Jan 222021
 


Vincent van Gogh Laboureur dans un champ 1889

 

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)
Words of Division (MacDonald)
Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)
Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)
The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)
State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)
12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)
Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)
Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)
Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)
Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)
Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

 

 


The 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.

 

 

All good now, but what a blunder.

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)

Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6. One unit, which had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was abruptly told to vacate the facility on Thursday, according to one Guardsman. The group was forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, the person said. Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service.

Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” the Guardsman said. All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed. They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said. Top lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night, with some even offering their offices to be used as rest areas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.”

And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted that the Capitol complex remains closed to members of the public, “so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them.” By 10 p.m., Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the situation was “being resolved” and that the Guardsmen would be able to return indoors later in the night. “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight,” added Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs in combat. “I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

Read more …

“This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists.”

Words of Division (MacDonald)

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug. According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government. Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the “harsh, ugly reality” of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization”; “anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.” He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.

This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists. They are au courant, shallow terms of the moment, lacking depth or weight. In fact, such terms are so overused today that it is easy to tune them out. But that would be a mistake. The “systemic racism” conceit means that every American institution is illegitimate and needs to be reconstructed. Biden’s cabinet nominees, whether in health, finance, environmental policy, or education, have declared that eradicating systemic racism is their top priority. How this agenda will play out has already been adumbrated in the CDC’s initial priority list for Covid vaccinations: hold off on vaccinating the elderly, despite their higher risk levels, because the elderly are disproportionately white. Racial quotas will become even more the order of the day than now.

Read more …

“The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016.”

Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)

Donald Trump has slunk off the national stage for the time being, but we must remember who made him a contender for president in the first place: the Democrats and their corporate media. As Wikileaks revealed , the Clinton campaign encouraged friendly media to boost Trump’s Republican primary prospects, hoping to set up a straw man that could easily be knocked down in November, 2016. By Election Day, the corporate press had lavished $5 billion in free media on Trump – more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all of Trump’s Republican presidential competitors, combined. If you are desperate to flush the stink of four years of Trump out of your brain, remember who put it there, through constant, daily repetition.

How long will the Orange Menace stay gone? Not long; soon either Trump will make a comeback or the corporate media will inflate another racist straw man to run against. The only way the corporate Democrats can mobilize their base to eek out slim national victories while keeping Joe Biden’s promise to the rich that “nothing would fundamentally change ,” is to position themselves as the sole defense against the racist hordes. That’s how Bill Clinton succeeded in completing Ronald Reagan’s quest to “end welfare as we know it,” while vastly expanding the structures of mass Black incarceration (Sen. Joe Biden proudly “wrote the bill”), gutting safeguards against bankers blowing up the economy, and facilitating the exodus of good jobs to sweatshops overseas. Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America confederacy stampeded Blacks and “progressives” into the corporate Democratic corral, where they were politically neutered.

The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016. [..] When Blacks and progressives rallied behind Bill Clinton to defeat Gingrich, the corporate rulers were enabled to plunge the society into a great leap backward that wiped out the last vestiges of the New Deal, condemned another generation of Black youth to the Gulag, and set the stage for two economic catastrophes that rivaled the Great Depression, while the U.S. military vastly intensified its rampages around the world, the national security state penetrated every digital device on the planet, and huge corporations perfected the tools of public self-surveillance.

Read more …

MICIMATT

Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)

But, don’t go away, Russia, not just yet. The MICIMATT still finds you convenient as the kind of “threat” it can cite to justify spending untold billions of dollars on defense, enriching the already rich. The way the U.S. system is structured, it matters little in the grand scheme of things on where the money is spent – whether a Republican or Democrat sits in the Oval Office. In short, the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex rules the roost (MEDIA in all caps, as the linchpin). Clinton wonders aloud who Trump “is beholden to”. Well, speaking of beholden, Joe Biden enters office with zero vaccination against being beholden – to the MICIMATT. It is fair to say that, without that the MICIMATT’s blessing, candidates end up like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

There are just enough straws in the wind to make the MICIMATT and its clients and supporters nervous. What would happen, should Putin and Russia become less demonized? Could there be a thaw in the unnecessarily chilly relations with Moscow? What could that mean for bloated defense spending – particularly at a time when those funds are so desperately and demonstrably needed at home? It appears likely that strategic arms negotiations with Russia will be high on President Joe Biden’s agenda, as will cooperation with Russia and the other parties to the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Assuming William Burns, former ambassador to Russia, is confirmed as CIA director, Biden will have at his beck and call a straight-speaking, highly experienced expert who has dealt with President Putin. Burns was also one of the chief US negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal.

In my view, it is also significant that President-elect Biden has held back from explicit condemnation of Russia by name amid the recent flurry of accusations of Russian hacking of several US institutions over the past several months. Yes, he has referred to what Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General Barr have said blaming Russia, and it can be argued that he has indirectly implicated Russia in the context of his sparse statements on this issue. In my experience, though, the Kremlin is likely to have taken note of the caution that Biden has exercised on this neuralgic issue. Nor has this likely escaped the attention of the MICIMATT and induced some worry about the long-term viability of the portrayal of Putin as villain.

Oliver Stone told me recently that, in one of his conversations in Russia, Mr. Putin, somewhat exasperated, said something along the lines of, “Now Russians are thought of like Jews before World War II”. Think about that. Amid the Russia Russia Russia over the past four-plus years, Putin has kept his voice down – and his powder dry – while staying open to negotiations to reduce arms competition, cyber warfare, and other facets of bilateral tension. If past is precedent, he is likely to see opportunities to take a fresh look at US intentions under President Biden – especially during the traditional “honeymoon” period normally accorded a new president. But clearly, Putin is also aware of the parallels between the demonization of him and Russia and how Jews were blamed for just about everything during the Thirties. Evidence-free accusations by the likes of Pelosi and Clinton will make the task of restoring a modicum of trust an uphill battle.

Read more …

“It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair.”

The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)

The US military is routinely shown to be one of the most trusted institutions in American life — so it wasn’t as though their mere presence on the streets of Washington automatically provoked universal horror. After the massive nationwide riots last summer, virtually everyone I spoke to expressed satisfaction with the National Guard’s handling of the chaos. Similarly, the vast number of soldiers deployed to DC this week to ward off a potential “insurrection” were greeted with plentiful selfies and free cheeseburger deliveries. But this operation, which reportedly consisted of 25,000 military personnel — not including the innumerable federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the ground — was another thing altogether. Downtown DC had been transformed into a brazenly fortified, militarised zone unlike anything in living memory.

Roads were blocked off by oversized armoured vehicles which had been stationed for maximum visibility. The boarding-up of endless storefronts — a result of both the Covid-related economic downturn and prolonged riot-induced anxiety — added to the sense of dystopia. Soldiers patrolled with large rifles slung around their shoulders, directing traffic and checking the “papers” of motorists. One Guardsman from Pennsylvania told me that “legitimate business” was the standard by which they were to adjudicate whether cars would be allowed to pass through. The rifles brandished by many of the troops were conspicuously without a magazine loaded. This is not uncommon for a peacetime mission. The aim was evidently not to subdue any kind of imminent, actionable threat that would require live ammunition, as many politicians and journalists had frantically warned was the case, but to simply act as a gigantic deterrent.

That objective was apparently accomplished. I did not see a single protester anywhere in the city on Inauguration Day, much less any “insurrectionists” or “armed rebels” trawling around, as had been so gravely forecast. The FBI (then still technically under the jurisdiction of Donald Trump) had warned that all 50 state Capitols were at severe risk, and therefore also needed to fortify their defences with military deployments and obtrusive fencing and barriers. Then the day came and went, and… nothing. In both Albany, NY, and Sacramento, CA a total of one Trump hat-wearing man showed up at each.

And so Joe Biden was sworn in without incident, appealing for “unity”, while the city surrounding him was essentially under full-scale military occupation. The night before, I saw multiple platoons marching the streets in two-by-two formation — en route to who knows where. The general public couldn’t get anywhere close to the Inauguration site, the interior of which had been cordoned off with barbed wire. The few stragglers who hopelessly tried to enter the outskirts of the National Mall — mostly foreign media desperate for a story — were fooled by the Secret Service into standing in a line-to-nowhere that never moved.

It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay “civil unrest,” with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences. But place DC under complete military occupation as a final rebuke to Trump and his shameful supporters, and the show of state force is to be celebrated rather than adversarially probed. Particularly with Democrats now controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, the wisdom of this occupation is probably never going to be examined in any meaningful way. Will we ever learn how much it cost taxpayers? Doubtful.

Read more …

Fear rules fear.

State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)

Elly Page had never seen anything like what’s happened in recent days. A senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Page has been tracking the proliferation of anti-protest bills across the U.S. since Donald Trump became president in 2017. “The number of bills we have seen in the past three weeks is unprecedented,” she said. Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills. The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests. The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.

The pushes by close to a fifth of state legislatures are part of a pattern that began to pick up speed after the summer’s uprisings in response to the police killing of George Floyd, which in many communities included significant property damage. In a handful of states, lawmakers did what they often do: introduced new legislation — however unnecessary — to show that they were responding to their constituents’ concerns. The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

“There has generally been an uptick at the beginning of odd-numbered years, when most states begin their biennial legislative sessions. But this year beats prior recent years,” Page said in an email. Since January 1, she noted that 11 state legislatures have introduced 17 bills, including those filed before the Capitol insurrection. “Compare that to 0 during the same period in 2020, 9 in 2019, 5 in 2018, and 13 in 2017,” she said, adding that the 2017 spike was mostly due to North Dakota responding to that winter’s Standing Rock protests.

Read more …

That’s a lot, no matter how you see it.

12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)

More than 12,400 people in Israel have tested positive for coronavirus after being vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, including 69 who had received their second dose, the country’s Health Ministry said. Some 189,000 people were tested for Covid-19 after being vaccinated, with 6.6 percent getting a positive result, according to ministry data reported by Israeli outlets. The majority were apparently infected shortly after receiving the first jab of the two-part vaccine – a period when the inoculation isn’t expected to have kicked in yet. However, 1,410 people tested positive two weeks after their first injection, by which time partial immunity should have already taken effect.

Moreover, 69 patients became infected with the novel coronavirus despite already having been administered both shots of the vaccine, the ministry said. Israel began administering the second doses almost two weeks ago, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the first to complete the course. Pfizer has said that a spike in immunity occurs between Day 15 and Day 21 after the first jab, when the effectiveness of its vaccine increases from 52 to 89 percent. According to earlier trials, the protection offered by the vaccine reaches the 95 percent level a week after the second dose is administered, the pharma giant said. When it comes to vaccines, the results of clinical trials may differ from how the immunization performs in the field, where it’s administered to a much greater number of people.

On Tuesday, Israel’s coronavirus tsar, Nachman Ash, reportedly complained to Israeli ministers about the insufficient protection provided by the first shot of the American vaccine. It turned out to be “less effective than we had thought” and “lower than Pfizer presented,” Ash said, as cited by Army Radio. However, the head of the infection unit at Sheba Medical Center – where Netanyahu got his jabs – told Israeli media that the Pfizer vaccine “works wonderfully” after two shots. According to Professor Gili Regev-Yohai, 102 of the medics at the center were tested a week after completing the vaccination course, and all but two of them showed antibody levels between six to 20 times higher than seven days earlier.

[..] Despite already vaccinating more than 20 percent of its own population, Israel doesn’t seem as eager to share immunization with Palestinians in the occupied territories. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization expressed its “concerns” over unequal access to vaccines between Israelis and Palestinian. A WHO representative for Palestine said that the UN body has been in discussions with Israeli authorities on the possibility of allocating vaccines to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israeli Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, has said her department may offer the Palestinian Authoritiy surplus doses after Israelis have received their jabs.

Read more …

Scientist Angela’s not liking what she sees..

Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union must find common ground in fighting coronavirus and stopping the spread of new strains that have already swept through the UK and Ireland recently. On Tuesday, Merkel warned that Germany could close its borders unless neighboring states acted together. “We need to make sure that everyone around us is doing the same. Otherwise we have to look at measures such as entry restrictions.” “The EU is one area,” Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday morning, hours before she was scheduled to join a video summit of EU leaders focused on Covid-19. The chancellor warned about the dangers from the spread of the new mutant virus and that they need to be “taken very seriously.”


“We act out of precaution for our country,” Merkel said, adding that everything is now about getting the getting the pandemic under control. EU leaders are to consider whether to approve vaccine passports, which would allow for inoculated people to travel more freely, and whether to apply travel restrictions. Merkel said Germany is at a difficult stage of the pandemic. “On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down,” she told a press conference. “But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1,000 people today.” On Wednesday, Germany extended its national lockdown until February 14 and brought in new rules making it mandatory to wear medical-grade masks in shops and on public transport. So far, Germany has recorded 50,010 deaths and 2.1 million cases of coronavirus.

Read more …

Has anyone seen any reported evidence of vaccine efficacy?

Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)

New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday. A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas that have given scientists some cause for concern. Some variants that have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more deadly. While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines. “Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” researchers with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote. Their conclusions, they said, “highlight the prospect of reinfection … and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

Even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said during a White House press briefing. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness. “We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said.

Read more …

Stimulus arriving in the wrong places.

Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)

Margin debt – the amount of money that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings – spiked by 56 billion in December, after having already spiked by 63 billion in November, by far the two largest month-to-month increases on record, to $778 billion, according to FINRA which regulates brokers and exchanges. Since March, this measure of margin debt surged by nearly $300 billion, or by 62%. Margin debt as tracked by FINRA at its member firms isn’t the only form of stock market leverage, but it’s the only form that is disclosed monthly. There are many other forms of stock market leverage by institutions and individuals that are not disclosed, or are only disclosed voluntarily in SEC filings by the brokers and banks that lend to their clients against their portfolios, such as “securities-based loans” (SBLs). We don’t know how much total stock market leverage there is, but margin loans indicate the trends, and we had another WTF moment:

High margin balances tend to precede epic stock market sell-offs, as annotated in the chart above. With these two-decade charts, the long-term changes in the dollar amounts are less relevant since the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped over the period. But on a short-term basis, the movements are very indicative about rising or falling leverage in the stock market. On a year-over-year basis, margin debt surged by nearly $200 billion in December, by far the most ever. Stock market leverage is an accelerator. When stocks already rise, and investors feel confident, they borrow money to buy more stocks, and they can borrow more against their stocks because their value has risen. And this additional borrowed money is then chasing after stocks and thereby creating more buying pressure, and prices surge further.

Read more …

Aaannd …we’re baaack!

Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)

A large U.S. military convoy was seen entering northeastern Syria on Thursday, marking the first time since Damascus issued its letter to the United Nations Security Council demanding the immediate withdrawal of American forces from the Arab Republic. According to a field report from northeastern Syria on Thursday, the U.S. military convoy entered the Al-Hasakah Governorate from neighboring Iraq, as they were observed entering the Arab Republic via the Al-Waleed Crossing. The report said the U.S. military convoy consisted of a large amount of weapons and logistical equipment, which were transferred to their bases inside the Al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor Governorates east of the Euphrates River.


They would add that the U.S. military convoy consisted of over 40 trucks and armored vehicles that were escorted by helicopters until they reached their destinations. These movements by the U.S. military have become routine, with the latter often moving troops and equipment back and forth from neighboring Iraq.

Read more …

Oz threatens to make them pay for news, they threaten to limit/cut their “services”, and then decide themselves what constitutes news. Major legal battle.

Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants’ efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google “news source”, making it the country’s first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a “news source” tag. Bundaberg also has the country’s only confirmed council-run Facebook page tagged as a “News & Media Website”. The designation shows the gaps left in the country’s traditional news market as smaller publications wither and disappear.


