattern somewhere.

You can find the movie at HBO or Channel 4, I’m sure. Try this link for Channel 4. Seeing that movie, and thinking about the implications of the technology, the whole notion of Russian meddling becomes arcane as well. We just have no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 072019
 


Johannes Vermeer The geographer 1668-69

 

July 7 2019, just another tequila Sunday. There are elections here in Greece, and the right wing will take over. Bad idea, because it will bring out the left wing resistance that have remained subdued while Syriza reneged on all their promises, but they were left wing, and how does left protesting left work exactly? They didn’t know. Better lay low. No more.

From now on in, it’s women and children first. And there are so many pent up grievances. Youth unemployment is still at 40%. While ever more Greeks are evicted from their homes through Airbnb alone. This ain’t gonna go well. That strong economy the right promises will be there exclusively for their own richer supporters, at the ever-increasing cost of the poor.

 

The US women’s soccer team just became World Champions again. That’s the last time in a very long time. Because traditional soccer countries now also have women’s teams. There’s a very peculiar division at the bottom of this. In Europe and South America and Africa, soccer is a men’s game.

In the US, baseball, hockey, basketball and American football have spent millions making sure soccer was turned into, and perceived as, a girly sport. Just so the best male athletes would not turn there. So the US, colleges, universities, have this decades-long tradition of women’s soccer. But they have no such tradition for men, while almost the entire rest of the world does.

That’s why the US women’s soccer team will never win again, and it’s also why the men’s team never will. No culture, no tradition, even as they easily could have them. This was very obvious to me in my Montreal days. In summer, in just about every city park, there were community and family gatherings of South- and Central Americans, and they were all playing soccer.

Still, Canada stinks at the game on an international level. Why? Because the hockey people don’t want the competition for male athletes. They cut it down wherever they can. All they would have to do is take the most promising 100 10-year old kids just playing in the parks in one city, and get them into a program. Within 10 years they’d have a national team that’s an international contender. Kids from Peru, Chili, Brazil, 100 different countries, and throw in the European kids that are there anyway. But no.

 

Still, I was going to talk about Trump again. Just to piss off the people some more who -stupidly- accuse me of supporting Trump. Though it is sort of the same thing: Greek PM Tsipras is set to lose (no results yet as I write this) because he never did what he promised. US soccer is set to lose because other domestic sports don’t want it to be successful. People are -mostly- blind.

First I saw this UK ambassador to Washington, one Sir Kim Darroch, has sent “secret” cables (memos) to his government about how Trump’s administration is supposedly “inept, insecure and incompetent”, as well as “uniquely dysfunctional” and “divided”. “We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”

“Differences between the US and the UK on climate change, media freedoms and the death penalty might come to the fore as the countries seek to improve trading relations after Brexit, the memos said.” Oh, fcuking yeah, the UK is such a shining light on climate change and press freedom, right?! Who’s holding a certain journalist, one Julian Assange, in a maximum security prison again?

“Mr Trump’s publicly stated reason for calling off an airstrike against Tehran with 10 minutes to go – that it would cause 150 casualties – “doesn’t stand up”, Sir Kim said. Instead, he suggested the president was “never fully on board”. When I read that line, I thought Sir Kim was not-even-so secretly in favor of attacking Iran. Was that just me?

Oh, and earlier today I was wondering if they ever hand out these Sir and Dame titles to people who are poor or even destitute but who work 25 hours a day for the people around them, to make sure they can alleviate the suffering in their communities as much as they can. Or does that mummified “Queen” of theirs only bestow that “honor” on the upper classes? No, I do not care, I think I know the answer. Inglan is a bitch.

And if I’ve ever seen a dysfunctional, “inept, insecure and incompetent” government, it’s the one that these secret memos were sent to. From Cameron to May to soon Boris Johnson, let get real.

 

Then also today there were all these news reports about Jeffrey Epstein on how he’s finally being charged with abusing dozens of underage on his planes and his estates. This has been going on for decades (who was in charge during those years). What is the media focus? Trump, of course. But Epstein was thrown out of Mar-A-Lago I think 12 years ago for hitting on an underage girl. Does that mean we know for sure Trump was never involved? Nope.

But we do know that Bill Clinton flew 26 times in a few years on Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ bringing helpss girls so faraway places. So maybe he should be the main focus here, not Trump. Then again, it’s too late in the game now, isn’t it? US -and UK- media have bet all their money on the anti-Trump game. They have lost everything so far, and then they double down, everything on red style.

I’m thinking: guys, you lost, time to find a new game plan. But they don’t have the flexibility nor the intelligence required. Aaron Maté wrote another scathing -must read- essay on the Mueller Report , putting its credibiltiy at the same level as the Steele dossier, but one half of America doesn’t even want to see that. It only wants to see more damning reports, damn evidence, about their favorite orange piñata.

And no, talking about that does not make me a Trump supporter. Let’s say I’m looking at that like it were a game of soccer, and I point out to you that the other team has absolutely nothing while they’re already 10-0 down (that’s a very big score in soccer).

 

But a third thing i saw today really made me think Trump can’t lose in 2020. The Guardian of all places had a review of a book entitled American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War by Politico writer Tim Alberta, in which Trump effusively praises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among other things by comparing her to Evita Peron.

“Trump says he first saw Ocasio-Cortez during her primary against Crowley, while watching TV with political advisers. “I see a young woman,” he says, “ranting and raving like a lunatic on a street corner, and I said: ‘That’s interesting, go back.’” Alberta then says Trump “became enamored” and “starstruck” by Ocasio-Cortez. “I called her Eva Perón,” Trump says. “I said, ‘That’s Eva Perón. That’s Evita.”


[..] Trump does row back on his praise, telling Alberta: “She’s got talent. Now, that’s the good news. The bad news: she doesn’t know anything. She’s got a good sense, an ‘it’ factor, which is pretty good, but she knows nothing. But with time, she has real potential.”

 

I still remain convinced that the one dimensional Trump haters, the same people who would accuse me of supporting him, don’t understand how or why that means he will win easily in 2020. Well, that, and they have nobody to put up against him. Joe Biden is not just a joke, he’s an old and stale joke. Kamala Harris is an attempt to cross Obama with Hillary. Bernie Sanders is a wonderful man, but he should be the campaign manager for a younger prospect, but who isn’t there.

And Tulsi Gabbard is being actively suppressed by the DNC, like Bernie Sanders four years ago. All the rest of the field are mere bystanders. It’s the exact same feeling of the GOP ‘contestants’ standing against Trump in 2016. They’re there to fill up space, and to create the illusion there’s an actual conversation or dialogue or contest happening.

