Oct 302020
 


Minor White Windowsill Daydreaming Rochester NY 1958

 

A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge (NBC)
NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic (DC)
Joe Biden’s Biggest Problem Is That There Is No Vaccine For Trumpism
‘We’ve Got To Stop The Bleeding’: Democrats Sound Alarm In Miami (Pol.)
Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept After Editors Refuse Biden Criticism (ZH)
The ‘Censored’ Biden Story That Made Glenn Greenwald Quit The Intercept (ZH)
FBI Initially Turned Down Purported Hunter Biden Laptop (JTN)
UPS Suddenly Locates “Lost” Biden Evidence, Returns Docs To Tucker Carlson (ZH)
Western Rewriting History Of WW2 Has Incensed Russians (Robinson)
US GDP Booms At 33.1% Rate In Q3 (CNBC)
COVID Measures ‘Monument Of Collective Hysteria And Folly’: Ex-Judge (G.)

 

 

 

 

Someone said on Twitter yesterday: “You two are creating a world characterized by illogic, distrust and uncertainty. It’s a world no one wants our kids to grow up in. It’s sad that you do this. Here’s the absurdity behind the false Christopher Balding story:”

I am one of the two this person talks about, don’t know who the other is. (S)he is referring to an NBC article yesterday, “How A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge”.

It is about the report Christopher Balding published on Oct 22, (see here), but NBC’s criticism of the “Balding report” does not address its contents, only its shape, and calls it “FAKE”. That is, Balding and others invented a person who was cited as the author of it. And yes, that is a peculiar way to publish something, but Balding has always said the real author needs protection.

Then the NBC piece attempts to mix the report with other stories, the ones derived from the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. But there is hardly any overlap. It appears to be a intentional confusion, so people will believe everything regarding Hunter Biden accusations is fake. But at the same moment, the Daily Caller reports that forensic analysis proves “NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic”. And that in turn comes one day after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said all Bobulinski material has been verified.

Christopher Balding has reacted on Twitter, his entire reaction thread is here.

Balding reacts

 

 

A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge (NBC)

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China. The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents. The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator.

The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches. One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist. Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets. An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden’s hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize. The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.

The Typhoon Investigations document was first posted in September to Intelligence Quarterly, an anonymous blog “dedicated to collecting important daily news,” according to its “about” section. Historical domain records show the blog was registered to Albert Marko, a self-described political and economic adviser, who also lists the blog on his Twitter bio. When asked about the provenance of the document, Marko said he received it from Balding. Balding, previously an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam who studied the Chinese economy and financial markets, posted the document on his blog on Oct. 22, seven weeks after it was initially published.

Logan Hall NBC

Read more …

“Graham said the only way the email could have been faked is if someone hacked into Google’s servers, found the private key and used it to reverse engineer the email’s DKIM signature.”

NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic (DC)

An email Hunter Biden received in April 2015 from a Burisma executive discussing an introduction to then-Vice President Joe Biden, which lies at the heart of a New York Post investigation, is unquestionably authentic, a cybersecurity expert told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday. The DCNF obtained a full copy of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday. The DCNF provided Robert Graham, the founder of the cybersecurity firm Errata Security, with a copy of the email and its metadata for forensic analysis. Graham, who has been cited as a cybersecurity expert in The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Wired, Engadget and other news and technology outlets, told the DCNF that he used a cryptographic signature found in the email’s metadata to validate that Vadym Pozharsky, an advisor to Burisma’s board of directors, emailed Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015.

In the email, Pozharsky thanked Hunter Biden for “inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.” The New York Post first reported the email in October, describing it as a “smoking-gun” showing that Hunter Biden had introduced his father to the Burisma executive in 2015. The email was sent less than a year before Joe Biden pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a prosecutor who was reportedly investigating the gas company in return for a $1 billion loan guarantee. Graham previously told the DCNF that emails sent from Gmail, such as Pozharski’s message to Hunter Biden, can be “absolutely verified beyond a shadow of a doubt” by testing its contents against the unique DKIM signature found in its metadata.


Graham used the DKIM signature within the email to verify with a private key on Google’s servers that the sender, recipient, subject, date and body of the message that the DCNF obtained from Giuliani were unchanged from when the email was originally sent in April 2015. Graham said the only way the email could have been faked is if someone hacked into Google’s servers, found the private key and used it to reverse engineer the email’s DKIM signature.

Daily Caller vs NBC

Read more …

“America is past the “I have a plan” phase. A sizable contingent of regular citizens have decided either that the disease is a “hoax,” or that it’s not worth altering their everyday lives for in any major way.”

Joe Biden’s Biggest Problem Is That There Is No Vaccine For Trumpism

As the 2020 presidential election hurls itself at us, there is one thing upon which the far right and far left agree: The COVID-19 pandemic should be over within days after Nov. 4. The right says the “deep state” is holding on to a secret vaccine that it will introduce to the world once Donald Trump is thrown out of office. The left says that Trump is the primary cause of the virus’ spread, and that with the biological weapon in chief out of office, people will soon be out safely ingesting each other’s disgusting germs.Alas, despite these extremes being so far out there that they meet again in the back, neither is right. Trump is not entirely to blame for the virus’ spread, and Joe Biden’s election will not be a panacea in stopping it.

Sure, Biden has a “plan” to solve COVID-19, and it contains all the commonsense proposals: vaccine funding, paid leave, more protective equipment and more funding for testing. But America is past the “I have a plan” phase. A sizable contingent of regular citizens have decided either that the disease is a “hoax,” or that it’s not worth altering their everyday lives for in any major way. In other words, COVID-19 is a cultural problem, not a governmental one. It is the cultural component in which Trump has failed America the most. Over the summer, it appeared the virus was waning — businesses had quickly ramped up production of masks and ventilators needed in hospitals and emergency rooms and limited state shutdowns were being enforced. Infection rates were dropping around the country.

Then, in the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s at the hands of police, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest, effectively signaling the end of lockdowns. Science professionals who urged staying home were silent on the protests, leading those on the right to throw up their hands and say, “Well, I guess lockdown is over.” That is where Trump’s mismanagement has cost America. In the early days of the virus, Trump said all the wrong things, telling Americans it was just “one person coming in from China” and it would “disappear one day, it’s like a miracle.” And speaking of miracles, he vowed to have churches open for Easter.

