Dec 022018
 
 December 2, 2018  Posted by at 5:11 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Frans Masereel Montmartre 1925

 

 

The way ‘news’ is reported through known outlets changes so fast hardly a soul notices that news as we once knew it no longer exists. This is due to a large extent to the advent of the internet in general, and social media in particular. On the one hand this has led to an absolute overkill in ‘news’, forcing people to pick between sources once they find they can’t read or view it all, on the other hand it has allowed news outlets to flood the former news waves with so much of the same that nobody can compare one source with the other anymore.

Once you achieve that situation, you’re more or less free to make the news, rather than just report on it. The rise of Donald Trump has made the existing mass media realize that one-sided negative reporting on the man sells better than anything objective can. The MSM have sort of won the battle versus the interwebs, albeit only in that regard, and only for this moment, but that is enough for them for now; just like their readers, they don’t have the scope or the energy to look any further or deeper.

This is in a nutshell, and we really should take a much more profound look but that’s another chapter, what has changed the news, and what will keep on changing it until the truth sets us all free. This is what drives outlets like CNN, the New York Times and the Guardian today, because it provides them with readers and viewers. Which they would not have if they didn’t conduct a 24/7 war on a set list of topics they know their audience can’t get enough of.

For these outlets, there are are three targets: Assange, Putin and Trump. And it’s especially the alleged links between the three that gets media -and politicians- excited, because if such links exist, the case against the individual targets is greatly reinforced. Trump can be portrayed in a much more damaging light if he’s painted off as Putin’s stooge, Putin becomes an enemy of America, Britain and the EU is he’s deciding elections in these countries (and poisoning people), and Assange can really only be set in a negative light if he aids and abets both of them.

The problem would be evidence. Or it would seem to be, at least. But the news has changed. We are well into the second year of ‘reporting’ on how Trump and Putin have conspired against Hillary, and there is still no proof other than intelligence services swearing on their mothers’ graves that really, Assange, Putin and Trump have targeted our democracies in order to take over control of them by illegal means.

They are the enemy, and you, who are of course on the other side, are their victims. But your trusted media will save you from a grueling fate. Now, if the passing of George HW Bush makes anything clear, it’s how united politicians and media are in praise of him, and against everyone else. The Observer, Guardian’s Sunday sister, puts it ever so eloquently today:

“Whether it’s his shabby efforts to defend Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, his professed “love” for North Korea’s ruthless dictator, Kim Jong-un, or his unashamed kowtowing to Putin, Trump undermines his office.

What a sorry contrast he presents with the dignified former president, George HW Bush, who died this weekend. Bush Sr wasn’t perfect, but he understood what making America great really means.”

It shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to point out that HW was basically a war criminal in thinly veiled disguise, who ordered the bombing of a caravan of civilians in Iraq 27 years ago, as the US had invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had taken Kuwait egged on by that same US. If you can call that dignified, you have issues.

By the same token, it shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to point out that the umpteenth Guardian hit piece on Julian Assange was just that, and invented from A to Z as well. If, when seeing the headline, you didn’t see that in the first fraction of a second, you haven’t been paying attention; you’re well into the news matrix. By now, everyone should recognize these things for what they are. But it only appears to get harder. It’s what outlets like to report, and readers like to read. It paints the world into a nice neat scheme, in which the bad guys are easy to spot, and you find yourself in a safe and cozy corner.

The problem, though, is that the entire thing is fantasy. The headline Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say does not contain one iota of truth. But what does it matter? Assange has been cut off from the world, he can’t defend himself. Manafort is about to be thrown in jail for lying. The Russians can’t be trusted on anything, whatever they say must be a lie. And Trump gets so much of this stuff, he wouldn’t know where to begin anymore if he’d want to sue for libel.

One interesting detail about that ‘article’, after we’ve already established that they made it up, we know there’s not a single sign of Manafort having been in London around the time he allegedly met with Assange, is the connection between the Guardian and Ecuador. The paper has stationed people in Quito, the country’s capital. And sources within the Ecuadorian government appear to be feeding them material. Such as the claim that Manafort visited Assange. He wasn’t there. We know that from his passports and surveillance cameras.

The Guardian has a vendetta with Julian Assange, and Ecuador’s new president uses the paper to smear Assange’s name, painting him as an unwashed slob and a cat hater. This is your news, Britain and other anglo readers, this is what it’s come to. Already. And we’re just in the first inning of the game of making up the news as we go along.

The byline of that Manafort/Assange fantasy piece says “Luke Harding and Dan Collyns in Quito”. Now, on May 16 2018 I published an article entitled I Am Julian Assange, in which I referred to no less than three Guardian articles all published the day before, and all with the same topic.

The first one, Revealed: Ecuador Spent Millions On Spy Operation For Julian Assange, lists Dan Collyns, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Luke Harding, Fernando Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano as authors. The second one, How Julian Assange Became An Unwelcome Guest In Ecuador’s Embassy, lists Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dan Collyns.Number three is Why Does Ecuador Want Assange Out Of Its London Embassy?, written by poor lonely Dan Collyns in Quito all by himself.

It seems obvious that ‘Ecuador’ didn’t get sick of Assange. What happened was Ecuador changed presidents. Rafael Correa’s longtime friend and right hand man Lenin Moreno ran for president as his logical successor, only to turn against his former mentor as soon as he was elected. And not long after that, the Guardian has sources in Quito which it could use to smear Assange even further.

 

This way of ‘making’ the news is not limited to the Guardian, and it’s not limited to its coverage of WikiLeaks. We must ask ourselves every step of the way if we can still call this sort of thing ‘news’, ‘coverage’ and ‘reporting’. Let’s hope both WikiLeaks and Paul Manafort sue the paper, but apparently they’ll need a lot of money to do it. An additional layer of protection for fake news.

The Guardian is not just after Assange, and it’s not just Luke Harding writing hit pieces. Here are the paper’s editors on November 30. The fallout of the Manafort/Assange piece has made them sort of careful in that they say: “what we say is probably not true, but imagine if it were! Wouldn’t that be terrible?!”

America’s Compromised Leader (Guardian Op-Ed)

Earlier this week Donald Trump stood on the south lawn of the White House and ridiculed Theresa May’s Brexit agreement as a “great deal for the EU”. He is likely to make the same contemptuous case during the G20 summit in Argentina this weekend, although pointedly there is no planned bilateral. Given the political stakes facing her back home, Mrs May must feel as if 14,000 miles is a long way to travel for the weekend merely to be trashed by supposedly her greatest ally. When this happens, though, who does Mrs May imagine is confronting her? Is it just Mr Trump himself, America First president, sworn enemy of the international order in general and the European Union in particular?

That’s a bad enough reality. But might her accuser also be, at some level, Vladimir Putin, a leader whose interest in weakening the EU and breaking Britain from it as damagingly as possible outdoes even that of Mr Trump?

That prospect is even worse. Such speculation would normally seem, and still probably is, a step too far. The idea that a US president is in any way doing the Kremlin’s business as well as his own is the stuff of spy thrillers and of John le Carré TV adaptations. Yet the icy fact is that the conspiracy theory may now also contain an element of truth.

[..] Days before he took office in 2017, Mr Trump said that “the closest I came to Russia” was in selling a Florida property to a Russian oligarch in 2008. If Mr Cohen’s statement is true, Mr Trump was telling his country a lie. What is more, the Russians knew it. Potentially, that raises issues of US national security. If Mr Putin knew that Mr Trump was concealing information about his Russian business interests, this could give Moscow leverage over the US leader. Mr Trump might feel constrained to praise Mr Putin or to avoid conflicts with Russia over policy. All this may indeed be very far-fetched. Yet Russia’s activities in the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and in favour of Mr Trump are not fiction.

They prompted the setting up of the Mueller inquiry into links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Another document this week suggests a longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone, may have sought information about WikiLeaks plans to release hacked Democratic party emails in 2016. There is nothing in the documents released this week that proves that Mr Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the presidency.

Yet those efforts were real. For two years, Mr Trump has gone to unprecedented lengths to attack the special counsel. After November’s midterms, he seemed on the verge of firing Mr Mueller. He may yet do so. But this week’s charges suggest that there is plenty more still to be revealed. Mr Trump still has questions to answer from the investigating authorities, from the new Congress – and from America’s long-suffering allies.

You see what they do, and how they do it? Big statement, and then say it’s probably not true. Post Manafort/Assange disaster piece, their lawyers have provided a way to legally make outrageous claims. It’s still smear, and it’s still slander, but they’ve already covered their asses by saying it’s probably a step too far. Still managed to say it though… And hey, what’s not to like about the phrase “..America’s long-suffering allies”?

Also on November 30, the Guardian ran the following piece. Note the headline. And realize there never was a deal. Which the article acknowledges of course. Just not in the headline.

Trump Calls Russia Deal ‘Legal And Cool’ As Mueller Inquiry Gathers Pace

Donald Trump, drawn deeper into an investigation into Russian meddling in US elections, has defended his pursuit of a business deal in Moscow at the same time he was running for president as “very legal & very cool”. Trump appeared rattled this week after Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, confessed that he lied to Congress about a Russian property contract he pursued on his boss’s behalf during the Republican primary campaign in 2016. The surprise admission cast the president himself as a pivotal figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion for the first time. In a series of tweets from Buenos Aires, where he is attending the G20 summit, Trump recalled “happily living my life” as a property developer before running for president after seeing the “Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly)”.

Smear Slander Rinse and Repeat. All you need to do is add “it’s probably not true” here and there, and you’re good to go. People claim that the coming age of AI and algorithms is a threat to news dissemination, but at this pace there won’t be much left to threaten.

I think I’ll close with that Observer quote I posted above. It’s just perfect.

Donald Trump’s Growing List Of Failures (Observer Op-Ed)

“Whether it’s his shabby efforts to defend Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, his professed “love” for North Korea’s ruthless dictator, Kim Jong-un, or his unashamed kowtowing to Putin, Trump undermines his office. What a sorry contrast he presents with the dignified former president, George HW Bush, who died this weekend. Bush Sr wasn’t perfect, but he understood what making America great really means.”

Okay, can’t help myself. MbS: not shabby efforts, but a refusal to risk being singled out and be blamed for $400 oil prices by the same Senators who tolerated Saudi behavior for decades. Kim Jong-un: Trump is closer to peace in Korea than anyone in decades. The claim Trump is ‘kowtowing’ to Putin only makes sense if you believe the unproven allegations of collusion. Robert Mueller hasn’t provided any evidence of it in 18 months, but a bunch of guys in a London office know better? As far as the dignity of Bush 41 is concerned, I see no reason to add one single syllable.

I will never get tired of defending Julian Assange. I do get tired of defending Trump, but the media leaves me no choice. There’s a dire need for at least a little balance in what passes for the news, and that balance seems to get further out of reach every passing day. News outlets have resorted to propaganda campaigns against individuals, organizations and even entire nations because it helps them sell copies, ads and airtime.

And frankly, we must prepare for smear and allegations thought up out of thin air just to make a profit, to be used to lock away people for life regardless of what a nation’s laws say, for presidents to be impeached because it suits the owners of papers or TV stations (despite Trump being their meal ticket), and we must for the inevitable endgame, fake news as the reason to start a -nuclear- war.

 

 

Nov 302018
 
 November 30, 2018  Posted by at 11:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Emil Nolde Zwei Schwimmer1914

 

Rising Rates Are Killing The Housing Market (Roberts)
Libor Surges Most In 8 Months, Squeezing $200 Trillion In Credit (ZH)
How Jay Powell Could Be Walking His Tightrope (Street)
German Police Raid Deutsche Bank Offices In Money Laundering Probe (CNBC)
Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match “Fabricated” Assange Story (ZH)
Cohen Pleads Guilty For Misstatements To Congress About Russia (Hill)
Has Prime Minister May Just Signed Her Own Warrant Of Execution? (Peston)
Ukraine’s Pinochet Scenario (Nation)
Poroshenko: IMF Endorses Key Indicators Of 2019 Ukraine Budget (UNIA)
Ukraine Bars Entry To Russian Men Of Combat Age Citing Invasion Fears (R.)

 

 

Hard to do a relevant news aggregator today. News has largely been replaced by opinion and unproven allegations. Whether it’s Assange, or Trump, or Russia, or any combination of the three, any tidbit of ‘news’ is greeted with the re-submission of all those tidbits entered earlier that died off because there was no proof for them (either).

Well, at least this first article is real, though Lance Roberts ignores that there really is no housing market today, no more than there is a stock market. Both have been replaced by central bank manipulation which prevents prioce discovery. And yes, both are under severe threat from rates creating that price discovery.

Rising Rates Are Killing The Housing Market (Roberts)

The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the “real” employment situation. With roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort unemployed and living at home with their parents, the option to buy simply is not available. Another large chunk of that group are employed but at the lower end of the pay scale which pushes them to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage. Even after a “decade of recovery,” the full-time employment-to-population ratios remain well below levels normally associated with a strong economy, and wage growth remains stagnant. Both of which makes home affordability an issue.

Despite much of the media rhetoric to the contrary, I have warned repeatedly that rising rates would negatively impact the housing market which was still being supported by low interest rates. The mistake that mainstream analysts made was in the assumption that the recent increases in real estate prices were largely driven by first time home buyers creating an organic market. The reality, however, has been that market increases were being driven by speculators in the “buy to rent” game.

Read more …

Poeple have been calling for a replacement for Libor for years, but nothing has been forthcoming.

Libor Surges Most In 8 Months, Squeezing $200 Trillion In Credit (ZH)

While stocks, and with a notable delay bonds, were happy to run with Powell’s dovish reversal on Wednesday, one key market – arguably the most important one for financial conditions when it comes to the broader economy – has refused to respond. Earlier today, instead of reacting to what has been interpreted as the Fed Chair’s “dovish repricing” of future rate hike expectations, 3 month USD Libor jumped over 3 basis points to 2.73813%, the highest level in more than ten years. This was biggest daily jump in 3M Libor since March, and the second highest Libor increase of 2018. As a result, dollar funding conditions as measured by Libor-OIS have also tightened notably, as the spread widened to 36bp from 33.8bp prior session, and is once again approaching the levels seen during the spike earlier this year.