 

Personally, I think it would be great if the Democrats have a valid candidate next year, at the level of Trump or better. The Donald should have stayed in real estate. But instead he’s the President, and now everybody has to deal with that. And you don’t do that by continuing to blame him for everything that happens under the sun. That ‘tactic’ has failed for three years.

Those past 3 years of media bias against him, plus the Mueller report debacle, should have made this clear. But what we see today is that neither the Democrats nor the press that supports them have anything to fight Trump with. While he compliments their main future asset for her talent, and for her likeness to a world-famous tragic actress-turned-politician and Broadway darling.

That’s why he’ll win.

 

 

Oct 112018
 
 October 11, 2018  Posted by at 1:22 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Pieter Bruegel the Elder The Triumph of Death 1562

 

Finally financial ‘markets’ go through a substantial dip, which Steve Mnuchin claims is just temporary and Donald Trump says is caused by the fact that the Fed is ‘loco’. Mnuchin may well be right, but it won’t be because he knows something you don’t.

And Trump is certainly right, but in reality the Fed has been loco for many years, so why be surprised if it acts crazy now? The reason Mnuchin and a million other ‘experts’ may be right without realizing it is that the Fed has been crazy enough to kill the financial markets.

Or at least killed what made the markets functional, and beneficial to society. And that may well be exactly what Jay Powell is trying to repair, but he may well not be aware of that either. Looked at from a ‘benign’ angle, Powell is perhaps raising rates so people can regain insight into what they’re buying.

The pre-Powell Fed pushed up asset prices (don’t let’s say ‘values’) to such heights nobody has any insight anymore into what anything is truly worth. And in what was formerly known as the financial markets that was not important, because what were formerly known as investors were making heaps of money regardless.

Surely they must all have known that this wouldn’t continue?! That it’s just a matter of timing, of knowing when it would end? Oh, but that’s not really possible, is it, without the very price discovery process the Fed successfully strangulated?

Still, there must also be tons of people left thinking the Fed can kick that can six times to the moon and back, or sixty. If only because they’ve never bothered to think about price discovery, and what role it plays in the very ‘markets’ they volunteer to spend their money in.

And along those same lines, many acknowledge housing bubbles in Sydney and Vancouver but think the US has learned its lesson a decade ago. And the loco Fed plays its role there too: mortgage rates have been ultra-low, enticing the last left batch of greater fools not mortally wounded by the last fire to jump in this time. Wolf Richter’s Case-Shiller graph says plenty in that regard:

 

 

But of course things tend back to normalcy, and it doesn’t take all the overleveraged stock- and home buyers longing for price discovery; it takes just a few to get the engine started. And then everyone will be along for the ride. So from that angle Jay Powell looks anything but crazy raising rates, we just can’t be sure if he knows what the consequences will be.

Not that it matters all that much what he does or does not know. What was formerly the market is like a pendulum swung so far out of balance that it costs ever more effort and money to keep it from moving towards equilibrium, and that process has only one possible outcome.

For mortgage rates, it looks something like this, and to make anyone able to buy any home at all higher rates will of necessity mean lower prices. You can’t, nobody can, not the Fed or the government can, keep that pendulum away from its tendency towards equilibrium forever.

 

 

For stocks it looks much the same. So why try, you’d think?! To prevent incumbents and ruling classes from being exposed as swimming naked, that’s why. They invented a way to make the entire nation swim naked, thinking they’d never be found out because the water levels were so high.

Whether yesterday’s 831-point Dow dip is temporary or not is of little interest. Much more important is that the entire asset prices situation is temporary. It doesn’t matter if the Fed pumps $1, $10, or $100 trillion into what once were markets, in the end it all comes down to how many people can pay how much money for the assets.

And since there is never an unending supply of greater fools, we know where this is going. The easy money and low rates and asset purchases at central banks and stock buybacks by companies can and will result only in more profits and more wealth for a few, and sheer endlessly less for the many.

Inequality in the US has now reached such extremities that the country’s AAA rating threatens to be taken away –as Moody’s indicated-; the government has so many people it must support financially (or let perish) that its financial position comes under pressure. Which is, again, negative for the many, for the few; they don’t care about that rating.

Yes, too many people are on some form of welfare in America. And Washington would love to throw many of them off of it. The many have no representation on Capitol Hill anymore. Just about any senator and congress(wo)man is a millionaire or certainly well-off.

 

How can the country get its rating back, or at least not lose it due to its increasing inequality? There seem to be two ways: let the 80 million now on welfare die by the side of the road, or provide them with jobs that allow them a fruitful life. That may sound like socialism or something, but it’s really the exact opposite.

It’s not the government’s role to give people jobs, but it is its role to make sure conditions are in place for the private sector to provide them. Trump’s ‘trade wars’ look crazy to many, but the intent is to get jobs back to the US. But there is much more.

America was once prosperous. What changed?

Here’s one thing: In what was -arguably?- America’s wealthiest time as a nation, the post-World War II period, income taxes for the richest were as high as 90% (1952: 92%); they were slowly brought down towards 70%. Only when Ronald Reagan took over in 1980 did they really fall (1982: 50%). This was ‘justified’ by lowering the highest income bracket (1982: $85,600, it had been between $200,000 and $400,000 for years).

In 1988, the top rate plunged to 28%, and the highest bracket to $29,750. Today, the top rate is 39.6% and the high bracket $400,000. In a graph, the consequences look like this:

 

 

The corporate tax rate, meanwhile, pulled this one, and don’t get started on tax havens etc.:

 

 

And that situation has led to a huge financial crisis, to the Fed going crazy and handing out trillions to the exact wrong part of society, those who already have a lot of money, and the result has been an absolute disaster, at least for the country; not so much for its elites.

But as even Moody’s now recognizes, you can’t run an AAA-rated country on elites alone. Despite the crazy Fed trillions, the US has achieved negative growth (imagine where it would be without):

 

 

Something must be done. Problem is, with only those millionaires in charge in the House and Senate, the likelihood of boosting income tax levels up to where they were when America was most prosperous is extremely low. And Trump’s tariffs are not on their own going to bring back the jobs; they can’t rebuild the lost infrastructure, for one thing.

Something must be done, and it’s entirely unclear what, or rather, who’s going to do it. The Democrats have nothing, or nothing but frustrated millionaires and Bernie Sanders. The GOP has only Trump. None of these people are going to vote to double their income taxes.

Much of what needs to be done will be classified as socialism, ridiculed and thrown out the window, even if the country was anything but socialist under Eisenhower and Kennedy, during its -at least economic- Golden Age.

It’s a nice puzzle, isn’t it? Well, maybe not so nice after all.