Say we were to give Trump some benefit of the doubt — in the early months of the spread, everyone was still figuring out what was happening, and rapid spread would have occurred under any president. [..] Unless Biden can legislate trust in the media and politicians, the pandemic will stretch well into his presidency. The reality is a sizable portion of America is carrying on, waiting for a vaccine — which, ironically, many of them won’t take because it will probably be Joe Biden at the helm of the country when it is released. And sadly, there is no vaccine for Trumpism.

Read more …

“To date, Republicans have turned out 59 percent of their voters in Miami-Dade and Democrats have turned out 53 percent, a 6-point margin. That’s twice the margin Republicans had at this point in 2016..“

‘We’ve Got To Stop The Bleeding’: Democrats Sound Alarm In Miami (Pol.)

Democrats are sounding the alarm about weak voter turnout rates in Florida’s biggest county, Miami-Dade, where a strong Republican showing is endangering Joe Biden’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state. No Democrat can win Florida without a huge turnout and big winning margins here to offset losses elsewhere in the state. But Democrats are turning out at lower rates than Republicans and at lower rates than at this point in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won by 29 percentage points here and still lost the state to Donald Trump. One particular area of concern is the relative share of ballots cast by young voters of color and less-reliable Democratic voters.

Part of the problem, according to interviews with a dozen Democratic elected officials and operatives, is the Biden campaign‘s decision to discourage field staff from knocking on doors during the pandemic and its subsequent delay in greenlighting — and funding — a return to door-to-door canvassing. “We did not get the kind of funding for different vendors who would do that type of work until late in the campaign,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a party institution who represents Miami’s heavily Black congressional district. Wilson said the good news is that Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is working with her on a turnout event for this weekend geared toward young Black men.


But the veteran congresswoman said there are still skilled operatives in her district who excel at turnout work who have yet to get approved by the campaign, a puzzling delay for an operation that raised a record $363 million the month before. “I screamed. Hollered. I called. I lobbied from the top to the bottom,” Wilson said of her efforts to get turnout operations started in the community, including sending written proposals to Biden’s campaign and having virtual Zoom meetings with his advisers.

Read more …

The election, actually the entire Trump presidency, has brought out the best and the worst in US journalism. It will never be the same.

Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept After Editors Refuse Biden Criticism (ZH)

The Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald resigned from the outlet on Thursday, after ‘editors censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.’ Greenwald writes at his new home (greenwald.substack.com):”The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct. Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded, these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.


I had no objection to their disagreement with my views of what this Biden evidence shows: as a last-ditch attempt to avoid being censored, I encouraged them to air their disagreements with me by writing their own articles that critique my perspectives and letting readers decide who is right, the way any confident and healthy media outlet would. But modern media outlets do not air dissent; they quash it. So censorship of my article, rather than engagement with it, was the path these Biden-supporting editors chose.”Apparently he’s also blocked from publishing the article elsewhere, though he’s “asked my lawyer to get in touch with FLM to discuss how best to terminate my contract.”

People who quit
https://twitter.com/APompliano/status/1321915427522576384

Read more …

“Rather than condemn Biden for ignoring these questions — the natural instinct of a healthy press when it comes to a presidential election — journalists have instead led the way in concocting excuses to justify his silence.”

The ‘Censored’ Biden Story That Made Glenn Greenwald Quit The Intercept (ZH)

Publication by the New York Post two weeks ago of emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop, relating to Vice President Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine, and subsequent articles from other outlets concerning the Biden family’s pursuit of business opportunities in China, provoked extraordinary efforts by a de facto union of media outlets, Silicon Valley giants and the intelligence community to suppress these stories. One outcome is that the Biden campaign concluded, rationally, that there is no need for the front-running presidential candidate to address even the most basic and relevant questions raised by these materials. Rather than condemn Biden for ignoring these questions — the natural instinct of a healthy press when it comes to a presidential election — journalists have instead led the way in concocting excuses to justify his silence.

After the Post’s first article, both that newspaper and other news outlets have published numerous other emails and texts purportedly written to and from Hunter reflecting his efforts to induce his father to take actions as Vice President beneficial to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, on whose board of directors Hunter sat for a monthly payment of $50,000, as well as proposals for lucrative business deals in China that traded on his influence with his father. Individuals included in some of the email chains have confirmed the contents’ authenticity. One of Hunter’s former business partners, Tony Bubolinski, has stepped forward on the record to confirm the authenticity of many of the emails and to insist that Hunter along with Joe Biden’s brother Jim were planning on including the former Vice President in at least one deal in China.

And GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who appeared in one of the published email chains, appeared to confirm the authenticity as well, though he refused to answer follow-up questions about it. Thus far, no proof has been offered by Bubolinski that Biden ever consummated his participation in any of those discussed deals. The Wall Street Journal says that it found no corporate records reflecting that a deal was finalized and that “text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.”

But nobody claimed that any such deals had been consummated — so the conclusion that one had not been does not negate the story. Moreover, some texts and emails whose authenticity has not been disputed state that Hunter was adamant that any discussions about the involvement of the Vice President be held only verbally and never put in writing.

Read more …

And then sat on it for a year.

FBI Initially Turned Down Purported Hunter Biden Laptop (JTN)

The family of the Delaware shop owner who says he came into possession of a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden first tried to turn over the computer to the FBI in summer 2019 but was rebuffed, only to have agents return months later during President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, his lawyer said Thursday night. In a lengthy statement to Just the News, attorney Brian Della Rocca provided a detailed timeline of the actions his client, John Paul Mac Isaac, says he took in trying to get authorities to investigate the laptop. The lawyer also decried public figures on both sides of the aisle for politicizing the episode and for attacking the Delaware computer repairman without having the facts.