The reason why rising Libor remains a major risk to financial conditions is its footprint can be found everywhere, from OTC interest rate swaps, to leveraged loans – considered by many as the locus of the next credit crisis – to retail mortgages, to complex securitizations. According to the TBAC, just about $200 trillion in instruments are exposed to Libor’s interest rate footprint. Most affected by this ongoing rise may be the bond market, which has also been hit with the double whammy of tumbling oil, which earlier today dipped below $50/barrel, a price widely seen as a “red-line” for junk bond investors, below which some may sell their exposure indiscriminately. And since energy is one of the largest components of the junk bond index, it is only a matter of time before contagion spread from oil, through highly leveraged energy producers to the rest of the market.

Read more …

Jay Powell’s power is an enormous threat to all Americans.

How Jay Powell Could Be Walking His Tightrope (Street)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has sounded increasingly measured in his last two public appearances. But there could be a method to his madness. After Powell made reference to the possibility that there will be fewer interest rate hikes in 2019 than initially expected at The Economic Club in New York, stocks surged. Powell said interest rates are “just below” neutral, meaning that there may not be all four rate hikes in 2019. For now, it seems there’s a ‘One and Wait’ policy at the Fed. “He really didn’t mean to pigeon-hole himself into saying ‘I’m committed to three or four more rate hikes’ through 2019,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, former adviser to the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve.

Now that housing prices, oil prices, and even the stock market have all dropped considerably of late, four rate hikes may not be a good thing for the economy. Still, there’s a flip side to Powell’s walking back of his hawkishness. He doesn’t want to seem as if he’s yielding to President Trump’s wishes that the Fed slows down its rate hiking path. Powell had been hawkish for much of 2018, so in his latest remarks, “he really had to back off of that without looking like he was kowtowing to politics,” DiMartino said. “He wanted to reorient, if you will, investors away from their rigidity with saying ‘oh my gosh,’ we’ve got at least four more in 2019,'” DiMartino added.

Read more …

Raids continue today, Deutsche shares hit all time low of €8.03.

German Police Raid Deutsche Bank Offices In Money Laundering Probe (CNBC)

German police raided Deutsche Bank’s offices in Frankfurt on Thursday in a probe of money laundering against the country’s flagship lender. Two Deutsche Bank staff members are suspected of helping clients set up off-shore businesses to launder money gained from criminal deeds. Some 170 police officers, prosecutors and tax inspectors searched six of Deutsche Bank’s offices Thursday morning, Frankfurt’s public prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Numerous written and electronic business documents were seized, it added. “We confirm that police are currently investigating our bank at various locations in Germany. The investigation concerns the Panama Papers,” Deutsche Bank said in a statement, according to a CNBC translation.

[..] The public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt said an evaluation of data from the Panama Papers had triggered suspicion that the bank may have helped customers create offshore companies in tax havens around the world. In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers with a business volume of 311 million euros ($353.6 million) were thought to have been cared for by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary based in the British Virgin Islands, the prosecutor said. [..] Since 2015, the lender — which once had ambitions of competing on equal terms with Wall Street’s banking giants — has endured a failed stress test in the U.S., several attempts to restructure, a leadership shake-up and a ratings downgrade. Shares of the bank have tumbled almost 50 percent this year.

Read more …

More on that stupid Guardian story. WikiLeaks collects donations to sue the paper.

Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match “Fabricated” Assange Story (ZH)

Further evidence that The Guardian “entirely fabricated” a report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in 2013, 2015 and the spring of 2016; his passports… The Washington Times reports that Manafort’s three passports reveal just two visits to England in 2010 and 2012, which support his categorical denial of the “totally false and deliberately libelous” report in The Guardian, which said that Manafort visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy – ostensibly to coordinate on the WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The Times does note that Manafort could have conceivably entered the UK from another European country and not received a stamp – however a representative for Manafort insisted to the Times that Manafort has only made those two visits to England since 2008, and that a libel suit against the Guardian is under discussion. While two of Manafort’s passports were entered as evidence at his tax evasion trial – something that The Guardian’s Luke Harding and Dan Collyns could have easily looked up – the Times has obtained a copy of his third passport which confirms the two visits. “His attorney explained the passports this way: One was lost, one was used to submit to foreign embassies for visas, and one was used as a backup. Manafort later found the third passport.” -Washington Times

Read more …

A thousanda articles today based on hearsay. At least the Hill says ‘misstatements’. not ‘lies’. But yeah, more Mueller docs out into the open.

Cohen Pleads Guilty For Misstatements To Congress About Russia (Hill)

President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen on Thursday pleaded guilty for misstatements he made to Congress while testifying about his contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen appeared in a federal court in Manhattan after reaching a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. He pleaded guilty to making a false statement about the effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign while testifying before Congress, according to court documents, and made false statements about the timing of the project. Cohen made the misstatements while testifying before two congressional intelligence committees in 2017.

He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, according to a plea deal released by the special counsel. The plea from Cohen marks the first time he has been charged by Mueller as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. President Trump blasted Cohen as a “weak person” following the reports of his pleading guilty. The president accused Cohen of “lying” in order to receive a reduced sentence. “He’s trying to get a much lesser sentence by making up the story,” Trump said, adding “everybody knows about this deal.”

Read more …

“If she truly means what she says, that she has no plan B, she will be gone as PM within hours of losing the vote..”

Has Theresa May Just Signed Her Own Warrant Of Execution? (Peston)

The prime minister might have been a bit too clever when attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s and Labour’s opposition to her Brexit deal. Some four hours in to her 14-hour flight to the G20 leading nations’ summit in Argentina, she told journalists: “What they are doing is advocating rejecting the deal we negotiated with the EU without having any proper alternative to it. “They say they don’t want ‘no-deal’, but by appearing to reject a temporary backstop they are effectively advocating no-deal, because without a backstop there is no deal.” So, she is accusing Labour of ushering in the kind of economic no-deal calamity – a devastating recession that would see the income of the UK slashed by a tenth – that was painted on Wednesday by the governor of the Bank of England.

Which is a critique Labour will have to answer. But in understanding the true import of what she said, Labour is arguably a sideshow. In couching her attack on Labour in that way she – presumably inadvertently – also accused her estranged allies, Northern Ireland’s DUP, and her own Brexiter MPs of the same crime, because they too hate the backstop that is designed to keep open the border on the island of Ireland (and is seen by critics as driving a wedge between GB and Northern Ireland, and sacrificing the whole UK’s right of self determination).

By advancing the argument that there is no deal without the backstop, she is telling the DUP and her Brexiters that there is no Plan B – that if they vote down her deal on 11 December, it’s off to no-deal hell in a handcart of their own design. But, rightly or not, they do not believe the choice is her backstopped deal or no deal. Which is why they will reject her plan. And what is potentially lethal for her is that they will on Friday feel more obliged to reject and oust her pronto, if as expected they throw out her deal – because how could they support a PM so fatalistic and negative about finding a negotiated backstop-free Brexit? [..] If she truly means what she says, that she has no plan B, she will be gone as PM within hours of losing the vote [..]

Read more …

Ukraine withdrew from treaty in September. That opened the way for…

Ukraine’s Pinochet Scenario (Nation)

At first glance, Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian warships that attempted to enter the Sea of Azov seems to follow a familiar pattern of aggression aimed at solidifying control over the annexed Crimean peninsula. Upon closer inspection, however, there is much more going on here than a dispute over transit rights. By firing upon the Ukrainian vessels, Russia violated the December 2003 agreement on cooperative use of the Sea of Azov, which clearly provides for the unimpeded transit of both military and commercial ships of either country. This was immediately condemned by Washington and other Western capitals.

But it is worth noting that this agreement is explicitly tied to the 1997 Treaty of Friendship between the two countries. Indeed, when Ukraine withdrew from this treaty this past September, many Ukrainian legal experts warned that it would actually undermine Ukraine’s legal standing in the event of a border dispute. In October, therefore, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko unilaterally issued a set of directives delimiting Ukraine’s new border in the Azov and Black seas. Little noted at the time, these also apparently contained “an extensive secret section in the form of directives to the Council for National Security and Defense” to be carried out within the next 30 days.

This is where the president’s response to the latest incident becomes interesting. Within hours of the Russian military action, Poroshenko managed to convene his war cabinet, got it to propose martial law nationwide, and demanded that the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) approve it. No other crisis—not even the presence of Russian troops in Donbass and Crimea—has ever evoked such a draconian response. The decision to do so now, at the onset of the presidential campaign, therefore raised enormous suspicions.

Read more …

Really? That’s what the IMF is for? Keep your eyes open for Nordstream 2 news bits. Willy Wonka has steered the country towards finacial disaster.

Poroshenko: IMF Endorses Key Indicators Of 2019 Ukraine Budget (UNIA)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that the IMF has endorsed the key indicators of the country’s national budget for 2019 to facilitate further cooperation. “The Head of State informed Madame Lagarde about the adoption and the key parameters of the state budget of Ukraine for the year 2019. Madame Lagarde noted that, according to the IMF’s preliminary estimates, the key indicators of the state budget of Ukraine are in line with the parameters agreed with the Fund,” Poroshenko’s press service said in a follow-up of a telephone conversation between the Ukrainian President and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde also confirmed the IMF’s readiness to continue the good cooperation with Ukraine and to support the country in the implementation of its reforms. It was noted that the IMF stands ready to provide Ukraine with appropriate technical assistance to help improve Ukraine’s fiscal policies and tax administration. During the conversation, it was particularly underlined that the introduction of the martial law does not influence the interaction with the IMF. They also highlighted further steps to be taken in the context of a meeting of the IMF Executive Board in December to discuss the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Ukraine.

Read more …

Not the Onion.

Ukraine Bars Entry To Russian Men Of Combat Age Citing Invasion Fears (R.)

Ukraine announced it was barring entry to Russian men between 16-60 years and a senior state security official said Kiev was considering whether to respond in kind with “mirror actions” to the Black Sea incident. Earlier, in a move applauded in Kiev, U.S. President Donald Trump called off a meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Argentina to signal Washington’s disapproval of Russian behavior in the naval clash with Ukraine. News of the canceled meeting pushed down the Russian rouble, which is sensitive to events that might lead to new sanctions being imposed on Russia.

Announcing the move, President Petro Poroshenko, referring back to Russia’s seizure and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine, said it was important to stop full-scale invasion. “These are measures to block the Russian Federation to form detachments of private armies here, which in fact are representatives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Poroshenko said. “And not allow them to carry out the operations that they tried to conduct in 2014,” he added. [..] In Moscow, a Russian lawmaker was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Russia had no plans for a reciprocal move to bar Ukrainian men.

Read more …

Nov 292018
 
 November 29, 2018  Posted by at 8:26 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day 1884

 

Trump Adviser Sought WikiLeaks Emails Via Farage Ally – Mueller Document (G.)
Assange Never Met Manafort. Guardian Publishes More MI6 Lies (Murray)
Trump Threatens To Declassify ‘Devastating’ Docs About Democrats (NYP)
Fed Warns A ‘Particularly Large’ Plunge In Market Prices Is Possible (CNBC)
Fed’s Powell Sends Markets Soaring With Suggestion Rate Hikes May Slow (WaPo)
Obama Administration Used Tear Gas, Pepper Spray At Border Dozens Of Times (NW)
Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Worse Options Than President Trump (Week)
The Day Brexit Went Bust: BoE Says No Deal Will Cause Worst Slump Since WWII
Dublin: 30,000 Empty Homes And Nowhere To Live (G.)
Pressure Mounts To Bury Carbon Emissions, But Who Will Pay? (R.)
The Insect Apocalypse Is Here (NYTM)

 

 

Let me start by saying that is you are surprised that the Guardian publishes hit pieces like the ‘Manafort met Assange’ one, you haven’t been paying attention. Reading the Automatic Earth would have been enough for your first reaction to be: that is BS. But granted, it all spreads deep and wide. For example, picked this up on Twitter just now: Kudos to @ErinBurnett tonight for identifying Wikileaks as “an intelligence arm of the Russian government.” Yeah, Burnett is CNN.

On the other hand, there’s for instance Glenn Greenwald, also on Twitter, who says: Even 2 hours after I read it, I still can’t believe that Politico actually published an article by an ex-CIA agent under a fake name saying that if the Guardian’s blockbuster Assange/Manafort story is false, it’s Russia’s fault. Parodying the US media at this point is futile. Forgive me for not giving that Politico piece any space here.

WikiLeaks has announced they want to sue the Guardian, and Manafort is looking into it. Let’s hope that has some effect. The paper has already been busily redacting its ‘article’ away from liability, but the damage has definitely been done. As a matter of fact, it appears the paper is actively working with the Ecuador government to create a situation where extraditing Assange would be more easily accepted by the world.

To that end, as I’ve often said, it is seen as essential to connect Assange to Russia, even if no such connection exists. But since neither can defend themselves, Assange is cut off and Russia is not believed, it’s easy to just make stuff up. You really should get out of that Matrix, it won’t do anyone any good.

I still remain with a question though, now that the Guardian opens today with another smear piece. That is, Muller has been very secretive. So how did a draft legal doc of his end up at the Guardian? Was it leaked? Did he leak it? Why were there no earlier leaks?

Trump Adviser Sought WikiLeaks Emails Via Farage Ally – Mueller Document (G.)