 

 

Apr 302018
 
 April 30, 2018  Posted by at 12:40 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Gustav Klimt The Park 1909

 

 

Dr. D feels his own golden age coming on. It’s just a bit dark gold. Nothing a good polish can’t help, I’m sure. In the end, the spirit is familiar:

A man only begins to grasp the true meaning of life when he plants a tree under whose shade he knows he will never sit.

That is literally how he finishes this:

It’s going where it’s going, as I grow plants and make the bees happy, let the trees rest in the forests, as best I’m able when devoid of any help. They will survive. We are as perennial as grass, and will diminish someday. When we do, I will have left the trees, the seeds, the order, the patterns that will feed the generations that follow, as true men, not infants, should.

It’s spring.

 

 

Dr. D:

Ilargi —
 
Would rather work on a more positive article, something about life, nature, spring, gardens; however I find that they are so complicated as to be inexpressible.  So many, from Thoreau to Sand County Almanac spend entire books and barely scratch an overview of the complexity of nature.  It’s at once so obvious and, lacking personal experience, so inexplicable.  So I haven’t done that, but it’s been chilly and till the asparagus, start the plants (too early) and wait for the leaves.
 
Maybe it’s the case that once we understand how much there is, no thoughts can be put into a 1,000 word article.  Certainly that’s to the detriment of modern thinking and persuasion.  Maybe I just always use too many words to say things and draw in sidelines that are better neglected, however interesting and connected; for all things are really equally connected in mind just as in nature, and because of our linear minds we can’t look at them at once, but only one by one.
 
John Day is correct of the gestalt, however seldom that happens to humankind.  And what is it?  Does that not mean we partake of Jung’s mass consciousness, that we are in fact telepathic, like schools of fish and flocks of birds gyring in the sky?  The nation has gone insane, truly mad, I could not describe it to you.  80% of people believe whatever they think that minute is reality.  When CNN tells them the opposite of yesterday, or the beginning of the sentence is the opposite of the ending, it causes no distress. 

It’s truly Robespierre, cultural revolution, and it doesn’t end well, for the expression of all of it is Crowley’s “Do what thou will” with Ayn Rand’s “What’s best for me is best for all” so you have a system of plundering by power, whether by force or victimhood, where the reality – actually, earnestly, incontrovertibly believed – is whatever will get me the most in this moment.  Is it easier to fake medical paperwork, not check patients, and let them die rather than get out of a chair once an hour?  We do it. 

Call them on it and they’ll deny it, believing even to themselves.  Steal from your own work, your family, banish them on Facebook if they call you on it, then expect a minute later there should be no ill will, no consequences?  Certainly.  Look around and call on public opinion for the callous, selfish, murdering behavior, and 80% of them support you, they think it’s normal and fine, punishing the 20% who still have order, consequences, cause and effect, logos. 
 

 

I have no explanation for it, nor is there an end, but I greatly fear the only cure for it is for the good people to withdraw and leave the bad people starving in a ditch, their children and dogs included, for as adults, it is nearly impossible for them to change, and impossible for any good people to trust that change.  And how are you supposed to run a justice system, a society, in a world of truly pathological, lying, self-serving sociopaths?  How even will their children not end up the same, with only 20% left to throw a lifeline?  A lifeboat cannot save the ship, you know.  It can hardly save itself.
 
I was surprised at the comments today, for this open, transparent, appalling, illogical lies are still completely internalized, completely believed at the meta level.  Trump has an open war on the CIA and Deep State – I don’t know how it could possibly be more obvious or advertised – and any common level would tell you we have been antagonizing North Korea to justify keeping country-sized bases in Japan and SoKo because the men needed to contain China wouldn’t fit in Pearl Harbor and are too far away. And yet when Trump’s team openly undercuts the CIA and peace breaks out everywhere, it’s suddenly not him. 

It’s Kim Jong actually, I read yesterday, he beat the U.S., Trump lost (when Trump also wasn’t trying anything) and…I don’t know, NoKo is going to invade us and SoKo, after they nuke Miami and the moon with the CNN missiles that can hit anywhere on earth?  After Pompeo (and allegedly Trump) met with Kim Jong in the Forbidden City? Earlier, however, he WAS completely responsible for war and the 12M dead Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow longed for.  So let me translate: all bad things forever in time and space are Trump, all good things forever in time and space, not Trump.  And that’s logic now.
 
Maybe it’s inappropriate to give the Nobel to a man when it’s often a team, maybe we shouldn’t give prizes for doing a normal, decent thing and simply not killing each other, but that’s not the tradition.  Personally, I wouldn’t give it to him because in my estimation all he did was STOP the CIA from holding Kim and NoKo hostage to his own Deep State Generals.  Kim is a Swiss-raised trust fund playboy: he doesn’t want war unless forced to it.  I can’t give a medal for simply stopping a war that never should have existed, and one they even now lie about and won’t admit. 

 

But that’s not the point.  The point is, our own readers, who are very smart and should be more than up to speed, seem to completely fall for CNN, Brian Williams, and an endless list of exposed, transparent liars for 20+ years, instead of you, for example, who’s been calling it out and they read every day. My God, what will it take?  It’s disheartening.  I believe that is part of the same Jungean mass-mind they have somehow hacked and it’s a struggle for even smart people to break through.
 
So apparently Kanye, following Professor Griff and a wide number of other immediately ignored and sidelined black artists, has woken up before our own readers.  Not that Trump is great or anything, because he’s a jerk, but that they’ve arranged the same system from 100 years ago where darkie has to think and vote the way master says, or else.  That’s the worst system of slavery ever devised.  You think your color, vote your color, dress your color, watch your color, apply for jobs according to your color, and not your free thinking, your talents, your politics, your soul. 

Yet again, that’s normal: that’s not racism to tell groups how they better vote, yet it IS racism to tell them to think for themselves.  All overwhelmingly racist countries easily elect and accept Black Presidents with Muslim names, have black leaders in both parties, black billionaires, black megastars.  That’s how we know they’re racist, right?  Reality doesn’t matter, evidence doesn’t matter, logic doesn’t matter, it hasn’t mattered my whole life, it will never matter ever again.
 
It strikes me that although pretty poor, whose mascot should be the rhino, Republicans are the party AGAINST slavery, AGAINST the southern Democrats, born AGAINST the KKK, who have black cabinet members, black presidential candidates going back decades as still today. 

Doesn’t matter.  Doesn’t have the slightest effect.  Then they are so racist, so bigoted, that when any member of a subgroup, be they Kanye, Milo, Janda, Diamond and Silk should cross the aisle, they are easily welcomed as party members and people, as thinkers, and not as races, skin colors, or issues – no backlash, no contention in the party. Doesn’t matter.  Hasn’t mattered in 100 years, doesn’t matter now.  It’s truly astonishing.
 