Mac Isaac “unwittingly became the target of a smear campaign by doing what he thought was right,” Della Rocca said. “John Paul is not a right-wing fanatic, nor is he a Russian hacker.” In the statement that was originally drafted to be an op-ed, Della Rocca made several new revelations about the laptop that has stirred worldwide political intrigue on the eve of the American presidential election, an FBI investigation, and a news media and social media censorship campaign. Among the revelations: • A man claiming to be Hunter Biden dropped off three laptops on April 12, 2019 to Mac Isaac’s shop to be repaired, and returned two days later with an external hard drive. The man believed to be Hunter Biden eventually abandoned one of the laptops and the external hard drive without paying for them. • Mac Isaac’s father, a retired Air Force colonel, first tried to provide a copy of the laptop to an FBI office in Albuquerque, N.M., in summer 2019, but the bureau turned him away.


• FBI agents from Albuquerque, N.M., contacted the father in October 2019, as impeachment proceedings were ongoing in Washington, to discuss the laptop and then to interview the younger Mac Isaac in Delaware. A few weeks later, FBI agents in Delaware seized the original laptop from Mac Isaac. • On Oct. 13 of this year, Hunter Biden’s attorney contacted Mac Isaac to discuss the hard drive and followed up with an email but no further action. Three people familiar with the matter told Just the News on Thursday that the FBI has an ongoing investigation into business transactions involving firms associated with Hunter Biden and other business associates. The investigation began in 2019 around the time the FBI followed up on Mac Isaac’s concerns and has since expanded to issues raised by an IRS whistleblower complaint filed a year ago. The probe got new evidence in recent days when Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski turned over documents and other materials during an FBI interview, one person with knowledge of the case said.

Read more …

This story just gets crazier.

UPS Suddenly Locates “Lost” Biden Evidence, Returns Docs To Tucker Carlson (ZH)

Delivery giant UPS confirmed Thursday it found a lost trove of documents that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said would provide revelations in the ever-growing scandal involving Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his overseas business dealings. UPS Senior Public Relations Manager Matthew O’Connor told Business Insider on Thursday afternoon that the documents are located and are being sent to Carlson. “After an extensive search, we have found the contents of the package and are arranging for its return,” he said in a statement. “UPS will always focus first on our customers, and will never stop working to solve issues and make things right. We work hard to ensure every package is delivered, including essential goods, precious family belongings and critical healthcare.”

It came after Glenn Zaccara, UPS’s corporate media relations director, confirmed Carlson used the company to ship the materials before they were lost. “The package was reported with missing contents as it moved within our network,” Zaccara said before they were located. “UPS is conducting an urgent investigation.” During his Wednesday night broadcast, Carlson said that a UPS employee notified them that their package “was open and empty … apparently, it had been opened.” “The Biden documents never arrived in Los Angeles. Tuesday morning we received word from our shipping company that our package had been opened and the contents were missing,” Carlson also remarked. “The documents had disappeared.”


On Tuesday night, Carlson interviewed former Hunter Biden associate Tony Bobulinski, who claimed that the former Democratic vice president could be compromised by the Chinese Communist Party due to Hunter and brother James Biden’s business dealings in the country. Joe Biden has not responded to Bobulinski’s allegations. Last week during his debate with President Donald Trump, he said he had “not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.”

Read more …

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.

Western Rewriting History Of WW2 Has Incensed Russians (Robinson)

It used to be simple: The Nazis and their allies were the bad guys, and the Americans, British, and Soviets were the good guys. Then contemporary politics took over and the narrative around WW2 became a modern battleground. The conflict ended 75 years ago. But the struggle over its history has perhaps never been as intense as it is today. In the first few decades after the war, the interpretation of it was fairly clear, and almost universally accepted: The war was a product of German aggression and the extreme ideology of the Nazis. The Germans were the criminals; and the peoples of the Allied powers were the victims. Quantitatively, the largest group of these victims was in Eastern Europe – Jews and citizens of the Soviet Union, who the Nazis killed in the millions.

From the mid-1980s, a new narrative began to creep into public discourse in the West. This maintained that Nazism was not uniquely evil nor solely responsible for the war. Rather Nazism and communism were equally morally repugnant, and Germany and the Soviet Union were mutually responsible for the tragedy. The USSR, rather than being a victim of aggression, was itself one of the prime aggressors of the era. At first, this revisionist view was restricted to a narrow group of academics. Most notable was the German historian Ernst Nolte, who in 1986 provoked the Historikerstreit (‘Historians’ Dispute’) in what was then West Germany, by suggesting that the genocidal campaign of the Nazis was just one of many such campaigns by other states, most notably the Soviet Union, in an overall ‘age of genocide’.

This theme was then popularized by certain other historians of an anti-Soviet, and later anti-Russian, bent. But what really gave it legs was the collapse of communism and the rise of nationalism among states of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. In countries such as Poland, Latvia, and post-2014 Ukraine, nationalist leaders have sought to promote their own legitimacy by adopting a strong anti-Russian line, and historical revisionism has proven to be an essential part of their toolkit. As part of this process, history has been rewritten to portray the Soviet Union as having occupied and oppressed the nations of Eastern Europe during World War II, to suggest a moral equivalence between the Nazis and the communists, and in extreme cases to portray locals who fought alongside the Germans as heroes rather than collaborators. For instance, in Ukraine.

[..] It was in this context that Russian President Vladimir Putin this week denounced any attempt to equate the USSR and Nazi Germany. This followed a complaint by Elena Yampolskaya, a member of the Russian parliament, who noted that two books had recently been published in Russia which suggested similarities between Nazism and communism, and in one case argued that “the Soviets were worse than the Nazis.” Putin agreed with Yampolskaya’s complaint that this was “absolutely unacceptable.” The Russian Federation should pass legislation similar to that of other countries which criminalizes denial of the Armenian genocide, Putin said, adding that, “We will not allow this heroic page in history to be crossed out.”

Read more …

Good for Trump in the election?

US GDP Booms At 33.1% Rate In Q3 (CNBC)

Coming off the worst quarter in history, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic started to put itself back together, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1% annualized pace, according to the department’s initial estimate for the period. The gain came after a 31.4% plunge in the second quarter and was better than the 32% estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The previous post-World War II record was the 16.7% burst in the first quarter of 1950.