An ally of Nigel Farage was asked to obtain secret information from WikiLeaks for Donald Trump’s team during the 2016 election campaign, according to US investigators. Ted Malloch, a London-based academic close to Farage, was allegedly passed a request from a longtime Trump adviser to get advance copies of emails stolen from Trump’s opponents by Russian hackers and later published by WikiLeaks. The allegation emerged in a draft legal document drawn up by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any collusion with Trump’s campaign team. In response to a series of questions from the Guardian, including whether he had acted on the request to make contact with WikiLeaks, Malloch said in an email: “No and no comment.”

Trump appeared increasingly anxious on Wednesday following the latest burst of activity from the investigation that has clouded his presidency. He claimed, without evidence, in a tweet that Mueller’s team was “viciously telling witnesses to lie about facts” in return for favourable treatment. The latest revelations come as the role of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has come under greater scrutiny amid reports in the US that Mueller is looking into his meeting with the Ecuadorian president in 2017. On Tuesday sources also told the Guardian that Manafort met with Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, a claim denied by both men.

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Craig Murray recognizes BS when he sees it.

Assange Never Met Manafort. Guardian Publishes More MI6 Lies (Murray)

I would love to believe that the fact Julian has never met Manafort is bound to be established. But I fear that state control of propaganda may be such that this massive “Big Lie” will come to enter public consciousness in the same way as the non-existent Russian hack of the DNC servers. Assange never met Manafort. The DNC emails were downloaded by an insider. Assange never even considered fleeing to Russia. Those are the facts, and I am in a position to give you a personal assurance of them. I can also assure you that Luke Harding, the Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times have been publishing a stream of deliberate lies, in collusion with the security services.

I am not a fan of Donald Trump. But to see the partisans of the defeated candidate (and a particularly obnoxious defeated candidate) manipulate the security services and the media to create an entirely false public perception, in order to attempt to overturn the result of the US Presidential election, is the most astonishing thing I have witnessed in my lifetime. Plainly the government of Ecuador is releasing lies about Assange to curry favour with the security establishment of the USA and UK, and to damage Assange’s support prior to expelling him from the Embassy. He will then be extradited from London to the USA on charges of espionage.

Assange is not a whistleblower or a spy – he is the greatest publisher of his age, and has done more to bring the crimes of governments to light than the mainstream media will ever be motivated to achieve. That supposedly great newspaper titles like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post are involved in the spreading of lies to damage Assange, and are seeking his imprisonment for publishing state secrets, is clear evidence that the idea of the “liberal media” no longer exists in the new plutocratic age. The press are not on the side of the people, they are an instrument of elite control.

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“Maybe it’s better that the public not see what’s been going on with this country.”

Trump Threatens To Declassify ‘Devastating’ Docs About Democrats (NYP)

In September, a group of Trump allies in the House – led by Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York – called on Trump to declassify scores of Justice Department documents they believe undercut the start of the Russia investigation and show bias against Trump. The documents include Justice officials’ request to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and memos on DOJ official Bruce Ohr’s interactions with Christopher Steele, the author of a controversial dossier that alleged Trump ties with Russia. Trump initially agreed to declassify the documents, including text messages sent by former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew G. McCabe as well as Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Ohr.

Trump allies believe the revelations will show favoritism toward Hillary Clinton and a plot to take down Trump. Trump then reversed course, citing the need for further review and concern of US allies. Trump added Wednesday that his lawyer Emmet Flood thought it would be better politically to wait. “He didn’t want me to do it yet, because I can save it,” Trump said. The president also pushed back on the notion that all the Justice Department documents should eventually be released for the sake of transparency. “Some things maybe the public shouldn’t see because they are so bad,” Trump said, making clear it wasn’t damaging to him, but to others. “Maybe it’s better that the public not see what’s been going on with this country.”

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The Fed should really try and revive what was once a market. It can only do that by stepping aside.

Fed Warns A ‘Particularly Large’ Plunge In Market Prices Is Possible (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve issued a cautionary note Wednesday about risks to financial stability, saying trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainty and a buildup in corporate debt among firms with weak balance sheets pose strong threats. In a lengthy first-time report on the banking system and corporate and business debt, the Fed warned of “generally elevated” asset prices that “appear high relative to their historical ranges.” In addition, the central bank said ongoing trade tensions, which are running high between the U.S. and China, coupled with an uncertain geopolitical environment could combine with the high asset prices to provide a notable shock.

“An escalation in trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainty, or other adverse shocks could lead to a decline in investor appetite for risks in general,” the report said. “The resulting drop in asset prices might be particularly large, given that valuations appear elevated relative to historical levels.” The drop in asset prices would make it more difficult for companies to get funding, “putting pressure on a sector where leverage is already high,” the report said. The report further noted that the Fed’s own rate hikes could pose a threat. A market and economy used to low rates could face issues as the Fed continues to normalize policy through rate hikes and a reduction in its balance sheet, or portfolio of bonds it purchased to stimulate the economy.

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Powell as a puppet master. He says JUMP and they all jump.

Fed’s Powell Sends Markets Soaring With Suggestion Rate Hikes May Slow (WaPo)

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell on Wednesday suggested that the central bank could slow the pace of its interest rate increases, a statement welcomed by investors worried about the strength of the global economy and swooning markets. His comments appeared to mark a change from his position last month, when he said that the Fed still had a “long way” to go before it reached what economists consider an appropriate level. Powell’s description of the central bank’s approach sent the stock market soaring, with investors eager for any sign that the Fed might be preparing to pause its slow but steady effort to raise interest rates.

Powell’s scheduled remarks at the Economic Club of New York came a day after President Trump pilloried Powell — whom he appointed last year — for his stewardship of the central bank. Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post that the Fed is a “much bigger problem than China,” complaining it is taking steps to withdraw stimulus from the economy — the latest in a wave of strong criticism that Trump has leveled at the Fed chair. Fed officials say they operate independently of politics, and there is no evidence that Powell made his comments in response to Trump’s attacks. But the remarks nevertheless could ease concerns among Fed critics, such as Trump, who have accused the central bank of moving too aggressively to slow the economy’s expansion.

The Fed had lowered rates to zero after the 2008 financial crisis, and it kept them there and took other steps to strengthen the economy after the deepest recession since the 1930s. Since December 2015, it has been reversing those efforts to avoid inflation and other risks associated with a hot economy.

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Long standing policies. You are right to oppose them, but not to single out Trump when doing so.

Obama Administration Used Tear Gas, Pepper Spray At Border Dozens Of Times (NW)

As the Trump administration continues to face widespread backlash over its use of tear gas against Central American asylum seekers at the southern border on Sunday, data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has shone a light on just how common the use of tear gas and pepper spray at the border really is. In a statement sent to Newsweek on Tuesday, the CBP said its personnel have been using tear gas, or 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), since 2010, deploying the substance a total of 126 times since fiscal year 2012. Under President Donald Trump, CBP’s use of the substance has hit a seven-year record high, with the agency deploying the substance a total of 29 times in fiscal year 2018, which ended on September 30, 2018, according to the agency’s data.

However, the data also showed that the substance was deployed nearly the same number of times in fiscal years 2012 and 2013 under former President Barack Obama, with CBP using the substance 26 times in fiscal year 2012 and 27 times in fiscal year 2013. CBP’s use of tear gas appeared to decline in the following years, with 15 uses in fiscal year 2014, eight in fiscal year 2015 and even fewer in fiscal year 2016, with three recorded instances. As Trump took office, the numbers began to rise again in fiscal year 2017, climbing to 18 deployments of tear gas, before reaching fiscal year 2018’s record high of 29 uses. CBP also noted in its statement that in addition to using tear gas, the agency also “regularly uses” Pava Capsaicin, or pepper spray.

[..] CBP spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said that more than 1,000 individuals who were part of the “so-called caravan” “attempted to cross illegally into the U.S. by breaching section of the fence and using vehicle lanes in and near the San Ysidro Port of Entry” on Sunday. “The group ignored law enforcement agencies in Mexico and assaulted U.S. Federal Officers and Agents assigned to respond to the situation in San Diego,” Malin said. The CBP spokesperson said that “in response to the assaults and to defuse this dangerous situation, trained CBP personnel employed less-lethal devices to stop the actions of assaultive individuals attempting to break into the U.S.”

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Neocons.

Yes, Virginia, There Really Are Worse Options Than President Trump (Week)

17 years after the United States overthrew the government of Afghanistan, 15 years after we toppled the government of Iraq, and 7 years after we deposed the government of Libya, neoconservative pundit William Kristol announced the goal of American foreign policy over the coming decades should be “regime change” in China, a nuclear power that also happens to have a population more than four times the size of the United States. This is important — for several reasons. It’s important because it shows that Kristol, despite burnishing his mainstream reputation over the past few years by unwaveringly opposing Donald Trump, remains an unrepentant neocon. It’s important because, along with a tweet storm Kristol produced to explain and defend his endorsement of Chinese regime change, it helps to clarify exactly what’s distinctive about neoconservative foreign policy thinking.

And it’s important, finally, because it so clearly illustrates just how dangerous and deluded that way of thinking really is. Yes, Virginia, there really are worse options than President Trump. In recent years, the term “neoconservative” has been emptied of meaning — used either by anti-Semites to mean “Jewish conservative” or by journalists as a synonym for “foreign policy hawk.” Neither is true to the history of the movement or what’s distinctive about the evolution of its ideas. The word was originally coined as an epithet to describe a group of liberal intellectuals who migrated rightward during the 1970s, eventually coming to support the presidency of Ronald Reagan. (Kristol’s father Irving was among them.)

At the time, these writers endorsed a range of domestic and foreign policy positions: They were tough on crime, defended the conservative side in the culture war, favored work requirements for welfare recipients, and endorsed a revival of the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

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Brexit is unraveling, but there’s no time left to change it.

The Day Brexit Went Bust: BoE Says No Deal Will Cause Worst Slump Since WWII

Britain is set to be poorer under every kind of Brexit according to two major official studies, released as Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally said a fresh referendum now looks “inevitable”. Pressure to give the British public a Final Say on leaving the EU mounted after Treasury estimates suggested Theresa May’s Brexit deal will leave GDP 3.9 per cent lower than if the UK remain in the bloc. A separate Bank of England study warned of an economic catastrophe in the case of a no-deal departure, including an immediate, savage recession, soaring interest rates and collapsing house prices. Amid the grim data, shadow chancellor John McDonnell gave the strongest signal yet that Labour would swing behind a people’s vote if Ms May’s plans are now blocked by the Commons as expected.

The drive for a new referendum will pick up pace on Thursday as Conservative former minister Jo Johnson delivers a speech warning his party faces electoral armageddon if it forces Ms May’s deal through. The prime minister again tried to defend the deal in parliament as it came under fire from all sides, and she will face a further intense grilling from a committee of the most senior MPs on Thursday morning. [..] The gloomy forecasts were echoed later in the day by the Bank of England, which indicated that under a disorderly no-deal Brexit, the economy could shrink by 8 per cent within a single year, property prices might plunge almost a third, the pound would crash and interest rates soar under a worst-case scenario. Brexiteers attacked the data and the bank itself, with Jacob Rees-Mogg saying: “It is unusual for the Bank of England to talk down the pound and shows the governor’s failure to understand his role. He is not there to create panic.”

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The benefits of Airbnb. It creates elites and poor sods.

Dublin: 30,000 Empty Homes And Nowhere To Live (G.)

About 10,000 people in Ireland are reckoned to be homeless. The number of families who have nowhere to live has increased by more than 20% since 2017. These are national problems, but they are inevitably concentrated in Ireland’s capital, home to more than 10% of the country’s population. In the four months between June and September, 415 Dublin families – including 893 children – became newly homeless, adding to a total across the city of about 1,400. Increasing numbers are being forced to live in hotels. Meanwhile, residential neighbourhoods echo to the clack-clack-clack of suitcase wheels. The city is smattered with key boxes for Airbnb apartments.

A stock line among activists demanding action from the government gets to the heart of all this: in 21st-century Dublin, they say, homeless families stay in hotels, and tourists stay in houses. [..] The Greater Dublin area is reckoned to have more than 30,000 properties that are completely empty, many of which are owned by the local council. Thanks chiefly to Ireland’s corporate tax rate of 12.5%, Dublin is home to the European HQs of Facebook, TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, eBay and, poetically enough, Airbnb. The number of high-paid employees who work for such companies is one of the reasons advertised rents in the city now average around €1,900 a month. As Brexit grinds on, there are fears that if companies relocate from the UK to Ireland, it will only add to Dublin’s housing problems.

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Why stop producing it if you can make yourself believe there’s a carpet you can sweep it under?

Pressure Mounts To Bury Carbon Emissions, But Who Will Pay? (R.)

Environmentalists worry the costly technology, known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), will perpetuate the fossil fuel status quo when rapid and deep cuts energy use are needed to limit global warming. But proponents of CCS will be lobbying hard at the two-week climate conference in Katowice, Poland, for the extensive investment and regulatory change required to employ it at scale, citing U.N. assessments that it could play a role. “The expectation is that Katowice will be important,” said Stephen Bull, a senior vice president at Norwegian state-controlled oil company Equinor, which is involved in developing a CCS project called Northern Lights.

“CCS is the only way to go,” he said, arguing that countries need the technology to help fulfil the pledges they made around the time of the breakthrough Paris climate change agreement in 2015. A United Nations report warned on Tuesday that nations would have to triple their current efforts to keep global temperature rises within boundaries scientists say are needed to avoid devastating floods, storms and drought. Along with the United States, Norway is one of the countries at the forefront of drive for CCS, building on 20 years of diverting carbon dioxide from its vast gas output and using some to push out hard-to-reach oil from aging fields.

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“We notice the losses,” [..] “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.”

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here (NYTM)

In the United States, scientists recently found the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years, a loss of 900 million individuals; the rusty-patched bumblebee, which once lived in 28 states, dropped by 87 percent over the same period. With other, less-studied insect species, one butterfly researcher told me, “all we can do is wave our arms and say, ‘It’s not here anymore!'” Still, the most disquieting thing wasn’t the disappearance of certain species of insects; it was the deeper worry, shared by Riis and many others, that a whole insect world might be quietly going missing, a loss of abundance that could alter the planet in unknowable ways. “We notice the losses,” says David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut. “It’s the diminishment that we don’t see.”