 

Like I said, I once thought, “if only people knew”, if only there were events that would remove the mask of lies, corruption, and abuse, but there are dozens daily, and as Churchill said, they pick themselves up and brush it off, continuing with the lie, no matter how continually debunked, for example, daily for two hysterical years.
 
So what are we supposed to do when that lie — which everyone knows is a lie, but they lie and claim it’s not a lie — can get us into a war ending life on earth?  I do not know.  I say stop lying, as Trump plays along, for all the good that does us.  People tell the truth constantly: big, high-profile journalists, stars, senators…doesn’t have the slightest effect.  They’re still crazy, and the Assad-gassed-his-people-because-he-likes-to-lose-although-we-sniffed-the-backpack-and-door-handle-and-found-nothing are still credible and rational. 

Nor do I trust the gestalt.  They have a bad habit of going where they’re going, and when driven by what are essentially insane people have a bad habit of going astray, meeting their karma, with all the bad consequences therein.  I can’t stop that, but I am an American, and it’s my duty to survive this madness and this civil conflict as did my ancestors before me.  And I’m sure I will, or well enough.  Where would I go to escape this karma anyway?  Britain?  Belgium?  China?  I don’t think so. 
 
It’s going where it’s going, as I grow plants and make the bees happy, let the trees rest in the forests, as best I’m able when devoid of any help.  They will survive.  We are as perennial as grass, and will diminish someday.  When we do, I will have left the trees, the seeds, the order, the patterns that will feed the generations that follow, as true men, not infants, should.

 

 

Mar 012018
 
 March 1, 2018  Posted by at 11:03 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Paramount Theater, Times Square NYC 1956

 

Donald Trump Stuns Allies By Signalling Backing For Tighter Gun Control (G.)
Members of Congress Are Petrified of The NRA, Says Trump (Ind.)
Where Did The Republican Trump-Haters Go? (BBC)
This Has Predicted Every Market Crash in History (Bonner)
US January Pending Home Sales Crash Most Since 2010 (ZH)
Hawk Or Dove? Fed’s Powell Showed Markets Both Sides In Debut (R.)
Trump Says US Will Use “All Available Tools” To Pressure China On Trade (BBG)
South Korea Cuts 68-Hour Working Week (G.)
John Major Tears Into Theresa May’s ‘Grand Folly’ Brexit Strategy (Ind.)
Russia Says US Is Training Europe To Use Nuclear Weapons Against It (CNBC)
American Hellenic Institute Urges Trump To Condemn Turkish Aggression (K.)
Greece Loosens Capital Controls, Raises Cash Withdrawal Limit (R.)
Greek Jan-Feb 2018 Retail Sales Down 8.8% y-o-y (K.)

 

 

I don’t normally like to open Debt Rattles with politics, but this leads the news.

Trump’s stance here should be a huge opening for Democrats, but it can’t be: they‘re too far gone in their demonizing of him. So if nothing happens -again- you’re going to have to wonder whose fault that is.

Note: a first reaction to a school shooting is easy, but you are talking fiddling with about the US constitution here.

Donald Trump Stuns Allies By Signalling Backing For Tighter Gun Control (G.)

Donald Trump has repeatedly endorsed a series of gun control proposals that put the Republican president at odds with the National Rifle Association and stunned lawmakers within his own party. The president made the remarks during an extraordinary, hour-long White House meeting on Wednesday with congressional Republicans and Democrats who are under pressure to address gun violence in the aftermath of the massacre at a Florida high school earlier this month. During the meeting, Trump called for a “beautiful” comprehensive bill that would expand background checks on gun purchases, remove guns from the hands of the mentally ill, bolster security on school campuses and restrict young people from purchasing certain weapons.

Within hours of the meeting’s conclusion, conservatives and some Republicans turned on Trump, who was elected with broad support from the gun lobby and claimed on Wednesday that the National Rifle Association had “no bigger fan”. Breitbart, the far-right news organization that fanned the flames of Trump’s rise, denounced the president as a “gun grabber” who “cedes” to Democrats. [..] Trump, who ran the meeting like a boardroom CEO, pointing at lawmakers for updates on their legislation, called on Congress to be “very strong” on background checks, repeatedly offering his support for a plan that failed to pass the Senate in April 2013, months after a gunman killed 20 young children and six staff members at Sandy Hook elementary school.

“You have to be very, very powerful on background checks. Don’t be shy,” Trump said during the televised session. He added: “I’d rather have you come down on the strong side than the weak side. The weak side is easier to do.” Two senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey, both of whom attended the meeting, plan to reintroduce their bill that would have imposed universal background checks for commercial gun purchases, including at gun shows and over the internet. 84% of Americans favor such a law [..] In a surprising exchange with Toomey, Trump asked if his measure included a provision to raise the age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21. Toomey replied that it did not, and Trump shot back: “You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA.”

Trump rejected a demand by conservatives in the House that this so-called Fix Nics bill be paired with controversial concealed carry legislation, which is favoured by the NRA and would loosen restrictions by enabling gun owners with concealed-carry permits in their home states to take their firearms across state lines. “If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed,” Trump told Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, who was last summer by a gunman targeting a congressional baseball practice. “Let it be a separate thing.” Trump repeatedly berated his Republican colleagues, accusing them of being afraid of the NRA, and appeared to take pleasure in stating his willingness to take on the gun lobby. “Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified,” he said.

Read more …

And they get their funding there.

Members of Congress Are Petrified of The NRA, Says Trump (Ind.)

President Donald Trump has accused members of Congress of being afraid of the National Rifle Association (NRA), as he called for an increase in the minimum age for buying a rifle. “[The NRA] has great power,” Mr Trump said at a bipartisan meeting with members of Congress on school safety. “They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it. What do I need? But I’ll tell you, they are well-meaning … We have to do what is right.” Members of Congress have again been anxious to find a solution to prevent mass shootings after an alleged 19-year-old gunman on Valentine’s Day open fired at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida, killing 17 people.

On the first day students of the school resumed their lessons following the shooting, several legislators gathered at the White House to discuss school safety and legislation aimed at combatting gun violence. One such proposal, drafted by Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, is primarily focused on expanding background checks for gun purchases. Mr Trump asked Mr Toomey about a proposal to raise the age limit for purchasing assault weapons from 18 to 21, a measure the NRA does not support.