Markets reacted positively to the news, with Wall Street erasing a loss at the open and turning mostly positive. “It’s obviously good news that the economy bounced back in the third quarter,” said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein. “There’s still a lot of work to do here and the pace of improvement … is going to slow. The stimulus programs that provided much of the economic lift last quarter have expired or are expiring. Fiscal support is diminishing. That is part of the reason that the pace of growth is going to slow from here.” Increased consumption along with sold gains in business and residential investment as well as exports fueled the third-quarter rebound. Decreases in government spending following the expiration of the CARES Act rescue funding subtracted from GDP.

The powerful growth pace came after states across the country shut down large swaths of activity in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11. [..] While the news on Q3 was good for the $21.2 trillion economy, the U.S. faces a tougher road ahead as coronavirus cases increase and worries grow over the health and economic impacts. Nearly half the 22 million jobs lost in March and April remain unfilled and the unemployment rate remains at 7.9%, more than double its pre-pandemic level as 12.6 million Americans are still out of work.


“This is going to be seized upon by both ends of the political spectrum as either evidence of the strength of the post-lockdown economic rebound or a cursory warning that the gains could be short-lived,” said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “The reality is that the GDP numbers demonstrate that the U.S. economy did indeed rebound strongly as lockdown measures were lifted.”

Read more …

Jonathan Sumption, former British supreme court justice, slams ‘cavalier use of coercive powers’ and ‘loss of freedom’.

COVID Measures ‘Monument Of Collective Hysteria And Folly’: Ex-Judge (G.)

The government has deliberately stoked fear over coronavirus while behaving like an authoritarian regime relying on police state tactics, according to the former supreme court justice Jonathan Sumption. In his most forceful critique to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, the outspoken lawyer condemned the way “the British state exercised coercive powers over its citizens on a scale never previously attempted”. Delivering the Cambridge Freshfields annual law lecture, Lord Sumption said: “The ease with which people could be terrorised into surrendering basic freedoms which are fundamental to our existence … came as a shock to me in March 2020.”

He is not the only former judge recently to lament the loss of effective parliamentary scrutiny of emergency Covid powers. Last month Lady Hale, former president of the supreme court, alleged that MPs and peers had surrendered their role during the coronavirus pandemic.In his address Sumption said the emergency measures were “the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country”. He stated: “I do not doubt the seriousness of the epidemic, but I believe that history will look back on the measures taken to contain it as a monument of collective hysteria and governmental folly.”

The government, he noted, had already tried to avoid parliamentary scrutiny during Brexit by proroguing parliament, a procedure subsequently ruled unlawful by the supreme court last year. “Governments hold power in Britain on the sufferance of the elected chamber of the legislature,” Sumption argued. “Without that we are no democracy. The present government has a different approach. It seeks to derive its legitimacy directly from the people, bypassing their elected representatives.” Sage, the government’s panel of expert scientific advisers, he said, had this year noted: “Citizens should be treated as rational actors, capable of taking decisions for themselves and managing personal risk.” That warning, Sumption said, had been ignored.

[..] The police had repeatedly exceeded their powers, he suggested. “When I ventured to criticise them in a BBC interview for acting beyond their powers I received a letter from the Derbyshire police commissioner objecting to my remarks on the ground that in a crisis such things were necessary. The implication was that in a crisis the police were entitled to do whatever they thought fit, without being unduly concerned about their legal powers. That is my definition of a police state.” By using “propaganda”, he said, the government had “to some extent been able to create its own public opinion – fear was deliberately stoked up by the government”.

Read more …

 

 

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Taiwan COVID
https://twitter.com/i/status/1310613292293984256

 

 

 

 

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Jun 062017
 
 June 6, 2017  Posted by at 9:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Pablo Picasso Les femmes d’Alger 1955

 

Trump Set To Make First Moves At Completely Revamping The Fed (CNBC)
Trump’s ‘Been Clear To Me’ To Try To Rebuild Russia Ties: Tillerson (R.)
Contractor Charged With Leaking Document About US Election Hacking (R.)
How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner (ErrataS)
China’s Biggest Bank Is Wall Street’s Go-To Shadow Lender (BBG)
One Belt, One Road, and One Debt Hangover (Rickards)
Qatar Stocks Tumble 7% As Six Arab Nations Cut Diplomatic Ties (CNBC)
Qatar’s Real Power Is As The World’s Largest LNG Exporter (BBG)
Britain’s Economic Model Is Broken: This Is Our First Post-Crash Election (G>)
Simple Numbers Tell Story Of Police Cuts Under Theresa May (G.)
Earnings vs. Profits & The Bull Market (Roberts)
US M&A: One Of The Scariest Charts To Look At – Citi (BI)
IMF’s Lagarde Offers Eurozone Greek Debt Compromise, Handelsblatt Says (R.)
The Euro’s Future Demands Trust (K.)
An Occupied Hotel In Greece Models How To Welcome Refugees (WNV)

 

 

Well, it’ll be different alright. Given the Fed’s actions over the past decade, it can hardly get wrose.

Trump Set To Make First Moves At Completely Revamping The Fed (CNBC)

President Donald Trump appears ready to remake the Federal Reserve in an image that will be considerably different than what investors have known for many years. The president is prepared to nominate Randal Quarles and Marvin Goodfriend to two of three vacancies at the central bank, according to multiple press accounts that have not been disputed by the administration. Quarles likely would assume the role vacated by Daniel Tarullo to oversee the nation’s banking system. White House officials did not respond to a CNBC request for comment. Should Trump nominate the two men and they receive confirmation, it will represent the first steps in a possible substantial remaking of a Fed that has practiced ultra-loose monetary policy for the past decade but has been tight on banking regulations.

Trump will have the opportunity to name one more person now, then can fill two even more critical vacancies in 2018 — that of Chair Janet Yellen and Vice Chair Stanley Fischer. If the Quarles and Goodfriend moves are indicators of what’s to come, things could start getting less comfortable for Yellen. Both are considered solidly conservative, in line with the Republican president and Congress but perhaps not with Yellen. “Clearly, these appointees are a significant departure from the crowd that we’ve had on the board,” said Christopher Whalen, head of Whalen Global Advisors and a former investment banker and long-time financial analyst. “Yellen is probably the most left-wing Fed chair we’ve ever had. I also think both Quarles and Goodfriend have much better grounding in the financial markets. That would be refreshing.”

