Jul 042024

Félix Vallotton The balloon 1899


“No One Is Pushing Me Out” Biden Tells Staff (ZH)
Biden May Drop Out Of Presidential Race – NYT (RT)
Dozens of Democrat Lawmakers Want Biden Out – Bloomberg (RT)
Only Michelle Obama Can Beat Donald Trump – Poll (RT)
Jack Smith is Willing to Try Trump Up to Inauguration Day (Turley)
The Presidential Dilemma (Paul Craig Roberts)
Hillary Clinton Welcomes Ukraine ‘Attacking’ Trump (RT)
Will Putin Attack Poland & the Baltics? (Ray McGovern)
Western Talk of Ukraine Peace Just For Show – Zakharova (RT)
Orban Reveals Zelensky’s Reaction To Ceasefire Proposal (RT)
US Dissatisfied With Ukraine’s Mobilization Rate – Former PM (Sp.)
Tucker Carlson Announces Zelensky Interview (RT)
Ukraine To Be Warned It’s ‘Too Corrupt’ For NATO – Telegraph (RT)
‘Hamas Has Never Been Stronger’: Israel Is Stuck In A War It Can’t Win (Blade)
Houthis Vow USS Theodore Roosevelt Primary Target Once it Enters Red Sea (Sp.)










Big Mike







Someone gave Hunter a security clearance? For real?

“No One Is Pushing Me Out” Biden Tells Staff (ZH)

Update (1355ET): According to AP, Biden told campaign staff “No one is pushing me out” during a Wednesday call. Would he even know though? Meanwhile, a new NYT/Siena poll reveals that Trump now leads Biden 49%-43% among likely voters.

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Update (1055ET): With knives out and all eyes on Kamala, President Biden has reportedly ‘told a key ally that he knows he may not be able to salvage his candidacy’ if he can’t convince the public in the coming days that he’s up for the job, the NY Times reports. “He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place” by the end of the weekend said the ally, referring to last Thursday’s debacle of a debate. The conversation is the first indication to become public that the president is seriously considering whether he can recover after a devastating performance on the debate stage in Atlanta on Thursday. Concerns are mounting about his viability as a candidate and whether he could serve as president for another four years.

A top adviser to Mr. Biden, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, said the president was “well aware of the political challenge he faces.” -NYT. We’re shocked Biden can ‘weigh’ anything given his condition, but the White House says the Times report is ‘absolutely false.’ As we noted earlier, odds of Kamala Harris facing off with Trump in November spiked overnight, and then accelerated even higher upon the NYT report, only to pull back shortly thereafter after the White House denied.

What a time to be alive!

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While Former President Barack Obama has publicly supported sockpuppet president Joe Biden following last Thursday’s unprecedented debate, he has privately told allies that the path to victory ‘grew more challenging’ following an abject debacle for the Democrats. According to ‘several people familiar with his remarks,’ and perhaps most notably conveyed via the Washington Post, not only has Obama grown more concerned following the debate (and having to physically guide the 81-year-old off of a stage last month), the former president “has long harbored worries about his party defeating Donald Trump in November, repeatedly warning Biden in recent months about how challenging it will be to win reelection.” Not only that, “Just before the debate, Obama conveyed to allies his concerns about the state of the race.”

So Obama gets to save face, while adding to the growing chorus of Democrats who have expressed everything from quiet panic to public hints, to outright calls for Biden to drop out of the race. Meanwhile in the ivory tower, White House aides are reportedly freaked out that crack addict, China profiteer, Ukraine energy expert, convicted felon Hunter Biden is in the building helping to counsel his father in Jill’s time of crisis. According to NBC News’ Ken Deilanian, White House staff are asking “What the hell is happening,” after a report that Hunter has been sitting in on meetings.

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Biden May Drop Out Of Presidential Race – NYT (RT)

US President Joe Biden is seriously considering whether he can recover from his “disastrous” debate performance, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing a “key ally” who wished to remain anonymous. Biden struggled through last week’s exchange with challenger Donald Trump, hosted by CNN. The Times described his performance as “devastating,” even though Biden’s campaign had arranged the circumstances to be maximally favorable. “He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place” by the end of the Independence Day weekend, the unnamed ally told the newspaper. While the unnamed source insisted that Biden is “still deeply in the fight for re-election,” the 81-year-old is reportedly aware that the next several days must go well if he wishes to “salvage” his candidacy.

Biden is scheduled to record an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos – a Clinton White House veteran – on Friday and take part in campaign events in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A meeting with Democratic governors is also on the schedule for Wednesday evening. White House spokesman Andrew Bates told the NYT that the anonymous ally’s claim was “absolutely false” and that he had not been given enough time to respond. According to the Times, Biden has told at least one person that he is open to the possibility that the plan to move on from the debate and shift the narrative to Trump “may not work.” The White House and the campaign have offered a range of excuses for what happened at the debate. Meanwhile, a CBS News poll on Wednesday showed Trump two points ahead of Biden nationally and three points in battleground states.

“Concerns are mounting about his viability as a candidate and whether he could serve as president for another four years,” the Times noted. Several other unnamed allies of Biden told the outlet that he was “clear-eyed” about the “uphill battle to convince voters, donors and the political class” that his debate performance was just a bad day. Media outlets that have been friendly to Biden for years, insisting just last month that he was “sharp as a tack” and that allegations of mental and physical infirmity were fake news, turned on the president practically overnight. Major party donors have reportedly done so as well, demanding a new candidate. Vice President Kamala Harris remains unpopular, however, and the Democrats did not allow a competitive primary, leaving them in a bind to name a possible replacement

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“..even among Democrats some 45% believe that he should withdraw from the race..”

Dozens of Democrat Lawmakers Want Biden Out – Bloomberg (RT)

Dozens of Democrats in the US Congress are considering signing a letter demanding that President Joe Biden suspend his reelection campaign, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Calls for Biden to withdraw from the race and resign from office have intensified since his disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump last week. Bloomberg did not name any of the lawmakers involved, and attributed the news to an anonymous “senior party official.” According to this official, Democrats fear association with the unpopular and apparently senile president will harm their own reelection chances in November, leading to “a Republican sweep of Washington and an unchecked Donald Trump presidency.” Calls for Biden’s withdrawal have snowballed since last Thursday’s CNN-hosted debate, during which Biden appeared confused and struggled to finish sentences.

Speaking to MSNBC on Tuesday, influential Democrat Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn both discussed the possibility that Biden may suffer from a mental condition, while Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first sitting Democrat lawmaker to urge Biden to suspend his campaign. Liberal pundits have gone further, with The Atlantic and The Hill both publishing op-eds on Wednesday calling on Biden to leave office immediately, after the New York Times, Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune all called on him to step aside so the party can choose a more lucid candidate to take on Trump this November. The White House, meanwhile, insists that Biden does not suffer from dementia or any other degenerative condition, and that his lackluster performance was the result of tiredness and a “bad cold.”

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Andrew Bates dismissed a report in the New York Times suggesting that the president was considering whether to pull out of the race, calling the claim “absolutely false.”According to Politico reporter Elena Schneider, Biden told campaign staffers on Wednesday that “no one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.” Biden spoke to Clyburn and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer by phone on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported. The president has a packed schedule of appearances over the coming days, including a meeting with Democratic governors on Wednesday evening, an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday, and campaign events in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin over the weekend.

“We really want to turn the page on this,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday, adding that Biden’s upcoming appearances will allow Americans to “see him for themselves.” According to multiple polls, however, Americans have already decided that Biden is not fit for office. A survey conducted by CBS News/YouGov in the wake of the debate found that 72% of registered voters do not believe that Biden has the “mental and cognitive health necessary to serve as president.” The poll indicated that even among Democrats some 45% believe that he should withdraw from the race.

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That poll is wrong. Because it will all be about Big Mike.

Only Michelle Obama Can Beat Donald Trump – Poll (RT)

Michelle Obama, the wife of former US President Barack Obama, is the only potential Democratic candidate who could beat Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in November’s election, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll. There is growing concern among Democratic voters over President Joe Biden’s ability to secure a second term in office this year, particularly after his debate with Trump, in which the 81-year-old incumbent appeared frail and confused, and struggled to finish his sentences. On July 1 and July 2, Ipsos market research company surveyed a representative sample of 1,070 US adults for Reuters, including 892 registered voters, 348 Democrats, 322 Republicans, and 303 independents.

According to the poll, if a vote were to be held now, Biden and Trump would both win an estimated 40% of the votes. However, around three in five voters, including nearly one-third of Democrats, believe Biden should drop out of the race altogether and that his party should put forward a new candidate, even at this late stage. Most of Biden’s potential replacements do not seem to have the public approval or recognition needed to beat Trump on November 5, according to the poll. In hypothetical matchups against Trump, Vice President Kamala Harris was one point behind the Republican candidate, while others, like California Governor Gavin Newsom and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, fared even worse. The only person who could beat Trump is Michelle Obama, the poll suggests. In her matchup against the former president, some 50% of registered voters said they would vote for her, compared to 39% who said they would vote for Trump.

The former first lady also appears to have a better public image than the other candidates. The survey showed that around 42% of voters have a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to the 38% who have a favorable opinion of Biden. But Obama had an approval rating of 55%, beating all other potential Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, Biden and his team have indicated that they have no plans to drop out of the race despite last week’s debate performance, which they have tried to play down as just a “bad night.” The Democratic Party has also publicly rallied behind the president. Privately, however, media reports suggest that many top Democratic donors want Biden gone from the November 5 ticket and even his public allies, including Barack Obama, have reportedly been “telling people Biden can’t win” in private.

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It’s called election interference. And SCOTUS should stop it.

“Smith’s appetite for a trial before the Inauguration may exceed his ability to force that expedited schedule…”

Jack Smith is Willing to Try Trump Up to Inauguration Day (Turley)

The Washington Post is reporting that Special Counsel Jack Smith may try to convict former president Donald Trump all the way through the election and up to 11:59 am on January 20th. After the oath, the Justice Department has long maintained that it will not prosecute a sitting president. There is also a long-standing policy of the Justice Department to abstain from criminal proceedings before an election to avoid the appearance of trying to influence the outcome. Smith has signaled that he will discard that policy and that he is prepared to try Trump not only up to the election but through the election. He is now reportedly willing to try Trump up to January 20th. Smith has made trying Trump before the election the overriding priority in his two cases against the former president. He failed repeatedly to force a shorter schedule on appeal before the Supreme Court.

His arguments were revealing. He suggested that the public should have a possible conviction before they cast their votes. It flipped the DOJ policy on its head in openly seeking to influence the election. The Supreme Court was not persuaded, though Smith did succeed in effectively cutting the appellate process a bit shorter. He then lost in spectacular fashion before the Court on presidential immunity. According to the Post, he is not giving up the ghost and is now committed to a trial running up to Inauguration Day: “Current officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed … that if Trump wins the election, the clock on the two federal cases against him would keep ticking until Jan. 20, when he would be sworn in as the 47th president.” Even with Smith’s continued push to try Trump at all costs before the Inauguration, it could be a challenge. There is a 30-day period before the Supreme Court case is effectively returned to district court.