Because insects are legion, inconspicuous and hard to meaningfully track, the fear that there might be far fewer than before was more felt than documented. People noticed it by canals or in backyards or under streetlights at night – familiar places that had become unfamiliarly empty. The feeling was so common that entomologists developed a shorthand for it, named for the way many people first began to notice that they weren’t seeing as many bugs. They called it the windshield phenomenon. To test what had been primarily a loose suspicion of wrongness, Riis and 200 other Danes were spending the month of June roaming their country’s back roads in their outfitted cars.

They were part of a study conducted by the Natural History Museum of Denmark, a joint effort of the University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University and North Carolina State University. The nets would stand in for windshields as Riis and the other volunteers drove through various habitats — urban areas, forests, agricultural tracts, uncultivated open land and wetlands — hoping to quantify the disorienting sense that, as one of the study’s designers put it, “something from the past is missing from the present.” [..] A 1995 study, by Peter H. Kahn and Batya Friedman, of the way some children in Houston experienced pollution summed up our blindness this way: “With each generation, the amount of environmental degradation increases, but each generation takes that amount as the norm.”

[..] Ornithologists kept finding that birds that rely on insects for food were in trouble: eight in 10 partridges gone from French farmlands; 50 and 80 percent drops, respectively, for nightingales and turtledoves. Half of all farmland birds in Europe disappeared in just three decades. At first, many scientists assumed the familiar culprit of habitat destruction was at work, but then they began to wonder if the birds might simply be starving. [..] What we’re losing is not just the diversity part of biodiversity, but the bio part: life in sheer quantity. While I was writing this article, scientists learned that the world’s largest king penguin colony shrank by 88 percent in 35 years, that more than 97 percent of the bluefin tuna that once lived in the ocean are gone.

[..] We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.

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Nov 282018
 
 November 28, 2018  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Yasuhiro Ishimoto Chicago 1959

 

Stock Market Selloff Only Half-done, Final Leg In 2019 – Morgan Stanley (MW)
Home Prices Have Surged, Government’s Share Of Mortgages Will Too (MW)
Trump Says ‘Not Even A Little Bit Happy’ With Fed’s Powell (R.)
Manafort’s Lawyer Repeatedly Briefed Trump Attorneys On Mueller Talks (ZH)
If Manafort Visited Assange There Should Be Ample Evidence (Greenwald)
Manafort Plans To Explore “All Legal Options” Against The Guardian (ZH)
Poroshenko Claims Ukraine Offered ‘Military Assistance’ By US (Ind.)
‘Put Putin In His Place’, Ukrainian Ambassador Tells Germany (R.)
Ukraine Digests What Martial Law Will Mean (Ind.)
Chancellor Admits UK Will Be Worse Off Under All Brexit Scenarios (G.)
Murphy to the Rescue (Kunstler)

 

 

Sorry, useless predictions. MS knows no more than you do.

Stock Market Selloff Only Half-done, Final Leg In 2019 – Morgan Stanley (MW)

Elon Musk’s cringe-inducing Twitter meltdown, the rise and fall of bitcoin, and the record-breaking oil plunge — for some 2018 can’t end soon enough. But be careful for what you wish for as the bear that has rampaged through the stock market is expected to return in the new year, according to one Wall Street strategist. “The Rolling Bear market is now better understood by the consensus; and more importantly, it is better priced, with forward price/earnings falling 18% from peak to trough. In short, while 90% of the price damage has been done by this bear, we’ve likely only served 50% of the time,” said Mike Wilson, an equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, in a note to clients.

Wilson was among the handful of market watchers to predict the recent market wipeout even as stocks were trading at record levels. “The Rolling Bear is tired from all the mauling he has done this year. However, he is likely just resting rather than hibernating,” he said. ”The final leg of this bear likely won’t come until numbers are reduced for 2019, although that should feel a lot less painful than the multiple compression stage we experienced in 2018.” The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are poised to close out November in the red as worries about tighter liquidity resulting from the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes and a trade war with China triggered an exodus from stocks.

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Why do Fannie and Freddie atill guarantee $700,000+ loans? If they didn’t, homes would become much more affordable.

Home Prices Have Surged, Government’s Share Of Mortgages Will Too (MW)

A federal regulator has raised the dollar amount of home loans that qualify for backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant government-sponsored enterprises. In 2019, the maximum conforming loan limit will be $484,350, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday. That’s up 6.9% from the 2018 maximum of $453,100. The change is based on the rate of change in home prices between the third quarter of 2017 and third quarter of 2018, as measured by FHFA’s House Price Index. But in higher-priced areas, loan limits are capped at 150% of the baseline $484,350. That means Fannie and Freddie will guarantee loans up to $726,525 in roughly 100 higher-cost counties.

Raising the dollar limit on Fannie- and Freddie-backed loans is one way of lubricating the mortgage market. If banks or other lenders can sell bigger mortgages to the enterprises, that makes it easier for them to keep lending. In turn, that makes it easier for would-be buyers to find financing that is generally more advantageous than other types of mortgages, like those backed by the Federal Housing Administration. But it also increases the risk to taxpayers. Fannie and Freddie operate with only a slim capital reserve, as the result of a 2012 directive from Congress that was patched over late in 2017. The update was owed to an agreement between FHFA Director Mel Watt and the U.S. Treasury even as they continue to guarantee between 40%-50% of new mortgages. That means that in any given quarter, either company is at risk of having to take taxpayer money.

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Trump senses the danger, and then ridicules himself.

Trump Says ‘Not Even A Little Bit Happy’ With Fed’s Powell (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday kept up his criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, saying rising interest rates and other Fed policies were damaging the U.S. economy, the Washington Post said. “So far, I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay,” the Post quoted Trump as saying in an interview, referring to the man he picked last year to lead the Fed. “Not even a little bit. And I’m not blaming anybody, but I’m just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they’re doing.”

In recent months, the Republican president has repeatedly criticized Powell and the Fed’s interest rate increases that he said was making it more expensive for his administration to finance its escalating deficits. Trump has called the Fed “crazy” and “ridiculous.” “I’m doing deals, and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed,” Trump told the Post on Tuesday. “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

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Joint defense agreements are common and fully legal, but the NY Times labels this one “highly unusual”. Summarized: Mueller was outflanked, though he could/should have known, and Manafort may be relying on a pardon.

Manafort’s Lawyer Repeatedly Briefed Trump Attorneys On Mueller Talks (ZH)

One day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that Paul Manafort had lied and violated his plea agreement with Federal prosecutors, and as a result should be sentenced immediately, the NYT has reported that in a “highly unusual” arrangement, a lawyer for Paul Manafort had repeatedly briefed president Trump’s lawyer on what he told Mueller and other federal investigators after he agreed to cooperate with the special counsel. While the arrangement is not illegal, it reportedly inflamed tensions with the special counsel’s office when prosecutors discovered it after Mr. Manafort began “cooperating” two months ago, with some legal experts speculating that Manafort’s backdoor cooperation with Trump’s legal team was a bid by Trump’s former campaign chair for a presidential pardon even as he worked with Mueller in hopes of a lighter sentence.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani acknowledged the arrangement to the NYT, and “defended it as a source of valuable insights into the special counsel’s inquiry and where it was headed.” Such information could help shape a legal defense strategy, and it also appeared to give Mr. Trump and his legal advisers ammunition in their public relations campaign against Mr. Mueller’s office. As an example of what Manafort told the Trump legal team, Giuliani said, Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing told him that prosecutors hammered away at whether the president knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Russians promised to deliver damaging information on Hillary Clinton to his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, although this line of investigation is hardly a surprise. Trump has long denied knowing about the meeting in advance, with Giuliani saying that Mueller “wants Manafort to incriminate Trump.”

What is notable is that this kind of joint defense agreement is legal, and while Downing’s discussions with the president’s team violated no laws, they helped contribute to a deteriorating relationship between lawyers for Manafort and Mueller’s prosecutors, who on Monday accused Manafort of holding out on them and even lying, despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant. As a result of the collapse of the plea deal, Manafort will now face sentencing on two conspiracy charges and eight counts of financial fraud — crimes that could put him behind bars for at least 10 years. Just as importantly, Manafort’s frequent updates helped reassure Trump’s legal team that Manafort had not implicated the president in any possible wrongdoing, which begs the question just how was Manafort “cooperating” with Mueller for two whole months.

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Greenwald: “The Guardian itself “obtained the Embassy’s visitors logs in May,” and made no mention of Manafort’s visits at the time..”

Excuse me, but Greenwald and others do Luke Harding and the Guardian far too much honor by going into the details. The guy wrote a book called ‘Collusion’ for Pete’s sake. he does smear and hit pieces on Assange for a living. WikiLeaks is dead on when it says “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation..”

Only, Harding and Guardian have published at least a dozen other stories of the same ‘level’. That reputation should be long gone. It’s not. Matrix.

If Manafort Visited Assange There Should Be Ample Evidence (Greenwald)

The Guardian today published a blockbuster, instantly viral story claiming that anonymous sources told the newspaper that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorian Embassy, “in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016.” The article – from lead reporter Luke Harding, who has a long-standing and vicious personal feud with WikiLeaks and is still promoting his book titled “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House” – presents no evidence, documents or other tangible proof to substantiate its claim, and it is deliberately vague on a key point: whether any of these alleged visits happened once Manafort was managing Trump’s campaign.

For its part, WikiLeaks vehemently and unambiguously denies the claim. “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation,” the organization tweeted, adding: “WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” The group also predicted: “This is going to be one of the most infamous news disasters since Stern published the ‘Hitler Diaries.’ [..] Of course it is possible that Manafort visited Assange – either on the dates the Guardian claims or at other times – but since the Guardian presents literally no evidence for the reader to evaluate, relying instead on a combination of an anonymous source and a secret and bizarrely vague intelligence document it claims it reviewed (but does not publish), no rational person would assume this story to be true.

But the main point is this one: London itself is one of the world’s most surveilled, if not the most surveilled, cities. And the Ecuadorian Embassy in that city – for obvious reasons – is one of the most scrutinized, surveilled, monitored and filmed locations on the planet.

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Entirely in the vein of my article yesterday about people living in the Matrix, we need to ponder that outlets like the Guardian no longer care about their credibility, but instead rely on people swallowing whole anything they say, today about Manafort, Assange and Russian aggression, tomorrow about other topics. That is plenty scary.

Manafort Plans To Explore “All Legal Options” Against The Guardian (ZH)

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has responded to a “totally false and deliberately libelous” report in The Guardian that he had several meetings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In a Tuesday afternoon statement through a spokesman, Manafort said: “This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.”

The Guardian reported on Tuesday – based on unnamed sources – that Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, right around the time he joined Trump’s campaign. “Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House. It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.” -The Guardian

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If the US find someone else who obeys them, they’ll drop Poroshenko.

Poroshenko Claims Ukraine Offered ‘Military Assistance’ By US (Ind.)

Ukraine has been offered “military assistance” by the US amid rising tension with Russia, the country’s president Petro Poroshenko has claimed. America’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo, had assured him in a phone call that his country, had the “full support, full assistance, including military assistance, full coordination, what we [need] to do to protect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity”, Mr Poroshenko said. Addressing a suggestion that Donald Trump had been slow to back Ukraine over the stand-off, the Ukrainian leader told CNN host Christiane Amanpour, that the president “in his speech, also supported Ukrainian territorial integrity and [has] been on our side” The US president had earlier said: “We do not like what’s happening either way. We don’t like what’s happening, and hopefully it will get straightened out.”

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A bit overlooked perhaps. How much of a factor in the Russia aggression narrative is Nordstream 2? It would bankrupt Ukraine.

‘Put Putin In His Place’, Ukrainian Ambassador Tells Germany (R.)

Ukraine’s top diplomat in Germany urged Berlin and other Western states to punish Russia by extending sanctions, banning energy imports and putting the NordStream 2 gas pipeline on hold after Moscow seized three Ukrainian ships near Crimea. The ambassador even raised the possibility of sending German marines to the region. Several senior European politicians have raised the possibility of new sanctions against Russia after the incident on Sunday, which the West fears could ignite a wider conflict near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. “Germany must take a clear line … and put (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in his place,” ambassador Andrij Melnyk told German radio on Wednesday. “Everything is at stake.”

“The club of sanctions should be wielded quickly …. There should be a complete ban on gas and oil imports from Russia, NordStream 2 must be put on ice,” he said, adding only such measures could stop Putin’s “brutal, hoooligan-like” behavior. Ukraine is already nervous about the prospect of the NordStream 2 pipeline which increases Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, fearing it will lose out on transit revenues. “In military terms, what can you do? Sending German marines to the coast of Crimea … could help stop an escalation. If you are there, Russians have fewer possibilities to act so brutally,” he said.

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Anything that smells of Russia will be thrown in dungeons. That’s what it means. And Poroshenko means to stay in power.

Ukraine Digests What Martial Law Will Mean (Ind.)

A day after the Ukrainian parliament voted to introduce martial law across 10 border regions, there was little clarity about what it would actually mean in practice. With parts of the government on different pages, and the introduction of measures that could cover most aspects of life, even family, some areas of the country bordered on panic mode. In the southern city of Odessa, there were rumours of forced mobilisation, though these turned out to be false. In other cities across the region, shortages of foreign currency were reported. The text of the law eventually voted on was considerably watered down from the edict originally presented by President Petro Poroshenko on Monday afternoon.