Bundaberg Council’s news website says it does not publish court and crime reports, politics, “investigative journalism” or “negative stories”. “It’s just another example of the way these tech giants are allowed to operate outside any accountability framework at all,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. “If they want to classify a council PR website as a news website, well, they can, and there’s nothing stopping them.” Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook are fighting an Australian federal government plan to make them pay media outlets for original content that appears on their platforms, telling a Senate inquiry that the new rules may lead them to cancel some core services in the country.

Read more …

 

 

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FerrisBernie

 

 

 

 

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Jan 152021
 
 January 15, 2021  Posted by at 4:56 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  25 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959

 

 

And just like that, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg belatedly found they had fallen on their own swords, as these were already sticking out of their backs. Let’s see it as poetic justice. They thought they had the power- after all, they’re just private companies!- to restrict Donald Trump’s access to their organizations, and then ban him altogether, only to find that they themselves will now be restricted and perhaps even banned as a result.

They figured since most of the world doesn’t like Trump, it would applaud the moves as much as the US Democratic party does. But most of the world doesn’t. What it sees, what its leaders see, is a threat to everyone else’s freedom of speech, not just Trump’s. Those countries and their leaders have been suspicious of the might of US tech companies for longer, and they will now look elsewhere for social media functionality. It’s no accident that Facebook alone lost some $47 billion in market cap since the Trump ban.

This does not come from Trump supporters. Angela Merkel, not a Trump fun at all, summarizes the worries: “Her spokesman said Monday the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law.” That’s it right there, the heart of the matter: “law”. Twitter and Facebook act as judge, jury and henchman, and that is not legal, not even for private companies.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Facebook of all places (love the irony): “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not.” “There can be no consent to censorship.” Poland is drafting legislation which would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that did not break Polish law. “Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland.”

While Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said: “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” AMLO is actively seeking a coalation of countries in the world to counter social media’s recent policies.

It’s quite something that Dorsey and Zuckerberg were/are blind to this. That they were apparently thinking in “American terms” only when banning Trump, and given political sentiments thought they could get away with it, but did not see the broader international implications. Their shareholders will not appreciate that blind spot. The US is not their only market.

 

The first things that will happen now is that the EU will look at measures to curtail social media’s freedoms in its territory. This is not an obvious matter, many of its countries – see Poland’s example- will claim they have their own laws and standards, and they often do, but, if only for internal EU political reasons, that won’t stick.

Social media are important platforms in politics these days. In EU elections, national parties form coalitions with each other, and these then form bigger coalitions (blocs). A candidate for the European Parliament could potentially be banned in one country, while one from another country, but belonging to the same party or bloc, would not. That can’t be, it’s too messy even by EU standards, so legislation will have to be pan-EU.

The funniest thing that might come of this is Facebook and Twitter re-opening Trump’s accounts to appease Merkel et al, but it’s too late. There are plenty EU companies more than eager to fill the void that Silicon Valley would leave behind (or they can order Chinese). And Jack and Mark will not win the world’s trust back in time, they stepped over the line.

Replacing Facebook won’t happen overnight. But if access to it is cut in large parts of the world, it could happen faster than you think. As for Twitter and WhatsApp, oh well, dime a dozen. They can kill Parler, but already large numbers of people are switching over to Signal and Telegram. Can’t kill ’em all, @jack.

Talking of which, did you see the Project Veritas video secretly made by a Twitter employee? This is exactly why Twitter will be restricted and banned. @jack threatening to give many other people the same treatment as Trump is a scary sight for many people across the world, politicians or citizens. You know who’s next? You are next.

 

 

@jack Veritas

 

 

Plenty politicians want to ban people from all manner of things, but they want to be the ones doing the banning, not @jack. But as Merkel observes, banning someone with no basis whatsoever in law is not what anyone should want. In the end, refusing someone access to social media turns into the same thing as refusing them access to a computer. Or, maybe an even better example, to a phone. Things like that happen very rarely, and never to a President of the United States. Ma Bell, Baby Bells, AT&T, maybe that’s the future of Facebook and Twitter. If they’re lucky.

And while we’re at it, we haven’t even mentioned Google yet. Let’s turn them into baby-Googles too. Because the biggest threat that Silicon Valley poses is not that they ban Trump and actively tried to influence a US presidential election (remember Zuckerberg’s $500 million election fund)?

No, the biggest threat is their algorithms used to spy on you and me to “optimize” us as victims clients for their advertizers. That’s why this is not just about Facebook and Twitter, but certainly also about Google. These are virtual monopolies we’re talking about. And while you’re at it, add Apple and Amazon. It’s their ties to intelligence services that make these companies the most threatening. In the US, this is too far advanced to stop now. But in Europe, there may still be a chance.

This is a big fight when it comes to liberty and personal space. And if you don’t fight it now, you’ve already lost. Pay attention please.

 

 

 

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Sep 152020
 
 September 15, 2020  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Otto Dix The Triumph of Death 1934

 

Scientists Discover Antibody That ‘Neutralizes’ Coronavirus (Fox)
Research From 23andMe Strengthens Link Between Blood Types And COVID19 (STAT)
Vitamin D Supplements ‘Could Keep COVID19 Patients Out Of Intensive Care’ (DM)
Cuba Punches Above Weight With ‘White Coat Army’ During Pandemic (R.)
Convergence of Quandaries (Jim Kunstler)
Stop The Coup! (TAM)
Poll Claims Debunked Atlantic Story Changed Voters’ Minds About Trump (BPR)
Trump Connects The Generals And The Military-Industrial Complex (AC)
Inequality Robs $2.5 Trillion From U.S. Workers Each Year
Bezos Doubles Wealth as Amazon Essential Product Prices Rise 1000% (MPN)
Time Is Ripe For China To Free Up Controls On Yuan’s Convertibility (SCMP)
Merkel Calls For EU Support For Greece Over Moria (K.)
Germany Plans To Take In 1,500 Refugees From Greek Islands (R.)
Australia Politics, Media Silent On Sadistic British Assange Show-Trial (WSWS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we turn this into the biggest possible profit?

Scientists Discover Antibody That ‘Neutralizes’ Coronavirus (Fox)

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated “the smallest biological molecule” that “completely and specifically neutralizes” SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the novel coronavirus. The antibody component is 10 times smaller than a full-sized antibody, and has been used to create the drug Ab8, shared in the report published by the researchers in the journal Cell on Monday. The drug is seen as a potential preventative against SARS-CoV-2. According to the report, the drug has been “highly effective in preventing and treating” the SARS-CoV-2 infections in mice and hamsters during tests. The drug also reportedly does not bind to human cells, which suggests it will not have negative side-effects in people.


“Ab8 not only has potential as therapy for COVID-19, but it also could be used to keep people from getting SARS-CoV-2 infections,” said co-author John Mellors, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Pitt and UPMC. “Antibodies of larger size have worked against other infectious diseases and have been well tolerated, giving us hope that it could be an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 and for protection of those who have never had the infection and are not immune.” [..] According to the report, the team at University of Texas Medical Branch Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases and Galveston National Laboratory tested Ab8 and found it blocked the virus from entering cells. In mice trials, those treated with Ab8 had 10-fold less of the amount of infectious virus compared to those that were untreated.

Read more …

“A little more than 11% of the people in 23andMe’s studies said they were Latino; less than 3% said they were Black.”

Research From 23andMe Strengthens Link Between Blood Types And COVID19 (STAT)

A forthcoming study from genetic testing giant 23andMe shows that a person’s genetic code could be connected to how likely they are to catch Covid-19 — and how severely they could experience the disease if they catch it. It’s an important confirmation of earlier work on the subject. People whose blood group is O seemed to test positive for Covid-19 less often than expected when compared to people with any other blood group, according to 23andMe’s data; people who tested positive and had a specific variant of another gene also seemed to be more likely to have serious respiratory symptoms. The study, which was released on a preprint server and which has not yet been peer-reviewed, could extend and confirm earlier work on the subject; 23andMe’s study relied on a larger dataset than earlier work and included a more diverse set of participants, the company said.

Experts who aren’t affiliated with 23andMe praised the study design and the work. “They clarify further what our data could only vaguely hint at,” said Tom Hemming Karlsen, a physician at Oslo University Hospital who published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine on genetic links with Covid-19 severity in June, and who was not associated with 23andMe’s work. But the outside experts also cautioned that the research won’t change treatment decisions. “It doesn’t have practical implications. There’s no treatment decisions that will be made from it — it’s just an interesting finding,” said Jennifer Lighter, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at NYU Langone who was not involved in the research. Unlike the study Karlsen and his colleagues ran, which only included people with severe Covid-19 symptoms, 23andMe included people who had both mild and severe cases — which allowed them to draw stronger conclusions, Karlsen said.

The company’s study participants are also more diverse than Karlsen’s, which only studied people in Spain and Italy. However, the 23andMe study’s demographics still don’t fully reflect the population of the United States. A little more than 11% of the people in 23andMe’s studies said they were Latino; less than 3% said they were Black. (Latinos represent about 16% of the U.S. population, while Black people account for about 13% of the population.) Both Karlsen and 23andMe’s team found that the genes that code for a person’s blood type seemed to be linked to whether a person would test positive for Covid-19; another section of chromosome 3 — referred to in both papers as chr3p21.31 — seemed to be linked to how severe a person’s response would be to a Covid-19 infection.

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Disregard the dissing of HCQ. Just take your Vit. D.

Vitamin D Supplements ‘Could Keep COVID19 Patients Out Of Intensive Care’ (DM)

Treating coronavirus patients with high doses of vitamin D supplements could help keep them out of intensive care, a study has suggested. Researchers gave high doses of calcifediol – a type of vitamin D supplement – to 50 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 in Spain. They were given 100 micrograms of the supplement over the course of a week, with 55mcg on the first day and then two booster doses of 27mcg on days three and seven. The dose was higher than the 70mcg weekly limit recommended by the NHS. Scientists compared the participants’ health with 26 volunteers in a control group who were not given the tablets, which are normally prescribed to patients with thyroid or kidney problems.

Just one patient given calcifediol fell ill enough to be admitted to intensive care, whereas half of the participants in the control group were taken to ICU and two died. There were no deaths among volunteers receiving the vitamin and all 50 patients were eventually discharged by the end of the study. Experts now believe Covid-19 causes a catastrophic build-up of a chemical called bradykinin, which makes blood vessels leaky and drives up the risk of inflammation. Calcifediol is one of the few hormones which regulates the bradykinin and it can also prevent the immune system from going into overdrive. Researchers have been divided over whether a vitamin D deficiency, which is vital to the immune system, can raise the risk of dying of Covid-19.

Some scientists suggested that it may be one of the reasons black people face a higher risk of dying from the illness, because they do not produce as much of the vitamin naturally. Taking too much vitamin D can cause bone and organ damage over time, however, and scientists discouraged people from trying to self-medicate. For the study, researchers from the University of Cordoba in Spain and research university KU Leuven in Belgium monitored 76 hospital patients with Covid-19. Fifty of the patients were randomly assigned to have calcifediol tablets, along with normal care. Twenty-six volunteers were put in a control group who only received standard care, to compare the treatment to. Because the study was conducted several months ago, the standard care for coronavirus in Spain was hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. These two drugs have since been proven ineffective at treating the virus.

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I think maybe this is exactly Cuba’s weight.

Cuba Punches Above Weight With ‘White Coat Army’ During Pandemic (R.)

At the start of Togo’s coronavirus outbreak, the small West African nation welcomed a team of 12 Cuban healthcare workers to tend to sufferers of the virus, boost its laboratory testing and help improve its hospital protocols. While the virus was overwhelming healthcare systems worldwide, the Communist-run Caribbean island boasted a rare resource: a surplus of doctors trained in deploying abroad and battling infectious disease. And it was willing to dispatch them all over the globe to nations requesting help. “As scientific and medical circles groped in the dark, Cuban medicine, strong from past experiences, brought appropriate answers,” said the head of cooperation at Togo’s foreign ministry, Charles Azilan.

Nearly 40 countries across five continents have received Cuban medics during the pandemic, as the island nation – home to just over 11 million inhabitants – has once more punched far above its weight in medical diplomacy. Since its 1959 leftist revolution, Cuba has dispatched its “army of white coats” to disaster sites and disease outbreaks around the world in the name of solidarity. In the last decade, they have fought cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa. Not that its brigades are purely altruistic. Cuba has exported doctors on more routine missions in exchange for cash or goods in recent decades, making them its top source of hard currency. While some countries have received the medics for free during the pandemic, others are paying: a slight boon to Cuba’s economy struggling with the coronavirus-induced collapse in tourism.

[..] With financial aid from its former ally the Soviet Union, Cuba built up a healthcare system that was the envy of the developing world under the leadership of the late Fidel Castro. Some of those advances have been lost since the communist bloc collapsed. Many hospitals are run down, medicines are in short supply and Cubans complain about a decline in the quality of medical training. Still, Cuba has one of the highest ratios of physicians per capita in the world and even before pandemic struck, had some 28,000 medics deployed globally. It has since dispatched a further 4,000.

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“The country is now out of its mind… echoes of France, 1793… a rhyme, not a reprise.”

Convergence of Quandaries (Jim Kunstler)

The orgy of political hysteria, insane thinking, and violence is a psychotic reaction to the collapsing techno-industrial economy — a feature of it, actually. When all familiar social and economic arrangements are threatened, people go nuts. Interestingly, the craziness actually started in the colleges and universities where ideas (the products of thinking) are supposed to be the stock-in-trade. The more pressing the practical matters of daily life became, the less intellectuals wanted to face them. So, they desperately generated a force-field of crazy counter-ideas to repel the threat, a curriculum of wishful thinking, childish utopian nostrums, and exercises in boundary-smashing. As all this moved out of the campuses (the graduation function), it infected every other corner of American endeavor, institutions, business, news media, sports, Hollywood, etc. The country is now out of its mind… echoes of France, 1793… a rhyme, not a reprise.


The US economy began a slow and insidious collapse because its petroleum energy base became unaffordable. The reality of that was obscured by paradoxical appearances: the shale oil miracle goosed up US oil production from under five million barrels-a-day in 2007 to thirteen million barrels-a-day in 2019. Pretty awesome. Seemed like we were awash in oil. The problem was the companies producing shale oil couldn’t make money at it, and the loans that went into staging the shale oil “miracle” went bad… and then the companies couldn’t get new loans… and went bankrupt. So, the crash of US oil production is a self-reinforcing feedback loop that is sure to continue and will make things worse. Now, less than a year after reaching that majestic 13 million barrels-a-day, production has fallen to around 10 million a day — quite an impressive drop.

Further obscuring the actual dynamic in play, gasoline prices at the pump are quite low — under $2.50-a-gallon where I live, compared with $4-plus a couple of years ago — and most citizens consider the price of gasoline their sole index of how things are going in the oil industry. The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated and accelerated the damage from that by shutting down much of small business across America since March. The businesses and people who owned them have suffered terribly. That and the public lockdowns have greatly depressed the demand for oil products, driving the price-per-barrel down and reducing the cash flow of the oil companies. That also aggravated worsening relations with our principal trading partner, China, the net effect of which threatens the supply chain for all sorts of critical parts and products needed to keep our complex systems running.

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“Oh, but one more thing: America needs to understand that while it might very well look like Trump won on election night, due to our new rules votes will be counted for weeks afterward and then our candidate will probably win.”

Stop The Coup! (TAM)

Michael Anton’s new article “The Coming Coup?” went viral almost as soon as we posted it a week ago today. This is not simply because figures like Lara Logan, Mollie Hemingway, Newt Gingrich, Dan Bongino, and the editors of the New York Post took note. It spread because concerned citizens began sharing it throughout the nation. We could tell it was especially effective because so many in the mainstream media maintained studious radio silence. But hyperventilating ruling-class supporters of the Biden/BLM/Antifa coalition did predictably lash out. The epitome of these reactions is an article in New York magazine’s Intelligencer, by political columnist Ed Kilgore, entitled “Trump Backers Make Case for Stealing Election, Before Biden Gets the Chance.”