Judge Tanya Chutkan has been highly favorable for Smith and highly motivated in seeking a trial before the election. That led to problems highlighted in the recent opinion. Chutkan was so motivated that she failed to create an adequate record on these issues. That record will now have to be established. If Chutkan rules as she did earlier, she is expected to be hostile to Trump’s claims on his conduct falling within official functions. However, she will need to make the record and her decision could again be appealed. The Court left clear guidelines that will make it difficult for Chutkan to, again, dismiss such claims.

Moreover, the pre-trial motions were stopped with the latest appeal. They must now be addressed. Finally, she pledged to give the Trump team over 80 days for preparation after the appeal, which will be added to the 30 days, the period for the remand record, and the pre-trial motions. There is also the need for the court and Smith to deal with the Fischer decision limiting the use of the obstruction charges — impacting two of the four counts against Trump. As I have previously written, Smith has various options but could trigger a new reversal on appeal if he follows his signature inclination to resist legal limits. In other words, Smith’s appetite for a trial before the Inauguration may exceed his ability to force that expedited schedule.

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“All the people can do is to cast votes that might or might not be properly counted..”

The Presidential Dilemma (Paul Craig Roberts)

The dilemma is not limited to Trump and Biden. All of us face it. Biden cannot win despite all of the theft mechanisms the Democrats have institutionalized. A stolen election requires a close election in order to hide the theft. But the polls show no such close election. In order to use the fraudulent electoral means put in place, the Democrats need a candidate that the media can present as neck-in-neck with Trump. Even if Democrats had such a candidate, the Biden Crime Family cannot risk Trump taking office. In the event that Trump has learned not to appoint his most dangerous enemies to the highest offices, Biden out of power faces the risk of a real investigation of his and his son’s suspect business affairs, which appear to boil down to influence peddling.

So far the Biden family has reacted negatively to the pressure on Biden from fellow Democrats to stand down. But there is room for a deal if the Democrats can find a candidate for whom they can succeed in having a stolen election accepted. The deal would be that in exchange for standing down, the replacement candidate when “elected” will have the Justice (sic) Department investigate Joe and Hunter’s business dealings and clear them from all suspicions. One wonders why the corrupt merrick garland hasn’t already done this. For Trump the main problem is how does he form a loyal government committed to Trump’s and Trump’s supporters agenda? The Rino Republican establishment is almost as opposed to Trump as the Democrats. Where are there aware Republicans with brains and a willingness to fight the Establishment and the media which serves the Establishment? Supposing such people exist and that Trump finds them, how does he get them confirmed in office? Confirmation is up to the Senate. Is the Senate going to put in office people who intend to dismantle the Establishment that the Senate represents?

The most important question is who will sacrifice his chances for success in life by serving in a Trump administration and going against the Establishment. There are so many ways in which the Establishment can ruin you. When Trump, if elected, is confronted with his isolation, as he was during his first term with no reliable advisers having abandoned Bannon and Flynn, what does he do? Does he declare his re-election as vindication and make his peace with the Establishment, thereby surviving and recovering from his damaged business interests? Trump’s support is in the people, but the people are impotent. The media lies to them continually, but enough of them continue to support the media and partake of their indoctrination from CNN, NPR, the New York Times and the rest of the presstitutes for the media to continue its lies. The media’s lies sustain the official narratives.

The people have no influence on the cabinet departments that serve the private agendas of the Establishment. All the people can do is to cast votes that might or might not be properly counted. We already see an unpromising change in Trump. In place of analysis he blusters. If he had been in office Russia would have been too afraid to invade Ukraine and Hamas to attack Israel. In other words, he has bought into the Establishment explanations. We no longer hear that he is going to normalize relations with Russia. Instead, he is going to intimidate Russia. This is not what the world on the brink of World War III wants to hear. We want to see leadership that acknowledges Washington and NATO’s responsibility in the ever-widening conflict. As long as we are full of self-justification, we can’t see the Russian point of view. Unless we can bring ourselves to see the Russian point of view, we will continue on our path to a major war.

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Vovan and Lexus strike again.

Hillary Clinton Welcomes Ukraine ‘Attacking’ Trump (RT)

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signaled her support if Ukraine attempted to dig up dirt on GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. She made the comment in a phone call with Russian prankster duo Vovan and Lexus, one of whom posed as ex-Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko. According to a recording of the conversation made public on Wednesday, Clinton and the man she believed to be Poroshenko discussed the political landscape in the US leading up to the November election, as well as the potential repercussions of a Trump victory for both Kiev and Washington. Trump has repeatedly criticized the way the administration of US President Joe Biden has handled the Ukraine conflict, saying he would end hostilities within 24 hours if elected and stop sending unconditional financial support to Kiev.

Clinton said that she is “doing everything” she can to secure Biden’s reelection, while acknowledging that those efforts come at “a very difficult time in this country.” Her comments followed a recent television debate between Biden and Trump, widely seen as a disaster for the incumbent. The former presidential candidate, who lost the 2016 election to Trump, described her former rival as “very dangerous,” adding that he “would be very bad for the United States as well as for… Ukraine,” and that Kiev was right to be concerned. Later in the conversation, ‘Poroshenko’ offered to “request a hearing in the [Ukrainian] parliament to find something on him [Trump] before the election,” recalling that the 45th president is already facing serious legal trouble in the US. “I think we can attack him from different sides,” the prankster suggested.

Clinton seemed to like the idea. “Good. Anything you could do, attack him, I’m all for it, because he is a very dangerous man,” she responded. ‘Poroshenko’ then followed up with a suggestion to “send my people in the US,” without clarifying what he meant, but the former secretary ignored this proposal. Biden and Trump faced-off on June 27, with the US president widely being perceived as incoherent and fumbling. According to several reports, many prominent Democrats and party donors are scrambling to find a replacement for Biden. Meanwhile, Trump is heading into the election as the only former or current US president to be convicted of a crime. In May, the GOP frontrunner was found guilty of falsifying business records stemming from an alleged ‘hush money’ payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, with whom Trump allegedly had an affair. The ex-president maintains his innocence and has denied being involved with Daniels.

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Fiona Hill.

Will Putin Attack Poland & the Baltics? (Ray McGovern)

At Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump, President Joe Biden, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” claimed that he “wants all of Ukraine. … Do you think he’ll stop? … What do you think happens to Poland and other places?” Spoiler Alert: Official Ukrainian sources confirm that Putin did stop in March 2022, after Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky agreed to forswear membership in NATO. This was the key provision in the Ukraine-Russia deal initialed by Davyd Arakhamia, who at the time was Zelensky’s chief negotiator (and his party’s faction leader in the Rada) at the talks in Istanbul at the end of March, hardly a month into the war. The Russians lifted their objection to Ukraine joining the EU, as the Ukrainians agreed to neutrality. Security guarantees sought by Kyiv (short of NATO membership) would be worked out. The fighting would stop. Agreement on the status of Crimea would be put off to the future.

Putin and Zelensky reportedly were micromanaging the March 2022 negotiations, and at that early stage the Russians expressed readiness for the two to meet. At the same time that Biden and other Western leaders raise the alarm that Putin will attack other parts of Europe when he’s through with Ukraine, they claim Russia can’t even take the Ukrainian province of Kharkiv, has lost more than 500,000 men to just 30,000 Ukrainians and its economy is faltering (none of which is true.) But Cold War Western power was based on an exaggerated Soviet threat and the same is true today. In a November 2023 Kyiv Post report titled “Russia Offered to End War in 2022 If Ukraine Scrapped NATO Ambitions – Zelensky Party Chief,” Arakhamia confirmed that in the March 2022 negotiations Russia proposed ending the war on the condition that Ukraine abandon its NATO aspirations and adopt a neutral stance.

Arakhamia continued: “Neutrality was the biggest thing for them, they were ready to end the war if we took — as Finland once did — neutrality and made commitments that we would not join NATO. This was the key point. While negotiations continued in Istanbul, former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unexpectedly arrived in Kyiv on April 9 and said that Ukraine shouldn’t sign anything with them at all – and ‘let’s just fight.’ ” Arakhamia’s candor was refreshing. But it came as no surprise to those of us following Ukraine in early 2022. On May 5, 2022 — a year and a half before Arakhamia spilled the beans to the Kyiv Post — Ukrainska Pravda ran a report under the title “Possibility of talks between Zelensky and Putin came to a halt after Johnson’s visit”: “According to sources close to Zelenskyy, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, who appeared in the capital almost without warning, brought two simple messages.

The first is that Putin is a war criminal, he should be pressured, not negotiated with. And the second is that even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on guarantees with Putin, they [the West] are not. The collective West felt that Putin was not really as powerful as they had previously imagined, and that here was a chance to press him.” Three days after Johnson left Kyiv, Putin publicly stated that talks with Ukraine had “turned into a dead end.” Putin expressed confidence that Russia would ultimately prevail and added that it would “rhythmically and calmly” continue conducting the operation in Ukraine. In his major speech to the Russian Foreign Ministry on June 14, Putin said the Russian troops approaching Kyiv in February-March 2022 were there “to push the Ukrainian side to negotiations.” From Feb. 24 on, the Russians had expressed readiness for diplomacy. Interestingly, Zelensky appointed Arakhamia chief negotiator on Feb. 28.

Putin continued: “Surprisingly, as a result, agreements that satisfied both Moscow and Kyiv were indeed reached and initialed in Istanbul. … The document was titled ‘Agreement on Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees for Ukraine’. It was a compromise but resolved the problems that were stated as major ones even at the start of the special military operation. But the path to peace was rejected again. … The former UK prime minister said directly during his visit to Kyiv – no agreements. Russia must be defeated on the battlefield. … Thus they began to intensively pump Ukraine up with weapons and started talking about the need to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia.”

Who has been telling Biden that Putin “will not stop at Ukraine?” Exhibit A would be Fiona Hill, disciple of arch-Russophobe historian Richard Pipes, and national intelligence officer for Russia (2006-09). Her insights appeared in The New York Times exactly a month before Russia invaded Ukraine. On Jan. 24, 2022, the Times featured a guest essay by Hill titled “Putin has the U.S. Right Where He Wants It”: “This time, Mr. Putin’s aim is bigger than closing NATO’s ‘open door’ to Ukraine and taking more territory — he wants to evict the United States from Europe. As he might put it: ‘Goodbye, America. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’”

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”What is happening to Europe is not just a crisis, or collapse, or loss of position. It truly is a disaster..”