“Now, this is not a popular thing in terms of the NRA, but I’m saying it anyway,” Mr Trump said. “Right now, you have to wait to buy a handgun until you’re 21, but you can buy the type of weapon used in a school shooting at 18. I can say the NRA is opposed to it… These are great patriots, they love our country, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree on it.” Mr Toomey said the age issue is not addressed in his bill with Mr Manchin. “You know why, because you’re afraid of the NRA,” the President responded.

Read more …

This fits in nicely with the gun issue. Scott “Dilbert” Adams’ view on Twitter: “Persuasion Phase 1 is complete. He’s coming for Democrats next.”

Where Did The Republican Trump-Haters Go? (BBC)

Once upon a time there was an active, vocal resistance among conservatives to the prospect of Donald Trump’s presidency. One year in, and the signs of dissent are rapidly fading. On Friday morning at the Conservative Political Action Conference on the outskirts of Washington, DC, Donald Trump took the stage and reminded the packed hall just how far he’d come. “Remember when I first started running?” the president asked. “People said, ‘Are you sure he’s a conservative?’ I think I proved I’m a conservative.” Mr Trump then launched into nearly an hour and a half of his trademark campaign-style oratory, often acknowledging that he was deviating from his “boring” speech text. On script and off, however, it was clear his intended objective was to drive home the point that he has governed as a true conservative.

He boasted of his tax cuts, right-wing judicial nominations, regulatory rollbacks and defence of religious liberty. Those are the sort of accomplishments attendees of this annual conference of young Republicans, grassroots activists, party functionaries, conservative media pundits, assorted merchants and special interests longed for through eight years of the Obama presidency, and now they’re getting. That’s got to make them thrilled, right? Well, sort of. According to straw poll of conference attendees, 93% approve of the job Mr Trump is doing in the White House. It’s a number not too far from the 80% of Republicans across the US who continue to tell pollsters they support the president. That, as the president acknowledged, was not always the case.

In 2016 – at the beginning of his long march to the Republican nomination and the presidency, Mr Trump abruptly cancelled an appearance at Cpac when faced with the prospect of a walkout from “never-Trump” conservatives. [A 2015] straw poll had Mr Trump as the presidential pick of just 3.5% of attendees, in eighth place, far behind libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul’s 25.7%. Another Republican presidential hopeful at that conference, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, would just a handful of months later describe Mr Trump’s politics as “a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense” and call his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism”. Last week, Mr Perry – now Mr Trump’s energy secretary – was back at Cpac, referring to himself as “footsoldier in the army”. Donald Trump’s army, that is.

Read more …

Should that say “predicted after the fact”? (From Bill Bonner, Mish and Semper Augustus)

This Has Predicted Every Market Crash in History (Bonner)

“Buy the dip” has worked for the last 38 years. And now, investors are more than 100% convinced that it will work again. But they are wrong. Semper Augustus: “Every major stock market decline and every recession in the last 100 years was preceded by the Federal Reserve raising short-term interest rates by enough to provide the pin to prick the balloon. Note the emphasis on every. Yes, there have been periods where the Fed raised rates and a recession didn’t ensue. Everyone knows the famous saying about the stock market having predicted nine of the past five recessions! That may be true, that rising rates don’t necessarily cause a recession. But as an investor, you must be aware that every major stock market decline occurred on the heels of a tightening phase by the Fed. More importantly, there have been no substantive Fed tightening phases that did not end with a stock market decline”.


Going back to 1950, every U.S. recession (gray shaded area) has been preceded by the Fed hiking interest rates

A little debt may be a good thing; a lot of it is not. At a certain point, you have more than “too much debt,” and it becomes toxic. Where exactly in the cycle we are, we don’t know. But our guess is we are already way beyond the place where we are fully indebted. This is an economy built on debt. The whole capital structure – stocks, bonds, and real estate – now depends on excess debt… and more of it. In a correction, the only way to stop stock prices from falling and the economy from shrinking is to bring in some more debt. But when you do that a few times, you are soon beyond Peak Debt… which is to say, you’re way over the legal limit.

Debt has been growing three to six times faster than income for more than an entire generation. This makes the old 1.5-to-1 ratio of debt to income seem quaint. It is now 3.5-to-1 nationwide. Which is why deficits still matter. Every penny in debt that we add now is a penny that cannot be repaid, not by any plausible combination of economic projections. Because there is no way to “grow your way out of debt” when your income is falling while your debt is still increasing. Instead, you have to suffer the indignities of a correction, including a major reset in the stock market. That’s what happens when stocks that are more than fully priced meet a debt load that is beyond 100% of capacity.

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As noted earlier, new home sales were down 33.3% in the northeast. Pending home sales feel by 9% there.

US January Pending Home Sales Crash Most Since 2010 (ZH)

After New- and Existing-Home-Sales have already disappointed, Pending Home-Sales just collapsed too (to the lowest since Oct 2014) to confirm January was a bloodbath for the real estate market. Pending Home Sales plunged 4.7% in January (massively below the 0.5% expected rise in sales) – this is the biggest drop since May 2010. Year-over-year Pending home sales are down 1.7%. Purchases fell 9% in the Northeast, 6.6% in the Midwest, 3.9% in the South and 1.2% in the West.

NAR is desperate to convince home-buyers and sellers that this is nothing but an inventory issue, but it is affordability that is the real driver here. “There’s little doubt last month’s retreat in contract signings occurred because of woefully low supply levels and the sudden increase in mortgage rates,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “With the cost of buying a home getting more expensive and not enough inventory, some prospective buyers are either waiting until listings increase come spring or now having to delay their search entirely to save up for a larger down payment.” So, will higher rates break housing market momentum? The following chart suggest ‘yes’ – that surge in rates will have a direct impact on home sales (or prices will be forced to adjust lower) as affordability collapses…

And Homebuilder stocks are starting to look a lot less invincible…

As Bloomberg notes, economists consider pending sales a leading indicator because they track contract signings; purchases of existing homes are tabulated when a deal closes, typically a month or two later.

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Something for everyone. Useless.

Hawk Or Dove? Fed’s Powell Showed Markets Both Sides In Debut (R.)

Financial markets barely batted an eye on Tuesday when Jerome Powell’s first public statement as Federal Reserve chief saw daylight, interpreting it as a steady-handed commitment to the U.S. central bank’s policy of gradual interest rate increases. The calm evaporated about a couple of hours later, at 10:42 a.m. EST, when Powell, testifying before a U.S. House of Representatives committee, struck a bullish, and personal, tone on the strength of the economy. U.S. bond yields jumped as investors raised their bets for four rate increases this year, rather than the three that Fed policymakers projected in late December, and began asking one key question: Is a hawk or a dove now running the Fed?