The title itself reveals the stubborn simplicity of the Democratic Party’s coup narrative. Their elites have worked themselves and their base into a frothing lather of existential fright. In article after article, liberal intellectuals and activists have been talking for months about how Trump could steal the election or refuse to leave the White House even if he loses. But if the Right dares to point out that Democrats are actually changing the rules of the electoral process and actually speaking publicly about refusing to concede even if they lose, well, this only proves that the Right is going to steal the election and refuse to concede if they lose! In reality, of course, Anton and others are simply trying to shine a light on what Democrats are now openly declaring in public.

Kilgore frames Anton’s essay as part of an effort among conservatives to spread the craaaazy idea that Democrats’ obsessive focus on mail-in voting is part of a panicky effort to throw the election, not a good-faith scheme to protect people from coronavirus. Let’s leave aside the fact that no less an establishment authority than the Atlantic admits the voting booth is as safe as the grocery store. In fact, says Kilgore, echoing the new establishment narrative, so many legitimate Biden votes may come flooding in by mail after the in-person voting is through that the election will turn around all on its own. Every major media outlet is now full of supposed expert authorities – even Mark Zuckerberg recently got into the act – telling the American people that the rule changes Democrat apparatchiks are pushing throughout the nation are totally normal.

But as elections expert Hans Von Spakovsky pointed out in these pages, “what is clear from all of these lawsuits is that the Democrats and these organizations are trying to change the rules governing the administration of the November election” midstream while Republicans are trying to “preserve the status quo.” (If you want to understand what the Democrats are up to, give Spakovsky’s “Democrats Versus the Vote” a close read.) Kilgore likes to present himself as a reasonable man. But how are voters supposed to respond when the message from the Democrat Party is “our lawsuits to change the way we’ve always voted in the middle of a tumultuous election season are not part of a partisan cheat. Oh, but one more thing: America needs to understand that while it might very well look like Trump won on election night, due to our new rules votes will be counted for weeks afterward and then our candidate will probably win.”

Read more …

Can the media keep itself from making Biden look like he’s winning? Wouldn’t that make people less likely to vote?

Poll Claims Debunked Atlantic Story Changed Voters’ Minds About Trump (BPR)

A new poll from Left-wing Yahoo News and YouGov says that a discredited story by The Atlantic earlier this month claiming that President Donald Trump disparaged American war dead and “misled” about COVID-19 has changed peoples’ minds about supporting him in November. Now, allegedly because of the “bombshell” revelations in the story, some voters have shifted their support to Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden. “Donald Trump has fallen further behind Joe Biden following bombshell reports that the president knowingly misled Americans about the dangers of COVID-19 and privately disparaged dead U.S. soldiers as ‘suckers’ and ‘losers,’ according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll,” Yahoo News reported Friday. Subsequent reporting indicates that neither of those claims are true.

Several current and former White House officials who were with the president during a 2018 visit to France — when the reported disparaging of American World War I dead was alleged to have happened — disputed Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s story. Included on that list is former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who is no fan of the president. As to the claims about coronavirus, while President Trump reportedly told Washington Post correspondent and author Bob Woodward he tried to downplay the severity of COVID-19 so as not to cause panic, he nevertheless warned Americans early on the disease was serious and took several measures — including shutting off most travel to and from China, where the virus originated — very early on.

That said, according to Yahoo News, support for Trump has allegedly tanked: “The survey, which was conducted from Sept. 9 to 11, shows Biden leading Trump by 10 percentage points among registered voters, 49 percent to 39 percent. The previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll found Biden ahead by just 6 points immediately after the Republican National Convention. The results suggest that a week of unrelenting and unflattering revelations about Trump — from the Atlantic report on his alleged contempt for Americans wounded or killed in war (which appeared on Sept. 3) to Bob Woodward’s recordings of Trump admitting he downplayed the deadliness of COVID-19 (released on Sept. 9) — has damaged the president’s standing with voters.”

The survey itself is suspect. For one, it polled “registered voters,” which are less accurate than “likely voters” and tend to skew towards Democrats, according to FiveThirtyEight. In fact, the Yahoo News/YouGov poll skewed heavily towards Democrats. On the issue of favorable views towards Biden and Trump, pollsters oversampled Democrats to Republicans, 366 to 220, respectively. The poll’s claims about which candidate has more respect for the military seems suspect as well. “Asked which candidate shows more respect for the military, 50 percent of registered voters name Biden, compared to 39 percent for Trump. By the same margin, voters say Biden would do a better job leading the military than the current commander in chief,” Yahoo News reported.

Biden runs for reelection

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Smedley Butler.

Trump Connects The Generals And The Military-Industrial Complex (AC)

Once again, the whispers of phantoms masquerading as administration officials have attempted to put Donald Trump on the defensive only two months before the fall election. And in typical fashion, the roused president has gone on an immediate rhetorical offensive. Trump has doubled down on his affirmations towards the U.S. military and the American soldier, while simultaneously confronting the class of generals who command them. “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are,” Trump said at a Labor Day press conference. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

This is a dramatic shift in perspective from the man who spent the first two years of his presidency surrounding himself with top brass like Michael Flynn, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis (along with almost being beguiled into nominating David Petraeus as Secretary of State). Perhaps Trump learned the hard way that the generals of the forever wars don’t measure up to the twentieth-century soldiers he adulated growing up. For instance, when George Marshall oversaw the deployment of 8.3 million GIs across four continents in World War II, he did so with the assistance of only three other four-star generals. In retirement, Marshall refused to sit on any corporate boards, and passed on multiple lucrative book deals, lest he give the impression that he was profiting from his military record. As he told one publisher, “he had not spent his life serving the government in order to sell his life story to the Saturday Evening Post.”

[..] General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, in between his forced retirement from the Marine Corps and appointment as Secretary of Defense, joined the board of General Dynamics where he was paid over a million dollars in salary and benefits. Returning to public life, Mattis then spent two years cajoling President Trump into keeping the U.S. military engaged in places as disparate as Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa. “Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” Mattis told his commander-in-chief. Left unsaid was that a strategic withdrawal would also lead to a precipitous decline in Mattis’ future stock options, which he regained after he rejoined General Dynamics following his December 2018 resignation.

That resignation might have been premature, however. It was only a matter of weeks before Trump’s announced withdrawal from Syria, the impetus for Mattis’ departure, was reversed. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers continue to illegally occupy the north-east of the country. That’s in addition to the thousands of Americans still kicking dust in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrary to the president’s “America First” pledge. And Trump is as guilty as any of his subordinates when it comes to coddling the military-industrial complex, gushing over billion dollar arms deals and their manufactured jobs numbers. It remains to be seen whether his latest announcement of a partial withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the month will turn out as phony as the others.

Trump’s language more closely resembles that of Major General Smedley Butler, who at the time of his death was the most decorated marine in U.S. history. “The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms,” Butler wrote in his 1935 book War is a Racket. To eliminate this corrupting influence, Butler advocated an egalitarian price control to prevent the arms industry—and their pet generals—from profiting off the blood of American boys. “Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our steel companies and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted—to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.”

How do you spin war?

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A study on inequality from the RAND Corporation. No irony at all.

Inequality Robs $2.5 Trillion From U.S. Workers Each Year

Every few months, some group of socially conscious number crunchers will remind Americans that a tiny elite is binge-eating the nation’s economic pie while the rest of us plebeians fight over table scraps. Journalists will then aggregate eye-popping statistics and edifying charts, progressives will share these over social media, adorned with red-faced (and/or guillotine) emoji — and the moral arc of history will carry on bending toward neofeudalism. So, in the present moment of booming stock markets and child hunger, you might be feeling too inured to America’s grotesque levels of inequality to summon much interest in yet another report testifying to the one percent’s total victory in the 50 Years Class War.


But a new study from the Rand Corporation, in partnership with the Fair Work Center, illustrates the impact of a half-century of upward redistribution in bracingly concrete terms: If income had been distributed as evenly over the past five decades as it was in 1975, the median full-time worker in the U.S. would enjoy annual earnings of roughly $92,000 a year. As is, that worker makes just $50,000. It’s no secret that wage and productivity growth began decoupling in the 1970s. Charts like this one from the Economic Policy Institute have been ubiquitous in progressive economic policy debates since the Great Recession:

But RAND’s innovative methodology — which involved constructing a new metric for inequality that compares income growth to GDP, and then using that metric to gauge changes in the income distribution across every U.S. business cycle since 1975 — allowed it to translate the abstractions of macro-level income shares into something much more tangible. Between the mid-1970s and 2018, per capita GDP growth in the U.S. increased by 118 percent. Had income growth on every rung of America’s class ladder kept pace with those gains, annual earnings at the bottom would be nearly twice as high as they are now. Meanwhile, the bottom 90 percent of U.S. earners would collectively take home $2.5 trillion more in income each year.

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“there is no place for price gouging on Amazon..”

Bezos Doubles Wealth as Amazon Essential Product Prices Rise 1000% (MPN)

A new report from advocacy group Public Citizen details how retail giant Amazon “misled the public, law enforcement, and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic,” raising their prices on essential products “to levels that would be considered violations of price gouging laws in many states.” The prices of many products in high demand during the pandemic jumped by over 1,000 percent when compared to this time last year. As accusations of price gouging began, Amazon blamed “bad actors,” declaring in an official statement that, “there is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” committing itself to “working vigorously” to ensure fair pricing, and “collaborating with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies” to “hold price gougers accountable” and to protect the interests of their customers. Yet Public Citizen’s report found that “Amazon is engaged in price gouging on products it sells directly” itself, through its Amazon Essentials line. Disposable face masks and corn starch were the most inflated prices, jumping elevenfold from earlier in the year.

Below is a list of ten Amazon Essential products tracked, including the percentage the items increased in cost. Similar price rises were tracked among third party sellers on the platform as well.
Disposable face masks — 1,000%
Hand sanitizer — 48%
Disinfectant spray — 87%
Antibacterial soap — 470%
Disposable nitrile gloves — 336%
Toilet paper — 528%
Paper towels — 303%
Flour — 425%
Sugar — 520%
Corn starch — 1,010%

While there is no federal law protecting the public from the practice, price gouging is illegal in 35 states, with some states deeming that increasing prices by just 10 percent constitutes breaking the law. Thanks in no small part to increased profits from sales, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his wealth almost double during the pandemic, from $113 billion in March to $206 billion today, according to the Institute for Policy Studies, who calculated that America’s billionaire class of 467 plutocrats have seen their wealth spike by nearly a trillion dollars since lockdown began on March 18. Much of this has been down to an enormous tax break for the ultra-wealthy that the Trump administration snuck into its first coronavirus relief bill. Bezos, who retook the title of the world’s richest individual from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates late last year, has said that he is so rich that he can only imagine spending his wealth by plowing it into space travel.

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I don’t believe it for a second.

Time Is Ripe For China To Free Up Controls On Yuan’s Convertibility (SCMP)

For the last five years, China’s central bank has been fighting to defend two key numbers: seven and three. Seven refers to the exchange rate between yuan and the US dollar – if the yuan weakens too much beyond seven to the US dollar, it would be regarded as a dangerous sign. Three refers to the level of China’s stockpile of foreign exchange reserves – if reserves dip below US$3 trillion, it would be seen as a sign of weakness. The context for the unannounced campaign to defend the two key figures is a deep concern over the rapid capital exodus that occurred after the sudden change in perceptions about China’s financial health and economic robustness following a devastating stock market rout in the summer of 2015, and Beijing’s subsequent clumsy steps to devalue the yuan by nearly 2 per cent.

As a result, Beijing changed its approach to outbound capital flows overnight – from a stance of tolerance and encouragement, to a ruthless crackdown. The restrictions on the ability of ordinary Chinese people to access foreign exchanges increased significantly, even though, on the surface, China maintains a policy that every citizen is entitled to buy up to US$50,000 worth of foreign currencies every year. With a lopsided foreign exchange policy of encouraging inflows and discouraging outflows, China has achieved its goal of avoiding a large yuan depreciation or an exodus of funds. But after five years of this defensive posture, there are signs that the tide could turn again. The dangers of capital outflow have eased as the Chinese economy has recovered rapidly from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

As many parts of the world are still struggling to rebound, China has become a favoured destination for both portfolio and long-term investment despite tensions with the United States. With the US Federal Reserve’s aggressive monetary easing policy leading to a weaker US dollar, the yuan has become a safe bet for value. The time is ripe for Beijing to free up controls on the yuan’s convertibility with other currencies.The Chinese government can never realise its ambition of making the yuan a global currency, or even a potential rival to the US dollar, if it maintains rigid control on its use. With the US threatening China with financial sanctions, Beijing has recognised that it needs to reduce reliance on the US dollar, and the best way to do that is to free up the yuan.

Read more …

Don’t call for it, do it.

Merkel Calls For EU Support For Greece Over Moria (K.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday support for Greece on migration in light of the destruction of the country’s largest migrant camp should be pan-European. “Greece has shouldered a lot of responsibility,” she said on Monday, adding that Athens has earned support. “We will make a substantive contribution,” she added, noting more migrants will be transferred to Germany. Bild newspaper reported on Monday that Berlin is considering taking in thousands of refugees from Moria as a one-off gesture and hopes the camp can be rebuilt and run by the European Union.

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Good, now the rest. It does give one the idea that setting the place on fire paid off.

Germany Plans To Take In 1,500 Refugees From Greek Islands (R.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer are planning to take in around 1,500 refugees from the Greek islands, German news agency dpa reported on Tuesday. Dpa cited politicians focussed on domestic policy as saying that these would be families with children. More than 12,000 people, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, Africa and Syria, were left without shelter, proper sanitation or access to food and water after a fire tore through the overcrowded Moria migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesvos last Wednesday.

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“..the WikiLeaks publisher is largely being treated as a “non-person” by the Australian political and media establishment..”

Australia Politics, Media Silent On Sadistic British Assange Show-Trial (WSWS)

From the editorial pages of the official media and the statements of leading politicians, the uninformed observer would have no idea that a world-famous Australian journalist is enduring extradition hearings that have been condemned as a legal travesty by rights’ organisations and United Nations representatives, or that he faces 175-years imprisonment for publishing evidence of war crimes. Because it is Britain that is staging the current show-trial of Julian Assange, and the US government that is seeking his destruction, the WikiLeaks publisher is largely being treated as a “non-person” by the Australian political and media establishment. Moreover, they, no less than their counterparts internationally, are committed to an agenda of militarism and escalating attacks on democratic rights, of which the persecution of Assange is a central component.

A week since British hearings for Assange’s extradition to the US resumed, his name does not appear to have passed the lips of a minister in the federal Liberal-National government or a prominent representative of the Labor Party opposition, publicly, at least. And nor does it seem that they have been asked by any members of the “fourth estate” about their silence. Not a single editorial in the establishment media has called for Assange to be defended. This includes outlets such as the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, and the state-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which regularly proclaim their commitment to “press freedom.” The disinterest is not because the British proceedings have been uneventful, or the attacks on Assange’s legal and democratic rights carefully concealed.

Last week’s hearings began with Assange emerging for the first time in months from Belmarsh Prison, a maximum-security facility, where he has been detained for the past year-and-a-half, even though he has not been convicted of a crime. There he has been imperiled by the coronavirus pandemic, with the authorities failing to provide him with such basic protection as a mask, as dozens of inmates and staff have contracted the potentially deadly-virus. Before the trial, Assange was “rearrested,” despite the fact that there had been no change to his incarceration. The reason was that, weeks out from the trial, a new “superseding” indictment was filed by US prosecutors. This was plainly aimed at overwhelming Assange’s lawyers with thousands of legal documents, after they had already finalised their defence case.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected a defence request that the additional material in the superseding indictment be excised. But she also dismissed a defence motion for a delay, to allow Assange’s lawyers to respond to the new allegations. Meanwhile, the US prosecutors have stated that the new material in the indictment, despite the fact that it does not contain additional charges, could itself be the basis for extradition. The US government is seeking to ensnare Assange in a Kafkaesque nightmare, where, even if extradition is blocked on the basis of the Espionage Act charges against him, he can still be dispatched to his American persecutors, based on the additional material in the new indictment, largely furnished by FBI informants, including a con-man previously convicted of impersonating Assange and stealing money from WikiLeaks.