Western Talk of Ukraine Peace Just For Show – Zakharova (RT)

Any Western talk of peace in the Ukraine conflict is merely a “decoy” as the US and its allies remain intent on inflicting a strategic defeat on Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Kiev on Tuesday, where he urged Vladimir Zelensky to seek a ceasefire with Russia to facilitate peace talks. The Ukrainian leader rejected the proposal, saying he has a different way to end the conflict. Whatever discussions Ukraine and Western nations have about peace are mere “decoys, screens, tropes and memes,” said purely for their own sake, Zakharova said on her weekly radio show on Wednesday. The Ukraine conflict is dominated by the goal of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia, which the US and its allies have declared “absolutely clearly and specifically,” the official explained.

In practical terms, the West seeks to dismantle Russia and to end its existence, she claimed. What did you expect from the people chosen by the US as their tools? Tools don’t have a say in what they do. Clear-eyed politicians in the EU can see the place allocated to their nations in the US grand plan, which is that of a sacrificial animal on the altar of victory against Russia, Zakharova added. Europe’s grim future is evident in the state of its economy, she said. ”What is happening to Europe is not just a crisis, or collapse, or loss of position. It truly is a disaster,” she argued. Western officials such as Hungary’s Orban, who publicly object to the course of action chosen in Washington, probably want to set the record straight for the future generations of Europeans, who will blame the leaders of today for their inaction, Zakharova said.

The Hungarian prime minister has repeatedly argued that Western sanctions imposed on Russia as punishment for the Ukraine conflict have failed to end hostilities and ended up hurting EU members more than they did Russia. Budapest has used its veto power in the bloc to stop proposed restrictions that would have undermined core Hungarian national interests, such as its cooperation with Russia on nuclear energy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to order a ceasefire with Ukraine as soon as Kiev renounces its bid to join NATO and pulls its troops out of all territory which Moscow claims under its sovereignty.

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“..Ukraine is not interested in Orban’s proposal and claimed that a ceasefire “cannot be considered in isolation.”

Orban Reveals Zelensky’s Reaction To Ceasefire Proposal (RT)

Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky was not receptive to Budapest’s proposal to establish a temporary ceasefire with Russia, according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who recently traveled to Kiev. During his surprise visit on Tuesday, which was his first trip to Ukraine in over a decade, Orban proposed that Zelensky think about “whether it would be possible to take a break. To reach a ceasefire and start negotiations [with Russia] since a quick ceasefire could speed up these negotiations.” Ahead of the trip, Orban stated that he hoped to explain to Zelensky that “time is running out and it is important to establish peace, as hundreds of soldiers are dying on the front every day and we do not see how a solution can be found on the battlefield.”

However, following his conversations with Zelensky, Orban told the Swiss Die Weltwoche news outlet, that the Ukrainian leader “had some doubts” about the ceasefire proposal and “didn’t like it very much.” He explained that Zelensky “had a bad experience in the past with ceasefires, which, in his opinion, did not benefit Ukraine” and because of this believed there were “limits” to what could be achieved. While Zelensky himself has not yet commented on Hungary’s proposal, his deputy chief of staff, Igor Zhovka has stated that Ukraine is not interested in Orban’s proposal and claimed that a ceasefire “cannot be considered in isolation.”

Instead, Zhovka said that Kiev will continue to seek a resolution to the conflict based on Zelensky’s own ‘peace formula’. The ten-point program, initially floated in late 2022, calls for a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from territories Kiev claims as its own, reparation payments and an international war crime tribunal for Russia’s leadership. Moscow has vehemently rejected Zelensky’s plan as a non-starter and has stressed that any peace talks with Kiev must be based on “realities on the ground.” Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented his own set of terms for starting ceasefire talks, which include a full Ukrainian withdrawal from the regions that voted to be part of Russia, as well as legally binding guarantees that ensure Ukraine will never become a member of NATO.

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‘You planned to mobilize this number of people, but mobilized that. We have provided you with funds for weapons and that number of troops, and you fail to hold your end of the bargain,..”

US Dissatisfied With Ukraine’s Mobilization Rate – Former PM (Sp.)

The United States expresses its dissatisfaction with the insufficient mobilization rate in Ukraine, causing trouble in Washington-Kiev relations, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday. “After the adoption of the bill facilitating mobilization, the number of mobilized people increased, but the Kiev regime failed to achieve the numbers set by the Americans, failed by far. That is why they are having problems with their US masters who are openly saying: ‘You planned to mobilize this number of people, but mobilized that. We have provided you with funds for weapons and that number of troops, and you fail to hold your end of the bargain,'” Azarov said on Telegram. There is active agitation in Ukraine in favor of signing of the temporary ceasefire agreement, he added.

“They say, we should sit tight, gain strength and win [the lost territories] back. That is the idea of all that [agitation] talks. No one is promoting the idea of giving up these territories indefinitely, the idea of a permanent peace treaty, the idea of giving up on NATO membership. These ideas are mentioned nowhere,” the former prime minister added. Martial law was introduced in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The next day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree on general mobilization. The martial law and mobilization have been continuously extended since then. On May 9, the Ukrainian president signed bills to extend mobilization and martial law in the country for another 90 days. Under martial law, Ukrainian citizens aged from 18 to 60 are prohibited from leaving the country.

Western countries have been providing massive military and financial aid to Kiev since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in February 2022. The Kremlin has consistently warned against continued arms deliveries to Kiev, saying it would lead to further escalation of the conflict.

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“Stage [the interview] on neutral grounds or he might have you disappeared like Gonzalo Lira..”

Tucker Carlson Announces Zelensky Interview (RT)

Vladimir Zelensky has finally accepted a request to be interviewed by Tucker Carlson, the American journalist has revealed. A notorious Ukrainian government-linked website branded Carlson an enemy of the state, in particular for his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. Carlson used to host a highly-rated evening show on Fox News until he was fired last April for reasons never quite explained. He has since launched his own network, posting on X (formerly Twitter) and Telegram. “Looks like we’ve got the Zelenskyy interview,” Carlson said on Wednesday. “We’ve been trying for two years, and with particular intensity after interviewing Putin in February.” “The point is to bring Americans much-needed information about the conflict that’s completely reshaping their country’s position in the world. Coming soon we hope,” he added.

Following the Putin interview, Carlson revealed that he also reached out to Zelensky to give him a chance to “explain his position,” but said that the Ukrainian leader ignored his overtures. The influential American journalist has long been critical of the US policy to fund Kiev in the conflict against Moscow. “Ukraine can’t win. Everybody knows that around the world. People are very clear on that. There is not one informed person outside the United States who thinks that somehow Ukraine is going to beat Russia,” he said in April.Last month, during an interview with Donald Trump Jr, Carlson argued that Ukraine was being sold off to foreign corporate investors and that the Ukrainian nation would disappear within 50 years. “We betrayed them like no other country ever,” he said at the time.

Carlson’s announcement has caused some concern among his fans, given that he was placed on Ukraine’s notorious list of public enemies back in 2023, labeled as “an accomplice of Russian occupiers and terrorists.” “Stage [the interview] on neutral grounds or he might have you disappeared like Gonzalo Lira,” conservative blogger Ian Miles Cheong warned Carlson, referring to an American-Chilean journalist who was tortured to death in a Ukrainian jail earlier this year. The controversial Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) database was launched by Ukrainian government-linked activists in 2014. It has often been called Ukraine’s ‘kill list’, as a number of prominent journalists and other public figures featured on the website have been murdered over the years.

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Good topic for Tucker’s interview.

Ukraine To Be Warned It’s ‘Too Corrupt’ For NATO – Telegraph (RT)

NATO wants Ukraine to make more effort to crack down on endemic corruption as a condition for any progress towards joining the bloc, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday, citing sources. According to the British paper, concerns that Ukraine is “too corrupt” to become a full-fledged NATO member will be highlighted in the communique at the bloc’s Washington summit on July 9-11. A senior US State Department official told The Telegraph that the West must “applaud everything that Ukraine has done in the name of reforms over the last two-plus years.” However, he added that “we want to talk about additional steps that need to be taken, particularly in the area of anti-corruption. It is a priority for many of us around the table.”

NATO members first agreed in 2008 that Ukraine would eventually join the bloc, without setting an exact timetable. After the Western-backed coup in Kiev in 2014, Ukraine made its NATO aspirations a strategic goal and formally applied to join the bloc in 2022. The move came after four of its former regions voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Ukraine’s accession is out of the question while it is in conflict with Russia, insisting that membership can only be approved “when allies agree and conditions are met.” Moscow has said Ukraine’s plans to join NATO are among the key reasons for the conflict. Ukraine has been plagued by corruption for years. The hostilities with Russia have made the problem even more apparent, and the Ukrainian military has been rocked by several high-profile procurement scandals in recent months.

Graft is high on the list of concerns for Ukraine’s Western backers in the EU and US. Last month, the EU set up a special watchdog to combat the possible embezzlement of billions of dollars allocated to Kiev. In May, Robert Storch, the Pentagon’s inspector general, released a report stating that “endemic corruption persists” in Ukraine while calling its government “one of the least accountable” in Europe. An NBC report in June claimed that Kiev has been irritated by constant US demands to ramp up anti-corruption efforts. American and Ukrainian officials have acknowledged that it is one of the issues poisoning bilateral relations. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, Ukraine is in the ‘red’ zone, ranking 104th out of 180 countries.

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“The stocks of their weapons have been depleting, many tunnels have been destroyed, infrastructure has been devastated. Their combatants must be exhausted as they have been fighting for a long time. But from the political point of view, Hamas has never been stronger..”

‘Hamas Has Never Been Stronger’: Israel Is Stuck In A War It Can’t Win (Blade)

Through April, the IDF had targeted more than 32,000 military sites belonging to Hamas and its allies. In June, Israel announced that 15,000 of the group’s militants had been eliminated. But experts are certain those measures won’t eradicate the Islamic group that has been in charge of Gaza since 2007. “We are advancing to the end of the stage of eliminating the Hamas terrorist army,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, addressing the cadets of Israel National Defense College. “I was very impressed by the achievements above ground and below ground, and by the commanders’ fighting spirit. With this spirit we will achieve our objectives: Returning our hostages, eliminating Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, ensuring that Gaza will not constitute a threat…” he added. Since October 7, 2023 – when hordes of Hamas militants attacked Israel and killed more than 1,500 people – Israel has eliminated dozens of Hamas tunnels.

It has seized weapons depots and cash, destroyed various military sites, killed operatives of Hamas and of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and captured thousands others. But almost nine months in, Israel’s victory over Hamas still seems remote. Before the deadly October 7 attack, the Islamic group that has been in control of the Strip since 2007, boasted five brigades or 25 battalions with a total number of active combatants standing at 30,000. In June, Israel admitted that it had only eliminated half of that original force, or 15,000 Hamas combatants. On Tuesday evening, the country’s chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, said Israeli forces had killed at least 900 militants in Rafah, south of the Strip. Reports suggest that Hamas is now actively recruiting new cadets, many of whom are 18 year-olds, to replenish its ranks, but even if they fail to reach their initial numbers, the existing battalions are more than enough to challenge Israel.