That contained provisions for a state of martial law lasting 60 days across the whole country. By logical extension, that would have meant delaying next March’s presidential elections, a point that caused uproar among the opposition. The eventual compromise saw a commitment to fix the date of the elections, the duration reduced to 30 days, and the zone of coverage reduced to 10 border regions. The Independent understands that these concessions were made only at the last moment, and the vote would not have passed without them. In the text agreed by the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, the state of martial law was due to start on Wednesday morning at 9am local time.

But on Tuesday morning, the secretary of the national security council, Oleksandr Turchynov, said that a state of martial law was already in effect. To make matters even more complicated, the Government Courier, the state newspaper where all laws are published, printed a version of the original law, including provisions for 60 days of restrictions across all of Ukraine. [..] in the 10 border regions at least, the law potentially has a very wide scope. The presidential amendments introduce few restrictions on the overarching 2015 legislation covering martial law. In other words, it allows for extrajudicial searches of property, travel bans, closing media deemed against national interests, bans on rallies and demonstrations, limitations on private correspondence and communications, and even introducing limitations on education, private and family life.

Read more …

But that’s exactly what the people voted for, they want to be worse off, and you can’t deny them their vote, that’s bad for democracy.

Chancellor Admits UK Will Be Worse Off Under All Brexit Scenarios (G.)

Philip Hammond has admitted that the UK will be worse off “in pure economic terms” under all possible Brexit outcomes – including the prime minister’s own deal. Speaking on Wednesday morning, the chancellor gave strong hints the government had begun its contingency planning should it lose the vote in parliament on Theresa May’s Brexit deal negotiated with the EU. The latest Guardian analysis suggests 94 Tory MPs have confirmed they will vote against the deal, with numbers likely to tip into three figures in the coming days. Hammond suggested the economic hit would be mitigated if the deal was clinched, rather than the UK leaving with no deal.

Asked if all scenarios would have a cost, Hammond said: “If you look at this purely from an economic point of view, yes there will be a cost to leaving the European Union because there will be impediments to our trade.” Hammond said the deal would “absolutely minimise those costs” and would offer political benefits of being able to sign new trade deals and having new controls over fishing waters. “The economy will be slightly smaller in the prime minister’s preferred version,” he said. He said if the government loses the vote in parliament on 11 December, it would be in “uncharted political territory”. More than half of backbench Tory MPs who are not on the government payroll have committed to voting down the deal.

Read more …

Monday Morning I Want My Quarter Back

Murphy to the Rescue (Kunstler)

Ukraine verges on martial law after a naval incident with Russian ships in the waters off Crimea. Say what? Martial Law? They might as well declare a Chinese Fire Drill. Details of the actual incident around the Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov remain murky besides the fact that two Ukrainian gunships and a tug disobeyed orders from Russian ships to stand down in Russian maritime waters and shots were fired. Who knew that Ukraine even had a navy, and how can they possibly pay for it? But now NATO is trying to get into the act, meaning the USA will get dragged into just the sort unnecessary and idiotic dispute that kicks off world wars.

Note to the Golden Golem of Greatness (aka Mr. Trump): this dog-fight is none of our goddam business. Russia, meanwhile, asked the UN Security Council to convene over this, which is the correct response. What could go wrong? Late Monday update: I’ve heard reports this afternoon that Russia had intel Ukrainian ships were transporting an explosive device supplied by NATO which they suspected was intended to be deployed to blow up the strategic bridge across the Kerch Strait. Still unconfirmed chatter. Developing story….

Yesterday, about five hundred Central American migrants rushed the border at Tijuana. The US Border Patrol tear-gassed them and they backed off. Bad optics for those trying to make the case for open borders. Naturally, The New York Times portrayed this as an assault on families, defaulting to their stock sob story, though the mob assembling down there is overwhelmingly composed of young men. Complicating matters, a new Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, takes over next Saturday, a Left-wing populist and enemy of Trumpismo. Tijuana is now choking on the thousands of wanderers who were induced to march north to test America’s broken immigration policies. What could go wrong?

The engine pulling that choo-choo train of grievance is Robert Mueller’s Russian Collusion investigation. I expect him to produce mighty rafts of charges against Mr. Trump, his family and associates, and anyone who ever received so much as a souvenir mug from his 2016 campaign. But I doubt that any of it will have a bearing on Russian election “meddling.” And in that case, the charges will be met by counter-charges of an illegitimate investigation, meaning welcome to that constitutional crisis we’ve been hearing about for two years. That’s a mild way of describing anything from a disorderly impeachment to troops in the American streets. What could go wrong there?

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May 182018
 
 May 18, 2018  Posted by at 1:50 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Leonard Misonne Waterloo Place, London 1899

 

Let me start by saying I have nothing against the English newspaper The Guardian. They publish some good things, on a wide range of topics. But they also produce some real stinkers. And lately they seem to publish quite a few of those. On Wednesday there was an entire series of hit pieces on Julian Assange, which I wrote about in I Am Julian Assange.

And apparently they’re not done. As I said on Wednesday, the relationship between Assange and the paper has cooled considerably, after The Guardian’s initial cooperation with Wikileaks on files Assange had shared with them. But does that excuse hit pieces, personal attacks, innuendo, suggestive and tendentious writing, in bulk?

There was one more article in the hit pieces series on Wednesday:

Assange ‘Split’ Ecuador And Spain Over Catalan Independence

Julian Assange’s intervention on Catalan independence created a rift between the WikiLeaks founder and the Ecuadorian government, which has hosted Assange for nearly six years in its London embassy, the Guardian has learned. Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Assange’s support for the separatists, including a meeting in November, led to a backlash from Spain, which in turn caused deep concern within Ecuador’s government. While Assange’s role in the US presidential election has been an intense focus of US prosecutors, his involvement in Spanish politics appears to have caused Ecuador the most pain.

The Ecuadorians cut Assange’s internet connection and ended his access to visitors on 28 March, saying he had breached an agreement at the end of last year not to issue messages that might interfere with other states. Quito has been looking to find a solution to what it increasingly sees as an untenable situation: hosting one of the world’s most wanted men.

In November 2017, Assange hosted two supporters of the Catalan independence movement, whose push for secession from Spain had plunged the country into its worst political crisis since returning to democracy. Assange has said he supported the right to “self-determination” and argued against “repression” from Madrid.

He was visited by Oriol Soler, a Catalan businessman and publisher, and Arnau Grinyó, an expert in online communications campaigns. Their meeting, which was reported by the Spanish press, took place a little over a month after the unilateral Catalan independence referendum, and 13 days after the Spanish government responded to the unilateral declaration of independence by sacking the administration of the then Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and assuming direct control of the region.

I think that’s we call ‘leading’. Terminology like “..Assange’s role in the US presidential election..”, “..one of the world’s most wanted men..”, “..unilateral referendum..”, “..unilateral declaration of independence..”, are suggestive, they are meant to paint a picture in the reader’s head. What’s missing is any and all mention of the brutal violence in Catalunya on referendum day. That, too, has a purpose.

Assange has been a vocal critic of Madrid’s handling of the Catalan crisis and described the independence movement as “the redefinition of the relationship between people and state”, and “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi”. A Spanish diplomat told the Guardian that Spain “conveyed a message” to Ecuadorian authorities that Assange was using social media to support the secessionist movement and sending out messages “that are at odds with reality”.

A billion people have been critics of what happened around the referendum. So why not Assange? For what reason did he need to be shut up? Everyone can speak their mind, but not him? We no longer have freedom of speech? Isn’t that something a newspaper, most of all, first of all, should stand up for? An embassy of a democratic nation? No, not a word.

[..] “Spain has, on a number of occasions, informed the Ecuadorian authorities of its concerns over the activities that Julian Assange has engaged in while in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.” [..]In December, Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, reminded Assange that he should refrain from trying to intervene in Ecuadorian politics.

US intelligence agencies and Spanish authorities have separately claimed that Russia has had a hand in their domestic affairs. US agencies have accused WikiLeaks of working with Russian intelligence to try to disrupt the US election by releasing hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Spanish officials have suggested that much of the messaging on social media about the Catalan crisis originated in Russia.

Obviously, Assange has never interfered in Ecuadorian politics. That’s just utter nonsense. But that last bit takes the cherry. There is no proven link between Assange and Russia. There is no proven link between Russia and US elections. There is no proven link between Russia and hacked emails. There is no proof the emails were hacked. And as for Russia interfering in the Catalan referendum: oh, please.

Is this just very very bad journalism, or is it something more? You be the judge. But beware that almost all of this stuff consists of insinuations. It’s an affront to journalism.

Glenn Greenwald interviewed Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa after the Guardian pieces came out:

Ecuador’s Ex-President Denounces Treatment of Julian Assange as “Torture”

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, in an exclusive interview with The Intercept on Wednesday morning, denounced his country’s current government for blocking Julian Assange from receiving visitors in its embassy in London as a form of “torture” and a violation of Ecuador’s duties to protect Assange’s safety and well-being. Correa said this took place in the context of Ecuador no longer maintaining “normal sovereign relations with the American government — just submission.”

Correa also responded to a widely discussed Guardian article yesterday, which claimed that “Ecuador bankrolled a multimillion-dollar spy operation to protect and support Julian Assange in its central London embassy.” The former president mocked the story as highly “sensationalistic,” accusing The Guardian of seeking to depict routine and modest embassy security measures as something scandalous or unusual.

[..] Correa continues to believe that asylum for Assange is not only legally valid, but also obligatory. “We don’t agree with everything Assange has done or what he says,” Correa said. “And we never wanted to impede the Swedish investigation. We said all along that he would go to Sweden immediately in exchange for a promise not to extradite him to the U.S., but they would never give that. And we knew they could have questioned him in our embassy, but they refused for years to do so.” The fault for the investigation not proceeding lies, he insists, with the Swedish and British governments.

But now that Assange has asylum, Correa is adamant that the current government is bound by domestic and international law to protect his well-being and safety. Correa was scathing in his denunciation of the treatment Assange is currently receiving, viewing it as a byproduct of Moreno’s inability or unwillingness to have Ecuador act like a sovereign and independent country.

Maybe we should suggest that somebody may have interfered in Ecuador’s presidential elections?! You know, to get to Assange?!

Then today we read in the Guardian that in the aftermath of its hit series, Ecuador has dismissed security for Assange. Is this when MI6 and the CIA get to move in?

Ecuador To Remove Julian Assange’s Extra Security From London Embassy

The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the withdrawal of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years. The move was announced a day after an investigation by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador revealed the country had bankrolled a multimillion-dollar spy operation to protect and support Assange, employing an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police.

Over more than five years, Ecuador put at least $5m (£3.7m) into a secret intelligence budget that protected him while he had visits from Nigel Farage, members of European nationalist groups and individuals linked to the Kremlin.

[..] Ecuador suspended Assange’s communication systems in March after his pointed political comments on Twitter. Assange had tweeted messages challenging Britain’s accusation that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in Salisbury.

What? Ecuador muted Assange because he challenged Britain’s accusation -unfounded as far as we can tell- that Russia poisoned the Skripals? But wait. I thought they cut him off because of Spain? Or the US? Now it’s Britain? Everyone and their pet hamster is suspicious of that Skripal story. But again, Assange is not allowed to be?

Oh, and all the terrible, and terribly suspicious, people that came to see him. “Nationalists” and “individuals linked to the Kremlin.” Leading, suggestive, truly repugnant “journalism”.

But then, also today, that same Guardian gives the floor to Melinda Taylor, one of Assange’s lawyers. Do they think that giving her a voice makes up for all the damage they’ve done to Assange, to themselves, to freedom of speech and to journalism? One might be tempted to think so.

Julian Assange Is Suffering Needlessly. Why Not Report That?

Breaking news: a series of articles has been published by the Guardian concerning Julian Assange, splashed over the front pages. The big reveal? That after the UK threatened to invade the Ecuadorean embassy, Ecuador beefed up its security and surveillance at said embassy. And that this costs money. And there is pressure to find a solution to a situation that has been described by the United Nations as illegal and arbitrary detention.

Lost in the lede was this: that Ecuador appears to be hoping “that Assange’s already uncomfortable confinement will become intolerable”. The Oxford dictionary defines “intolerable” as “unbearable, insufferable, unsupportable, insupportable, unendurable, beyond endurance, unacceptable, impossible, more than flesh and blood can stand, too much to bear, past bearing, not to be borne, overpowering (…)”.

Isn’t the headline story that the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks remains detained without access to fundamental healthcare? And since March this year, has been cut off from the outside world, bar meetings with his lawyers, which have apparently been surveilled?

Assange has won numerous awards for publishing information that has exposed egregious violations of human rights and abuses of state power. He has also won the more dubious prize of being placed in the crosshairs of US government attempts to silence free speech by silencing the publications and publishers that dare to speak freely.

 

And if only the ongoing Julian Assange tragedy was the only affront to news gathering. But no, there’s still always the Skripals. It looks like the gag order has been lifted. Yesterday, the Sun, which at least doesn’t pretend to be a quality paper, ran this:

Sergei Skripal Still Being Questioned Over Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack

Detectives are still questioning poisoned spy Sergei Skripal as he recovers in hospital, nearly 10 weeks after being attacked with a nerve agent, Sky News has learned. They are trying to piece together the Russian former double agent’s life in retirement in Britain, as more details emerged of his recent activities. They want to know more about his regular train journeys to London, his trips abroad, and his monthly meetings with his alleged former MI6 handler in a Salisbury restaurant. It was reported this week that the 66-year-old had been briefing intelligence agencies in the Czech Republic and Estonia on Russian spies and their methods, giving one lecture as recently as 2016.