Read more …

 

 

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The honest person isn’t the one who has never sinned. It’s the one who has never committed any sin more than once.

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Python

 

 

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Apr 292020
 


Gottscho-Schleisner Fulton Market pier, view to Manhattan over East River, NY April 20 1934

 

9 in 10 Americans Fear Economy Will Collapse During Coronavirus Shutdowns (WE)
50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks (ZH)
China Could Have 50x More Coronavirus Cases Than Claimed – US Official (Fox)
China Embassy Accuses Australia Of ‘Petty Tricks’ In Coronavirus Dispute (R.)
A Fifth To Half Of All Coronavirus Deaths Have Been In Nursing Homes (JTN)
Experimental Trial Of Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha Nasal Drops (medRxiv)
Patients Who Survive COVID19 May Suffer Lasting Lung Damage (ScienceN)
More Than 100 Experts Call For ‘Aggressive Action Against COVID-19’ (Wsls)
Lithuanian Capital To Be Turned Into Vast Open-Air Cafe (G.)
Thousands Of British Workers Will Need To Gather The Harvest (R.)
Can Macy’s Get Through this Crisis and Stay Relevant? (WS)
Merkel Wants Green Recovery From Coronavirus Crisis (R.)
Trump Wants All US Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now Due To Coronavirus (ZH)
Amazon, Walmart Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike (IC)
Boeing 737 MAX Expected To Remain Grounded Until At Least August (R.)
Steele Had Undisclosed Meetings With Lawyers For DNC, Clinton Campaign (DC)

 

 

People start blaming the economic damage on the lockdowns. Like such damage could have been prevented by letting the virus rule. Opinions differ.

 

• In a 24-hour period to 8:30 pm (0030 GMT), there were 2,207 additional US deaths, Johns Hopkins University says, after the daily deaths had fallen to around 1,300 on Sunday and Monday.
– 55,000 Americans died in the past month.

• The UK is:
– 5th in the world for coronavirus deaths
– 58th in the world for coronavirus tests conducted per million people

 

 

Numbers “temper” a little, but not by much. And there are some new kids on the block: Peru, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Singapore(!), Bangladesh and more.

 

Cases 3,149,233 (+ 69,132 from yesterday’s 3,080,101)

Deaths 218,385 (+ 6,120 from yesterday’s 212,265)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 18%

 

 

From SCMP: Note: SCMP has a new layout for its tracker.

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: watch Peru, it’s rising fast.

 

 

 

 

That’s settled then.

9 in 10 Americans Fear Economy Will Collapse During Coronavirus Shutdowns (WE)

A large portion of the country is concerned about the economy collapsing amid restrictions placed on businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. According to a Tuesday poll from Axios/Ipsos, 89% of both Republicans and Democrats have some concern that the coronavirus may trigger an economic collapse. The U.S. economy has already suffered some significant blows, including 26 million new jobless claims since the pandemic first hit the country. While the Trump administration has predicted that the economy will recover quickly, senior economic adviser Kevin Hassett said on Sunday that this is the worst hit the economy has taken since the Great Depression.

“During the Great Recession, remember that was the financial crisis around 2008 that we lost 8.7 million jobs in the whole thing. Right now, we’re losing that many jobs about every 10 days. And so, the economic lift for policymakers is an extraordinary one,” Hassett said. The federal government worked to inject money into the economy by giving most adults a stimulus check of up to $1,200 for an individual and $500 for dependents. According to the poll, 38% put the check into savings, 26% used it to pay off debt, and 18% planned to spend it but hadn’t yet. The patterns show that much of the stimulus funding was not spent on new purchases from businesses.


Republicans and Democrats were on the same page when it came to their concern of economic ruin, but they differed greatly on their fears about reopening the economy too soon. 88% of Democrats feared opening the economy too soon, while only 56% of Republicans felt the same way.

Read more …

Wait. That means they don’t get anything from the payroll schemes, right?

50 Million Americans Have Lost Their Job In Past 6 Weeks (ZH)

When Thursday’s initial claims report is published at 830am on Thursday, the Dept of Labor will confirm that the current depression is unlike any seen before, with approximately 30 million Americans losing their jobs in the past 6 weeks alone. That, however, may be underestimating the full number of Americans who have lost their jobs by as much as 50%. According to an online poll by the left-wing Economic Policy Institute, millions of Americans who have been thrown out of work during the coronavirus pandemic have been unable to register for unemployment benefits. The poll found that for every 10 people who have successfully filed unemployment claims, three or four people have been unable to register and another two people have not tried to apply at a time of acute economic crisis.

Official statistics show that 26.5 million people have applied for unemployment benefits since mid-March, wiping out all of the jobs gained during the longest employment boom in U.S. history, and another 3.5 million initial claims are expected to be filed this week. However, EPI’s survey indicates that an additional 8.9 million to 13.9 million people have been shut out of the system, said Ben Zipperer, the study’s lead author, which means that as of this week, just shy of 50 million American have lost their job since the start of March. “This study validates the anecdotes and news reports we’re seeing about people having trouble filing for benefits they need and deserve,” Zipperer said.


Among the reasons why idled workers have been unable to get in the “pipeline”, they claim they have encountered downed websites and clogged phone lines, as the state governments that administer the program have been overwhelmed by applicants. “It’s a shame how you work for so many years and then when you need it, you can’t get it,” said Jim Hewes, 48, who said he was unable to file a claim online for more than two weeks after he was furloughed from his job at an Orlando, Florida, second-hand store in March. Hewes said he mailed off a paper application on April 9 but had not heard back from the state.

Read more …

Mass incineration.

China Could Have 50x More Coronavirus Cases Than Claimed – US Official (Fox)

As the international community, including Chinese citizens, raises questions about the Chinese government’s tally of coronavirus cases and the communist nation’s mortality rate, new details are emerging about just how far off official government calculations have likely been, Fox News has learned. Last week, the People’s Republic of China increased their official count of fatalities inside Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, by 50 percent in just one day, increasing the overall tally by 1,290 people. Now, a Trump administration official tells Fox News they estimate the PRC has miscalculated and underreported the true tally nationwide by at least a factor of 50. “PRC numbers as reported today seem to be arithmetically impossible,” the official said.


“Again, we don’t know the real numbers today, but we do know the about 80,000 infections and 4,000 deaths as reported by the Chinese Communist Party propaganda are not even remotely close,” the person added. Intelligence sources, asked about recent reports of funeral homes in Wuhan becoming overwhelmed by the volume of new corpses and plagued by a shortage of urns to hold virus victims’ remains, declined to confirm the existence of classified satellite images. They did affirm, however, that the reporting is within the realm of possibility based on the evidentiary record. In support of this claim, officials point to the existence of seven funeral homes inside Wuhan city with a total incineration capacity of about 2,000 corpses per day. They also flag recent reporting that incinerators have been in near-constant use for 24 hours per day over the past several weeks. They note that, at this rate, the city’s incineration capacity nears 60,000 corpses per month.

Read more …

Australia is just “.. chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes..”

China Embassy Accuses Australia Of ‘Petty Tricks’ In Coronavirus Dispute (R.)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his proposed inquiry into how the coronavirus developed and spread would not be targeted at China but was needed given COVID-19 had killed more than 200,000 people and shut down much of the global economy. “Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again,” he said. Australian government ministers have repeatedly said China, the country’s largest trade partner, was threatening “economic coercion” after its ambassador, Cheng Jingye, said this week that Chinese consumers could boycott Australian products and universities because of the calls for the inquiry.

The head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called Cheng to express concern. The Chinese embassy then released a statement detailing what it said was discussed on the call, prompting another rebuke from DFAT. On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy returned fire, saying on its website that details of the call had first been “obviously leaked by some Australian officials” and it needed to set the record straight. “The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” an embassy spokesman said in the statement. Chinese state media has fiercely rounded on Morrison, with Australian studies scholar Chen Hong writing in the Global Times tabloid on Wednesday that Australia was “spearheading” a “malicious campaign to frame and incriminate China”.


And Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the paper which is affiliated to the Beijing-controlled People’s Daily newspaper, said on Chinese social media that Australia was always making trouble. “It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off,” Hu wrote. New Zealand, which also has China as its largest trading partner, on Wednesday sided with neighbouring Australia in supporting an inquiry into the pandemic. “It’s very hard to conceive of there not being a desire by every country in world, including the country of origin, for an investigation to find out how this happened,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

Read more …

What are the odds of every single country on the western face of the earth getting this so horribly wrong? And yet, they did.

A Fifth To Half Of All Coronavirus Deaths Have Been In Nursing Homes (JTN)

A few days ago the World Health Organization’s European regional director garnered global headlines by providing a grim statistic that pinpoints the ground zero in this coronavirus pandemic. More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Europe have occurred in long-term care or nursing home facilities. It is “an unimaginable human tragedy,” Dr. Hans Kluge declared. Europe is not alone. At least one in five deaths recorded in the United States so far has occurred in nursing homes or long-term care facilities and experts believe that percentage may grow substantially. The Kaiser Family Foundation, one of the leading health nonprofits in America, reported late last week that 27 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the 23 states that report fatalities publicly by location have occurred in nursing homes and long-term facilities.

In six of those states — Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Utah — the percentage of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes was over 50 percent of total deaths, the foundation reported. “The individuals that reside in long-term care facilities are among the most vulnerable in the US to this virus, given occupation density of these facilities and residents’ underlying poor health,” Kaiser warned. The disproportionate death toll in long-term care facilities is shining a painful light both on how poorly prepared these facilities were for a lethal outbreak and how the drastic measures since taken to stem the tide — including a ban on family visits — are creating isolation in the final days of victims’ lives. “They are no longer getting their emotional and physical support that such visits provide,” Kluge said. “Sometimes residents face the threat of abuse and neglect.”


Dr. Max Arella, a Quebec-based virologist and molecular biologist studying coronavirus for decades, told Just the News that in Canada some nursing homes have had 40% or more of their residents infected. “From the start everyone was responding as if this were a normal influenza virus and with the aging population and underlying conditions whether it is diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or cancer patients it is hard to practice social distancing,” he said. “Everyone failed from the start. The Chinese and the World Health Organization failed and even at the international, regional and national levels leaders failed,” he said. ”There are sometimes two or more people in one room so if a healthcare provider goes from bed to bed or the patients play cards the virus spreads. Not recognizing what this was and responding early was a major issue.”

Read more …

Promising. Nasal drops.

Experimental Trial Of Recombinant Human Interferon Alpha Nasal Drops (medRxiv)

Objective To investigate the efficacy and safety of recombinant human interferon alpha1b (rhIFN-α) nasal drops in healthy medical staff to prevent 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Methods A prospective, open-label study was conducted. Starting January 21, 2020, at Taihe Hospital in Shiyan City, Hubei Province, 2944 medical staff members were recruited and allocated into a low-risk group or a high-risk group according to whether they were directly exposed to the coronavirus.

Participants in the low-risk group received rhIFN-α nasal drops (2-3 drops/nostril/time, 4 times/day) for 28 days; those in the high-risk group received rhIFN-α nasal drops combined with thymosin-α1 (1.6 mg, hypodermic injection, once a week). The primary outcome was new-onset COVID-19 over 28 days. The secondary outcome was new-onset fever or respiratory symptoms but with negative pulmonary images.

The results were compared with the number of new cases in medical staff in the same areas of Hubei Province (including Wuhan) during the same period. Adverse reactions to interferon nasal drops were also observed.

Results Among the 2944 subjects in our study, 2415 were included in the low-risk group, including 997 doctors and 1418 nurses with average ages of 37.38 and 33.56 years, respectively; 529 were included in the high-risk group, including 122 doctors and 407 nurses with average ages of 35.24 and 32.16 years, respectively.

The 28-day incidence of COVID-19 was zero in both the high- and low-risk groups. The 28-day incidence of new-onset clinical symptoms with negative images for pneumonia was also zero in both the high- and low-risk groups. As controls, a total of 2035 medical personnel with confirmed COVID-19 pneumonia from the same area (Hubei Province) was observed between January 21 to February 23, 2020. There were no serious adverse effects in the 2944 subjects treated during the intervention period.

Conclusion In this investigator-initiated open-label study, we observed that rhIFN-α nasal drops can effectively prevent COVID-19 in treated medical personnel. Our results also indicate that rhIFN-α nasal drops have potential promise for protecting susceptible healthy people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more …

Don’t think it’s only the lungs that are at risk.

Patients Who Survive COVID19 May Suffer Lasting Lung Damage (ScienceN)

Among patients who have recovered from COVID-19 in China comes the first evidence that some may suffer long-term lung damage from the disease. In 70 patients who survived COVID-19 pneumonia, 66 had some level of lung damage visible in CT scans taken before hospital discharge, researchers report March 19 in Radiology. The damage ranged from dense clumps of hardened tissue blocking blood vessels within the tiny air sacs called alveoli, which absorb oxygen, to tissue lesions around the alveoli, Yuhui Wang, a radiologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and colleagues found. The tissue lesions can be a sign of chronic lung disease. Similar damage has been documented in survivors of SARS and MERS, respiratory diseases caused by coronaviruses similar to the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind COVID-19.


Long-term studies of SARS patients have shown that roughly a third of people who recovered from severe bouts were left with permanent lung damage. In the case of MERS, one study found about a third of people who recovered from a serious infection still had signs of lung damage about seven months later. But while initial lung images indicate that SARS and MARS typically set into just one lung, COVID-19 appears to be more likely to afflict both lungs right away. In 75 of the 90 patients admitted to Huazhong University Hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia from January 16 to February 17, damage was seen across both lungs, Wang and colleagues report. CT scans taken before hospital discharge revealed that 42 out of 70 patients displayed the type of lesions around the alveoli that are more likely to develop into scars.

Read more …

Not a great headline.

Yaneer Bar-Yam is the president of the New England Complex System Institute and a co-writer with Taleb. His motto is “Crush the Curve”, not flatten it.

“Rather than kind of doing sort of the least effort that kind of will slow it down, do the most effort and get it to stop and you’re done”

More Than 100 Experts Call For ‘Aggressive Action Against COVID-19’ (Wsls)

Scientists, healthcare professionals, policy experts, business owners, and concerned citizens are calling upon Gov. Ralph Northam to be far stricter to eliminate the coronavirus in Virginia. The group, organized by EndCoronavirus.org, is asking for the governor to take seven “low-cost, high-impact actions to zero out COVID-19 in Virginia”:
• Empower local governments
• Maximize social distancing
• Require mask usage
• Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to scale up testing
• Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing
• Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities
• Implement “safe travel” rules to prevent importation of new cases

Yaneer Bar-Yam led the charge in crafting this plan, after he said Virginians asked for his expertise to find the best way to combat COVID-19. “It’s the opportunity to go back to normal that everybody wants,” Bar-Yam said. “We’re kind of operating now at kind of the edge of, ‘Is it going to go up? Is it going to be flat? Is it going to go down?’ Why should we do it in that way?” Bar-Yam said this plan is about stopping the spread altogether instead of just slowing it. “Rather than kind of doing sort of the least effort that kind of will slow it down, do the most effort and get it to stop and you’re done,” Bar-Yam said.


More than 200 people have signed the letter, explaining those seven points in greater detail. Among the signers of the letter are faculty members at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. “We have the chance to decrease the suffering and death of so many people,” said Felicia Etzkorn, chemistry professor at Virginia Tech.

Read more …

You can try, but do be careful. How is a waitress going to serve you?