Just on Monday, Hamas militants fired twenty rockets from Khan Yunis at Israel’s southern communities, showing they are still capable of putting up a fight. Areas that had been vacant of Hamas before are now seeing a resurgence. Israeli soldiers continue to fall in the Strip, almost on a daily basis, with the total number already exceeding 670. “I don’t believe Israel can destroy Hamas completely,” said Shadi Abdelrahman, a political analyst and native of Gaza who left the Strip shortly before the war. “Hamas is not like any other group. They are not outsiders. They have an ideology connected to a cause, and that cause is to fight for their lands or to avenge the death of their loves ones,” he added.

Stemming from the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organization that’s deemed terrorist by many regional and international players, Hamas was established in Gaza in late 1980s as a response to what they call Israeli occupation and the inability of other Palestinian factions, including Fatah, to confront it. But they were far more than just a group that wanted to resist Israel militarily. Just like their patrons, the Muslim Brotherhood, they were a social movement: they established schools and hospitals, they ran charities and served as mediators in family feuds, and that made them an indispensable part of the Gazan society.

“Socially speaking, Hamas of today doesn’t have that much power and cannot provide what it used to before, simply because they cannot move freely due to Israel’s heavy shelling,” explained Abdelrahman. “Militarily, their capabilities have also been damaged. The stocks of their weapons have been depleting, many tunnels have been destroyed, infrastructure has been devastated. Their combatants must be exhausted as they have been fighting for a long time. But from the political point of view, Hamas has never been stronger,” added the analyst.

Read more …

“If they want to take the risk, get themselves into trouble, and put themselves into the same predicament that Eisenhower was, let them come..”

Houthis Vow USS Theodore Roosevelt Primary Target Once it Enters Red Sea (Sp.)

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is set to take over duties in the region after Yemen’s Ansar Allah movement (Houthis) targeted the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea with missiles and UAVs in response to earlier bombings, leading the supercarrier to exit after an eight-month posting. Yemen’s Houthi militia has released a video promising to sink the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt once it arrives in Red Sea waters. The aircraft carrier is a “primary target for the Missile Forces of the Yemeni Army from now on, and will be subject to targeting upon its entry into the Red Sea,” Ansar Allah leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi stated in the video. “If they want to take the risk, get themselves into trouble, and put themselves into the same predicament that Eisenhower was, let them come,” al-Houthi warned.

The Houthis have vowed to stop all Israeli-owned or bound naval traffic through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden until Israel halts its assault on the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The armed forces have tried to strike the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier on several occasions, but the US Navy insists that those attacks caused no damage to the supercarrier or its escorts. A missile and drone barrage targeted the vessel shortly before it departed the region in early June.

“In response to US and UK air strikes on some cities and civilian targets in Yemen, which killed and injured more than 58 people, most of whom were civilians, the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier was attacked in the Red Sea with a large number of ballistic, cruise missiles and drones,” Ansar Allah political office member Hezam al-Asad told Sputnik in May. Yemeni forces hit a US aircraft carrier in the Red Sea with missiles and UAVs in response to the bombing of the country – Ansar Allah. Most of those killed and wounded in US and British strikes on Yemen were civilians, a member of the Ansar Allah political bureau told Sputnik. The Yemeni blockade of Israel prompted the United States to send warships to the Red Sea along with a handful of ships from a ‘coalition’ of NATO member states including the UK. Those forces have attacked targets in Yemen.

Read more …











Snow leopard



Baby sleep





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Jun 302020
 June 30, 2020  Posted by at 10:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  36 Responses »

Pablo Picasso The dream 1951


China’s Military Becomes First To Use Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine (SCMP)
California, Texas See Record COVID-19 surges, Arizona Clamps Down (R.)
Norwegian Air Cancels 97 Boeing MAX And Dreamliners, Claims Compensation (R.)
Europe’s Recovery Fund: An Instrument of Class War (Varoufakis)
We Digitized the Mob, and There’s No Place to Hide (Miele)



As we approach the end of the first half of 2020, I’m seriously rethinking how to cover COVID19 going forward. The past five months have been intense in that regard, and at a certain point you need to wonder how useful such time-consuming work still is. For a long time I had the hope and belief that “we” would be able to halt the spread of the coronavirus, if only because that was -and is- the only sensible way to deal with a new pathogen about which very little is known, other than that it is potentially deadly.

But despite a huge number of actions, including lockdowns in many countries and societies, the infection numbers only keep rising. And at this point is is entirely unclear how countries like the US and Brazil will ever be able to get rid of the virus.

The consequences will be grave, albeit different in different places. We will see overwhelmed healthcare systems in some countries and states, while others will remain relatively unscathed, at least for a while. Ironically, in a world used to so much travelling it’s even useful to wonder what good it does to do a lockdown well. How long can New Zealand keep its borders closed?

As for healthcare, there was a report that it will take four years for the UK’s NHS to recover from COVID19, and that based on what they have experienced so far, while there is still plenty room for second or third waves, and/or any unforeseeable extra pressure.

Tourism as we’ve known it will never recover, at least not on a timescale that is meaningful to us. That whole industry needs a great reset. That is of course also true for airlines, plane manufacturers et al. As it is for the entire hospitality industry. People will be cautious when going out, the fear of infection rules supreme, as demonstrated again by this report from NBER, Fear, Lockdown, and Diversion, which shows it wasn’t the lockdowns that did the most damage.

This paper examines the drivers of the collapse using cellular phone records data on customer visits to more than 2.25 million individual businesses across 110 different industries. Comparing consumer behavior within the same commuting zones but across boundaries with different policy regimes suggests that legal shutdown orders account for only a modest share of the decline of economic activity (and that having county-level policy data is significantly more accurate than state-level data).

While overall consumer traffic fell by 60 percentage points, legal restrictions explain only 7 of that. Individual choices were far more important and seem tied to fears of infection. Traffic started dropping before the legal orders were in place; was highly tied to the number of COVID deaths in the county; and showed a clear shift by consumers away from larger/busier stores toward smaller/less busy ones in the same industry.

But I have to admit, over the past few days, when I was silent, I’ve become ever more worried by the American political and societal situation than by coronavirus. The images of people with guns standing outside of their homes, the stories of police and mob violence, shootings in “police-free” zones, it all starts to smell like a civil war.

While I wasn’t writing, I was reading all the more from both sides of aisle, and whatever they may still have had in common appears to disappear rapidly. The hunt for Trump continues unabated with yet another anonymous and unsourced tale about RussiaRussia, while the right is organizing to counter what they see as lawlessness across the nation.

Frank Miele, in a article below, quotes Bobby Kennedy, speaking after MLK was shot:

“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one — no matter where he lives or what he does — can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on. Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? … No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. … [A]n uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.”

That sounds like a voice of reason that is sorely needed by the country right now. But does anyone see any of those? Ideally, Trump and Biden would get together on live TV to ask their supporters to please calm down. But I don’t see that happening in the present climate either. It’s become too polarized, fed by media and their business models.

I’m just trying to make sense of it all. Trying to find a way out of the mess, a way forward. But right now I’m mostly just thinking that Independence Day could turn into an incredibly messy affair. Or any other day between now and the election.





US has fifth day in a row with over 40,000 new cases











Key line: “The candidate is yet to start phase three trials, which would confirm whether it could protect recipients from infection.”

China’s Military Becomes First To Use Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine (SCMP)

China has approved military use of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the People’s Liberation Army and a Chinese pharmaceutical company, in a first for the armed forces of any country. The vaccine, identified as Ad5-nCoV, was jointly developed by a team at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, led by Major General Chen Wei, and Tianjin-based company CanSino Biologics. It is the first time that a vaccine candidate for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has been authorised for use for the military of any nation. CanSino said on Monday that the candidate had been through two phases of clinical trials, which indicated it was safe and there was “relatively high” immune response to the antigen.

The candidate is yet to start phase three trials, which would confirm whether it could protect recipients from infection. The military has approved its use for a year but it has not been authorised for civilian purposes. Adding Ad5-nCoV to the People’s Liberation Army’s catalogue of special drugs means that it can be deployed in major outbreaks. It is based on an Ebola vaccine that was developed by Chen but did not go into mass production. Scientists are racing to find an answer to the coronavirus that has already infected more than 10 million people and killed over 500,000. New cases continue to surge in the United States and India, with the US confirming more than 40,000 new cases for the third straight day on Monday.

According to the World Health Organisation, clinical trials are under way for 17 vaccine candidates, seven of which have been developed in China. One candidate developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca is in phase three studies. Phase one and two studies typically test if a candidate is safe and whether it can generate an immune response from the recipients, but vaccines must complete all three sets of trials to be licensed. CanSino said it completed phase two trials on June 11, but the company has not yet released data from the study. [..] Many Chinese candidates are planning phase three trials in other countries as the spread of the coronavirus in China is too limited to test the efficacy of the vaccine. CanSino reached an agreement with Canadian government to conduct phase three trials there but details of the studies have not been revealed.

Read more …

We’ll see anti-police protests and anti-lockdown protests all at the same time.

California, Texas See Record COVID-19 surges, Arizona Clamps Down (R.)

California and Texas both marked record spikes in new COVID-19 infections on Monday, a Reuters tally showed, as Los Angeles reported an “alarming” one-day surge in America’s second-largest city that put it over 100,000 cases. Los Angeles has become a new epicenter in the pandemic as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge there despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s strict orders requiring bars to close and residents to wear masks in nearly all public spaces. “The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said in a statement announcing the sharp rise.

“Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death,” Ferrer said. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a “hard pause” on when movie theaters, theme parks and other entertainment venues can reopen. Los Angeles County is the biggest movie theater market in the United States. Los Angeles County said its beaches will be closed for the Independence Day weekend and fireworks displays will be banned.


Read more …

is there a better example of the future of tourism?

Norwegian Air Cancels 97 Boeing MAX And Dreamliners, Claims Compensation (R.)

Norwegian Air has cancelled orders for 97 Boeing aircraft and will claim compensation from the U.S. plane maker for the grounding of the 737 MAX and for 787 engine troubles that hit its bottom line, the Oslo-based carrier said on Monday. The airline cancelled 92 of the 737 MAX jets, five 787 Dreamliners and so-called GoldCare service agreements related to both aircraft, just as Boeing on Monday began a crucial set of flight tests of the 737 MAX in an effort to gain regulatory approval for it to return to the skies.

“Norwegian has in addition filed a legal claim seeking the return of pre-delivery payments related to the aircraft and compensation for the company’s losses related to the grounding of the 737 MAX and engine issues on the 787,” the airline said. Norwegian did not specify the amount it would seek to claim from Boeing, which it had been in talks with about compensation, and was not immediately available for comment. Boeing said it was working with Norwegian on a path forward in a challenging time as it was with other operators but it would not comment on commercial discussions.

Read more …

Nothing has changed in Europe.