“The message coming from the written portion of the testimony did not signal any change,” analysts from Barclays wrote on Tuesday, drawing a contrast with Powell’s live remarks that “point to a risk of a steeper policy rate path.” Fed policymakers consider their public statements an important tool in shaping public perceptions and, in doing so, making monetary policy more effective. Fed chiefs try to avoid off-the-cuff remarks that cause impromptu repricing, preferring to hew close to their job of representing the views of the Fed’s rate-setting committee and avoiding disclosing much about their personal opinions. Veteran Fed analysts were split over whether Powell had broken that unwritten rule in his remarks, which came just weeks after he took over from Janet Yellen.

“The tone of the testimony was definitely NOT hawkish,” said Cornerstone Macro economist and former Fed staffer Roberto Perli, who emphasized Powell’s written comments might be read as a willingness to allow the economy to run hot in order to boost inflation to the Fed’s 2% target on a sustained basis. “Powell more confident on growth, putting 2018 dots in play,” is how JP Morgan’s Michael Feroli summed up the day, referring to the quarterly “dot plot” of projected interest rates that Fed policymakers submit. Feroli argued that Powell’s “modestly hawkish” appearance in Congress strengthened the chance that policymakers’ rate outlook would rise when the central bank issues its next set of economic projections next month.

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Xi advocating against protectionism is a keeper.

Trump Says US Will Use “All Available Tools” To Pressure China On Trade (BBG)

President Donald Trump is warning the U.S. will use “all available tools” to prevent China’s state-driven economic model from undermining global competition, the latest warning to Beijing as America readies a host of trade actions. China hasn’t lived up to the promises of economic reforms it made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and actually appears to be moving further away from “market principles” in recent years, according to the president’s annual report to Congress on his trade-policy agenda. China’s “statist” policies are causing a “dramatic misallocation” of global resources that is leaving all countries poorer than they should be, said the report. Chinese President Xi Jinping has dispatched one of his top economic advisers, Liu He, this week to Washington to meet with senior administration officials amid signs of growing tension between the world’s two biggest economies.

“China is free to pursue whatever trade policy it prefers. But the United States, as a sovereign nation, is free to respond,” according to the report, which is prepared by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Xi has called for countries to avoid protectionism and stick to the current path of globalization. At the same time, Chinese officials are weighing raising tariffs on U.S. soybeans as tensions escalate. Trump’s warning comes as his administration considers a range of actions either directly aimed at China, or that could impact the Asian power. The president is weighing several options for curbing imports of steel and aluminum, and Trump has told confidants he’s considering a global tariff on steel of 24%, the most punitive alternative recommended by his officials. The administration is ready to act unilaterally if necessary to fight unfair trading practices, according to trade report.

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Well, it did get them the Olympics…

South Korea Cuts 68-Hour Working Week (G.)

Employees in one of the most overworked countries in Asia are about to get a break after South Korea passed a bill to reduce the typical work week in an effort to improve quality of life and boost employment. South Korea’s National Assembly overwhelmingly passed the law which cut the maximum weekly work hours to 52, down from 68. The law comes into force in July and will apply to large companies before being rolled out to smaller businesses. The cut was a campaign promise by President Moon Jae-in, who also secured a 16% increase in the minimum wage this year. The law faced opposition from businesses but was seen as necessary to improve living standards, create more jobs and boost productivity. It is also aimed at increasing the country’s birth rate, which hit record lows last year.

As South Korea’s economy boomed in the 80s and 90s, a workaholic culture took hold and the birth rate plummeted. Chung Hyun-back, the gender equality and family minister, has called the country’s working hours “inhumanely long” and said they were a factor in the South’s rapidly ageing society. South Koreans workers have some of the longest weeks in the developing world, behind only Mexico, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The group of mostly developed economies does not include countries such as China and India, and developing countries tend to work more. But South Koreans still work about 400 more hours a year compared with workers in the UK and Australia, about 10 additional standard work weeks, despite having relatively similar average incomes.

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Just as she tries to strike a defiant pose…

John Major Tears Into Theresa May’s ‘Grand Folly’ Brexit Strategy (Ind.)

Former Conservative leader John Major has launched a devastating attack on Theresa May’s approach to Brexit, just 48 hours before the Prime Minister sets out her plans for future relations with the EU. In a significant intervention, Mr Major tore into Ms May’s negotiating red lines as “bad politics” and “grand folly” dictated by “ultra Brexiteers”. He demanded MPs be freed from the party whip and allowed to vote with their conscience on her final deal, and said Britain may need a second referendum to avoid years of damaging rows over Brexit. His explosive speech sparked a ferocious backlash from Tories that back hard Brexit, with one saying his arguments were “grubbing around in the weeds”.

The surgically timed intervention comes as Ms May prepares to reveal the final text of her next big Brexit speech to the Cabinet, before meeting European Council president Donald Tusk in Downing Street on Thursday. Mr Major’s intervention also appears to have been choreographed with another speech from ex-prime minister Tony Blair in Brussels on Thursday, in which the ex-Labour leader will address European politicians on Brexit. When the ex-Tory leader stood to make his speech on Wednesday, Ms May had already locked horns with Brussels negotiators who had in the morning published what she called an “unacceptable” draft withdrawal agreement.

Despite Ms May having repeatedly claimed she settled the withdrawal agreement last year, she argued in the Commons that a new draft had crossed her Brexit red lines. It was those very “red lines” that Mr Major took aim at when he began talking in London minutes later, claiming they had “boxed” Ms May in. He said: “They are so tilted to ultra-Brexit opinion, even the Cabinet cannot agree them – and a majority in both Houses of Parliament oppose them. “If maintained in full, it will be impossible to reach a favourable trade outcome.”

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The western press will simply continue to claim that Russia’s the aggressor, not NATO or the US. Case solved.

Russia Says US Is Training Europe To Use Nuclear Weapons Against It (CNBC)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the U.S. was still deploying “strategic arms” in Europe and was training European countries to use nuclear weapons, violating a major nuclear arms agreement called the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Lavrov said that nuclear disarmament was impossible without taking into account factors which destabilize “strategic stability and international security today,” including, he said, “the deployment of a global anti-missile system” and “the deployment of U.S. strategic arms in Europe and the continuing destabilizing practice of ‘joint nuclear missions,’ as they call them.” “As we all know, these nuclear missions violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty and non-nuclear states plan and take part in the U.S. exercises and learn how to use the nuclear weapons,” he said.