Lithuanian Capital To Be Turned Into Vast Open-Air Cafe (G.)

Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, has announced plans to turn the city into a vast open-air cafe by giving over much of its public space to hard-hit bar and restaurant owners so they can put their tables outdoors and still observe physical distancing rules. The Baltic state, which has recorded 1,344 cases of the coronavirus and 44 deaths, allowed cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating, hairdressers and almost all shops to begin reopening this week as part of a staged exit from lockdown. But the health ministry has imposed strict physical distancing rules and safety measures. Shops must limit the number of customers at one time, masks will remain mandatory in all public spaces, and cafe and restaurant tables have to be placed at least two metres apart.


That posed a problem for many restaurateurs in Vilnius old town, Senamiestis, a Unesco-listed world heritage site whose narrow streets make it almost impossible to place more than a couple of tables outside – prompting the mayor’s offer. “Plazas, squares, streets – nearby cafes will be allowed to set up outdoor tables free of charge this season and thus conduct their activities during quarantine,” said Remigijus Simasius. Public safety remained the city’s top priority, the mayor said, but the measure should help cafes to “open up, work, retain jobs and keep Vilnius alive”. Eighteen of the city’s public spaces, including its central Cathedral Square, have been opened up for outdoor cafes and restaurants, city hall said, and more are expected to be added as the summer progresses. The move has been welcomed by owners, with more than 160 applying to take up the offer.

Read more …

Let the politicians go first.

Thousands Of British Workers Will Need To Gather The Harvest (R.)

Thousands of British workers will need to help gather the harvest as seasonal workers from other parts of Europe are unable to travel due to the coronavirus lockdown, the environment minister said on Wednesday. British Environment Secretary George Eustice said that in a normal year around 30,000 people come from mainly the European Union to do seasonal agricultural work, though only a third are here now. “We will need a significant number of British people, in particular those who have been furloughed they have the chance if they want,” Eustice told BBC radio. “We are getting huge interest from people wanting to do this,” he said. “We need tens of thousands of people to do this work.” The peak comes at the end of May and during June, he said.

Read more …

“Macy’s has been living off its real estate portfolio of “owned boxes” for years by selling them.”

Can Macy’s Get Through this Crisis and Stay Relevant? (WS)

Macy’s, the largest surviving department store in the US, and still clinging by its fingernails to the last rung of the top 10 ecommerce retailers in the US, down from 7th place in 2019, may never reopen many of its stores that it hadn’t already decided to shutter before the crisis. In 2019, 26% of its $24.5 billion in sales were online sales, up from 23% a year earlier, according to its 10-K filing with the SEC. In the second quarter (February through April), as all its stores were closed on March 18, the percentage of digital sales to total sales will surge. But it won’t be enough. Investors have lost faith, demonstrated amply by the crash of its 7.0% senior unsecured 30-year bond due in February 2028. The bonds have been in deeply distressed territory since mid-March. Since February 14, they have collapsed by 53%, to a new low on Tuesday of 54.1 cents on the dollar, giving them a yield of 18.6% (chart via Finra-Morningstar):

Macy’s is not out of cash. At the end of its fiscal year on February 1, it had $685 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand. On March 20, it said that it drew its entire credit line of $1.5 billion as “proactive measure.” So that would be close to a total of $2.2 billion in cash. But part of the cash has already been burned. The bond market believes that there is a decent chance these $2.2 billion and whatever else Macy’s may be able to pull out of its hat – more on that in a moment – will get it through the first part of 2021 without filing for bankruptcy. [..] To stay out of bankruptcy court, Macy’s is now trying to pull a big rabbit out of the hat: borrow up to $5 billion, secured by stores it owns and by merchandise, sources told CNBC and Bloomberg last week.


The sources said that $3 billion of the debt could be backed by inventories as collateral. And that $1 billion to $2 billion could be backed by real estate. Macy’s owns 342 of 775 stores it still operated as of February 1. None of these “owned boxes,” as it calls them, were encumbered by a mortgage, it said in its 10-K. It also owns some other properties. For years already, Macy’s has been “monetizing,” as it calls it, this real estate portfolio through the sale of properties.

Read more …

Merkel doesn’t understand how energy links to the economy: “..a higher cash incentive for buying electric cars..” is the very opposite of what the situation calls for. Try fewer cars first.

Merkel Wants Green Recovery From Coronavirus Crisis (R.)

Governments should focus on climate protection when considering fiscal stimulus packages to support an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday. Her comments are the clearest sign yet that Merkel wants to combine the task of helping companies recover from the pandemic with the challenge of setting more incentives for reducing carbon emissions. Speaking at a virtual climate summit known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Merkel said she expected difficult discussions about how to design post-crisis stimulus measures and about which business sectors need more help than others.


“It will be all the more important that if we set up economic stimulus programmes, we must always keep a close eye on climate protection,” Merkel said, adding the focus should be laid on supporting modern technologies and renewable energies. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the conference there could be an opportunity for the world in the “dark times” of the coronavirus crisis. “The restart can lead to a healthier and more resilient world for everyone,” he said. Merkel said governments should pull in private-sector money through international financial markets to finance the costly shift towards a more climate-friendly economy. Proposals discussed by senior members of Merkel’s ruling coalition for a post-coronavirus stimulus package include a higher cash incentive for buying electric cars.

Read more …

Cue protest from both sides of the aisle.

Trump Wants All US Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now Due To Coronavirus (ZH)

It appears the coronavirus pandemic may have provided the leverage President Trump needs to finally get all American troops out of the over eighteen-year quagmire in Afghanistan. A new report this week by NBC has cited multiple senior officials to say the president “complains almost daily” that the US still has troops in Afghanistan, and that they are at risk for the spread of coronavirus. According to NBC: “His renewed push to withdraw all of them has been spurred by the convergence of his concern that coronavirus poses a force protection issue for thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his impatience with the halting progress of his peace deal with the Taliban, the officials said.”

The historic peace deal signed between the US and Taliban at the end of February was based on a roadmap that would see the complete withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the country 14 months from the signing. It also called for a near-term massive US troop reduction to 8,600 within 135 days of signing – contingent on the Taliban’s fulfillment of its commitments under the agreement. Trump is not satisfied with the progress, and his generals appear divided on his recent increased verbalization to get out. But they apparently share his concerns over local outbreaks impacting troops stationed there: U.S. officials worry the virus could become rampant in Afghanistan, given its lack of health care and testing and its shared border with Iran, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.


“Afghanistan is going to have a significant coronavirus issue,” a former senior U.S. official said. “It hasn’t really manifested yet but it will.” On the other hand they argue that should coronavirus be a driving reason to pullout of central Asia, then it makes the American military’s presence in places like hard-hit Italy even harder to defend. “They said the president’s military advisers have made the case to him that if the U.S. pulls troops out of Afghanistan because of the coronavirus, by that standard the Pentagon would also have to withdraw from places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, officials said,” according to the NBC report

Read more …

“All of a sudden, they’re deemed essential workers in a pandemic, giving them tremendous leverage and power if they organize collectively.”

Amazon, Walmart Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike (IC)

An unprecedented coalition of workers from some of America’s largest companies will strike on Friday. Workers from Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, and FedEx are slated to walk out on work, citing what they say is their employers’ record profits at the expense of workers’ health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. The employees will call out sick or walk off the job during their lunch break, according to a press release set to be published by organizers on Wednesday. In some locations, rank-and-file union members will join workers outside their warehouses and storefronts to support the demonstrations.

“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Worker’s Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” said Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer. The labor action comes as workers and organizers say Amazon, in particular, has not been forthcoming about the number of Covid-19 cases at its more than 175 fulfillment centers globally. Jana Jumpp, an Indiana Amazon employee, along with her small team of fellow Amazon workers, has over the last month tallied Covid-19 cases at Amazon warehouses in the U.S. According to Jumpp, there have been at least 500 coronavirus cases in at least 125 Amazon facilities.


[..] “These workers have been exploited so shamelessly for so long by these companies while performing incredibly important but largely invisible labor,” said Stephen Brier, a labor historian and professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. “All of a sudden, they’re deemed essential workers in a pandemic, giving them tremendous leverage and power if they organize collectively.” The workers coalition will unveil a set of demands. Among them are: compensation for all unpaid time off used since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in March; hazard pay or paid sick leave to be provided for the duration of the pandemic; protective equipment and all cleaning supplies to be provided at all times by the company; and a demand for full corporate transparency on the number of cases in facilities.

Read more …

Headline could easily have been from 6 months ago.

Two more and entirely new software issues. But yeah, hand them another $100 billion.

Boeing 737 MAX Expected To Remain Grounded Until At Least August (R.)

Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX jet is expected to remain grounded until at least August as the manufacturer continues to grapple with software issues, people briefed on the matter told Reuters. The largest planemaker has signaled it now hopes to win regulatory approval in August for the plane’s return to service, but that could be pushed backed until fall, the sources said, as timing for meeting milestones is uncertain. The best-selling airplane has been grounded since March 2019 after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people. Boeing halted production in January and has 400 undelivered MAX planes in storage.

Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of 737 MAX airplanes worldwide, said Tuesday it was removing the MAX from its schedule through Oct. 30 based on Boeing’s “recent communication on the MAX return to service date.” Last week, Reuters reported that a key certification test flight had been delayed until late May at the earliest and reported in early April the company was dealing with two new software issues. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has repeatedly said it has no timetable for approving the plane’s return to the skies.


Boeing said on April 7 it needed to make two new software updates to the 737 MAX’s flight control computer. One issue involves hypothetical faults in the flight control microprocessor, which could potentially lead to a loss of control known as a runaway stabilizer. The other issue could lead to disengagement of the autopilot feature during final approach. Boeing said on April 7 it was working with Raytheon unit Collins Aerospace Systems on the software updates, but it remained unclear when Collins will complete work and how long it will take U.S. and other regulators to validate the fixes as they complete a software documentation audit.

Read more …

Matt Taibbi got a lot of flack on Twitter for quoting this from the Daily Caller. His reply: they’re the only ones reporting on it; I can only wish there were others.

Steele Had Undisclosed Meetings With Lawyers For DNC, Clinton Campaign (DC)

A lawyer representing the DNC and Clinton campaign provided Christopher Steele with information in 2016 regarding an alleged secret communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, the former spy told a British court last month. That now-debunked tip, from Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann, set off a chain of events that led to Steele publishing a Sept. 14, 2016 memo accusing the founders of the bank, Alfa Bank, of having “illicit” ties to Vladimir Putin, according to a court transcript obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. A week after Steele wrote that memo, he had another meeting with Sussmann’s colleague, Marc Elias, according to the transcript.

Steele disclosed the previously unreported meetings with Sussmann and Elias during testimony in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by the Alfa Bank founders, the transcript shows. Steele’s testimony about Sussmann and Elias provides insight into how deeply involved the two lawyers were in the Trump investigation, and suggests they helped shape Steele’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. [..] Elias, who served as general counsel for the Clinton campaign, hired Fusion GPS in April 2016 to investigate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS in turn picked Steele, a former MI6 officer, in June 2016 to investigate Trump’s possible ties to Russia.


Steele would go on to produce 17 memos alleging that the Russian government had blackmail material on Trump, and that members of his campaign were conspiring with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Many of Steele’s most explosive allegations have been debunked in the 40 months since BuzzFeed News published the dossier. A Justice Department inspector general’s report said that Steele’s primary source of information disputed many of the allegations in the dossier. The IG report also said that the FBI and U.S. intelligence community received evidence in 2017 that Russian intelligence operatives may have fed disinformation to Steele. The IG report also dealt a fatal blow to the Alfa Bank theory peddled by Sussmann.

Read more …

 

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Nov 282019
 
 November 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Brooding woman 1891

 

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)
Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)
China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)
Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)
The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)
Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)
Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)
US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)
Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)
“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)
Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)
Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

 

 

Well, censure appears to be the word of the day.

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) is not one of those who represent a 2016 Trump-voting district. In fact, her safe Democrat district encompasses part of eastern Detroit. Even so, Lawrence has seen the writing on the wall: Among independent voters, enthusiasm for impeachment is waning, and Lawrence – who previously supported the idea – is perhaps now thinking beyond her own chances of re-election. “I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is,” Lawrence explained Nov. 24 during a radio interview, “I don’t see the value of taking [Trump] out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

An editorial, published Nov. 23 by The Detroit News, suggests censure of the president rather than impeachment, and The Chicago Tribune followed suit on Nov. 25. It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to point out that the left-wing media rarely take up a political narrative not preapproved by someone within the Democratic Party. So the sudden appearance of editorials arguing for censure strongly suggests that Democrat strategists are leaning in that direction or at least testing the waters. Unlike impeachment, censure is not a constitutional measure. That is not to say that censure is unconstitutional, but that it is simply a course of action devised by Congress and not described in the nation’s founding document. There is no mandatory consequence to censure, and nobody would suggest that censure could lead to removal from the office of president.

It has been used most often to rebuke or reprimand members of Congress, though Trump, were he censured, would not be the first commander in chief to have faced it. In effect, censure is an act of disapproval. For a member of Congress, it may entail such undesirable consequences as loss of committee memberships or even suspension; it comes with no penalties when used against executive branch officials. And that is how it should be, or the concepts of separation of powers and co-equal branches of government would likely be swept away in an avalanche of partisan censure votes. Both the Senate and the House have the power to censure or reprimand, and each chamber may do it without the approval or involvement of the other. Censure requires only a simple majority. At least some Democrats, surely, are considering how much easier than impeachment censure will be. They also may be considering how a censure resolution will provide the opportunity to pontificate at length – on live TV – about Trump’s moral turpitude and failings, both as a human being and as a president.

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A lone voice in the wilderness: “..you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard once again defended supporters of President Donald Trump, as well as her appearances on Fox News, during an interview with Joe Rogan on Tuesday night. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said that you can’t lead Americans as president if you’re going to throw “half of them away.” “It’s one thing to say you’re gonna go on Fox News and tussle with Sean Hannity about things you disagree on, but what they see as more dangerous is finding areas where you actually do agree,” Gabbard proclaimed.

“I have a platform to be able to speak to millions of people across the country about the kind of leadership I bring in the area of foreign policy. What I would do here in this country, what I would do there in that country if I were president today. And I have the opportunity to deliver that message directly to people’s living rooms or offices or wherever they are.” Rep. Gabbard was attacked by Sen. Kamala Harris during the November Democratic Primary debate for her willingness to appear on Fox News.

“I think in some of these areas, Tucker and I will disagree on a whole host of things, but on some of these issues of foreign policy he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I agree with you,’” she continued. “And I think when you look at this cancel culture — I was attacked on the debate stage for going on Fox News — how do you think you’re gonna lead this country, all Americans, if you’re completely not only shutting out and not willing to do talk to half the country that watches Fox News, but you’re in fact disrespecting and dismissing them just because they may disagree with you, or they watch a different news channel than you do. I think that’s the bigger issue here, is you know, yeah, there’s a political consequence.” She noted that you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

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Trump had no choice, he was outnumbered. China also has no choice, it must respond, but Xi knows what situation Trump is in.

China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)

[..] on day 510 of the trade war, it appears the president was confident enough that a collapse in trade talks won’t drag stocks too far lower, and moments after futures reopened at 6pm, the White House said that Trump had signed the Hong Kong bill backing pro-democracy protesters, defying China and making sure that every trader’s Thanksgiving holiday was just ruined.Needless to say, no differences will be “settled amicably” and now China will have no choice but to retaliate, aggressively straining relations with the US, and further complicating Trump’s effort to wind down his nearly two-year old trade war with Beijing.