Europe’s Recovery Fund: An Instrument of Class War (Varoufakis)

Europe was never the battlefield on which the frugal North clashed with the profligate South. Instead, every European country has been the battlefield where a vicious class war is fought by a transnational oligarchy-without-frontiers training its armour against the weaker residents of every country, every region, every community. COVID-19, and the European Union’s response to it, only magnifies the human costs of this unremitting class war. All talk of a North-South clash is founded on a gigantic lie, that is based on many small truths, conveniently hiding from Europeans’ gaze the class war that diminishes their life prospects.

The crisis of financialisation in 2008 intensified Europe’s class war massively, holding a majority of Northern and Southern Europeans behind and leaving Europe, including its capitalist class, much weakened in relation to the rest of the world — the United States and China in particular. Twelve years on, COVID-19 gives this crisis a new, violent spin. The weak are weakened much, much more while Europe as a whole falls further and further behind the United States and China. While the EU’s leadership and bureaucracy have been quite active in the past three months, producing one impressive-sounding policy announcement after the next, the sum of their actions boost the class war that enfeebled Europe over the past decade and weakened a majority of Europeans everywhere.

[..] Rumours that Covid-19 caused the EU to lift its game are grossly exaggerated. Good people who took heart from the news that, however reluctantly, the EU has embraced common debt in a bid to further the cause of pan-european solidarity, will soon be deeply disappointed. Behind the heroic pronouncements and the triumphant propaganda lurks a sordid truth: The class war against Europe’s weaker people is escalating. And so is Europe’s descent into global irrelevance.

It all began with the quiet death of the Eurobond. Eurobonds, as advocated by DiEM25, would perform a simple task: They would automatically convert any new Italian, Spanish or Greek public debt (due to the impact of the pandemic on public revenues and expenses) into European debt (in the same way that US Treasury Bills absorb the costs of a recession in Missouri and Wisconsin). But, once the Eurobond was killed off by the Eurogroup in early April, it is now a given that the gigantic increase in national budget deficits will be followed by equally sizeable austerity in every country — a euphemism for the intensification of the class war that depletes the already atrophied incomes of the majority in each of our countries.

Read more …

Excellent piece, what ever side you’re on.

We Digitized the Mob, and There’s No Place to Hide (Miele)

The most shocking aspect of the wave of rioting and destruction that has been unleashed on many of our American cities in the wake of George Floyd’s death is not that there is an underlying discontent with the rate of progress in racial equality. That is understandable. What is not is the way that mayors, governors and members of Congress have not just tolerated, but endorsed, mob violence as an acceptable weapon of social change. Growing up in the turbulent 1960s, I was given a very specific warning by my mother: If you ever get caught up in a mob, get out of it as soon as possible because a mob has no brain. It just has emotion — and whether that emotion is anger, hatred or even joyful exuberance, it cannot be controlled.

We saw that in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd while in police custody. People with a brain were outraged by what they saw. They wanted to protest, to speak out, and to demand justice. But when they came together in the streets, they discovered how quickly protest can transform into riot, and how demands for justice can be used to justify injustice. The basic premise of justice, after all, is recompense, making sure that wrongdoers pay a price for their crime. Yet there was no recompense in burning the businesses of innocent bystanders. There was no justice in stealing TVs and PlayStations. This was just brainless mob violence. It was shameful and it should have been easily condemned by the politicians, news media and celebrities who were not part of the mob.

That’s what would have happened in the 1960s. When Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, leading to riots across America in 1968, Bobby Kennedy appealed for peace amidst “this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.” The parallel is exact. A black man is unjustly murdered. The nation is outraged. Riots ensue. The only part that is missing today is a respected grown-up like Kennedy who would condemn the violence and recognize that “[i]t is not the concern of any one race.” As Kennedy said,

“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one — no matter where he lives or what he does — can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on. Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? … No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. … [A]n uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.”

What a refreshing expression of common sense, and what a contrast it offers to the bleating appeasers from the Democratic Party today who have bent a knee in obeisance to the mob, to the rioters, to the monument defacers, to the statue topplers. But it’s not just the Democrats who have bowed to the “voice of madness.” Most Republicans are right there with them. So too are corporate entities such as Intel and Amazon, and sporting organizations such as the NFL and NASCAR. For their part, news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC are promoting the riots and the cleansing of American history that is being pushed by Black Lives Matter. The question is why?

It is easy to understand why someone surrounded by the mob surrenders to its power, but those corporate boardrooms are far from the fray and well-protected from the torches and Molotov cocktails. So why have they turned their backs on law and order and embraced the mob? What has changed since the 1960s that makes it so much harder for leaders in government, business and culture to condemn violence and lawlessness? The answer will not surprise you, but it should scare you. Somewhere along the way, we digitized the mob. The few dozen people surrounding a statue are not the problem. The few hundred people confronting police are not the problem. The few thousand people looting stores and throwing rocks are not the problem. The mob on the street is not the problem. The mob on the street is the symptom.

The millions of people acting without moral restraint, without reason and without fear of consequences on the Internet are the problem. Indeed, the digital mob is the unintended consequence of the Internet itself. Connecting the world via technology was supposed to encourage communication, understanding and a breaking down of barriers. Instead it has resulted in a world divided into silos, special interests, identity groups. We tend to seek out those we have the most in common with and to block, ban or troll those who are unlike us. We feel safety in numbers, and from that safety is often bred outright contempt for those who think differently.

Read more …



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I’ll close today with a series of clips of an interview yesterday with Michael Fynn’s attorney Sidney Powell, who’s going to be an important voice in the run-up to November 3, whether you agree with her or not. Stay safe.







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Jul 042019

Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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





Jul 052018

René Magritte The secret player 1927


There’s something wonderfully -though at the same time sadly- ironic in simultaneously contemplating America’s Independence Day and Greece’s NO! (OXI!) vote three years ago that was subsequently defeated by it own prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, at the behest of the European Union’s powers that be.

Where Americans managed to break free of their yoke in 1776, the Greeks did not. Indeed, they were betrayed by their own. There are certainly plenty of similarities with the Declaration of Independence to be made, plenty voices and forces that sought to defeat the Founding Fathers. In the end, the result is simple: the Americans succeeded in breaking free, the Greeks did not.

It’s just that this is not where the story halts; it’s not the whole story. You can say that the Greeks are not independent while the Americans are, but that is true in name only. What does that famous American independence consist of?

How free and independent are Americans really today? In 1956, Dwight Eisenhower famously talked about the military-industrial complex that the nation should beware of, but 62 years later is seems safe to say his warning was not heeded.

Donald Trump ran on a non-interventionist platform, but the military-industrial complex appears to have him gift-wrapped up and ready for delivery a year and a half into his presidency. Under Trump, the US have dropped more bombs than even under Obama, no small feat.

It is of course well understood that if you justify such action properly through the media, the people will buy about anything when it comes to waging war abroad, but it’s still not what people voted for. They are not independent of the war machine.

And you can take this one step further. You can ask how independent a nation can really be if its citizens never learn to have independent thought, if they are deliberately never taught how to think for themselves. How can you be independent if and when other people define your thought and views?

Every single American and European must recognize at least part of Caitlin Johnstone’s Babies. It may read as if it’s describing some Chinese or Soviet system, or even Huxley or Orwell, but there’s not really any plausible denial that at least some of what she says resonates with you:



When a baby is born, its parents teach it how to eat solid foods and walk and talk, which generally works out fine. Then they start teaching the baby all the lies their parents taught them, and things start to get messy. When the baby is old enough, they send it to school, where it spends twelve years being taught lies about how the world works so that one day it will be able to watch CNN and say “Yes, this makes perfect sense” instead of “This is ridiculous” or “Why does this whole entire thing seem completely fake?” or “I want to punch Chris Cuomo in the throat.”

The baby is taught history, which is the study of the ancient, leftover propaganda from whichever civilization happened to win the wars in a given place at a given time. The baby is taught geography, so that later on when its country begins bombing another country, the baby’s country won’t be embarrassed if its citizens cannot find that country on a globe. The baby is taught obedience, and the importance of performing meaningless tasks in a timely manner.

This prepares the baby for the half century of pointless gear-turning it will be expected to undertake after graduation. The baby is taught that it lives in a free country, with a legitimate electoral system which facilitates meaningful elections of actual representatives in a real government. It is never taught that those elections, representatives and government are all owned and operated by the very rich, who use them to ensure policies which make them even richer while keeping everyone else as poor as possible so that they won’t have to share political power.

And so you get to, have to, wonder if this is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. Were they intending for America to be a nation filled with obedient sheeple? Since they themselves were revolting against a power that wanted for them to be just that, it doesn’t seem likely.

Beyond the issue of slavery, which would take another 90 years to come on the agenda, and another 90 after that to lead to the abolishment of racial separation (and likely another 90 for the next step), the Fathers appear to have sought actual independence. There are precious few signs that they would have looked kindly upon the military-industrial complex.

Or the existing political parties for that matter, replete with ‘life-long’ politicians who label themselves ‘public servants’ but whose careers depend entirely on lobbyists and the corporate powers they serve, which donate the campaign cash needed to get the ‘public servants’ elected and re-elected.

Power corrupts absolutely. And it crushes independence. Since all US politicians need corporate money to build and sustain their careers, isn’t it ironic that they, too, would celebrate Independence Day? Independent from what?

Sure, you can celebrate that you no longer depend on British rule, and their tea, but if and when you simply swap one dependency for another, what does the word independence even mean any more?

At least that’s something the Greeks have an answer to. They depend on Europe’s largest nations and their banks. They had a chance to break that dependency, and voted to do exactly that, only to see their Independence Day crushed by the first prime minister in decades who was not part of an age-old corrupt system.

Their quiet despair should be shared by Americans too, who are free and independent men and women in name only, and who depend on Washington and Wall Street’s deeply entrenched power brokers perhaps more then ever in their history.

The Greeks have no options left; they voted for the one independent party there was three years ago, and were betrayed with a kiss. America voted Trump into the White House and though he seemed independent, he also seems to have been eaten alive by the Deep State and the war machine.

Independence appears to mean, first of all, not relying on entrenched power blocks for your lives and livelihoods, the ability to make your own decisions, to reap the fruit of your own labor. Has America been further away from that at any time since 1776 than it is today?



Jul 052015

Unknown Magazine and cannonballs at Battery Rodgers, Alexandria 1863

I hardly ever go out in the morning, the first 7-8 hours of every single day are taken up by reading and writing. But today I did, to feel the mood in the city. Not sure I got it, though. Everything’s quiet. It may not help that I’m staying smack in the middle of the Acropolis tourist area (still haven’t figured out why 90% of them are American).

Not sure if many Greeks even really understand what is going on, and who can blame them, they have every reason to be scared more than anything else.