For its part, he said Russia had reduced its nuclear arsenal by 85% compared to the Cold War era. The Russian Foreign Ministry has complained about what it calls “joint nuclear missions” and says the U.S. has many nuclear weapons located in Europe. It also says the U.S. is training European countries to use these weapons. Last April, the foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said that “Washington’s approach to compliance with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is still of great concern. The U.S. and its non-nuclear NATO allies continue their nuclear skill training as part of the so-called “nuclear sharing”,” it said.

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But Merkel wants her refugee treaty. Or she’s done.

American Hellenic Institute Urges Trump To Condemn Turkish Aggression (K.)

The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) sent a letter to US President Donald J. Trump in the wake of acts of Turkish provocation and aggression in the eastern Mediterranean and broader region that have dire implications to American security interests. In the February 27 letter, AHI President Nick Larigakis requests President Trump to condemn strongly Turkish aggression and acts of provocations that have been directed at the United States, Greece, Cyprus, and international oil and gas companies – all of which have occurred in the month of February.

Larigakis cites: a Turkish coastguard vessel colliding with a stationary Greek coastguard vessel, the harassment of Italian oil company Eni’s surveying vessel by Turkish warships, which threatened to sink Eni’s surveying vessel because it was on its way to survey for energy resources in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus; and Turkish President Erdogan’s threat of an “Ottoman slap” to United States military forces if they continued to partner with Syrian Kurds in Syria.

In addition, Larigakis raised the concern among NATO allies about Turkey’s purchase of four divisions of S-400 missiles from Russia and how it potentially subjects Turkey to US sanctions. “Turkey’s aggressive and provocative actions directed at the United States and U.S. allies, Greece and Cyprus, are overt, egregious and dangerous. I urge the administration to act to uphold the rule of law and to call on Turkey, the provocateur of these tensions, to cease and desist with its aggressive actions that are a threat to peace and stability and are not in the best interests of the United States,” Larigakis concludes.

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Just about nobody has that kind of cash to withdraw anymore. Thanks a lot.

Greece Loosens Capital Controls, Raises Cash Withdrawal Limit (R.)

Greece on Wednesday moved to ease capital restrictions imposed since the summer of 2015, raising the monthly limit of cash that can be withdrawn from bank accounts by 28%. Athens first imposed capital controls in July 2015 to stem a flight of cash from its banks at the height of a debt crisis which led to its third financial bailout since 2010. Based on a finance ministry decree published in the government’s gazette, individuals will be allowed to withdraw lump sums of up to 2,300 euros in cash per month from bank accounts from 1,800 euros currently, effective from March 1.

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Just imagine the added job losses that come with this. And still, as I keep on saying, things can still only get worse from here.

Greek Jan-Feb 2018 Retail Sales Down 8.8% y-o-y, Up To 20% In Cities (K.)

Retail sales in the first two months of the year were down some half a billion euros on the same period in 2017, as households were left with less spending money after their Christmas shopping and purchases made during the Black Friday promotional event at the end of November. According to a survey conducted by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Enterprises (ESEE), retail turnover declined this past January and February by 8.8% compared to 2017. In absolute figures, this reduction translates into the loss of 484 million euros, with turnover up until Wednesday amounting to 5.02 billion, against 5.5 billion in January-February 2017.

In certain areas of the country the drop in sales turnover in the first two months of the year reached up to 40%, while out of Greece’s 65 traders’ associations, only one reported an increase from last year. In the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki, sales declined between 11 and 20% year-on-year. The ESEE survey showed that one in three enterprises offered discounts of between 21 and 40%, while two out of five offered discounts in excess of 40%.

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Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Donald Trump is as American as apple pie (even if both are imports). He’s brash and loud and abrasive and entirely focused on money, he’s given to exaggeration, he stretches the truth, he constantly seeks to appear bigger and richer than he really is; he ticks all the boxes of what it is to be American.

Trump’s role in US society is that he’s a mirror for America, he’s not just holding up a mirror, he is the mirror. But many Americans don’t like what they see reflected in him. They’re really just looking at themselves, and their society, but they don’t want to acknowledge that. They just want to get away from the mirror, or preferably, break it. But when someone holds up a mirror to you, the idea is for you to learn something, not break it.

Of course not every individual American fits the picture, but he’s very much the almost perfect reflection of what the country, the society, has become. And one point in which Trump is different from other ‘leaders’ is that he doesn’t try to look different from what he is, he doesn’t play a role like just about every other politician does.

He has that in common with Bernie Sanders, which is ironic given how different the two men are. Neither tries to, or even has the ability to, concoct a cool and calculated attempt at pleasing their viewers and listeners and voters at every twist and turn. With both Bernie and the Donald what you see is what you get.

That they appeal to different groups of people is obvious. As is the fact that Sanders is much less of an (arche)typical American than Trump is. Which means he has to work harder to get his points across. Sanders appeals to a part of America that people have largely forgotten.

Another thing that is true for both is that they are candidates for parties that are deeply broken, and inside a system that has no tolerance for other parties. Which makes you wonder whether it’s not the system itself that is broken. Where Hillary Clinton’s people managed to shove aside Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump’s Republican party had no such ‘luck’. Trump’s too all-American.

Of course the next issue must be that neither truly represent either party. They’re both ‘outsiders’ who’ve taken over existing -but failing- structures. Where this leads is unclear. Trump is busy ‘sanitizing’ the GOP, aka draining the swamp’, a process that may or may not cost him his job, and the Democrats would do well to undertake a similar spring cleaning. But the incumbent squids have their tentacles everywhere. Then again, that didn’t stop Trump. So far.

 

Then we get to the litany in investigations that are being conducted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has apparently laid the first charges in the Russia collusion investigation. Of course, like every single move in the case, this one too has to be as confusing and murky as possible. The indictment was sealed by a judge, and subsequently leaked to the press. Which is probably highly illegal.

We have no idea who’s going to be indicted, it will all be revealed on Monday. Or not. If Mueller’s team has confined itself to investigating whether the Trump campaign has colluded with the Russians, there wouldn’t seem to be too much at hand. But Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”, so the net is cast so broadly it sounds like anything goes.

They may go after Paul Manafort, known for his involvement with people in Russia and the Ukraine. Whether that included anything illegal is unclear. That it would have amounted to outright collusion by the Trump campaign is highly unlikely. Manafort has been gone from the Trump entourage since August 2016.

But there are so many people involved in the campaign, who knows? If you have a former FBI head hiring lawyers and researchers left and right for six months without any constraints, budgetary or otherwise, it would be baffling if they found nothing at all. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner?

 

What’s more interesting to come out of this circus is the picture of Washington -all of it- as an absolute cesspool and shithole. That these are the people, on either side of the aisle, that get to make the decisions is so worrisome it should make people think of leaving the country.