Trump’s signing of the bill comes during a period of unprecedented unrest in Hong Kong, where anti-government protests sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill proposal have ballooned into broader calls for democratic reform and police accountability. “The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms and amends the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies United States policy towards Hong Kong and directs assessment of the political developments in Hong Kong,” the White House said in a statement. “Certain provisions of the act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”

The legislation, S. 1838, which was passed virtually unanimously in both chambers, requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law and will allow Washington to suspend said status in case the city does not retain a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework. The bill also sanctions any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. The House cleared the bill 417-1 on Nov. 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition, veto-proof majorities that left Trump with little choice but to acquiesce, or else suffer bruising fallout from his own party. the GOP.

Trump also signed into law the PROTECT Hong Kong act, which will prohibit the sale of US-made munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s authorities. While many members of Congress in both parties have voiced strong support for protesters demanding more autonomy for the city, Trump had stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence. Until now.

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A tangled web.

Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)

The Obama holdover heading the Pentagon office reportedly under investigation by the U.S. attorney who is conducting the criminal probe of the Trump–Russia investigation was accused of leaking a classified document, in a recent court filing for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The connection hasn’t been previously reported. According to a Nov. 21 report by independent journalist Sara Carter, U.S. Attorney John Durham is questioning personnel in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). ONA awarded about $1 million in contracts to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who appears to have played a key role in alleged U.S. intelligence agency spying on 2016 Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

In addition, however, a court filing indicates that ONA’s director, James H. Baker, “is believed to be the person who illegally leaked the transcript of Mr. Flynn’s calls” to The Washington Post. Specifically, the filing states, “ONA Director Baker regularly lunched with Washington Post Reporter David Ignatius.” The filing adds that Baker “was Halper’s ‘handler’” at ONA. Moreover, according to the court filing, the tasks assigned to “known long-time operative for the CIA/FBI” Halper “seem to have included slandering Mr. Flynn with accusations of having an affair with a young professor (a British national of Russian descent).” The filing notes that Flynn’s defense team has requested phone records for then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, likewise in order to confirm contacts with Ignatius.

The filing singles out records for Jan. 10, 2017, when, according to the filing, “Clapper told Ignatius in words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn.’” The Pentagon’s current inspector general has already found that Baker’s office “did not maintain documentation of the work performed by Professor Halper or any communication that ONA personnel had with Professor Halper.” As a result, according to the inspector general, ONA staff “could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”

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Quite the attack.

The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)

What does Barack Obama want? To ask the question is both to wonder how one of the world’s most influential people chooses to dedicate his time and to consider to what ends he thinks it is best put to use. As Nathan Robinson and I argued a little more than two years ago, a post-presidency offers us the ideal heuristic for doing exactly that. In office, or so it has often been suggested, Obama’s fiery progressive spirit was endlessly stifled by a combination of events, GOP obstruction, and the inherent conservatism of the American legislative process. Having left such constraints behind, many believed, post-2016 Obama would now be free to do just about anything he wanted — meaning that the former president’s real self could finally surface from beneath the depths of institutional necessity under which it had hitherto been submerged.

This prediction turned out to be true enough, just not in the way many Obama partisans assumed. Equipped with fame, wealth, and a vast reservoir of residual goodwill Obama now has more power to do good in an hour than most of us do in a lifetime. The demands of etiquette and propriety notwithstanding, he no longer has intransigent Blue Dog senators to appease, donors to placate, or personal electoral considerations to keep him up at night. When he speaks or acts, we can be reasonably certain he does so out of sincere choice and that the substance of his words and actions reflect the real Barack Obama and how he honestly sees the world.

It therefore tells us a great deal that, given the latitude, resources, and moral authority with which to influence events, Obama has spent his post-presidency cozying up to the global elite and delivering vapid speeches to corporate interests in exchange for unthinkable sums of money. Though often remaining out of the spotlight, he has periodically appeared next to various CEOs at events whose descriptions might be read as cutting satire targeting the hollowness of business culture if they weren’t all-too real. As the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, he recently cited an increase in America’s output of oil under his administration as a laudable achievement.

When Obama has spoken about or intervened in politics, it’s most often been to bolster the neoliberal center-right or attack and undermine the Left. Having emerged from seclusion to endorse the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, Obama also rang up Britain’s austerity-loving Conservative prime minister Theresa May on election night in 2017 to offer reassurance and trash the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. Only last week, while denouncing the Democratic Party’s “activist wing,” the former president who had once introduced himself to the nation as a progressive, community-minded outsider inveighed against those pushing for a more ambitious direction — contemptuously instructing a group of wealthy donors not to concern themselves too-much with the irrational zealotry of “certain left-leaning Twitter feeds.”

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Why do we still have polls left? What purpose do they serve other than entertainment?

Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)

After several major polls revealed a sharp decline in support for impeaching President Trump in the wake of unconvincing public testimony by aggrieved bureaucrats (and at least one House Democrat publicly opposing the move), Reuters/Ipsos now claims support for impeachment has increased. “The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not. The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.” -Reuters The problem? Reuters sampled a disproportionate number of Democrats. Buried at the bottom of their report, they disclose:

“The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,118 adults, including 528 Democrats, 394 Republicans and 111 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.” In other words, Reuters sampled more Democrats than Republicans and independents combined to arrive at their conclusion. They also reveal that ” about eight in 10 Democrats [were] supportive of impeaching Trump, and eight in 10 Republicans opposed,” and that seven in 10 Republicans felt the House impeachment inquiry had not been conducted fairly. As we noted during the 2016 US election, Reuters/Ipsos wasoversampling Democrats when they found that Hillary Clinton had a giant lead over Donald Trump – using a poll that sampled 44% Democrats and 33% Republicans.

But hey, Adam Schiff needs something to back his claim that support for impeachment has grown “dramatically” over the past two months.

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And here’s another poll. Does anyone fully understand this system?

Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)

Fewer than 120,000 anti-Brexit tactical votes in the right seats could deny Boris Johnson an overall majority in the House of Commons, new polling suggests. A large-scale survey of almost 40,000 voters found that Conservatives are heading for 366 seats in the House of Commons, giving Mr Johnson a comfortable majority of 82. But analysis for the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum found that in 57 seats, the Tory candidate could be defeated by 4,000 or fewer anti-Brexit voters voting tactically. And the campaign said that as few as 117,314 pro-EU tactical votes in the right seats could produce a hung parliament which could deliver a Final Say referendum.

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Scary enough fpr you?

US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)

US negotiators pushed for “full market access” to services including the NHS in talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK, a cache of leaked documents has revealed. The papers were dramatically unveiled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said they left “in tatters” the prime minister’s denial that the NHS will be on the table in trade talks. The 451-page dossier of official files showed the US had “pushed hard” to extend patents on drugs developed by American corporations in a way which would raise prices to NHS patients. A UK negotiator said such a move could put Britain “in difficult territory”.

And the dossier made clear that the US has been “emphatic” in its insistence that climate change should not even be mentioned in the deal, which Boris Johnson wants to strike as soon as possible after the UK leaves the European Union. But furious Conservatives accused Mr Corbyn of “out-and-out lying” and suggested he was peddling conspiracy theories in a bid to distract attention away from his difficulties over antisemitism allegations and Labour’s plans for Brexit and taxation. Mr Johnson dismissed the Labour leader’s claims as “total nonsense”, and said: “I can give you an absolute cast-iron guarantee that this is a complete diversion. That the NHS under no circumstances would be on the table for negotiation, for sale.”

[..] After a slew of bad headlines about his refusal to apologise for his handling of antisemitism during a TV interview on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn came back fighting with the claim that Mr Johnson’s government was “preparing to sell our NHS”. He pointed to details in the dossier which showed that the US was pushing for a deal in which all services would be opened up to American companies unless they were specifically exempted. “Total market access” should be the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations” because it “incentivises freer trade”, the dossier said. UK officials assured their US counterparts that Britain would be “a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation”.

“That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from them,” said Mr Corbyn. And he warned: “The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service. “Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. “And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.”

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A foreigner paid for dirt on a political opponent. What do we call that?

Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)

Just before Christmas 2015, the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele emailed a report to private clients that included an American lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch. The title of the dossier was “FIRTASH Abortive Return to Ukraine,” and it purported to provide intelligence on why the energy oligarch Dmitri Firtash tried, but failed, to return to his home country of Ukraine. “FIRTASH’s talk of returning to Ukraine a genuine ambition rather than merely a ruse to reveal Ukrainian government’s hand. However the oligarch developed cold feet upon the news of a negative reception at Boryspil airport,” Steele reported on Dec. 23, 2015.

Perhaps most important to the recipients, the former MI6 agent’s report purported to share the latest thinking of Russian and U.S. officials on Firtash, who at the time faced U.S. criminal charges and was awaiting extradition from Austria. Those charges and extradition remain unresolved four years later. Firtash insists on his innocence, while the U.S. government stands by it case despite recent criticism from Austrian and Spanish authorities. “The prevarication over his return has lost FIRTASH credibility with the Russians, but his precarious position in Austria leaves him little choice but to acquiesce with Moscow’s demands,” the Steele report claimed. “Separate American sources confirm that US Government regards FIRTASH as a conduit for Russian influence and he remains a pariah to the Americans.”

The anecdote of the Firtash report underscores that challenges the FBI faced when it used Steele in 2016 as a human source in the Russia collusion probe. He not only opposed Trump and was paid by Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm to dig up dirt on the then-GOP nominee, he also was in the business of selling intelligence to private clients – all perfectly legal — while informing for the FBI.

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Robert Mueller gave it away.

“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)

The U.S. has claimed that the Russia government tried to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and Twitter. Russia supposedly did this through people who worked the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia. The IRA people ran virtual persona on U.S. social networks which pretended to have certain political opinions. It also spent on advertising supposedly to influence the election. U.S. intelligence claimed that the purpose of the alleged Russian influence campaign was to “sow discord” within the United States. But the IRA had nothing to do with the Russian government. It had no interests in politics. And a new study confirms that the idea that it was “sowing discord” is blatant nonsense.


IRA influencer

The Mueller investigation indicted 13 Russian persons and three Russian legal entities over the alleged influence campaign. But, as we wrote at that time, there was more to it than the media reported: “The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no “Russian influence” campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.”

The IRA hired people in Leningrad for little money and asked them to open accounts on U.S. social media. The virtual persona they created and ran were to attract as many persons to those accounts as possible. They did that by posting funny dog pictures or by taking strong political positions. They were ‘influencers’ who sold their customers’ products to the people they attracted. The sole purpose was the same as in any commercial media. Create content to attract ‘eyeballs’, then sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

The IRA also bought advertisement to attract more people to its accounts. But the amount it spent was tiny. The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined. The IRA spend a total of $100,000 to promote its own accounts. But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time. It is statistically impossible that the mostly apolitical IRA spending had any effect on the election.

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Not the same all over Manhattan, but the trend is there.

Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)

These are major shopping corridors in Manhattan, and in nearly all of them, asking rents for ground-floor retail space have been dropping for years – and in some of them by half. For example, the average asking rent on Madison Avenue between 57th Street and 72nd Street, plunged 22% in the second half of 2019, compared to the same period last year, to $906 per square foot per year, and is down 47% from the first half in 2015, according to the bi-annual Manhattan Retail Report released today by the Real Estate Board of New York. The REBNY report points out, “An increased amount of leases expiring has contributed to the high availability rates [meaning, vacancies] that has led owners to lower asking rents and offer more short-term lease agreements.”

Falling asking rents and better terms in the Madison Avenue corridor – better deals for prospective tenants – help bring out prospective tenants, according to the report: “Softening rents has led to increased absorption as recent leases consist of retailers relocating to smaller-sized storefronts with better co-tenancy. Notables tenants such as Akris, Mont Blanc, and Morgane Le Fay indicate that apparel tenants still dominate this corridor.” The report is entirely focused on ground-floor retail spaces. Of the 17 shopping corridors in Manhattan tracked by the REBNY, average asking rents fell in 11 of them. But since 2015, asking rents in all but three of them have dropped sharply.

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The true colors of Mutti.

Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO is now equally or more important than it was during the Cold War, a praise being sang to a military bloc long without its arch-rival and with a history of interventions.
East Germany native Angela Merkel provided her very complimentary take as NATO braces to mark their 70th anniversary at a special summit in London. Keeping the military bloc in place today “is even more in our very own interests as it was in the Cold War – or at least as important as it was in the Cold War,” the Chancellor told German MPs. “Because, and the Foreign Minister [Heiko Maas] said yesterday, Europe currently cannot defend itself on its own,” she reiterated.

Slightly contradicting her own words, the chancellor admitted that the US “no longer automatically takes up responsibility when it’s burning around us.” As the formal etiquette prescribes, Merkel called NATO a “bulwark for peace and freedom” over the past 70 years, without highlighting the bloc’s war on former Yugoslavia and the 2011 bombardments of Libya. The German leader has recently locked horns with France’s Emmanuel Macron over his famous “NATO’s brain death” remark that sent shockwaves through European elite circles. Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at the time.

Rebuking Macron was also NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said last week that “European unity cannot replace Transatlantic unity as we need both … especially after Brexit.” But bringing the 70-year-old alliance together is increasingly becoming a challenge for its members. On the latest occasion, Turkey – a country that has one of NATO’s largest standing armies – refused to sign a new defense plan for the eastern European countries, according to Reuters.

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Clive James died yesterday.

 

 

 

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Jul 022019
 


Salvador Dali Apparition of My Cousin Carolinetta on the Beach at Rosas 1934

 

Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Not So Much In Record US Expansion (R.)
Japan Inc’s Inflation Expectations Stagnate (R.)
Moon Calls DMZ Meeting End To North Korea-US Hostile Relations (Y.)
Only Trump Could Go To North Korea (Luongo)
Chinese State Paper Calls For ‘Zero Tolerance’ Over Hong Kong Protests (R.)
Southwest Expects Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Beyond Oct. 1 (R.)
USTR Proposes $4 Billion In Additional Tariffs Over EU Aircraft Subsidies (R.)
New York Governor Cuomo Orders Probe Into Facebook’s Advertising Platform (R.)
How Merkel’s Plan For EU Top Jobs Fell Apart (Pol.eu)
Chelsea Manning on the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall (M.)
Academics Publicly Attacking UN Torture Rapporteur (Suzie Dawson)

 

 

Richer faster. And poorer faster. This will implode.

Rich Get Richer, Everyone Else Not So Much In Record US Expansion (R.)

Welcome to the longest U.S. economic expansion in history, one perhaps best characterized by the excesses of extreme wealth and an ever-widening chasm between the unfathomably rich and everyone else. Indeed, as the expansion entered its record-setting 121st month on Monday, signs of a new Gilded Age are all over. Big-money deals are getting bigger, from corporate mergers and acquisitions, to individuals buying luxury penthouses, sports teams, yachts and all-frills pilgrimages to the ends of the earth. And while these deals grab headlines, there is a deeper trend at work. The number of billionaires in the United States has more than doubled in the last decade, from 267 in 2008 to 607 last year, according to UBS.


“The rich have gotten richer and they’ve gotten richer faster,” said John Mathews, Head of Private Wealth Management and Ultra High Net Worth at UBS Global Wealth Management. “The drive or the desire for consumption has just gone upscale.” But there are also signs of struggle and stagnation at lower-income levels. The wealthiest fifth of Americans hold 88% of the country’s wealth, a share that has grown since before the crisis, Federal Reserve data through 2016 shows. Meanwhile, the number of people receiving federal food stamps tops 39 million, below the peak in 2013 but still up 40% from 2008 even though the country’s population has only grown about 8%.

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How many decades now? You cannot scare people into spending their savings. Quit trying.

Japan Inc’s Inflation Expectations Stagnate (R.)

Japanese companies’ expectations for inflation over the next year stagnated, a Bank of Japan survey showed on Tuesday, adding pressure on the central bank to expand stimulus as the bitter U.S.-China trade war clouds economic prospects. Companies expect consumer prices to have risen 0.9% a year from now, unchanged from their projection three months ago and well below the BOJ’s 2% inflation target, according to the central bank’s detailed “tankan” survey for June. Firms expect consumer prices to have risen by an annual 1.0% three years from now, down slightly from 1.1% in the previous survey. Companies also saw inflation at 1.1% five years ahead, unchanged from three months ago.