And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the trouble just about everyone seems to have with the simplest and most basic exercise in direct democracy that’s taking place right now. The referendum here today has been called manipulative, opaque, some say there’s not enough time, others claim Tsipras is merely trying to save face in the face of defeat, courts have been called in to rule on its legality.

But this place here is where democracy started. And votes were held just like the one today, all the time. To be rid of despot rule, to let the people decide. And sure, in the beginning it wasn’t all the people, just the alleged wise men, but it was a start. So why do we now find this simplicity so hard to stomach?

Put another way: is this because for Americans the 4th of July is these days more about stuffing your faces surrounded by your equally overweight families than it is about honoring the Founding Fathers? It’s quite possible, that our troubles with processing and absorbing direct democracy are somehow linked to that.

That Americans and Europeans have precious little understanding and appreciation left of what happened that led to the US celebrating, commemorating, its Independence Day in the first place. And therefore can’t see how and why it couldn’t have been accomplished without the example set right here in Greece many many years earlier.

Maybe that’s why a thousand pundits feel free to question the very principle of democracy. Or to at least try and hang all sorts of conditions and reservations on it. But it’s not that hard really: a government asks its people what they think about a certain issue.

That’s a democratically elected government’s prerogative. It couldn’t really get any more basic than that. And of all the freedoms we have, maybe the one that makes us question the very principle those very freedoms are derived from, is not the best choice. Maybe there are better and more productive freedoms to occupy ourselves with.

And it can’t be that the unfolding Greek drama hasn’t given us enough material to hold against the light of democratic principles. The Troika machinations, culminating in the oppression of data vital to the negotiations, from those same negotiations, is just one example. A damning one, though, but still.

For democracy to function, it must first of all be allowed to function. That requires revealing all relevant information. It also requires all parties who are not party to a vote to keep their mouths shut. If you look at it from that point of view, Brussels and Berlin seem to have little understanding and respect for what democracy is. For them it seems to be something to be manipulated with impunity.

And that does matter: democracy, to function, needs to be respected. Mere lip service doesn’t cut it.

Whatever the result of the vote is today, Greece is in for more hard times. A No vote would lead the little, little people in Brussels to engage in more strong arm tactics. And I see no reason to doubt that voting Yes is tantamount to sticking one’s head in a noose.

Who would want to live at the mercy of an institution populated by little people who actively try to keep vital numbers behind in a discussion held against the backdrop of hunger, suicide and despair in a country whose interests it is supposed to serve? But that’s just me. And I don’t have a vote.

If you look through Greek history, the country could claim an entire calendar full of Independence Days. The US has just the one, and it owes it to the ancient Greeks. Maybe that’s something to ponder when waking up from those glucose-induced stupors this morning.

That like it or not, this is where the democracy was born that allowed for America to become a nation of free people. The same democracy celebrated from sea to shining sea every Fourth of July. And also the same democracy that is under threat, in Greece, in Europe as a whole, and very much in the US too.

It looks to me that we’ve all become quite far removed from what Independence Day is about, in Brussels, Berlin and Washington. And we should feel lucky if Athens today can give us back some of what has been lost in the translation and erosion of history.

Democracy is a fragile child. It needs to be fed and nurtured and caressed around the clock. Or it will wither away before our very eyes. The Greeks taught us all a valuable lesson before. Here’s hoping they can again.

And at the same time add yet another Independence Day to their long and rich calendar.

Jul 052015
 July 5, 2015  Posted by at 11:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »

NPC Wilkins-Rogers Milling Co., Washington, DC 1926

Germany vs Greece: “Marx Is Claiming It Was Offside” (WaPo)
In Bad Faith (Ashoka Mody)
EU Warns Of Armageddon If Greek Voters Reject Terms (AEP)
Why I’d Vote ‘No’ On Greece’s Referendum (Brett Arends)
How a Greek Default Could Hammer Bonds (Carl B. Weinberg)
Quartet Of Crises Threatens Europe’s Core (Reuters)
Europe Can’t Afford To Let Athens Go Under, Says Varoufakis (Reuters)
Mirage of Economic Turnaround Masked New Greek Crisis in the Making (WSJ)
Our Heretic (And Not-So-Simple) Views On The Greek Referendum (ZH)
Euro Area Said to Weigh Push for Aid Deal Even If Greeks Vote No (Bloomberg)
The Greek Bluff In All Its Glory: Presenting The Grexit “Falling Dominoes” (ZH)
4th of July Fireworks: World War III With China Dead Ahead (Paul B. Farrell)
It’s Too Late To Save Our World, So Enjoy The Spectacle Of Doom (Guardian)

“Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics..”

Germany vs Greece: “Marx Is Claiming It Was Offside” (WaPo)

Many top English-speaking economists are either alarmed or aghast over Europe’s handling of the crisis in Greece. Several Nobel Prize winners say it has been exacerbated, time and again, by an unnecessarily rigid approach by Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and decision-maker. Greece simply cannot repay its debts, economists argue, no matter how much the country slashes public services or raises taxes. So by insisting it keep on trying, the thinking goes, Germany seems to be intent on punishing Greece. The Germans see it differently, saying what they are doing may be painful, but necessary, to get the country on a sustainable footing for the long term. To understand the massive gap in opinion, it might help to watch a Monty Python sketch from 1974 about a soccer match between Germany and Greece.

In the match, the two countries are represented by their foremost philosophers. For much of the game, the two sides do nothing but talk. Then, in the final minute, there is movement. Socrates scores past German goalie Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who lived from 1646 to 1716, to win. The German philosophers G.W.F. Hegel, Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx then dispute the goal with the referee, Confucius. “Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics. Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination,” the announcer says. “Marx is claiming it was offside.”

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Exactly my argument for why Troika negotiators should all be fired: “The IMF’s report is important because it reveals that the creditors negotiated with Greece in bad faith.”

In Bad Faith (Ashoka Mody)

On July 2, the IMF released its analysis of whether Greek debt was sustainable or not. The report said that Greek debt was not sustainable and deep debt relief along with substantial new financing were needed to stabilize Greece. In reaching this new assessment, the IMF stated it had learned many lessons. Among them: Greeks would not take adequate structural reforms to spur growth, they would not sell enough of their assets to repay their debt, and they were unable to undertake sufficient fiscal austerity. That left no choice but to grant Greece greater debt relief and to provide new financing to tide Greece over till it could stand on its own feet. The relief, the IMF, says must be provided by European creditors while the IMF is repaid in whole.

The IMF’s report is important because it reveals that the creditors negotiated with Greece in bad faith. For months, a haze was allowed to settle over the question of Greek debt sustainability. The timing of the report’s release—on the eve of a historic Greek referendum, well after the technical negotiations have broken down—suggests that there was no intention to allow a sober analysis of the Greek debt burden. Paul Taylor of Reuters tells us that the European authorities worked hard to suppress it and Landon Thomas of the New York Times reports that, until a few days ago, the IMF had played along. As a result, the entire burden of adjustment was to fall on the Greeks before any debt reduction could even be contemplated. This conclusion was based on indefensible economic logic and the absence of the IMF’s debt sustainability analysis intentionally biased the negotiations.

As an international organization responsible for global financial stability, it is the IMF’s role to explain clearly and honestly the economic parameters of a bailout negotiation. The Greeks, many said, benefited from low interest rates and repayments stretched out over many years. Therefore, no debt relief was needed. But, of course, as the IMF now makes clear, if a country has to repay about 4 percent of its income each year over the next 40 years and that country has poor growth prospects precisely because repaying that debt will lower growth, then debt is not sustainable. If this report had been made public earlier, the tone of the public debate and the media’s boorish stereotyping of Greeks and its government would have been balanced by greater clarity on the Greek position.

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EU Warns Of Armageddon If Greek Voters Reject Terms (AEP)

Greece risks a collapse of the medical system, power black-outs, and an import blockade, if the Greek people reject creditor demands in a make-or-break referendum tomorrow, the EU’s highest elected official has warned. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said the EU authorities may have to prepare emergency loans to keep basic public services functioning and to prevent the debt-stricken country spinning out of control next week. “Without new money, salaries won’t be paid, the health system will stop functioning, the power network and public transport will break down, and they won’t be able to import vital goods because nobody can pay,” he said. Mr Schulz earlier called for the elected Syriza government to be replaced by “technocrat” rule until stability is restored.

The alarmist warnings are part of an escalating pressure campaign by European leaders as Greeks decide their destiny in what has become – despite attempts by Syriza to present it otherwise – an in-out vote on euro membership after five years of economic depression and mass unemployment. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, said his country is on “war-footing” and accused the eurozone of trying to terrify Greek voters into submission. “What they’re doing with Greece has a name: terrorism. Why have they forced us to close the banks? To frighten people. It’s about spreading terror,” he told El Mundo. The complete break-down in trust between Syriza and the EU-IMF inspectors comes as polls show the “No” side neck and neck, each driven by powerful emotions in the bitterly divided country.

An estimated 40,000 people gathered for a rally for “No” side on Friday in front of the Greek parliament, drawn by a star-casting of Greek singers and defiant appearance by premier Alexis Tsipras. Some 18,000 thronged a nearby stadium for the “Yes” campaign, blowing whistles and waving Greek and EU flags, many afraid that Greece would be blown out of the EU altogether after 34 years, and cast into oblivion. The crisis has reached a point where the Greece’s manufacturing system is grinding to a halt. Crucial imports and raw materials have been stuck in ports since imposition of capital controls and the shut-down of the banking system a week ago. Industrialists cannot pay suppliers outside the country unless they are deemed a top priority by an emergency payments committee at the Greek treasury.

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“..why would you dig around under the sofa and behind the fridge to find the last few pennies so you could ship them off to Brussels?”

Why I’d Vote ‘No’ On Greece’s Referendum (Brett Arends)

While America celebrates its Declaration of Independence this weekend, the people of Greece are preparing for their own awesome display of democracy. Sunday’s referendum in Greece is about much more than economics, financial reform and the terms of debt repayments.It is about Greek independence — or its continued submission to the dictatorship of the so-called troika.The Greeks will make their own decisions. But if I were among them, I would certainly vote “no” to the troika. It isn’t even difficult. Here’s why.

1. Six years of a Great Depression is enough. Greek output has fallen 25% since the crisis began. Imports have plunged by 40%. A million people have lost their jobs. The official unemployment rate is now 25%, and it is north of 60% among young people. This is a social catastrophe. It is destroying jobs and lives. It is serving no purpose. Enough is enough.

2. If austerity were going to work, it would have done so by now. The Greek government has already tightened its belt even more than demanded, as the IMF has admitted. The country has turned big government deficits into government surpluses (before interest payments). When they struck their deal with the troika in 2010, the Greeks were expected to cut their gross national debts by this year to $350 billion. Instead, they’ve cut them down to $316 billion, 10% lower. They’ve tightened so far that by last summer the price of Greek government bonds had rallied 400% from their crisis lows. Belt tightened. House in order. Confidence restored. Right? Yet the economy has just kept going down and down and down.