Would that activity, years after arriving in Britain in a spy swap with Moscow, have been motive enough for the murder attempt on him and his daughter Yulia? The government insists the Kremlin was responsible for the attack, in which the deadly nerve agent novichok was smeared on the front door handle of Mr Skripal’s Salisbury home. But former KGB officer and espionage historian Alexander Vassiliev said it was more likely the work of the Russian mafia, out to embarrass Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Mr Vassiliev said: “It wasn’t the reason to kill him. I’m sure when Putin released him, and pardoned him, he knew Skripal would be co-operating with British secret services and other European espionage agencies. “All defectors are doing it, they work as consultants, they give lectures, they write books – it’s a normal thing. He had to earn his living somehow – he wouldn’t have been a taxi driver. “Skripal was arrested in 2004 – that was a long time ago and he didn’t know specific details about current objectives or operatives. The Russian government had no reason to kill Skripal – he was nobody and he wasn’t a danger.

Now, that’s funny. He’s been briefing Czech intelligence. The Czech Republic, we learned recently, is one of a group of countries that have the formula for novichok AND have produced small quantities of it. The “it could only have been Russia” narrative is, based on what we know, dead as a door handle.

That was yesterday. And lo and behold, this morning the Guardian writes that Skripal has been discharged from hospital. They got all the info they wanted out of him?

Sergei Skripal Discharged From Salisbury Hospital

The Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, who was exposed to a nerve agent, has been discharged from Salisbury district hospital, health officials have said. Skripal’s release follows that of his daughter, Yulia, and DS Nick Bailey, who were also exposed to novichok in March. The hospital said: “While these patients have now been discharged, their right to patient confidentiality remains and limits us from giving detailed accounts of the treatment these individuals received. “However, treating people who are so acutely unwell, having been poisoned by nerve agents, requires stabilising them, keeping them alive until their bodies could produce more enzymes to replace those that had been poisoned.”

Yup, we’re sticking with the ‘novichok from Russia’ story. We’re not going to provide any proof, you will have to believe us. I think that’s the frame we must see this last article in, easily one of the weirdest things I’ve read in a while. And again it’s from the Guardian. “As if” to emphasize the dark and massive threat that is hanging over Britain. Create an atmosphere, paint a picture. Julian Assange and the Russians (and Trump!) against Spain, the US and Britain, those staunch defenders of human rights and ‘our values’.

Almost 100 Police Have Received Psychological Help After Salisbury Attack

Almost 100 Wiltshire police officers and staff have sought psychological support after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, the Guardian can reveal. Among those who have asked for help were officers who initially responded to the collapse of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and those who were at or close to the various investigation sites in subsequent days and weeks. Some reported feeling disorientated and anxious while others were concerned about the possible long-term health effects on the public.

Wiltshire’s chief constable, Kier Pritchard, told the Guardian that officers – including himself and other police personnel continued to receive help more than two months after the attack. Pritchard took up the role of head of the force on the day of the attempted murders and said he had personally received the “best support” as he worked through the implications for him and his family of being a high-profile figure in the response to a state-sponsored attack.

One police officer, DS Nick Bailey, spent more than two weeks in hospital after being exposed to the novichok nerve agent and when he was discharged said life would never be the same again.

 

You know who might have helped us try to find out what really happened to the Skripals? Julian Assange. But he’s been silenced. Where do we turn now? How do we find the truth anymore? Have we effectively all been silenced?

 

 

May 162018
 


Carl Spitzweg The raven 1845

 

Julian Assange appears to be painfully close to being unceremoniously thrown out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. If that happens, the consequences for journalism, for freedom of speech, and for press freedom, will resound around the world for a very long time. It is very unwise for anyone who values truth and freedom to underestimate the repercussions of this.

In essence, Assange is not different from any journalist working for a major paper or news channel. The difference is he published what they will not because they want to stay in power. The Washington Post today would never do an investigation such as Watergate, and that’s where WikiLeaks came in.

It filled a void left by the media that betrayed their own history and their own field. Betrayed the countless journalists throughout history, and today, who risked their lives and limbs, and far too often lost them, to tell the truth about what powers that be do when they think nobody’s looking or listening.

Julian is not wanted because he’s a spy, or even because he published a number of documents whose publication was inconvenient for certain people. He is wanted because he is so damn smart, which makes him very good and terribly effective at what he does. He’s on a most wanted list not for what he’s already published, but for what he might yet publish in the future.

He built up WikiLeaks into an organization that acquired the ultimate trust of many people who had access to documents they felt should be made public. They knew he would never betray their trust. WikiLeaks has to date never published any documents that were later found out to be false. It never gave up a source. No documents were ever changed or manipulated for purposes other than protecting sources and other individuals.

 

Julian Assange built an ’empire’ based on trust. To do that he knew he could never lie. Even the smallest lie would break what he had spent so much time and effort to construct. He was a highly accomplished hacker from a very young age, which enabled him to build computer networks that nobody managed to hack. He knew how to make everything safe. And keep it that way.

Since authorities were never able to get their hands on WikiLeaks, its sources, or its leader, a giant smear campaign was started around rape charges in Sweden (the country and all its citizens carry a heavy blame for what happened) and connections to America’s favorite enemy, Russia. The rape charges were never substantiated, Julian was never even interrogated by any Swedish law enforcement personnel, but that is no surprise.

It was clear from the get-go what was happening. First of all, for Assange himself. And if there’s one thing you could say he’s done wrong, it’s that he didn’t see the full impact from the campaign against him, sooner. But if you have the world’s largest and most powerful intelligence services against you, and they manage to find both individuals and media organizations willing to spread blatant lies about you, chances are you will not last forever.

If and when you have such forces running against you, you need protection. From politicians and from -fellow- media. Assange didn’t get that, or not nearly enough. Ecuador offered him protection, but as soon as another president was elected, they turned against him. So have news organizations who were once all too eager to profit from material Assange managed to obtain from his sources.

 

That the Guardian today published not just one, not two, but three what can only be labeled as hit pieces on Julian Assange, should perhaps not surprise us; they fell out a long time ago. Still, the sheer amount of hollow innuendo and outright lies in the articles is astonishing. How dare you? Have you no shame, do you not care at all about your credibility? At least the Guardian makes painfully clear why WikiLeaks was needed.

No, Sweden didn’t “drop its investigation into alleged sexual offences because it was unable to question Assange”. The Swedes simply refused to interview him in the Ecuador embassy in London, the only place where he knew he was safe. They refused this for years. And when the rape charges had lost all credibility, Britain asked Sweden to not drop the charges, but keep the pressure on.

No, there is no proof of links from Assange to Russian hackers and/or to the Russian government. No, there is no proof that DNC computers were hacked by Russians to get to John Podesta’s emails. In fact there is no proof they were hacked at all. No, Ecuador didn’t get tired of Julian; their new president, Moreno, decided to sell him out “at the first pressure from the United States”. Just as his predecessor, Correa, said he would.

Julian Assange has been condemned by Sweden, Britain, the US and now Ecuador to solitary confinement with no access to daylight or to medical care. Without a trial, without a sentence, and on the basis of mere allegations, most of which have already turned out to be trumped up and false. This violates so many national and international laws it’s futile to try and count or name them.

It also condemns any and all subsequent truth tellers to the prospect of being treated in the same way that Julian is. Forget about courts, forget about justice. You’ll be on a wanted list. I still have a bit of hope left that Vladimir Putin will step in and save Assange from the gross injustice he’s been exposed to for far too many years. Putin gets 100 times the lies and innuendo Assange gets, but he has a powerful nation behind him. Assange, in the end, only has us.

What’s perhaps the saddest part of all this is that people like Chelsea Manning, Kim Dotcom, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are among the smartest people our world has to offer. We should be cherishing the combination of intelligence, courage and integrity they display at their own risk and peril, but instead we let them be harassed by our governments because they unveil inconvenient truths about them.

And pretty soon there will be nobody left to tell these truths, or tell any truth at all. Dark days. By allowing the smartest and bravest amongst us, who are experts in new technologies, to be silenced, we are allowing these technologies to be used against us.

We’re not far removed from being extras in our own lives, with all significant decisions taken not by us, but for us. America’s Founding Fathers are turning in their graves as we speak. They would have understood the importance of protecting Julian Assange.

To say that we are all Julian Assange is not just a slogan.

 

 

Apr 282018
 
 April 28, 2018  Posted by at 12:20 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Alberto Giacometti Tête Noire 1957

 

Trump Can Come. But Let Him Know Britain Won’t Stand For His Bigotry, is the headline of an article for the Guardian by Owen Jones. It’s just one of many articles, and one of many ways, I could use to point out what’s wrong in our world. In a TV appearance on ITV he apparently added:

“At the end of the day, if he comes – no one is saying he should be barred from the country by legal means – we’re saying we will take to the streets and say we reject racism, bigotry and will stand for the values most people in this country believe in.” Jones went on to insist “most” of the United Kingdom are against President Trump so it was in the country’s best interest to stand up for their beliefs.

That got him a lot of flack from right wing viewers, who see him as ‘far left’. But it doesn’t matter if he’s left or right, he’s just terribly wrong. Because his own country, Britain, is as we speak exposing itself ever more as the racism and bigotry capital of the world. Who then are Britons to protest perceived racism and bigotry in someone who’s not British?

Jones should focus on cleaning up his own pig sty before speaking out about Trump, because if he doesn’t, he himself is a bigot. As are all his fellow countrymen and women who are planning to protest with him on Friday July 13 when Trump visits. You really think you don’t have enough to do at home? Or are you just trying to divert attention away from that?

 

I don’t want to read Jones’s article, because I already know what’s in it. Jones is part of the echo chamber that feeds off itself on a 24/7 basis with every word Trump speaks and every move he makes. Why read any of it anymore? The problem of course is that the chamber has made any and all constructive discussion impossible about all things Trump that badly do need such discussion.

And not only do they increasingly lose the fake discussion they try to energize all the time, they are giving birth to a whole new development that expresses a deep fatigue with the echo chamber and its machinery. Not based on left vs right, but on echoes vs thinking.

We find that the Democrats routinely rig their own primaries, and Nancy Pelosi isn’t even trying to deny it. Upcoming lawsuits, discovery and investigations will reveal ever more not-so-fine details about the Dems. And then they will end up in the same position as Owen Jones: clean up after your own pigs first, and then perhaps you can speak.

 

So what do we -predictably- get on the heels of this? We get people who are ‘supposed’ to be in the echo chamber, but escape from it. Too deafening, too blinding to think for one’s own. We get Candace Owens and Kanye West, who only have to cast a sliver of doubt on their supposed roles of “every black person must vote for Hillary, and denounce Trump”. Or else.

We get writers like Caitlin Johnstone and Jim Kunstler, themselves miles removed from anything right-wing, expressing the hope they derive from Kanye et al. Simply because what he says doesn’t emanate from the NYT-WaPo-CNN cacophony. People who like me would much rather address where Trump goes wrong, but find that as soon as they do, their words are sucked up by, and lost within, that same cacophony.

Which has monopolized the discussion, and thereby made it impossible. There is no space for our voices, no space for nuance, no space for questions. They’ll come after Kanye with all they got, but they must be careful. If the Dems lose the black vote, they’re done and toast, and going after Kanye will look a lot like going after all blacks. They can try and channel Obama, but would he dare go after Kanye?

Whose message, in no more than few handfuls of words, is simple: love conquers all. Or in old Jamaican: Live it Up and Love it Up. How do you credibly attack that? Even if he uses those words to support Trump? It won’t be easy. And then they will see more prominent black voices sound sympathetic to Kanye, and thereby to Trump. Ain’t life a bitch?

Caitlin Johnstone really got stung by the happy fever:

 

Happy New Universe Day

Could something big be in the works? Something which transcends all our little echo chamber walls and ideological boundaries, which comes not from the repetitive thought loops in our minds but from our deep evolutionary drive to survive? I hope so. And call me naive and deluded if you like, but right now I’m seeing plenty of reasons to hope.

 

And Kunstler is not that far behind:

 

Counter-#Resistance?

Speaking as a white cis-hetero mammal, I’m not quite as dazzled by the president, but it’s a relief to see, at last, some small rebellion against the American Stasi who have turned the public arena into a giant holding pen for identity offenders — though it is but one corner of the triad-of-hysteria that also includes the Hate Russia campaign and the crusade against men.

This nonsense has been going on long enough, while the country hurtles heedlessly into a long emergency of economic disarray. Next in line after Kanye and Candace, a popular Twitter critter name of Chance the Rapper endorsed Kanye endorsing Candace, more or less, by tweeting “black people don’t have to be Democrats.”

[..] Of course, the whole Kanye / Candace dust-up may be forgotten by the middle of next week, and the country can go back to gaslighting itself into either a new civil war or world war three. Candace seems to have drive, guts, and stamina and there’s no sign that she’s going to shut up. Won’t some Ivy League university please invite her to speak, just to see what happens?

 

That’s right, resistance against the resistance, and not from some right-wing bunch of nuts. But from people who are fed up with being told what to think and do and write. Kanye and Candace have now become the voices for everyone who’s not completely deaf yet. And it’s in the nick of time.

Did Trump start WWIII? No, the US bombed a few sheds in the desert. Did Trump bring Kim and Moon around the table? He certainly played a major role in that. Should he get a Nobel Peace Prize for that? Hell, why not, they gave one to Henry Kissinger, and Barack Obama. So why not Trump and Xi and Kim Jong-Un?

A new world, a new universe even? Do we need those? But it won’t be “forgotten by the middle of next week” either. There are far too many people who don’t want any steenking echo chamber to tell them what to think anymore. Who see them for the pig sties they are, trampling in their own filth.

 

For Britain to hit the streets to protest Trump’s alleged bigotry, racism, misogyny is so completely nuts it’s hard to find what to say, in view of their own government’s treatment of their own fellow citizens, let alone ‘foreigners’ like the Yemeni’s bombed to shreds with weaponry that same government sells to Saudi Arabia.

If you live in that kind of climate and you think protesting Trump is the thing to do, you probably deserve the government you got. But yes, Britain has a long history of longing to be held superior to other people(s), and the more than longing is shattered, the more they seem to want it. The US is not much different, if at all. The French suffer from it too. A superiority complex born of fear.