The survey underscores the challenge of the BOJ’s monetary experiment that aims to boost inflation expectations with heavy money printing, in hope of prodding companies and households to boost spending now rather than save. “Six years have past since the BOJ deployed a radical stimulus and there’s no sign inflation expectations are approaching its 2% price target,” said Yasunari Ueno, chief market economist at Mizuho Securities. “There’s also no change to Japan’s deflationary structure created by a mix of a lack of demand and excess capacity.” The BOJ is maintaining a massive stimulus program to sustain a moderate economic expansion, so that companies will gradually raise wages and help push up inflation to its target.

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“More than 100,000 U.S. citizens reside in Seoul alone..”

Moon Calls DMZ Meeting End To North Korea-US Hostile Relations (Y.)

President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that North Korea and the United States have effectively declared an end to their hostile relations with the symbolic weekend meeting between their leaders at the inter-Korean border. Although they did not sign any document, their action was tantamount to a “de facto declaration of an end to hostile relations and the beginning of a full-fledged peace era,” Moon stressed, speaking at a Cabinet meeting. He was referring to a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Sunday.

Trump even stepped over into North Korea, together with Kim, becoming the first sitting American president to set foot in the communist nation. The U.S. and North Korea fought fiercely against each other during the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice. The two Koreas remain technically at war, as a formal peace treaty has yet to be signed. Moon had a brief three-way meeting with Kim and Trump at Panmunjom, although he stayed away from their talks, which lasted for nearly an hour. Moon also offered an account of his joint visit with Trump to a DMZ observation post, named Ouellette.

He noted that it marked the first time the presidents of the allies had traveled to the DMZ together. It was also meaningful, Moon added, that he and Trump wore suits, not military uniforms or bulletproof vests. Moon told Trump there that half of the South Korean population of 51 million live in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province, as little as 40 kilometers away from the inter-Korean border. More than 100,000 U.S. citizens reside in Seoul alone, he added.

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“Trump presumably had a good meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin which likely set the stage for his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un.”

Only Trump Could Go To North Korea (Luongo)

Donald Trump did the unthinkable. He went to North Korea. He stepped over the line in the sand demarked by Washington protocol for nearly seventy years. And that Washington establishment, predictably, hates him for it. It can be felt from all sides of the political rotunda. They hate that Trump realizes their position, one of maximum pressure, isn’t working. They despise that Russia and China will benefit from ending this frozen conflict not to mention Koreans on both sides of the DMZ. The cynic in me thinks they are angry that the American people will benefit as well. So this weekend was a good one for peaceniks around the world. Trump and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping agreed to back down on the worst of his trade war demands.

Trump presumably had a good meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin which likely set the stage for his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un. Remember Kim met with Putin earlier this year and designated him as his go-between with Trump after the talks in Hanoi fell apart. This event should not be downplayed. Trump showed great humility and generosity towards Kim at the moment of truth. We should be cheering this regardless of what we think of him personally. Diplomacy is not groveling. It is the acknowledgment of the other person’s basic humanity, a fundamental point lost in the political cesspit that is D.C. Because of his previous mistakes and belligerence, only Trump could have made the walk across the DMZ to meet Kim on his territory.

Only someone as blunt as Trump could cut through the nonsense that North Korea isn’t capable of independent action. And only people so full of bile and despite would not be happy about this. Only people so enthralled with the thought of war and their own political and social ambitions would look at this event and seek to tear it down. These are the people who lost yesterday in Trump’s historic and brilliant bit of diplomacy. And they are complaining bitterly about it today. Everyone else wins.

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Scary. Xi can’t afford to lose this much face.

Chinese State Paper Calls For ‘Zero Tolerance’ Over Hong Kong Protests (R.)

A Chinese state paper on Tuesday called for “zero tolerance” after protestors in Hong Kong stormed and ransacked the city’s legislature following a day of protests against a controversial extradition bill. Tensions over the weeks-long movement against the bill escalated on Monday, and Hong Kong police fired tear gas early on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of defiant protesters who had occupied the city’s legislature on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule. “Out of blind arrogance and rage, protestors showed a complete disregard for law and order,” the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said in an editorial.


“Chinese society is all too aware that a zero-tolerance policy is the only remedy for such destructive behavior witnessed. Otherwise, and without this policy, it would be similar to opening a Pandora’s Box,” it said. Opponents of the extradition bill, which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, fear it is a threat to Hong Kong’s much-cherished rule of law. In a separate editorial, the state-run China Daily reiterated the principle of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong — a formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China — saying the former British colony is an “inalienable” part of the China, and that Hong Kong affairs concern China.

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Keep pushing it forward…

Southwest Expects Boeing 737 MAX Cancellations Beyond Oct. 1 (R.)

Southwest Airlines expects it will have to remove the grounded Boeing 737 MAX jets from its flying schedule beyond the current Oct. 1 re-entry date following the discovery of a fresh safety issue, Chief Executive Gary Kelly told employees on Monday. Last week, Boeing said that it would take until at least September to solve 737 MAX software issues – later than airlines had been expecting – after U.S. aviation regulators uncovered a new problem during simulator sessions. “I’m sure this will cause us to have to take the MAX out of the schedule beyond Oct. 1,” Kelly said in an internal update, adding that the company would also see “what other modifications we might need to make our plans for this year because it’s obviously extending well beyond what I had hoped.”


Kelly did not elaborate on the possible modifications. So far, the Texas-based airline has tried to substitute its MAX routes with spare aircraft but has still been forced to cancel about 115 daily flights. American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings, the other two U.S. carriers that operate the 737 MAX, have removed the jetliner from their flying schedules until early September. The three airlines are expected to provide more details on the financial toll of a prolonged MAX grounding during second quarter results later in July.

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Subsidies are not Boeing’s main problem.

USTR Proposes $4 Billion In Additional Tariffs Over EU Aircraft Subsidies (R.)

Just days after reaching a truce in the U.S.-China trade war, the U.S. government on Monday ratcheted up pressure on Europe in a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies, threatening tariffs on $4 billion of additional EU goods. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office released a list of additional products – including olives, Italian cheese and Scotch whiskey – that could be hit with tariffs, on top of products worth $21 billion that were announced in April. USTR said it was adding 89 tariff sub-categories to its initial list, including a variety of metals, in response to public comments, but gave no further explanation. Over 40 individuals testified about products included on the initial list at a public hearing on May 15 and 16.


The United States and the EU have threatened to impose billions of dollars of tit-for-tat tariffs on planes, tractors and food in a nearly 15-year dispute at the World Trade Organization over aircraft subsidies given to U.S. planemaker Boeing and its European rival, Airbus. Senior officials from Boeing and a U.S. aerospace trade group urged the U.S. government last month to narrowly tailor any tariffs imposed on the EU over illegal aircraft subsidies to avoid harming American manufacturers.

Read more …

Blah.

New York Governor Cuomo Orders Probe Into Facebook’s Advertising Platform (R.)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday ordered the U.S. Department of Financial Services to investigate reports that state-regulated advertisers were using Facebook Inc’s advertising platform in a discriminatory manner. This is the second investigation that the state governor has ordered into the social media company this year. In February, Cuomo ordered two state agencies to investigate a report that Facebook may be accessing far more personal information from smartphone users, including health and other sensitive data, than had previously been known.


On Monday, Cuomo cited reports which said the social network allows advertisers to modify or block ads using ZIP code information to exclude consumers based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex and disability, among other classifications. The company is facing a similar probe at the federal level, in which the Trump administration has accused Facebook of selling targeted advertising that discriminated on the basis of race, in violation of the U.S. Fair Housing Act. The probes have come despite Facebook agreeing in March to overhaul its paid advertising platform, as part of a wide-ranging settlement with U.S. civil rights groups, which had filed five separate lawsuits accusing the company of enabling discrimination in advertising.

Read more …

The entire union risks falling apart.

How Merkel’s Plan For EU Top Jobs Fell Apart (Pol.eu)

It was a humiliation, the likes of which Angela Merkel had never experienced in her thirteen and a half years as chancellor of Germany, and as the undisputed supremo of the EU’s dominant political family, the center-right European People’s Party. With EPP leaders, including at least six of the party’s other prime ministers and presidents, arrayed before her at the neoclassical Academy Palace in downtown Brussels on Sunday afternoon, Merkel laid out a plan for filling the EU’s top leadership posts that would install Frans Timmermans, a Social Democrat, as Commission president, the bloc’s top job, instead of the EPP’s own nominee, German MEP Manfred Weber.

What she proposed would amount to a stunning climbdown for the conservative party that has long commanded the leading role on the EU stage and currently holds the presidencies of the European Commission, Council and Parliament. Under Merkel’s plan, which she had agreed with a small group of other leaders on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the EPP would have been left with only the Parliament post and the job of high representative for foreign policy. Party bigwigs, including some of her fellow national leaders, were livid. And they quickly gave voice to their rage at the Sunday EPP meeting ahead of an EU summit — complaining the deal had been thrust upon them with no consultation, and that they would not support it. No one rose to her defense.

“Not a single intervention in favor,” said one senior EPP member. “People were very angry.” Merkel, the senior EPP member said, arrived “thinking that it was a little gathering, and that the Osaka agreement would be agreed.” Instead, “everybody said no … It was impossible.” The official said Merkel had not consulted with her fellow EPP leaders before sealing the deal in Japan. “There was no organization and it was all out of the blue,” the official said, adding “Merkel was highly surprised at the lack of agreement.”

Read more …

“Our acts of defiance became exhibitions. Our love and rage were commodified turned into something that could be packaged and branded and sold.”

Chelsea Manning on the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall (M.)

The following is a message from Chelsea Manning, who is currently being jailed for a resisting a grand jury in Alexandria, VA. The statement was relayed by her supporters on June 30th, 2019, during the NYC Queer Liberation March, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising: “Friends, I’m deeply saddened that I can not be here with you today. A few months ago, while speaking on the phone from jail with one of my friends out in Brooklyn, I came to a startling realization. I said: “I remember growing up as a kid searching for someone to look up to – someone to lean on for inspiration. I needed a role model. Right then I realized, the thing I needed as a young kid is now available. I said, Wow, look at all these kids and teens and young adults in the queer community – They found each other.


I felt something so profound that I broke down crying, and my friend did too. I finally felt that word that gets thrown around so much I felt PRIDE. I almost yelled into the phone: I m so fucking proud of my community. I m proud of you. I m proud of what we have, of what we ve built together. Despite everything, we as a community face daunting challenges every day. The world feels colder and more alien. Our society constantly reminds us in both obvious and subtle ways of the need for us to meet their standards. To meet their expectations. We somehow always need their approval. Our spaces changed. Our neighborhoods gentrified. Our protests became parades. Our acts of defiance became exhibitions. Our love and rage were commodified turned into something that could be packaged and branded and sold.

Read more …

Story: 200+ academics sent an Open Letter to UN officials protesting the way Nils Melzer defined “rape” in his op-ed. Now the narrative is not Assange’s torture, but the rape he never committed.

Why, as an academic, would you want to become part of the smear team? Suzie offeres a very personal reaction to it all, and dissects the flawed accusations.

Academics Publicly Attacking UN Torture Rapporteur (Suzie Dawson)

I am a survivor of rape, gang rape and the abusive police process I was subjected to when I reported it and I am fed up with watching sexual violence being used as a cover for political attacks on Julian Assange, his colleagues and his supporters. I am not alone. Numerous other survivors have reached out to me tonight expressing the same sentiment and we deserve to be heard. Today, members of what is supposedly a women’s advocacy group published an open letter addressed to UN top brass, from the Secretary-General on down, complaining about an article written by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and attempting to call into question his suitability for his role.

Melzer has recently transformed the debate around 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Julian Assange’s situation by formally finding that Assange is a victim of state-sponsored (and publicly perpetuated) psychological torture. The content of the open letter undermining Melzer is founded on a premise of advocating for and protecting the rights of women and of survivors of sexual violence. Yet when I self-identified as a survivor in tweets to the organisers of the open letter and dissented against their opinions, they belittled me and were dismissive of my arguments.

Yes, the very women who should have been most sincere about unpacking the experiences and feelings of a survivor of sexual assault could not muster a single shred of empathy for me, nor did they express even the mildest concern for my wellbeing or safety, despite my clearly having been triggered by the conversation. The very women who complained in their open letter against Melzer, of “insensitivity to victims of sexual assault” and “..a profound lack of understanding…” were themselves apparently incapable of demonstrating any sensitivity or understanding when dealing directly with a survivor.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

May 062019
 


Gustave Courbet The man made mad by fear 1844

 

If I’ve said once that those among us who tout renewable energy should pay more attention to the 2nd law of Thermodynamics, I must have said it a hundred times. But I hardly ever get the impression that people understand why. And it seems so obvious. A quote I often use from Herman Daly and Ken Townsend, when I talk about energy, really says it all:

“Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment – that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs. The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process. A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products.”

Using energy produces waste. Using more energy produces more waste. It doesn’t matter -much- what kind of energy is used, or what kind of waste is produced. The energy WE use produces waste, in a medium of which WE cannot survive. The only way to escape this is to use less energy. And because we have used such an enormous amount of energy the past 100 years, we must use a whole lot less in the next 100.

We use about 100 times more energy per person, and a whole lot more in the west, than our own labor can produce. We use the equivalent of what 500 billion people can produce without the aid of fossil fuel-powered machines. We won’t solve this problem with wind turbines or solar panels. There really is one way only: cut down on energy use.

Because it’s exceedingly rare to see this discussed, even among physicists, who should know better since they know thermodynamics, it’s good to hear it from someone else. An article in Forbes today discusses a May 3 article in German magazine Der Spiegel on the problems with the Energiewende, the country’s drastic turn towards renewables.

The Forbes article is written by Michael Shellenberger, President of Environmental Progress and Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment.” (sigh..) Let’s take a walk through it:

The Reason Renewables Can’t Power Modern Civilization Is Because They Were Never Meant To

Over the last decade, journalists have held up Germany’s renewables energy transition, the Energiewende, as an environmental model for the world. “Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset,” thanks to the Energiewende, wrote a New York Times reporter in 2014. With Germany as inspiration, the United Nations and World Bank poured billions into renewables like wind, solar, and hydro in developing nations like Kenya.

Oh well, perhaps we shouldn’t expect journalists and politicians to understand the world they live in. They’re mostly into feel-good items, that’s a job requirement.

But then, last year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it. After renewables investors and advocates, including Al Gore and Greenpeace, criticized Germany, journalists came to the country’s defense.


“Germany has fallen short of its emission targets in part because its targets were so ambitious,” one of them argued last summer. “If the rest of the world made just half Germany’s effort, the future for our planet would look less bleak,” she wrote. “So Germany, don’t give up. And also: Thank you.” But Germany didn’t just fall short of its climate targets. Its emissions have flat-lined since 2009.

The stage is set: everybody’s favorite renewables producer has fallen flat on its face. And don’t forget, Angela Merkel, the Mutti behind the Energiewende, is a physicist by training. Thermodynamics must have been a class she missed.

Now comes a major article in the country’s largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel, titled, “A Botched Job in Germany” (“Murks in Germany”). The magazine’s cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin. “The Energiewende — the biggest political project since reunification — threatens to fail,” write Der Spiegel’s Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung, Stefan Schultz, Gerald Traufetter in their a 5,700-word investigative story (the article can be read in English here).

Germany has already spent $180 billion on its switch to renewables, only to find it doesn’t work. And much much more will be needed. But for what exactly?

Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside. “The politicians fear citizen resistance” Der Spiegel reports. “There is hardly a wind energy project that is not fought.” In response, politicians sometimes order “electrical lines be buried underground but that is many times more expensive and takes years longer.”