Yellen, however, may not think so, particularly if the coalition she has carefully crafted since taking the chair’s seat in 2014 starts to unravel. “I welcome these additions,” Whalen said. “Hopefully they put a banker in the third slot. Then eventually Yellen’s going to leave because she’s going to start losing votes.”

Read more …

Kiwis flipping birds.

Trump’s ‘Been Clear To Me’ To Try To Rebuild Russia Ties: Tillerson (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump told his top diplomat that the dispute over probes into links between his inner circle and Russia should not undermine U.S. efforts to rebuild relations with Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday. Speaking in New Zealand after a trip to Australia, Tillerson reiterated the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region as global leaders have expressed growing mistrust over the Trump administration, which has withdrawn from key international agreements since taking office. At home, Trump’s administration has been plagued by questions over links to the Russian government. Tillerson said Trump told him to try to improve ties with Russia regardless of the U.S. political backdrop.

“I can’t really comment on any of that because I don’t have any direct knowledge,” Tillerson told a news conference in Wellington, when asked how worried he was that the U.S. political crisis could take down the Trump administration. “The president’s been clear to me: do not let what’s happened over here in the political realm prevent you from the work that you need to do on this relationship and he’s been quite clear with me… that we might make progress. I’m really not involved in any of these other issues,” he said after a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English.

Read more …

This is another very curious story, and it’s not just the girl’s name, Reality Leigh Winner. Still, even The Intercept jumps to conclusions:

“Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.”

Even though they know that when signs point to Russia, it’s probably not Russial, the caveat only come later:

“While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A U.S. intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.”

If the raw intelligence is not available, how can one draw the Russia conclusions? The Intercept now blindly trusts US intelligence agents? And that’s not all, see next article…

Contractor Charged With Leaking Document About US Election Hacking (R.)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday charged a federal contractor with sending classified material to a news organization that sources identified to Reuters as The Intercept, marking one of the first concrete efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on leaks to the media. Reality Leigh Winner, 25, was charged with removing classified material from a government facility located in Georgia. She was arrested on June 3, the Justice Department said. The charges were announced less than an hour after The Intercept published a top-secret document from the U.S. National Security Agency that described Russian efforts to launch cyber attacks on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and send “spear-phishing” emails, or targeted emails that try to trick a recipient into clicking on a malicious link to steal data, to more than 100 local election officials days before the presidential election last November.

While the charges do not name the publication, a U.S. official with knowledge of the case said Winner was charged with leaking the NSA report to The Intercept. A second official confirmed The Intercept document was authentic and did not dispute that the charges against Winner were directly tied to it. The Intercept’s reporting reveals new details behind the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence services were seeking to infiltrate state voter registration systems as part of a broader effort to interfere in the election, discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and help then Republican candidate Donald Trump win the election. The new material does not, however, suggest that actual votes were manipulated.

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… but it gets weirder. Soon after the Intercept published the story and docs, the leaker was arrested. How? She could easily be traced back to these docs. Was the Intercept not aware of this? That’s hard to believe, leaked documents is what they do. Was someone careless? We haven’t seen any excuses made. Did they knowingly give her up? Is this then the end of the Intercept?

How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner (ErrataS)

Today, The Intercept released documents on election tampering from an NSA leaker. Later, the arrest warrant request for an NSA contractor named “Reality Winner” was published, showing how they tracked her down because she had printed out the documents and sent them to The Intercept. The document posted by the Intercept isn’t the original PDF file, but a PDF containing the pictures of the printed version that was then later scanned in. The problem is that most new printers print nearly invisibly yellow dots that track down exactly when and where documents, any document, is printed. Because the NSA logs all printing jobs on its printers, it can use this to match up precisely who printed the document. In this post, I show how.

You can download the document from the original article here. You can then open it in a PDF viewer, such as the normal “Preview” app on macOS. Zoom into some whitespace on the document, and take a screenshot of this. On macOS, hit [Command-Shift-3] to take a screenshot of a window. There are yellow dots in this image, but you can barely see them, especially if your screen is dirty.

We need to highlight the yellow dots. Open the screenshot in an image editor, such as the “Paintbrush” program built into macOS. Now use the option to “Invert Colors” in the image, to get something like this. You should see a roughly rectangular pattern checkerboard in the whitespace.

It’s upside down, so we need to rotate it 180 degrees, or flip-horizontal and flip-vertical:

Now we go to the EFF page and manually click on the pattern so that their tool can decode the meaning:

This produces the following result:

The document leaked by the Intercept was from a printer with model number 54, serial number 29535218. The document was printed on May 9, 2017 at 6:20. The NSA almost certainly has a record of who used the printer at that time.

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“With 260-to-1 Leverage A Chinese Giant Takes On Goldman In US Repo”

China’s Biggest Bank Is Wall Street’s Go-To Shadow Lender (BBG)

High up in a New York City skyscraper, China’s biggest bank is playing in the shadows of American finance. The prize for Industrial & Commercial Bank of China isn’t stocks, bonds or currencies. It’s the grease in the wheels of all those markets: repurchase agreements. By exploiting a loophole in rules intended to keep U.S. banks from getting “too big to fail,” the state-owned ICBC has become a go-to dealer in repos in just a few short years, alongside longtime powerhouses like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The short-term loans allow investors to borrow money by lending securities, serving a vital role in day-to-day trading on Wall Street. ICBC’s rise reflects not only China’s global ambitions in high finance, but also how post-crisis rules have let a whole host of new players profit from the murky world of shadow banking, largely beyond the reach of bank regulators.

As big banks face tougher standards, they’re being replaced by brokers, asset managers and foreign firms like ICBC, which can use more leverage and take greater risks. That has some regulators worried non-bank lenders are once again emerging as a threat to financial stability, less than a decade after panic in the repo market wiped out Lehman Brothers. “The concern is that non-bank dealers are becoming a larger part of the repo market,” said Benjamin Munyan, who specializes in shadow banking and regulation at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. “These intermediaries are outside the scope of our traditional Federal Reserve safety net.” In some ways, the development is emblematic of how steps taken to stamp out financial risk-taking in one area have created unforeseen risks in another. But it also highlights the willingness and ability of firms to jump through whatever holes regulators leave or create.