That’s what a ‘journalist’ like Owen Jones should be writing about. About how his own people can solve their own problems. Until then, not another word about Trump.

As for America? They have Kanye and Candace and Scott Adams now. That should suffice to help them along on the path to smashing up the echo chambers that cause so much physical and mental damage. Think for yourself. Don’t let a newspaper or TV channel think for you.

As for Trump, you can’t read or watch any story that’s negative about him anymore and think it has credibility. And they did that to themselves, the overpaid NYT/CNN/MSNBC crews. They didn’t need any help.

Meanwhile, all politicians on all sides in both the UK and US are the very people you should least want in their positions. It’s what our political systems determine: sh*t floats to the top. And until we separate politics from money altogether, that’s not going to change.

I’ve always steered clear of that whole Kardashian clan, they make me shiver, and all they stand for. But wouldn’t it be simple logic for them to wind up in the White House? First a game-show host, then a Facebook family? When it comes to that, Britain is far behind.

 

 

Mar 172018
 
 March 17, 2018  Posted by at 2:16 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jacobello Alberegno The Beast of the Apocalypse 1360-90

 

The Guardian ran an article yesterday by one of its editors, David Shariatmadari, that both proves and disproves its own theme at the same time: “An Information Apocalypse Is Coming”. Now, I don’t fancy the term apocalypse in a setting like this, it feels too much like going for a cheap thrill, but since he used it, why not.

My first reaction to the headline, and the article, is: what do you mean it’s ‘coming’? Don’t you think we have such an apocalypse already, that we’re living it, we’re smack in the middle of such a thing? If you don’t think so, would that have anything to do with you working at a major newspaper? Or with your views of the world, political and other, that shape how you experience ‘information’?

Shariatmadari starts out convincingly and honestly enough with a description of a speech that JFK was supposed to give in Dallas right after he was murdered, a speech that has been ‘resurrected’ using technology that enables one to make it seem like he did deliver it.

 

An Information Apocalypse Is Coming. How Can We Protect Ourselves?

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality, and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

John F Kennedy’s last speech reads like a warning from history, as relevant today as it was when it was delivered in 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. His rich, Boston Brahmin accent reassures us even as he delivers the uncomfortable message. The contrast between his eloquence and the swagger of Donald Trump is almost painful to hear.

Yes, Kennedy’s words are lofty ones, and they do possess at least some predictive qualities. But history does play a part too. Would we have read the same in them that we do now, had Kennedy not been shot right before he could deliver them? Hard to tell.

What’s more, not long before JFK was elected president America had been in the tight and severe grip of J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign, in which lots of reality was replaced with rhetoric, something Kennedy undoubtedly had in mind while writing the speech. JFK was not just addressing future threats, he was talking about the past as well.

But the writer slips into a much bigger faux pas right after: injecting Trump into the picture. It’s fine if someone doesn’t like Trump, but naming him there and then, in an article about ‘information apocalypse’, also means confusing objectivity with regards to your topic with subjectivity concerning your political ideas. While the Kennedy speech item relates to -advancing(?)- technology, a valid part of the apocalypse, mentioning Trump has nothing to do with that apocalypse, at least not objectively. Back to David Shariatmadari:

The problem is, Kennedy never spoke these words. He was killed before he made it to the Trade Mart. You can only hear them now thanks to audio technology developed by a British company, CereProc. Fragments of his voice have been taken from other speeches and public appearances, spliced and put back together, with neural networks employed to mimic his natural intonation. The result is pretty convincing, although there’s a machine-like ring to some of the syllables, a synthetic stutter. Enough to recognise, if you already know, that this is a feat of technology, not oratory.

We like to think of innovation as morally neutral. We empower scientists and engineers to range freely in the hope they might discover things that save labour and lives. The ends to which these are put aren’t the responsibility of the researchers. The agile robots produced by Boston Dynamics might look like they could cheerfully pin you up against a wall and snap your neck, but do we really want to close off this avenue of research? After all, they might equally be capable of performing life-saving surgery. The methods used to resurrect JFK can also help people with illnesses such as motor neurone disease – like the late Stephen Hawking – that affect their ability to speak.

It’s certainly true that we are so ‘geared’ towards progress, we ‘conveniently’ forget and ignore that every next step carries its own shadow side, every yin comes with its yang. ‘Progress’ and ‘innovation’ – and related terms- ring so positive in our eyes and ears it borders on -wilful- blindness. That blindness is set to play a major role in our future, and in our acceptance as gospel of a lot of ‘information’.

“Dual use” of technology is not a new problem. Nuclear physics gave us both energy and bombs. What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information; 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump.

Ouch! See, he does it again. This is not an objective discourse on ‘information disinformation’, but a way to make people think -through a method he’s supposed to be exposing- that ‘fake news’ led to Brexit and Trump. That’s a political view, not a neutral one. Yes, there are many voices out there who connect ‘fake news’ directly to things they don’t like, but that’s just a trap.

And as I said, it may have to do with the fact that the writer works for a major newspaper, which of course he wants to, and wishes to, see as some kind of beacon against fake news, but if he lets his own personal views slip into an objective treatment of a topic this easily, it automatically becomes self-defeating.

There is no proof that Trump and Brexit’s success are down to fake news more than their opposite sides, ‘fake news’ is everywhere, and that very much includes the Guardian. The coverage of the UK government accusations against Russia in the poisoning case proves that more than ever.

You can be anti-Trump, anti-Brexit and anti-Putin all you want, but they don’t define fake news or an information apocalypse, any more than ‘commies’ did in the days of Hoover and McCarthy.

We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not.

That is am almost bewildering line. Does the writer really think ‘ordinary people’ can today tell apart what’s real and what’s not? If his paper had honestly covered his country’s, and his government’s, involvement in the wars all over the Middle East and North Africa over the past decades, would his readers still be supportive of the politicians that today inhabit Westminster?

Or does the paper prefer supporting the incumbents over Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, because it owes its reputation and position and revenues to supporting the likes of Theresa May and Tony Blair? Yeah, I know, with a critical view, yada yada, but when has the Guardian labeled any UK politician a war criminal? Much easier to go after Farage, isn’t it? The question is: what part of this is fake, and what is not?

What will the effects of this be? When a public figure claims the racist or sexist audio of them is simply fake, will we believe them? How will political campaigns work when millions of voters have the power to engage in dirty tricks? What about health messages on the dangers of diesel or the safety of vaccines? Will vested interests or conspiracy theorists attempt to manipulate them?

This appears to make sense, but it does not really. We are way past that. ‘Ordinary people’ have already lost their capacity to tell truth from fiction. Newspapers and TV stations have long disseminated the views of their owners, it’s just that they now have -newfound- competition from a million other sources: the blessings of social media.

The core issue here is that 1984 is not some point in the future, as we for some reason prefer to think. We are living 1984. Perhaps the fact that we are now 34 years past it should give us a clue about that? People tend to think that perhaps Orwell was right, but his predictions were way early. Were they, though?

Also: Orwell may not have foreseen the blessings and trappings of social media, but he did foresee how governments and their media sympathizers would react to them: with more disinformation.

Unable to trust what they see or hear, will people retreat into lives of non-engagement, ceding the public sphere to the already powerful or the unscrupulous? The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously.

This is a full-blown time warp. If it is true that people only now take the potential for an “information apocalypse” seriously, they are so far behind the curve ball that one must question the role of the media in that. Why didn’t people know about that potential when it was an actual issue? Why did nobody tell them?

The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions.

Yes, we do have an idea about that, because we see it around us 24/7. Maybe not with images as fully fabricated as the JFK speech, but the essence is manipulation itself, not the means by which it’s delivered.

Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing.

David, we ARE all bullshitters, we all lie all the time, for a myriad of reasons, to look better, to feel better, to seem better, to get rich, to get laid. It’s who we are. We lie to ourselves most of all. A sixth sense against bullshit and propaganda is the very last thing we will ever develop, because it would force us to face our own bullshit.

But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result. Like the generation JFK was addressing in his speech, we are on the cusp of a new and scary age. Rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, are becoming difficult to separate. We await a figure of Kennedy’s stature to help us find a way through. Until then, we must at the very least face up to the scale of the coming challenge.

We are not “on the cusp of a new and scary age”, we are in the smack middle of it. We haven’t been able to separate rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, for ages. What’s different from 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, is that now we are faced with an information overload so severe that this in itself makes us less capable of separating chaff from wheat.

So yes, that perhaps is new. But bullshit and propaganda are not. And labeling Trump and Brexit the main threats misses your own topic by miles. You could make an equally valid point that they are the results of many years of bullshit and propaganda by old-style politics and old-style media.

Maybe they’re what happens when ‘ordinary people’ switch off from an overload of bullshit and propaganda forced upon them by people and institutions they grew up to trust. And then feel they were betrayed by. A sixth sense after all.

 

 

Jun 292016
 
 June 29, 2016  Posted by at 12:46 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  


Marion Post Wolcott Coal miner waiting for lift home, Capels, West Virginia 1938

George Osborne declared on Monday that the UK “is in a position of strength” (he meant the economy, not the football team). No, it is not. That’s why he and his ilk lost the vote. But Osborne’s actually thick enough to look in the mirror and tell himself he did a good job. Utterly blind to the people he keelhauled over the past 6 years.

And no doubt while he’s at it, he’s at least tempted to label all 17 million Britons who voted ‘Leave’, uneducated racists. George’s well-to-do friends may be in “a position of strength”, but the British people who paid for these friends of George’s to be comfortable, are nowhere near “a position of strength”.

The only way to protest the wringer they have been put through was to vote against anything Osborne and Cameron represent. And so they did.

Most of the “Brexit is the end of the world” claims that have followed Friday’s referendum result are as stunning as Osborne’s blind spot for this own people (who he doesn’t even see as ‘his own’). And most of them come from people who until recently claimed to detest ‘Gideon’.

In the eyes of a vast majority of commentators, all hell is busy imminently breaking loose in UK society and its economy because those 17 million dumb racists voted No to the EU, which was in reality simply a No to Osborne and Cameron -and Juncker et al-, and all they stand for, something just about entirely overlooked; for most of these voters, it was not a Yes to anyone else, just a NO!.

At the same time the Leave campaign claims endless streams of milk and honey are in the offing, an equally unlikely proposition (is it perhaps an idea to not only talk about money or race; how about physics?).

Fact is nobody knows where Brexit will lead, for the simple reason that there are no precedents or other comparisons. Everybody on all sides just makes things up. Since most of the media outlets that have any pretense left of serious journalism are on the Remain train, it would be easy to be fooled by them.

The whole ‘discussion’ -it’s more an endless parade of monologues- has turned into the metaphorical hammer looking for a nail in embarrassing ways.

Who do all these people have to blame but themselves? Weren’t they the ones who felt up to the very last moment that there would be no Brexit? And isn’t that why they decided to keep calm and carry on? Let’s see some denials of that, please.

The “I was asleep but that’s not really my fault, is it?” kind of thing. Bring it on. The Guardian has the audacity to ask for donations from those who “appreciate their Brexit coverage”. Granted, they publish some 826 pieces a day on the topic. But I’d consider paying them just to stop doing that.

 

Hillary Clinton’s reaction to Brexit was to call for ‘steady, experienced leadership’. Which sounds sort of reasonable but is in reality just another way of saying ‘more of the same’. And that in turn happens to be exactly what Brexit was a reaction against.

Clinton’s simply and obviously aiming for those Americans who are afraid of change. But that doesn’t mean she has the power to prevent it. Nor that it’s a wise track to be on, given that Trump is where he is because so many people clearly want change, not ‘more of the same’.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz was quoted as saying: “The British have violated the rules. It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate.” Still wondering what the source of that quote is. Saw Prof. Richard Werner quote it, but without the source.

Jean-Claude -‘You have to lie’- Juncker told European Parliament members yesterday that he has imposed a ‘Presidential’ ban on EU commissioners holding informal or secret talks with the British about the country’s exit from the EU, until the UK government formally invokes Article 50. I bet you he’s holding secret talks right now.

A Bloomberg headline: “EU Chiefs ‘Held Hostage’ by UK Tell Cameron to Spell Out Goals”. Err, guys and dolls, Cameron resigned. He’s in no position to spell out anything, and he wants it even less; Georgy ain’t even touching that hot potato just to pass it on. He’ll take a pig’s head any day.

 

As Jeremy Corbyn faces a Labour Party rebellion, George Monbiot says “I fear that may be the end of the Labour party. Just when we need it most.“ No, that’s not what you need, George, you need a party or other organization that stands up for you and ‘yours’. And when’s the last time Labour has done that for the majority of British people?

Also, beware of economists who talk politics; they think these are separate fields. Some even think there’s science involved. Brexit is not “Britain’s democratic failure”, as economist Kenneth Rogoff suggests, that failure came a long time ago, when corporatism fascism came in, first through Labour’s own Tony Blair, and was subsequently perfected by Cameron and Osborne.

If anything, it’s the opposite, that is to say, Brexit is Britain’s democratic resurgence, though it has arguably come in a repulsively distorted shape. But perhaps that is inevitable once real democracy has had its head held underwater for so many years.

Through all the insistence that Britain must stay inside the EU, I can’t help wondering when ‘Britain can’t stand on its own two legs’, which is what all these commentaries come down to, came to be perceived as a winning argument, but all but a few ‘expert voices’ insist this is true.

‘Britain faces an uncertain future’. How awful is that? Still, I bet you, when next time it sounds even halfway convenient, uncertainty will get to mean ‘opportunity’. Oh, and don’t you, too, hate the implications of a word like ‘nervousness’, as in: “everyone’s nervous”? Well, unless one’s favorite musician or athlete talks about the ‘healthy nervousness‘ necessary to perform well.

Much respected economist/writer Edward Harrison says on Twitter: “.. this is the part I HATE. We are, what, 5 days into this. No one knows how severe the Market reaction will be. It’s ludicrous..”