3. The troika is crazy.They keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In 2010, they said a policy of austerity would produce a “V-shaped” recovery. Ha ha! In 2013, they took another look at the situation and basically concluded: • The Greeks have done everything we asked of them and more. • It hasn’t worked. • Huh. How ’bout that? Their prescription: more austerity. And here we are again in 2015. The economy’s even worse. The solution? Er … even more austerity. Would you really take the advice of a crazy doctor?

4. Austerity doesn’t make sense anyway.It’s based on single-entry book-keeping — or the logical “fallacy of composition,” the belief that the whole is just a bigger version of each individual part. Yes, any person can make himself richer by raising his income and cutting his spending. But a society overall can’t do that, because my spending is your income and your spending is my income. Simple math. It’s like thinking that everyone at the poker table can win by playing well. So even if the Greek government keeps balancing its budget, that alone won’t make Greece overall somehow richer. It will simply transfer money from the private sector to the state (and thence to Brussels).

For that matter, while any person can run out of money, a country can’t. It doesn’t make any sense. Money is an accounting system — a form of IOU. How can everyone be forced to sit at home twiddling their thumbs because “there isn’t any money to go around”? And why, if that were the case, would you dig around under the sofa and behind the fridge to find the last few pennies so you could ship them off to Brussels?

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It’s getting scary out there.

How a Greek Default Could Hammer Bonds (Carl B. Weinberg)

Greece is on the verge of defaulting on €490 billion in loans, bond obligations, central-bank liquidity assistance, and interbank balances. Who will bear those losses? Greece’s creditors, which are all public entities across the euro zone, and that are on the hook for some €335 billion in loan guarantees. How will those losses be covered? Bonds will have to be sold that will roughly equal the increase in annual debt purchases by the European Central Bank announced last January. This is a hit to the European financial system nearly as big as Lehman Brothers’ balance sheet was in 2008. There are precious few alternatives left for Greece or Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. His government has walked out of talks with its creditors, and he has called a national referendum for July 5.

Its choices are to accept “help” in the form of new loans to replace old loans (and accept austerity conditions), negotiate a debt restructuring with creditors, or default. The government has said it doesn’t want new loans—it wants debt relief. An IMF report on Thursday said that without at least $36 billion in new money over the next three years, Greece can’t meet its obligations without debt reduction. The government appears ready to renege on its debt obligations. So Greece’s creditors are going to lose money—a lot of money. Since these creditors are public entities, the losses will be borne, initially, by the public. You can’t find public-sector exposure in the national accounts of lending governments because they are off-balance-sheet contingent liabilities that don’t exist until they are needed.

But they add up to hundreds of billions of euros in guarantees for everything from the European Stability Mechanism, or ESM, to the ECB, to the interbank clearing system. Bonds will have to be sold to cover those markers. Issuance on this scale promises to be a blow for a market already vulnerable to a price correction. Talks between the Greek government and its creditors have nothing to do with saving Greece or bailing it out. This crisis is about managing the resolution of bad Greek assets in a way that inconveniences creditor governments the least, forcing the least net new public borrowing, and minimizing financial system risks. The best way to do that is to avert a hard default, even if it means kicking the can down the road.

Consider the ESM, Greece’s biggest creditor. Under its previous name, the European Financial Stability Facility, it loaned Greece €145 billion. If Greece defaults, the ESM, a Luxembourg corporation owned by the 19 European Monetary Union governments, will have to declare loans to Greece as nonperforming within 120 days. Accounting rules and regulators insist that financial institutions write off nonperforming assets in full, charging losses against reserves and hitting capital. Here’s the rub: The ESM has no loan-loss contingency reserves. Its only assets—other than loans to Greece—are loans to Ireland and Portugal. Its liabilities are triple A-rated bonds sold to the public.

How do you get a triple-A rating on a bond backed entirely by loans to junk-rated sovereign borrowers? Well, the governments guarantee the bonds, and because they are unfunded off-balance-sheet liabilities, they aren’t counted in their debt burdens—unless borrowers default. If Greece defaults hard, governments will be on the hook for €145 billion in guarantees on those loans to the ESM. We expect credit-rating agencies to insist that these unfunded guarantees be funded. After all, unfunded guarantees are worthless guarantees.

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Forgot one: Marine Le Pen. A much bigger crisis than Britain could ever be.

Quartet Of Crises Threatens Europe’s Core (Reuters)

Four great crises around Europe’s fringes threaten to engulf the European Union, potentially setting the ambitious post-war unification project back by decades. The EU’s unity, solidarity and international standing are at risk from Greece’s debt, Russia’s role in Ukraine, Britain’s pursuit of opt-outs and Mediterranean migration. Failure to cope adequately with any one of these would worsen the others, amplifying the perils confronting “Project Europe”. Greece’s default and the risk, dubbed ‘Grexit’, that it may crash out of the shared euro currency is the most immediate challenge to the long-standing notion of an “ever closer union” of European states and peoples.

“The longer-term consequences of Grexit would affect the European project as a whole. It would set a precedent and it would further undermine the raison d’être of the EU,” Fabian Zuleeg and Janis Emmanouilidis wrote in an analysis for the European Policy Center think-tank. Though Greece accounts for barely 2% of the euro zone’s economic output and of the EU’s population, its state bankruptcy after two bailouts in which euro zone partners lent it nearly €200 billion is a massive blow to EU prestige. Even before the outcome of Sunday’s Greek referendum was known, the atmosphere in Brussels was thick with recrimination – Greeks blaming Germans, most others blaming Greeks, Keynesian economists blaming a blinkered obsession with austerity, EU officials emphasizing the success of bailouts elsewhere in the bloc.

While its fate is still uncertain, Athens has already shown that the euro’s founders were deluded when they declared that membership of Europe’s single currency was unbreakable. Now its partners may try to slam the stable door behind Greece and take rapid steps to bind the remaining members closer together, perhaps repairing some of the initial design flaws of monetary union, though German opposition is likely to prevent any move toward joint government bond issuance. The next time recession or a spike in sovereign bond yields shakes the euro zone, markets will remember the Greek precedent.

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€1 trillion.

Europe Can’t Afford To Let Athens Go Under, Says Varoufakis (Reuters)

Europe will lose a trillion euros if it allows Greece to go under, the country’s finance minister said on Saturday, accusing creditors of ‘terrorizing’ Greeks into accepting austerity in a referendum on bailout terms. After a week in which Greece defaulted, closed its banks and began rationing cash, Greeks vote on Sunday on whether to accept or reject tough conditions sought by international creditors to extend a lending lifeline keeping the country afloat. Their decision could determine Greece’s future as a member of the single currency. Addressing a crowd of over 50,000 in central Athens, left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urged them to spurn the deal, rejecting warnings from Greece’s European partners that this may bring an exit from the euro and even greater hardship.

A slew of opinion polls on Friday gave the “Yes” camp, which favors accepting the bailout terms, a slender lead but all were within the margin of error and pollsters said the vote was too close to call. Only one had the “No” vote advocated by the government winning. Tsipras’ finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said there was too much at stake for Europe to cast Greece adrift. “As much for Greece as for Europe, I’m sure,” Varoufakis told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “If Greece crashes, a trillion euros (the equivalent of Spain’s GDP) will be lost. It’s too much money and I don’t believe Europe could allow it.” “What they’re doing with Greece has a name: terrorism,” said Varoufakis. “Why have they forced us to close the banks? To frighten people. And when it’s about spreading terror, that is known as terrorism.”

Athens’ 18 partners in the euro zone say they can easily absorb the fallout from losing Greece, which accounts for barely 2% of the bloc’s economic output. But it would represent a massive blow to the prestige of Europe’s grand project to bind its nations into a union they said was unbreakable. “For Europe, this would be easy to manage economically,” Austrian Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling said in an interview with online newspaper Die Presse. For Greece, however, “it would indeed be considerably more dramatic.” Schelling said Greece would need humanitarian aid in case of a Grexit but described fears of widespread poverty as exaggerated and part of “a propaganda war”.

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“The consequence, as Greece heads in to a momentous referendum Sunday, is a country broken both socially and economically.”

Mirage of Economic Turnaround Masked New Greek Crisis in the Making (WSJ)

Last year, Greece looked as if it were on the way up. The economy was growing—at one point, faster than Germany’s. International investors jostled to buy the government’s bonds. Banks were rebuilding. Politicians talked about a “clean exit” from Greece’s yearslong bailout: no more loans, no more money, no more humiliating reviews by bureaucrats from Brussels. But many Greeks were still on the way down. Katerina Papalevizopoulou was out of work. Her husband had lost his job driving a truck and was driving a cab. In 2014, he made around €7,000 ($8,000), down from €9,000 the year before and half of what he had earned in 2008. They owe €70,000 on a mortgage on their apartment here. They sold their wedding rings. They sent their car to the scrap yard, for €250. They sent their boy, now 10, to live with his grandparents outside the city.

“I don’t want my son to be around this,” Ms. Papalevizopoulou says in their small and cluttered apartment. “If you want to look at my fridge, my pantry, it is empty,” she says. She apologizes that she has nothing to offer visitors. “The priest brings me food,” she says. For many Greeks, any economic improvement has been a mirage, even before the financial chaos of recent weeks. Debt burdens have become harder to bear. Wages have tumbled, pushed down by policies intended to make Greek workers more competitive internationally. Social services have been cut to help close the budget gap. As a result, Greek households have cut their own spending—and they have fallen behind on their debts. The consequence, as Greece heads in to a momentous referendum Sunday, is a country broken both socially and economically.

The rupture has helped elevate Alexis Tspiras, leader of the radical-left party Syriza, to prime minister. It has also been a force behind him as he has urged Greece to vote “no” to a deal with its European creditors. And no matter what outcome—a break with Europe or a rapprochement—the economic devastation means Greece will need a lot of fixing. Its banking system may be first in line, and a look at the country’s mortgage market shows why. When it entered the euro in 2001, Greece had a relatively small amount of consumer borrowing: Its banks had extended €24 billion in loans to domestic households at the end of that year. By the end of 2009, just before the debt crisis exploded, the figure had quadrupled to €99 billion.

Greece has high rates of homeownership, which Greek banks have financed with mortgages. Those are now in trouble. The crumbling economy has pushed many in the middle class to the lower middle class and many in the working class into poverty. Delinquencies on loans have soared. The four big Greek banks reported in the first quarter that between 32% and 39% of their Greek loans were nonperforming. And the pace of souring loans appears to have increased sharply this year: National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest lender, reported that €154 million in Greek mortgages became overdue, by 90 days or more, in the fourth quarter of last year. For the first quarter of this year, the figure jumped to more than €280 million.

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Germans are sold a story that sells well. But fair or realistic it is not.