In a repo, firms borrow money by putting up securities like Treasuries as collateral. The cash can then be used to buy higher-yielding assets, something hedge funds often do. When the agreement expires, the borrower “repurchases” the collateral, paying interest to the lender. The process can be repeated over and over, boosting a firm’s leverage, as long as the assets backing the repo maintain their value. During the credit crisis, reliance on such short-term funding helped bankrupt Lehman and imperiled the financial system. Bailouts put the biggest securities firms under Fed supervision as banks, and Dodd-Frank regulations forced them to shrink their assets. A key provision has been the enhanced capital requirements, which made it prohibitively expensive for large U.S. banks to warehouse low-yielding Treasuries and finance repos.

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China runs out of collateral.

One Belt, One Road, and One Debt Hangover (Rickards)

China is not only one of the world’s largest debtors, it is one of the world’s largest creditors. China uses debt not in the customary financial manner, but as a political tool to generate employment and maintain social stability. Likewise China uses loans and investment as a tool to advance its strategic interests. This may be good geopolitics in the short run, but it will be a disaster economically in the long run. Just as Chinese state owned enterprises (SOEs) can’t repay debts to Chinese banks, China’s foreign partners will not be able to repay debts to China itself. These twin disasters-in-the-making may converge in such a way that China’s assets disappear or become illiquid at exactly the time they are most needed to bail-out its own banking system.

China has launched four major overseas investment initiatives in the past ten years. The oldest is their sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, or CIC, established in 2007. Sovereign wealth funds are a way for countries to invest their reserves in securities other than safe instruments such as U.S. Treasury notes. CIC today has assets of over $800 billion, spread among stocks, corporate bonds, hedge funds, private equity, commodities, and commercial real estate. Some of CIC’s investments are directly-owned enterprises, including gold mines in Zimbabwe. While these assets may outperform Treasury notes over time, they are also illiquid, and would tend to decline in value during a financial panic. This means that about 20%, of China’s reserves are unavailable for critical tasks such as bailing out the banking system or defending the currency.

[..] The problem with One Belt, One Road is that many of the potential recipients of development loans are not highly creditworthy or have a track record of defaulting on debts or requiring substantial debt restructuring in order to stay current. As with Chinese bank loans to SOEs, the NDB, AIIB, and One Belt, One Road efforts are not primarily economic but political. China is seeking to use its economic clout to create jobs and control critical infrastructure. [..] As with its other policies, China will turn liquid assets into illiquid assets in order to pursue its ambitions. This could make sense if nothing goes wrong. But, things will go wrong. China will face a monumental liquidity crisis sooner than later and find that its liquid assets have been turned into bridges to nowhere.

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This thing has been developing over decades.

Qatar Stocks Tumble 7% As Six Arab Nations Cut Diplomatic Ties (CNBC)

Qatar’s stock market tumbled more than 7% on Monday as six of the Middle Eastern country’s neighbors reportedly severed diplomatic relations with Doha for allegedly supporting terrorism. The key stock index in Doha slipped shortly after Monday’s open – the benchmark’s sharpest fall in more than seven years – before paring some its losses to trade down 7.2% at around 3:00 p.m. local time. Six countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, had all coordinated on Monday to accuse the wealthy Gulf state of supporting terrorism, which Qatar has denied. Investors viewed the diplomatic withdrawal as a major breakdown between powerful Gulf nations, who are also close U.S. allies. While Saudi Arabia – the world’s leading crude oil exporter – said Qatar had supported “Iranian-backed terrorist groups,” Qatar described the joint decision as having “no basis in fact” and was therefore “unjustified”.

Political tensions in the region had been building in recent weeks as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – all countries to have cut relations with Doha on Monday – had blocked Qatari-based news sites in May. However, Monday’s decision was reported to be based on Qatar’s alleged role in supporting Islamist groups and its stance concerning Iran – a regional rival to Saudi Arabia. Qatar, a member of the U.S. coalition against the so-called Islamic State, has frequently and consistently rejected accusations from Iraq’s Shia leaders that it has provided financial backing to ISIS. “Whilst Qatar is the member of the U.S. coalition against IS, wealthy individuals have reportedly made donations to extremist groups and the government is also accused of supporting extremists – allegations that Qatar vehemently deny,” Tamas Varga, oil associates analyst at PVM, said in an email on Monday.

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If I remember, the UK gets 90% of its LNG from Qatar.

Qatar’s Real Power Is As The World’s Largest LNG Exporter (BBG)

Oil markets seem impervious to geopolitical risk. As four Arab neighbors imposed an unprecedented embargo on Qatar on Monday, oil prices briefly jumped 1.6 percent before falling back. The fuel to watch, though, is not oil, but gas. If this dispute is not resolved quickly, it may mean a hot summer in the Gulf. The problem has been simmering for a long time, with three of Qatar’s Gulf Cooperation Council colleagues blaming it for backing Islamist groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, and being too friendly with Iran. But in a dramatic escalation shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, the shaky official government of Yemen and Libya’s contested eastern government broke relations with Doha and imposed a ban on air, land and sea travel.

Much of Qatar’s food and key equipment comes by land from Saudi Arabia, or reshipments through Dubai’s Jebel Ali port. Qatar is one of the smallest oil producers in OPEC, at 618,000 barrels per day, but condensate (light oil) and natural gas liquids – byproducts of its giant North Field – add about another 1.3 million barrels per day. It will stay in the OPEC production cuts deal, and even if it does not, its contribution is small. Its real power comes from being the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter. Qatar’s liquefied natural gas and oil exports should not be affected, even if Saudi and Emirati waters are barred to its ships. They can sail via Iranian waters and then pass the Strait of Hormuz via the usual shipping lane in Omani territory, or stay in the Iranian sector if Oman joins its GCC colleagues in the blockade. Any attempt to stop Qatari exports would be a major crisis, and would invite a serious response from major LNG customers Japan, South Korea, China and India.