And I’m like, chill, mate, why is it ludicrous that you can’t predict what ‘The Markets’ reaction to something, anything will be? If that’s something you HATE, maybe you should not be in the game, or in the kitchen for that matter.

The markets are not supposed to be predictable, and when they are, it means someone is manipulating them, and someone else is paying for that predictability, and that second someone is invariably not in on ‘the game’.

Kids say the darndest things. So do investors and economists.

Just because you want want certainty, doesn’t mean you have a right to it, democratic or not. And neither does anyone else. But if you want some regardless, here goes: you can be certain the economy will collapse at some point. That’s not the certainty you were looking for, is it? So what would you prefer, accepting that certainty, or to let someone tell you that this negative prediction is still uncertain? I’ll give you a few minutes to think about it.

 

Mariana Mazzucato, another economist, says:

The third challenge is green growth. EU legislation has improved the quality of British beaches and the air we breathe. But green policies will also form the next industrial wave that will lead to future prosperity. Today green spending is an option for governments and businesses; soon it will be a necessity. Those who have chosen to invest will be in a strong position.

And I’m thinking: where to begin? A wave of future prosperity? You mean as in Elon Musk prosperity? Using public money to blow pipe dreams? Green spending is a big ruse meant to allow the formerly rich -yeah, that’s you- lay their worried consciences to rest, and pay for it through their noses.

But there is so much debt burying us all, inside our own societies, that we will never be able to afford any transition to a green economy, even if it were possible from a physics point of view. Which it is definitely not. All the rest is just propaganda.

Our future consists of using a lot less energy -try 90% on for size-; how we get there is partly up to us -but only partly-, we can do it wisely and voluntarily or stupidly through hard set limitations, but that’s the only choice we have. We will never replace even a fraction of fossil fuels with wind or sun or algea or project X.

That same species of certainty applies to the European Union, even if it may appear -even- less obvious. The grandiose EU project of an ever closer union is running into the limits of economics as well as physics. European nations can work together, but not when they’re forced to give up their sovereignty, their independence and their livelihoods.

That will lead them to turn on each other. There’s no escaping it. The EU is the sack the cats will fight in.

The EU is a monstrosity with no parallel in modern times, as evidenced in how it bulldozed the Greek economy, and in how it allowed many hundreds of promising young lives to drown in the Mediterranean, and you Britons want to not just belong to that monstrosity, you’re willing to fight one another over the privilege?

I’m afraid I don’t get it.

 

 

 

Mar 062015
 
 March 6, 2015  Posted by at 4:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  


Harris&Ewing US Weather Bureau kiosque, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 1921

See, by now you would think that anyone who reads that all 31 US banks that were tested have passed the Fed stress test, knows this says absolutely nothing about the banks, but all the more about the test. You would think. But the media try – and succeed – to cram it down the public’s throat as a success story anyway.

There’s simply a very strong feeling, if not conviction, in the western media, that they’ve won the propaganda battle. They have no adversary other than the blogosphere, and since they reach a thousand times more people, who are to a (wo)man more complacent and gullible than any of your typical interwebs readers, Bob’s their uncle.

But come on guys, are we really going to let this happen without raising our voices or even batting as much as one of our eyes? We’re drowning in nonsense here, and we’re prepared to just die without even trying to swim?

Look, I find real fun in reading that the UK House of Lords issues a report that claims 150,000 jobs will be created by 2050 in the ‘drone industry’, and at the same time clamors for a ‘personal drone registry’. I mean, these guys are way too old to even know how to spell ‘drone’. But that’s just mindless ‘journalism’, and to a point innocent.

What is not is the two portraits of US girl power in Ukraine from the Guardian and Bloomberg that appeared over the past two days. That’s not innocent, that’s vile and bastardly lies. Victoria Nuland and Natalie Jaresko should not be praised by the western media, they should be taken apart bone by bone, because the roles they play are far too shady to stand up to our alleged democratic principles.

Bloomberg is, well, Bloomberg, but why the Guardian gets involved in this sort of apologetic feel-good ‘reporting’ is beyond me. Other than: how much does it pay?! I mean, who needs a brain when you have a keyboard? Nuland and her hubby Robert Kagan – and don’t you even try and make me picture them in bed together plotting fresh invasions – are the flashing neon signs for everything neocon in America today.

She has – more or less voluntarily – admitted to staging the year-old Kiev coup and installing US puppet Yatsenyuk as Ukraine PM, as well as pushing $5 billion in US taxpayer funds to various Ukraine ‘charities’ to make it happen.

And then the Guardian has the gall to present her as your average American girl next door? Nuland creates wars, and misery, and bloodshed, and she does so fully convinced she’s serving some deity’s purpose. She should have long since been removed from any and all offices, but she’s still in place, which paints a damning enough picture of US politics all by itself.

Yeah, sure, let’s make Victoria look normal, right, Guardian?

Victoria Nuland: Russia’s Actions In Ukraine Conflict An ‘Invasion’

Assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland has admitted the US considers Russia’s actions in Ukraine “an invasion”, in what may be the first time a senior American official has used the term to describe a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people. Speaking before the House committee on foreign affairs, Nuland was asked by representative Brian Higgins about Russia’s support of rebels in eastern Ukraine, through weapons, heavy armor, money and soldiers: “In practical terms does that constitute an invasion?”

Nuland at first replied that “we have made clear that Russia is responsible for fielding this war,” until pressed by Higgins to answer “yes or no” whether it constitutes an invasion. “We have used that word in the past, yes,” Nuland said, apparently marking the first time a senior official has allowed the term in reference to Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine, and not simply its continued occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

Obama administration officials across departments have strenuously avoided calling the conflict an invasion for months, instead performing verbal contortions to describe an “incursion”, “violation of territorial sovereignty” and an “escalation of aggression”. In November Vice-President Joe Biden, who has acted as one of Obama’s primary liaisons with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, rapidly corrected himself after breaking from the White House’s careful language on CNN, saying “When the Russians invaded – crossed the border – into Ukraine, it was, ‘My god. It’s over.’”

But that’s nothing compared to today’s Bloomberg portrait of Natalie Jaresko, the US stooge installed late last year to run Ukraine’s economy into the ground as finance minister. This is something else altogether. The first thing that comes to mind is: ‘have you no shame?’, but then you realize it’s Bloomberg. The subtitle is: Why Natalie Jaresko Is As Important As The Country’s Generals. I kid you not. In days of old, the CIA would have had to look through the Yellow Pages, but this time around I’m pretty sure they used Facebook to find Americans with Ukie blood ties. They then pumped her full of dollars, 100s of millions of them, and then she was ready to go. Mind you, she was picked way ahead of the regime change a year ago. The whole thing was planned well in advance. 10 years or so in advance.

C’mon, the first paragraph alone should be profoundly sickening to any functioning neuron:

The American Woman Who Stands Between Putin and Ukraine

Ukraine is a nation at war, which is why Natalie Jaresko, the minister of finance, has traveled 20 miles from Kiev to the town of Irpin, a settlement of 40,000 on the edge of a pine forest. She’s here to visit a rearguard army hospital and to console convalescing veterans of recent battles against Russian forces and their proxies in the Ukrainian east. “Where did you serve?” she asks, moving slowly from room to room. “How were you wounded?” She may be from Chicago’s West Side, but she speaks Ukrainian fluently, and if anyone notices her American accent, no one seems to care. Jaresko tells the soldiers they’re heroes, the country’s national accountant handling a job for generals. The crisis has thrust people into unlikely roles.

Three months ago, Jaresko, 49, left the private equity firm that she co-founded in Ukraine in 2006 to join the government of Petro Poroshenko. At the time, Jaresko didn’t even have Ukrainian citizenship. Now, as the country’s top economic official, she’s Ukraine’s liaison to the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tax reform is hers. So is the treasury.

The country’s bankrupt. So much so that no amount of IMF funding can change that. Besides, a substantial amount of whatever funding will be made available, will need to go to what is still called an army, lest Kiev loses out completely against the rebels it has tried to annihilate for a year now. But it can get worse, just read this bit:

[..].. whether Ukraine succeeds as an independent democratic nation arguably depends as much on the efforts of Jaresko and her colleagues as it does on the military battles. Together they must rebuild a shattered economy and restore international confidence in Ukraine while confronting the corruption and cronyism that have haunted the country since the fall of communism. And they must somehow do so as state-owned banks teeter on the brink of collapse, the national treasury counts its last foreign notes, and inflation is at 28% and rising. The longer the war carries on and reforms are delayed, the more hostile Ukrainians will become to their government and its Western supporters, leaving the country even more vulnerable to Vladimir Putin.

Uh-uh. The people will turn against the US and EU, but they don’t really know what’s good for them do they? Even if they hate the heebees out of us, we must still protect them from Vlad the Impaler. Sorry, it’s for your own good…

Jaresko, 5 feet 6 inches tall, wears her dark hair at chin length. As she continues through the Irpin hospital, she’s solemn, respectful. More soldiers receive her, cramped two and three to closetlike rooms, jammed into beds sized for children. They discuss their lack of firepower in the field: Why don’t we have modern weapons? How does the enemy know where we are all the time? Jaresko listens. She knows better than any general that Ukraine doesn’t have the funds to better arm itself. She asks the soldiers what they plan to do once they’ve recovered. To a man, they say they’ll return to the front lines.

Ex-f##king-cuse me, but since I know anywhere between half a million to over a full million men have fled the country just to escape serving in the Kiev army, I’m wondering what lengths Bloomberg’s Brett Forrest and his new-found Mother Teresa went through to find a hospital where defeated soldiers, to a man no less, claimed they’d go back if only they could. Who believes this shit? And who needs it to begin with?

Yada yada, Jaresko life story, Ellis Island, Chicago, yada yada, and then this:

In the mid-1990s, Ukraine endured hyperinflation of 10,000%. A few years later came the shock waves of Russia’s financial crisis. The Ukrainian economy showed its first signs of growth only in 2000, after almost a decade of decline. Then, in 2004, came the Orange Revolution. While the country entered a new period of uncertainty, international institutional investors began to arrive. Two years later, Jaresko and three partners opened investment management firm Horizon Capital. It managed the Western NIS Enterprise Fund and eventually raised two more. When she left last December, it had roughly $600 million of Ukrainian investments under management.

I don’t think that’s Ukrainian investments, I’m thinking it’s western investments in Ukraine. Jaresko was set up very well, financially. From the $5 billion VIctoria Nuland admitted the US had spent to change the regime. She’s a well paid stooge. You do have to wonder what’s left of Jaresko’s riches now that Kiev’s as broke as a wino in the dead of winter.

Last year’s regime change, Jaresko says, represented a real turning point—a chance to finally end kleptocratic rule. “Anyone close to Ukraine understood that this was an incredible moment to take Ukraine forward in a way that it hadn’t gone quickly enough over the past 22 years,” she says. “That there had been a radical change in civil society, and that civil society’s expectations could no longer be put on the back burner by anyone.”

‘Forward’ in this case apparently means into war and bankruptcy, that’s all that’s been accomplished. Yeah, sure, Nuland’s neocons understood that ‘this was an incredible moment to take Ukraine forward in a way that it hadn’t gone quickly enough over the past 22 years..’ Just read that sentence again knowing it comes from that woman, and knowing she’s helped bring down the entire nation. It gives it a whole other meaning.

Yada yada, headhunting firm happenstanced upon an American CEO in Kiev (there’s so many of them it’s hard to keep track ;-)). “They played hard on my patriotism..” “I sometimes wonder what my father would think..” Please hand me a bucket!

Then some to and fro about how the state is too weak to fight Russia – which they’re not, they’re fighting their own citizens -, and paragraphs of financial blubber and outright lies, culminating in:

…economics minister Abromavicius saying his office projects a 5.5% reduction in the economy this year. That doesn’t take into account Putin’s future actions in the east. We work under the assumption that there will be peace very soon, he says. This conflict is misguided. The Russian leadership is misguided about Ukraine in general. They just don’t understand Ukraine. This country wants to be left alone. This country wants to make its own decisions.

‘This country wants to make its own decisions?’ Well, you should have made sure you didn’t go broke then. Because from here on in, you’ll never again make any decision you can call your own, and that includes choosing the color of toilet paper in your government offices. The US will do that for you. That’s why Jaresko is where she is. Ukraine had a lot more freedom before Maidan.

As the young government’s leaders and supporters tirelessly point out, the war with Russia has so far been contained to less than 10% of Ukraine’s territory.

First, there is no war with Russia, only with Ukrainian citizens. And if it’s less than 10% of the territory, that’s only because the rebels have no claim on anything but their own land. They don’t want Kiev, they just want Kiev to leave them alone and stop killing their women and children. But if it won’t, the rebels will take more territory, just so Kiev can’t use it to attack them anymore.

But it must be convenient to be able to hang an entire country’s demise on one person, no matter what happens. I just read that US House Speaker Boehner sent a letter to Obama claiming that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are a ‘grotesque violation of international law’. If that is so, what does that say about America’s actions in Ukraine?

The US must withdraw Nuland and Jaresko from their respective positions starting yesterday morning. But they won’t, they have achieved exactly what they were aiming for: a nation so shattered it’s dependent on US and IMF money just to survive, just to pay for the ink needed to draw its borders on a map.

From here on, it’s just a matter of waiting for Putin to get so sick of all this he decides he can’t let Kiev go down any further, lest all that’s left is neonazis and neocons, and they start aiming their US and/or UAE supplied ‘lethal defensive’ weapons eastward. And then they’ll get what they’ve wanted all along, Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko and Nuland and Jaresko: They’ll get War. But it won’t come the way they envisioned it. Putin’s way too smart for that.

Anyway, what a shameless depiction of Ukraine we get here. It’s all-out propaganda, no prisoners taken. I’m getting tired of getting angry about it, but someone has to.