Our Heretic (And Not-So-Simple) Views On The Greek Referendum (ZH)

Conventional wisdom has it as follows: Tsipras is a hardline communist, who overplayed his hand with the troika (or “the three institutions”, as he calls them). The referendum was a last-ditch play to retain power by stoking a nationalistic response to the standoff with creditors. We believe the current stand-off with Greece’s creditors is just part of the ongoing tug-of-war between Germany and the IMF on a possible haircut on Greek debt. The background of this conflict is as follows: the US (which exerts substantial influence on the IMF) is “pro Keynesian” while Germany is “pro austerity”.

The slowdown in the European economy is obviously affecting the US economy as well; hence the US interest is clearly justified. The USA has been nudging Europe to engage in some good-old Keynesian deficit-spending. Obviously, the deficit spending does not need to happen in Germany, whose economy is doing very well, thank you. It needs to happen in places like Greece, but then the question arises, how could this deficit be financed? Well, the markets are certainly not willing to finance Greece, so that leaves few people in the room able to do this. Rich Germany obviously comes to mind, but then this is a major no-no for German voters and politicians.

(West) Germany engaged in the mother of all expansionary policies (and fiscal transfers) at the time of reunification with East Germany, when it set a 1:1 conversion rate of the East German mark into the DEM, while the exchange rate applicable for East German exports had been at 1 to 4.3. Rightly or wrongly, it is widely accepted in Germany that the dismal performance of Germany during the rest of nineties is due to those very policies— justifiable perhaps at the time by a duty of solidarity. Quite understandably, the German public doesn’t feel such a strong duty of solidarity vis-à-vis Greece. Any German politician suggesting a large-scale fiscal transfer to Greece would be skewered. Any haircut on Greek official-sector debt would be seen as (and be) just that: a fiscal transfer to Greece.

One last background note: the German public seems convinced that Germany has already paid its dues when it comes to Greece. This is only partially true: the restructuring of Greek debt was at its heart an effort to convert private unsustainable debt into official unsustainable debt –saving major European banks in the process (including Deutsche Bank, which managed to stay afloat by engineering achieving a risk-weight asset density of 14% in 2008).

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It was St. Augustine who said: Charity Is No Substitute For Justice Withheld.

Euro Area Said to Weigh Push for Aid Deal Even If Greeks Vote No (Bloomberg)

Euro-area finance ministers may be ready to start work on a third bailout agreement for Greece after Sunday’s referendum, even if voters reject the bloc’s last aid proposal, according to two officials familiar with negotiations. A broad majority of finance chiefs have agreed to examine an official request from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for aid from the European Stability Mechanism, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are confidential. That process could begin as soon as next week, one of them said. Officials on both sides of the negotiations are preparing to accelerate efforts to release aid for Greece irrespective of whether voters reject creditors’ aid terms in the referendum or inflict a defeat on the Tsipras government by delivering a “yes” vote.

With the banking system on lock down to shield it from deposit outflows ahead of the ballot, polls suggest the result is too close to call. The Eurogroup is waiting for the outcome of the referendum, a spokesman for Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance chief who leads meetings of euro-area ministers, said in a text message. While European leaders have framed the referendum as a vote on Greece’s future in the euro, the cost of a Greek exit may ultimately be greater than the bill for keeping the country in the currency. Finance ministers are no longer contemplating a Greek exit, said one of the officials. “We’re waiting for the referendum result,” German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters in Berlin. “An ESM program would depend on a request from the Greek government.” Activating the ESM “is not a straightforward process,” he said.

The quickest way to release aid for Greece may be to hand over €3.3 billion in profit that the ECB made buying Greek debt during an earlier phase of the crisis. Finance ministers and some national parliaments would need to approve such a payment, which would likely be part of a broader third bailout deal. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Friday he expects a deal to be done even if voters reject the euro area’s latest offer. Finance ministers discussed the request for a third bailout during a conference call on July 1. One of the officials said that Dijsselbloem intends to ask Greece’s creditors to make a swift assessment of any new proposals to speed up a disbursement. “We will come back to your request for financial stability support from the ESM only after and on the basis of the outcome of the referendum,” Dijsselbloem wrote in a July 1 letter to Tsipras.

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“Oh, and if France gets downgraded, Germany’s pro rata share of funding the EFSF jumps to a mindboggling €1.385 trillion, or 56% of German GDP!”

The Greek Bluff In All Its Glory: Presenting The Grexit “Falling Dominoes” (ZH)

Earlier today, Yanis Varoufakis reiterated his core thesis driving the entire Greek approach from day 1 of its negotiations with the Eurogroup: “Europe [stands] to lose as much as Athens if the country is forced from the euro after a referendum on Sunday on bailout terms.” This is merely a recap of what we said 4 years ago when in July of 2011 we explained “How Euro Bailout #2 Could Cost Up To 56% Of German GDP”, recall:

… the bottom line is that for an enlarged EFSF (which is what its blank check expansion today provided) to be effective, it will need to cover Italy and Belgium. As AB says, “its firepower would have to rise to €1.45trn backed by a total of €1.7trn guarantees.” And here is where the whole premise breaks down, if not from a financial standpoint, then certainly from a political one: “As the guarantees of the periphery including Italy are worthless, the Guarantee Germany would have to provide rises to €790bn or 32% of GDP.” That’s right: by not monetizing European debt on its books, the ECB has effectively left Germany holding the bag to the entire European bailout via the blank check SPV.

The cost if things go wrong: a third of the country economic output, and the worst case scenario: a depression the likes of which Germany has not seen since the 1920-30s. Oh, and if France gets downgraded, Germany’s pro rata share of funding the EFSF jumps to a mindboggling €1.385 trillion, or 56% of German GDP!

Several years later, in anticipation of precisely the predicament Europe finds itself today, the ECB did begin to monetize European debt, which has since become the biggest European risk-shock absorber of all, and the one which the ECB is literally betting the bank on: just count the number of times the ECB has sworn it has the tools and can offset any Greek risk contagion simply by buying bonds. Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

The reason is precisely in the contagion threat inherent in Europe’s alphabet soup of bailout mechanism as we explained four years ago in the post above, and as Carl Weinberg of High-Frequency Economics did hours ago in today’s edition of Barrons. Here is how the Greek contagion would spread, laid out in all its simplicity, should there be a Grexit, an outcome which the ECB could catalyze as soon as Monday in case of a “No” vote by raising ELA collateral haircuts:

The [Greek] government appears ready to renege on its debt obligations. So Greece’s creditors are going to lose money—a lot of money. Since these creditors are public entities, the losses will be borne, initially, by the public.

This crisis is about managing the resolution of bad Greek assets in a way that inconveniences creditor governments the least, forcing the least net new public borrowing, and minimizing financial system risks. The best way to do that is to avert a hard default, even if it means kicking the can down the road.

That, once again, is the Varoufakis all-in gamble, a gamble which assumes the ECB will be rational enough (in a game theory context) to appreciate the fallout of a Grexit on Europe’s creditors.

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Oh, that young Farrell guy again…

4th of July Fireworks: World War III With China Dead Ahead (Paul B. Farrell)

World War III? OK, so you’re distracted by Trump vs. Christie? By Wall Street hyping a bull-market recovery? So we forget war, they’re “over there,” nightly news clips of faraway killer bombs. Wrong, WWIII really is getting closer. At the launch of the Iraq War, the Bush team warned us of the “mother of all national security issues … by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … warfare defining human life.” Pentagon generals are planning ahead for that 2020. But most Americans are more interested in their next gadget. Wake up. USA Today headline: “CIA veteran Morell: ISIS’ next test could be a 9/11-style attack.” That warning’s from an insider with George W. Bush in 2001 when hijacked airliners hit the World Trade Center. Twice acting CIA director, says USA Today’s Susan Page.

With Obama in the situation room when word came “Navy Seal Team Six had killed Osama bin Laden.” Morell’s new book, “The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism From Al Qa’ida to ISIS,” makes clear America is already fighting World War III today. Worse, WWIII will go on for decades, “for as far as I can see,” says the CIA insider. Yes, WWIII is hot news with the Pentagon brass. The Wall Street Journal just reviewed “The Ghost Fleet” by Peter Singer and August Cole. Singer’s “one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists.” He’s now “walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.”

In fact, even America’s advanced new F-35 fighter jets may be “blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service … and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.” Speculation? No, the Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum reminded us Chinese hackers have already got into “White House computers, defense industry plans and millions of secret U.S. government files.” Singer’s “written authoritative books on America’s reliance on private military contractors, cybersecurity and the Defense Department’s growing dependence on robots, drones and technology,” and why that puts national security at high risk.

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“How surreal do the signs and warnings have to become before we stop in our tracks? Are whales required to fall from the sky?”

It’s Too Late To Save Our World, So Enjoy The Spectacle Of Doom (Guardian)

In the middle of a week of record temperatures, as if unaware of the irony, the business community celebrated the consolidation of its attempts to force the government’s hand to agree to a third filth-generating runway at Heathrow, tipping all species on Earth towards extinction. Everything will die soon, except for cockroaches, and Glastonbury favourite the Fall, who will survive even a nuclear holocaust, though they will still refuse to play their 80s chart hits. In Norfolk on Thursday, the tarmac melted, and ducklings became trapped in sticky blackness. When a lioness whelped in an ancient Roman street, Caesar thought something was up. Here, solid matter transmuted to hot liquid and swallowed baby birds whole. How surreal do the signs and warnings have to become before we stop in our tracks?

Are whales required to fall from the sky? Does Tim Henman have to give birth to a two-headed cat on Centre Court? CBI director John Cridland says: “The government must commit to the decision now, and get diggers in the ground at Heathrow swiftly by 2020.” Head of the Institute of Directors Simon Walker says: “There can now be no further delay from politicians.” And Segro chief executive David Sleath merely bellows: “Get on with it!”, like some selfish Top Gear presenter demanding his steak dinner after dawdling, the planet itself the powerless BBC employee he punches in the face. The business community has thrown its executive toys out of the pram, and now there are chrome ball bearings on strings everywhere, tripping up unpaid interns and making life difficult for immigrant cleaners scrabbling under desks on less than minimum wage.

David Cameron, an electoral promise to oppose the third runway sticking in his throat like an undigested salmon bone, can only duck his cowardly head and hope some terrible atrocity or a Wimbledon win wafts our attention away. When I was a child, my grandmother always referred to our pet dog’s excrement as “business”, so to this day, when I envisage “the business community”, I imagine a vast pile of sentient faeces issuing its demands while smoking a Cuban cigar, an image that seems increasing accurate as the decades pass. The destruction of all life on Earth is inevitable if fossil fuel use continues unabated. (Legal. Please advise. Are we allowed to say this now without being shouted down by Nigel Lawson?)

The business community’s genius move in the third runway debate has been to change the dialogue from an argument which should have been between building a runway and not building a runway at all, and trying to restructure our society to avoid the need for a third runway, into an argument about where exactly it was best to position this massive portent of our world’s forthcoming doom. It’s like offering an innocent man who doesn’t want to be hanged the chance to be poisoned instead.

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