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So is Britain’s political model.

Britain’s Economic Model Is Broken: This Is Our First Post-Crash Election (G>)

Mayism could mean Brexit Britain renaming itself Poundland – cheap goods and cheap workers – or it might mean a reversion to some kind of one-nation Toryism. Her party just doesn’t know. Were it not for the Tories’ slim majority, their crisis would be far more exposed. The sofa class don’t do political economy, more’s the pity, but if they did they’d see the contradictions of Conservatism in 2017. The party of capital is now pursuing a policy – hard Brexit – hated by capital. The political arm of the City is about to rip a hole through the City. All these paradoxes are given almost physical representation on our tellies every night by May herself – a populist who doesn’t actually like people.

As a non-believer in New Labour, Corbyn has no such ideological awkwardness, while John McDonnell is one of the few people in the Labour party who didn’t subcontract out their economic thinking to Brown and Ed Balls. But still, their team admit they have a way to go in rethinking Britain’s economy – and they are having to do so against a famously hostile parliamentary party. The result is Corbyn’s manifesto, which is chiefly remarkable for its unabashed defence of basic social democratic values. It’s the programme you imagine Brown would like to have delivered – if only he hadn’t been so busy triangulating.

But behind the scenes, the party is doing much deeper thinking. I have seen an internal Labour report commissioned by McDonnell. It forms one part of what could be a far more radical programme after Thursday night. Some of the lines in it will give the Daily Mail stories for days – such as calling for a overhaul of the BBC trust (which is “dominated by appointees from the corporate and financial sectors”) and hundreds of millions in public money to be spent on establishing workers co-ops. For the sympathetic reader, however, it contains some of the most imaginative thinking around economic democracy to come out of the party in decades (not saying much, sadly). In that, it sits alongside the speeches made by Corbyn’s team last week about the need for “industrial patriotism”, and to give public backing to new sectors.

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More cuts are being prepared.

Simple Numbers Tell Story Of Police Cuts Under Theresa May (G.)

Police numbers, including the number of armed police officers, have fallen sharply under Theresa May’s watch first as home secretary between 2010 and 2016 and then as prime minister. The simple numbers tell the story. In 2010 May as home secretary made the mistake that Margaret Thatcher never made in the 1980s and agreed to a Treasury demand to cut police budgets by 18%. Over the next five years the number of police officers in England and Wales fell from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2016. At the same time the number of specialist armed police officers has fallen from a peak of 6,796 in 2010 to 5,639 in 2016. As the graph shows it would appear to be an open and shut case that cuts in police officer numbers have had an impact on the capacity of the police to respond.

May was told in 2010 that in cutting police funding she was making a mistake that Thatcher never made when she instinctively realised that there would come a crucial moment when the country, and her premiership, would depend entirely on the resilience of the thin blue line. May took a different approach as home secretary that was not without foundation. She argued that with the big continuing falls in crime that had been seen since the mid-1990s it was not necessary to maintain such a large police force. Anyway, it was argued, there was no direct link between the number of officers and the level of crime.

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What you get after years of having zero price discovery. It gets worse as we go along.

Earnings vs. Profits & The Bull Market (Roberts)

As I have discussed previously, the operating and reported earnings per share are heavily manipulated by accounting gimmicks, share buybacks, and cost suppression. To wit: “The tricks are well-known: A difficult quarter can be made easier by releasing reserves set aside for a rainy day or recognizing revenues before sales are made, while a good quarter is often the time to hide a big ‘restructuring charge’ that would otherwise stand out like a sore thumb. What is more surprising though is CFOs’ belief that these practices leave a significant mark on companies’ reported profits and losses. When asked about the magnitude of the earnings misrepresentation, the study’s respondents said it was around 10% of earnings per share.“ However, if we analyze corporate profits (adjusted for taxes and inventory valuations) we find a very different story. Since the lows following the financial crisis, the S&P 500 has grown by 266% versus corporate profit growth of just 98%.

Important Note: The profits generated by the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet are included in the corporate profits discussed here. As shown below, actual corporate profitability is weaker if you extract the Fed’s profits from the analysis. As a comparison, in the first quarter of 2017, Apple reported a net income of just over $17 billion for the quarter. The Fed reported a $109 billion profit.

With corporate profits still at the same level as they were in 2011, there is little argument the market has gotten a bit ahead of itself. Sure, this time could be different, but it usually isn’t. The detachment of the stock market from underlying profitability suggests the reward for investors is grossly outweighed by the risk. But, as has always been the case, the markets can certainly seem to “remain irrational longer than logic would predict.” This was something Jeremy Grantham once noted: “Profit margins are probably the most mean-reverting series in finance, and if profit margins do not mean-revert, then something has gone badly wrong with capitalism. If high profits do not attract competition, there is something wrong with the system, and it is not functioning properly.” Grantham is correct. As shown, when we look at inflation-adjusted profit margins as a percentage of inflation-adjusted GDP we see a clear process of mean reverting activity over time. Of course, those mean reverting events are always coupled with a recession, crisis, or stock market crash.

More importantly, corporate profit margins have physical constraints. Out of each dollar of revenue created there are costs such as infrastructure, R&D, wages, etc. Currently, one of the biggest beneficiaries to expanding profit margins has been the suppression of employment, wage growth, and artificially suppressed interest rates which have significantly lowered borrowing costs. Should either of the issues change in the future, the impact to profit margins will likely be significant. The chart below shows the ratio overlaid against the S&P 500 index.

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Well, if you don’t know what something’s worth, how are you going to justify purchasing it? At some point that stops.

US M&A: One Of The Scariest Charts To Look At – Citi (BI)

The slowdown in US dealmaking since 2015 is cause for concern, Citi’s equity strategists say. “In some respects, one of the scariest charts to look at currently is the number of announced mergers & acquisition deals over the past year or two,” Tobias Levkovich, the chief US equity strategist at Citi, said in a note on Friday. “M&A lawyers argue the ‘uncertainty’ factor, which has come about recently, given some unpredictable aspects of the new Trump administration, has been the issue. It only may explain the last six months, but the trend has been poor for about two years or more. In the past, there has been some correlation with the S&P 500 and thus it could generate more legitimate fears than some of the other excuses that are put forth for not wanting to buy American equities.”