You have a conservative group led by the Free Beacon, funded by hedge-funder Paul Singer, that starts an ‘opposition research’ project to dig up dirt on Trump during the primaries. When that fails to halt Trump, the DNC and Clinton campaign take over the funding and expand it to include Washington dirt digger firm Fusion GPS, who in turn hire Christopher Steele to produce a very dubious dossier. Fusion GPS execs all took the fifth when asked.

Somewhere along the way the FBI got involved too. That means James Comey and Robert Mueller. Who has such a ‘great reputation’ for being impartial. What a swamp it is. The echo chambers on both sides know exactly, and in advance, who’s to blame. But anyone who finds those chambers too deafening must be awfully confused and conflicted by now. Who to believe?

The Russia collusion thing has been going on for a long time, first in the press, then on Capitol Hill, in the FBI and then the Special Counsel. During the process, both the same FBI and the Hillary camp, including the DNC have been exposed as having ties to Russian elements.

No proof has been presented of Putin supporting Trump through illegal channels. Will Mueller’s indictment(s) be the turning point? If Mueller doesn’t deliver clear and strong, if he doesn’t have something and someone too obvious to dispute, the whole scene may get a lot more hostile.

 

Over the past week, we’ve witnessed the exits stage left of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in sometimes dramatic fashion decrying anything Trump. Who simply reacts by saying neither would have been re-elected anyway (about Corker: “he couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in Tennessee”).

Essentially, what these guys do is try and play Trump’s game. But he’s much better at it than they are. The game has changed profoundly, and they missed out on that. Which is the number one reason why Trump got elected president, and none of the ‘old guard’ did. Well, that and all GOP candidates in the primary debates looked completely lost.

A description from the Guardian:

Battle Hymns of the Republicans: Trump Civil War is Just Getting Started

“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation for the unacceptable to end,” Flake said, in explosive remarks that were instantly labeled as a historic act of defiance. “There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.” The senator delivered a 17-minute speech, framing the moment as an existential crisis for the party, taking direct aim at Trump’s conduct and what his presidency symbolized in a lacerating critique. It was an extraordinary event that would have otherwise been regarded as a major breach of decorum. But this is Washington in 2017. The norms have already been broken.

A handful of Flake’s colleagues sat stony-faced in the chamber as he implored Republicans not to acquiesce on core principles in the pursuit of appeasing Trump’s angry nationalist base. “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” he said. Flake went on, thrusting the knife even further into Trump, though avoiding naming him: “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

Among those who bore witness to Flake’s remarks was John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona who just a week previously blasted “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in a coded attack on so-called “Trumpism”. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, looked on stoically. As the speech reached its conclusion, one senator applauded: Ben Sasse, a young Republican from Nebraska who, like Flake, declined to endorse Trump in the 2016 election. Many of the Senate’s 52 Republicans were nowhere to be found.

They had just left a closed-door lunch with the president, dining over chicken marsala, green beans and Trump’s favorite, meatloaf, before a major push to overhaul the tax code. Much of the meeting featured Trump – characteristically – singing his own praises, according to some attendees. There was general discussion of taxes, but few specifics from a president who takes little interest in the policy details. It was nonetheless a cordial meeting, by Trump’s standards, embodied by the takeaway quote of John Kennedy, of Louisiana: “Nobody called anyone an ignorant slut.”

Many anti-Trump voices now speculate that he will try to fire Robert Mueller. Given how close the longtime FBI chief is to many of the parties involved, that might not be that crazy, but it would be explosive. He could also recuse himself on exactly those grounds. He won’t.

Then again, if he stays on, he will have to broaden his investigation to include the Clintons, the DNC and possibly the FBI itself. From the New York Post, and yes, I know what they are, but if I quote one article each from both sides of the echo chamber, maybe I find some balance:

Robert Mueller Should Resign

Their claim that nobody in the campaign or the DNC knew anything about the deal doesn’t pass the smell test. When as much as $12 million goes out the window for a document that aimed to win the election — and failed — everybody knows something. While the link to Clinton answers some questions, it raises others. For example, while it is certain her campaign spread the dossier among the media last summer, it remains uncertain whether the dossier was used by the White House and the FBI to justify snooping on the Trump campaign. One hint that it was is that Comey, while still in office, called the document “salacious and unverified,” but briefed Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents last January.

[..] the FBI never denied reports that it almost hired Steele, the former British spy, to continue his work after the campaign. The mystery might soon be solved because the FBI, after months of stonewalling, agreed last week to tell Congress how it used the dossier and detail its contacts with Steele. If the bureau did use the dossier to seek FISA warrants to intercept communications involving the Trump campaign, it would mean the FBI used a dirty trick from the candidate of the party in power as an excuse to investigate the candidate from the opposition party. Somewhere, Richard Nixon is wondering why he didn’t think of that.

There is also the issue of the “unmasking” of Trump associates caught up in the snooping, with the names leaked to anti-Trump media. It is essential to investigate that angle, but it would lead right to the Obama White House, which is why Mueller is not the man for the job. As for Clinton, the dossier revelation was not her only new problem. In fact, the second blow might be the most serious yet. At the urging of Congress and Trump, the Justice Department lifted its gag order on an informant who can now testify to Congress about bribery and other wrongdoing surrounding Moscow’s gaining control of 20% of US uranium production.

The 2010 transaction was approved by Obama officials, including Clinton, then secretary of state. About the same time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank involved in the transaction. Later, tens of millions of dollars — $145 million by one estimate — were said to be donated to the Clinton Foundation by individuals having a stake in the deal. The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told Fox News the speech fee and the donations amount to a “quid pro quo” for Hillary Clinton’s help. “My client can put some meat on those bones and tell you what the Russians were saying during that time,” Toensing said.

Is it a disgrace that Trump is president? Perhaps it is. Ideally, the country should do much better. But he didn’t get America into the troubled situation it’s in. He is not the rot in the system, he just lays it bare. He simply came along at the appropriate moment to expose what the country has become, and to what extent its political system has devolved into a veritable swamp of special interests and incumbent squids.

And Trump hasn’t won a thing yet. Don’t be surprised if the whole sordid Harvey Weinstein tale is used, if not set up from the start, to go after the Donald. In a cynical link to that, George H.W. Bush has been accused of groping women, at the same time his role in the JFK assassination was questioned. He was the only American who didn’t remember where he was when the murder took place. Turns out, the CIA operative happened to be in Dallas.

Interestingly, Trump will fly to Asia on November 3. By then we should know who Mueller has indicted. Will Trump even be allowed to return? It would be better for America if he is, because there are a lot of lessons left to be learned.