This year through June 5, 7,561 deals were announced, the lowest count since 2013, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. M&A volume reached a record $2.055 trillion that year, the firm’s data show, slipping in 2016 to $1.7 trillion. More dealmaking signals, in part, that companies are placing big bets on the long-term growth of certain pockets of the market. Levkovich said tough antitrust measures from European authorities and the Department of Justice antitrust division may be slowing dealmaking.

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Please let it stop.

IMF’s Lagarde Offers Eurozone Greek Debt Compromise, Handelsblatt Says (R.)

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has offered Greece’s European creditors a way out of their impasse over Athens’s debts that would allow the eurozone to release a tranche of aid later this month. The IMF believes Greece needs a debt haircut, which Germany rejects. Lagarde suggested agreeing a deal whereby the IMF would stay on board in the bailout, as Berlin wants, but not pay out further aid until debt relief measures are clarified. “There can therefore be a program in which the disbursement only takes place when the debt measures have been clearly outlined by the creditors,” she told Handelsblatt in pre-released comments to run in its Tuesday edition. The compromise could allow eurozone finance ministers to give the go-ahead for their next payment of their tranche of aid at their meeting on June 15, Handelsblatt said.

“It is a possibility for an agreement,” Lagarde said. Greece has about €7 billion of debt maturing in July, a sum it will not be able to repay unless it gets new loans out of its current bailout worth up to 86 billion euros, the third aid program since its debt crisis began. Eurozone finance ministers failed to agree with the IMF last month on debt relief terms for Greece. They did not release new loans to Athens but recognized it had made significant progress with reforms. Greece hopes that eurozone finance ministers will offer enough clarity in June on debt relief measures that could be carried out after its bailout ends in 2018, to show investors that its debt – now at 197% of GDP – will be sustainable and help it return to bond markets as early as this summer.

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Trust in the Troika has proven to be a very expensive mistake.

The Euro’s Future Demands Trust (K.)

The European Commission presented its proposal for possible ways to deepen Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union a few days ago, as part of the public debate on the EU’s future. It went unnoticed in Greece, which is a pity, because if all that is proposed is adopted, the Greek problem will be overcome; also, if the mechanisms and procedures now in place had existed from the start, our country would not have hit a dead end. The question now is how Greece will be part of a system that was established because of the Greek crisis but from which our country is still excluded.

For the Greeks – sinking in recession, insecurity and isolation – the ironies are many. Presenting the proposals in Brussels on Wednesday, Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The euro is one of Europe’s most significant achievements. It is much more than just a currency. It was conceived as a promise of prosperity. To keep that promise for future generations, we need the political courage to work on strengthening and completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union now.” Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for economic and financial affairs, added: “The euro is already a symbol of unity and a guarantee of stability for Europeans. We now need to make it a vehicle for shared prosperity. Only by reversing economic and social divergence in the euro area will we be able to defeat the dangerous populism that this fuels.”

The indirect references to Greece are clear. This is where the euro’s weaknesses first appeared, this is where the political center was torn apart and fringe groups gained power, this is where confidence in the common currency and in solidarity is being tested. The Commission’s proposals focus on completing a genuine financial union, achieving a more integrated economic and fiscal union, on greater democratic accountability and strengthening euro-area institutions (including a full-time Eurogroup chair and a European Monetary Fund). The Commission noted the euro’s successes, adding, “And yet it is only 25 years since the Treaty of Maastricht paved the way for the single currency and only 15 years since the first coin was used.” So we ask: As the currency is so new, and as the necessary mechanisms and procedures are only now being instituted, why is Greece continually an outcast? How can we pretend all is well with the euro? .

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Nice thing is the City Plaza is not really occupied, nor a squat. The former employees own everyhting inside the building.

An Occupied Hotel In Greece Models How To Welcome Refugees (WNV)

It is almost summer in Europe. Temperatures are rising, and many are preparing for vacations somewhere in the Mediterranean, which means searching for accommodation online. “No pool, no minibar, no room service, and nonetheless: the best hotel in Europe” reads the City Plaza Hotel’s homepage. A joke? Yes. A lie? Not at all. While this hotel in Athens, Greece might not offer those conventional services, it provides something far better: Free housing, medical care and meals for hundreds of people who have had to flee their countries. [..] Over the course of the year, the hotel has provided decent housing for over 1,500 refugees — 400 at any one time — in times of undignified detention camps. It is a model of self-organization and solidarity with refugees — who share living quarters with locals — in times of rising racism and nationalism.

[..] Thousands of homeless refugees are living in the streets of Athens, including families with small children. In response to this crisis, the Greek state set up more than 49 detention centers and camps. Activists and refugees had another idea of how to respond. On April 22, 2016 they took over the City Plaza — which, like many businesses since the economic collapse, had been abandoned for six years. Along with eight other self-organized shelters occupied by refugees and activists around the city, the hotel offers displaced people a safe and dignified alternative to the miserable, unhygienic and cruel conditions of the detention facilities. When the City Plaza went bankrupt in 2010, the management failed to pay the employees their final salaries. According to a court ruling, since they were unable to pay the workers monetarily, everything that is inside the building belongs to the workers.

However, the owner prevented auctioning the hotel for years. When the seven-story building was finally occupied last year, the former hotel employees declared that they were happy to offer and share everything. And the activists running City Plaza now support the workers and are planning common efforts to meet the demands of both the former workers and the refugees. The refugees’ demands include access to housing, education and employment. By providing everything that is needed themselves, the project proves that decent living conditions for everyone is possible, even in a country as burdened by crisis as Greece. And the warm reception that the refugees have received by those living near the hotel demonstrate that poverty is not an obstacle to welcoming people with open arms. “The neighbors bring some clothes, some food — you know, they are warm. Although their lives are also ruined, they see in the ruins of their lives, the ruins of the lives of other people,” said Maria, one of the Greek activists running the hotel.

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