 

 

As a result, the deployment of renewables and related transmission lines is slowing rapidly. Less than half as many wind turbines (743) were installed in 2018 as were installed in 2017, and just 30 kilometers of new transmission were added in 2017. Solar and wind advocates say cheaper solar panels and wind turbines will make the future growth in renewables cheaper than past growth but there are reasons to believe the opposite will be the case. Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany “€3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),” or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-hold by 2050.

A total expenditure of some $150 billion per year, every year from 2025 to 2050. On a rapidly failing project. Note: the numbers are “flexible”: just above, it says “Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany €32 billion ($36 billion)” , and seven times that is much more than $150 billion annually. Later in the article, the author says “Germans, who will have spent $580 billion on renewables by 2025 ..” General rule of thumb: it will cost much more than any estimate will tell you.

Between 2000 and 2018, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 39% of its electricity. And as much of Germany’s renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar.

Of the 7,700 new kilometers of transmission lines needed, only 8% has been built, while large-scale electricity storage remains inefficient and expensive. “A large part of the energy used is lost,” the reporters note of a much-hyped hydrogen gas project, “and the efficiency is below 40%… No viable business model can be developed from this.”

Meanwhile, the 20-year subsidies granted to wind, solar, and biogas since 2000 will start coming to an end next year. “The wind power boom is over,” Der Spiegel concludes.

Think Mutti Merkel has read this?

.The earliest and most sophisticated 20th Century case for renewables came from a German who is widely considered the most influential philosopher of the 20th Century, Martin Heidegger. In his 1954 essay, “The Question Concerning Technology,” Heidegger condemned the view of nature as a mere resource for human consumption. The use of “modern technology,” he wrote, “puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy which can be extracted and stored as such..

But then starting around the year 2000, renewables started to gain a high-tech luster. Governments and private investors poured $2 trillion into solar and wind and related infrastructure, creating the impression that renewables were profitable aside from subsidies. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk proclaimed that a rich, high-energy civilization could be powered by cheap solar panels and electric cars.

Journalists reported breathlessly on the cost declines in batteries, imagining a tipping point at which conventional electricity utilities would be “disrupted.” But no amount of marketing could change the poor physics of resource-intensive and land-intensive renewables. Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy.

Note: these issues only arise when you talk about large-scale projects, but then those are the only ones even considered.

Efforts to export the Energiewende to developing nations may prove even more devastating. The new wind farm in Kenya, inspired and financed by Germany and other well-meaning Western nations, is located on a major flight path of migratory birds. Scientists say it will kill hundreds of endangered eagles. “It’s one of the three worst sites for a wind farm that I’ve seen in Africa in terms of its potential to kill threatened birds,” a biologist explained.

We are incapable of seeing an ecosystem as a whole and functioning entity, because we have never learned to look at things that way. So we see a landscape as containing an X-amount of animals and plant life, and can’t figure out why we must be careful with its balance. Landscapes to us look, first, empty, unless there’s -lots of- human activity.

Heidegger, like much of the conservation movement, would have hated what the Energiewende has become: an excuse for the destruction of natural landscapes and local communities. Opposition to renewables comes from the country peoples that Heidegger idolized as more authentic and “grounded” than urbane cosmopolitan elites who fetishize their solar roofs and Teslas as signs of virtue.


Germans, who will have spent $580 billion on renewables by 2025, express great pride in the Energiewende. “It’s our gift to the world,” a renewables advocate told The Times. Tragically, many Germans appear to have believed that the billions they spent on renewables would redeem them. “Germans would then at last feel that they have gone from being world-destroyers in the 20th century to world-saviors in the 21st,” noted a reporter.

Germany to save the world. Yeah, they would love that. Better find another project for that, though. Germany has an enormous car industry, and electric cars, as this article should by now have shown, won’t save the environment. They can’t. Only not driving a car can.

Shellenberger then finishes with a nice, almost philosophical conclusion, which is also his headline:

Many Germans will, like Der Spiegel, claim the renewables transition was merely “botched,” but it wasn’t. The transition to renewables was doomed because modern industrial people, no matter how Romantic they are, do not want to return to pre-modern life. The reason renewables can’t power modern civilization is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could.

The reason why anyone ever thought renewables could power modern civilization is the same that Angela Merkel thought that: we all learn from failing education systems and have a very poor understanding of even the most basic principles of physics, including by physicists. We want to feel good more than we want reality.

Schools, universities, media and politics are all geared towards believing in growth and progress, in unlimited quantities. Because we all want to believe that there will be energy in unlimited quantities, it’s in our genes.

But look at it this way: in Nate Hagens’ presentation Earth vs. The Amoeba, which I posted a few days ago, there’s a slide that says fossil fuels provide us with a labor subsidy of the equivalent of some 500 billion people, 100 people (energy slaves) for each of us in the global workforce, and many more in the west. Is there anyone amongst you who thinks wind and solar could ever do the same, even in the most ideal conditions imaginable?

If not, it would seem to be time to reconsider a few things. First of all: stop advocating renewables, start advocating the use of less energy. I’m not saying it will be much use, I have this deep-seated fear that we, as a species, won’t be able to stop until nature itself stops us. What you don’t use, someone else can and will. But renewables are now dead. So there. Thanks for making that clear, Mutti, even if you didn’t mean to.

 

 

 

 

Jan 142019
 
 January 14, 2019  Posted by at 7:41 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Johannes Vermeer The soldier and the laughing girl 1657

 

There will be elections for the European Parliament on May 23-26 2019. They will likely change the face of Europe more than anything has done since the EU was founded. That is not some wild prediction. Many European countries have held elections since the last European elections in 2014, and just about all had outcomes that shook up domestic political ratios.

In most cases, countries went from traditional parties to newly founded ones. France erased the Socialists and center-right in 2017, and the final round of the presidential elections was between Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Emmanuel Macron’s brand-new En Marche. Macron won sort of by default, because France as a country would never have voted for Le Pen.

In Italy, M5S and Lega have taken over. In Germany, Merkel’s CDU/CSU coalition lost bigly though it remained the biggest party, but Angela lost her ‘socialist’ SPD partner which gave up so much it didn’t want to be in government anymore. In Spain, Mariano Rajoy’s center right lost enough to cede power to the Socialists who came up tops because they played a smart game, not because the Spanish wanted it to rule.

We don’t have to go through all 27/28 different countries to establish that there are almost tectonic shifts happening all over, away from traditional parties and towards whoever showed up without insanely extreme views. And if you think this move is now completed, you may want to think again.

It’s amusing to realize that the country with the biggest political shift, the UK, is the only one that still hangs on to its traditional parties, and seeks its protest voice in a different way, namely through Brexit. That is, Britain shows it can get no satisfaction from the EU, whereas in the other major EU nations the dissatisfaction is projected onto domestic parties.

The underlying thought is the same: people are fed up with incumbent politicians and their affiliation with the European project. And nobody in Brussels really appears to be willing to realize this: the only thing they talk about is more Europe. But all these changes will now be reflected in the power politics of the European parliament.

And they do know that. They just hope they can limit the damage through the model in which power is divided in Europe. And to get any of that power, national parties need to find partners from other countries to form European parties (blocks) with. You need parties from at least 7 other nations to run for the European Parliament.

 

There are really only two parties in that parliament that really matter: the center right European People’s Party (EPP) which has 217 MEPs (members of European Parliament), and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) which has 190 MEPs. Then there are the European Conservatives and Reformists – 74 MEPs, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – 70 MEPs, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE) – 52 MEPs, and the European Greens/European Free Alliance – 50 MEPs.

These numbers, like the national ones, are set to change, a lot. How exactly is hard to predict, because it’s not clear which block which -relatively- new party will be part of. But it’s not a wild guess to think that at the end of May the division of powers will not be left vs right (both of which are pretty much fake anyway), but pro-EU and anti-EU. Or rather, More Europe vs Less Europe.

Germany’s up-and-coming real right-wing AfD at their conference this weekend voted in a resolution that calls for getting rid of the European Parliament itself, calling it undemocratic, and claiming the “competence to make laws is exclusively for nation states.” Similar sentiments play out in Italy, Poland, Hungary and many other member states.

Given the changes in vote ratios mentioned before, it’s hard to see the More Europe model survive the elections. But that of course doesn’t keep the main parties (blocks) from running outspoken pro-Europe candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as head chief after the elections. The EPP has German Europe stalwart Manfred Weber as ‘Spitzenkandidat’, the so-called Socialists/Democrats have Dutch Frans Timmermans, Juncker’s right-hand man.

They think they will be able to continue business as usual, and accumulate more power and sovereignty in the process, while support for the EU crumbles more by the day. But that’s all in the far far future, that is a whole 4 months away. And who knows what Europe will look like by then? Brussels sure doesn’t seem to know, or want to.

 

In Germany, the entire political system will have to reinvent itself after Merkel. And as said before, with an entire new look as far as vote numbers go. Far right and the Greens are on their way to becoming new power blocks, the Christian center right CDU/CSU and the formerly left SPD are on their way to much less support.

This is a pattern that plays out all over Europe, but what happens in Germany is, because of the way the EU is set up, crucial for all EU member states. Nothing happens in Europe without approval from Berlin. And what will the other 26 remaining members do when that level of power moves towards the AfD?

Of even more immediate concern may be Germany’s economic performance. Because the latest signs are not encouraging. Germany and Holland have done very well, but that is because they have all the others as their ‘domestic’ market. And now not even that turns out to be enough. Germany’s numbers are going down fast:

 

 

Then again, for now, worries about Germany will be trumped by those about France and Britain. The numbers of Yellow Vests in the streets of France was much larger again the past weekend than the last few ones. Macron keeps on making ever bigger mistakes. This Saturday, his riot police was filmed carrying semi-automatic weapons with live ammo. As he claimed that many of his people want to get things without making any effort.

Macron all along has tried to drive a wedge between the protesters and the people. But a large majority of the people support the protests, even if they don’t don a yellow vest. Still, Paris claims that the protesters are not the Republic, and they’re trying to overthrow democracy. When the Yellow vests approached government buildings last weekend, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux fled, saying: “It wasn’t me who was attacked, it was the Republic.” Ergo: Not the people are the Republic, the government is. That should sell well.

For a very large number of French this sounds like they are not actually considered French by their own government. And now Macron insists on holding a national debate, in which everyone can have their say, but at the same time he insists he will not change his policies, which are what the Yellow Vests are protesting in the first place.

What they see is that Little Napoleon hasn’t hardly appeared in public for a very long time (big no-no!), but he does try to dictate to them what democracy is, and then in the same breath that they only have the choices he gives them. Protests are only allowed if the government gives permission, Paris proclaims.

Macron has cancelled his spot in the upcoming Davos spectacle for the wealthy and powerful, and I bet you the thought has crossed his mind that if he went he wouldn’t be allowed back in to his country. Not decisive, but that thought surely counts. He’s seen the whole Let Them Eat Cake scenario play out in his mind’s eye. Before putting his hand over his heart while looking in the mirror.

Macron does everything wrong than he can. And in that France has a lot in common with our for now last topic, subject, victim, take your pick, the UK.

 

Tomorrow Theresa May is going to lose another vote, and even if she doesn’t, chaos is still guaranteed. Both the Leave and the Remain camps, opposites as they are, are divided into countless other camps, and there is no way there will ever be an agreement. You’d have a hard time finding even just two people who think Brexit means the same, let alone millions.

I wrote earlier today I wondered how come Britain is so quiet in the face of that, with the Yellow Vests example just a few miles away. And I really don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out tomorrow. The EU has hinted Brexit may not happen until the summer, not on March 29. But that’s the EU, and that’s what the Brexit vote was meant to move away from, not let them dictate even more.

Theresa May basically sat on her hands for two years, and wanted to do the work in 6 months, but that was always going to be a pipedream. The UK, in 40-odd years of EU membership, signed up to thousands of pieces of legislation, which contain hundreds of thousands of pages of legalese. All that must be checked, if need be changed, negotiated about, voted on, etc.

Not something anyone can do in half a year, and that has nothing to do with liking the EU or not. May has held her country hostage for the entire time she’s been PM, and she does that even more now, as she’s saying it’s either her deal or no Brexit at all. She’s decided No Deal is not an option. Which may be wise in view of all those documents, but who is she to decide eth entire nation future for decades to come? She wasn’t even elected as PM.

We’ll know more tomorrow after that Parliament vote, which May will lose. Or will we? If Brussels accepts a major delay in Brexit, chances are May will stay in office, and we’ll have 4-5-6 more months of the same road to nowhere. Second referendum, general election? Poisoned chalices all of them.

Even if May wins the vote Tuesday, because she’s scared a sufficient number of MPs into a catatonic state, nothing will change either. All possible outcomes are guaranteed to have a large group of people standing against them. All options will create the appearance of a small group of people dictating life-changing events for everyone else.

Where are the British Yellow Vests? The mayor of Poland’s second-biggest city, Gdansk, was stabbed to death in public on a stage where he held a speech, Is that where we’re going?

And lest we forget, what happens in Europe is not very different from what happens in the US; things merely play out slightly differently in different locations. In the US, as in the UK, there are no whole new parties taking over, no AfD and Macron and Yellow Vests and Salvini, but there is Trump and Brexit.

The common denominator is people’s anger with the economic models that leave them scrambling to make do, all the while seeing their lives being taken away from them bit by bit while whoever’s in power keeps bankers and other rich folk contented.

It’s not much use seeing all this as separate incidents or developments. It’s a big wave that will reshape the world as we know it. Let Them Eat Cake has gone global, and there’s not nearly enough cake to go round.

 

 

Dec 112018
 
 December 11, 2018  Posted by at 8:45 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Wilhelm Trübner A Gorgon‘s head 1891

 

The news still isn’t the news, and I’m getting afraid it never will be again, because not the news just simply sells so much better than plain old real events. Maria Butina suddenly popped back into the public eye, because she was either charged with something or confessed to it. And I’m thinking, excuse me, but that poor girl has been kept in isolation for how long now? And for what reason exactly?

I vividly remember thinking that when she first became ‘news’ for ‘infiltrating’ the NRA, for which there were plenty cute pictures taken, I remember thinking she would have been 22 or 23 years old when as a super- devious Russian redhead she allegedly penetrated the trillion dollar NRA, and the trillion dollar Republican Party, and the Trump campaign, which according to some people is now worth negative $1 trillion.

If any of said organizations allow for a 22-year old to take all of their most secret and damning secrets and send them to her alleged puppet master Vladimir Vladimirovich, I say they deserve everything they’re getting. But it IS the sort of thing that if you want to report it like it’s actual news, you sure need to be convincing, you need proof, that sort of thing, not the anti-Putin innuendo US media rely on as their main standard today. Butina with no proof is just a nice by now 30-year old girl who happens to be Russian.

As for the Trump campaign having a negative $1 trillion value, I derive that from all the people who’ve once again, after a handful Mueller tidbits, started saying the Donald will be impeached any moment now, and many around him will go to jail for decades. You know, I can read too, and that’s not what I see. Much of what I see comes down to the reasoning that Trump has not yet been impeached as President because .. he is the President.

Yes, that is pretty funny, but it’s not humor beyond my abilities, and I’m not a comedian by trade. We’re still, even after those Mueller bits, stuck with Papadopoulos who’s been framed and went to jail for 2 weeks for it (shame on Mueller for that, deep deep shame!), there’s Cohen who lost his tracks in between lying for Trump and lying about Trump, and Manafort, a thirteenth wheel on a wagon of which there are dozens in DC, fixers and handlers.

You tell me why Manafort faces years in jail while Rahm Emanuel became mayor of Chicago. But if you’d actually want to explain, I suggest you prepare well, maybe talk to a few lawyers in the process. Washington attracts shady characters like dung beetles to horse shit and honey bees to Mountain Dew, and only a special counsel would ever think of picking them off one by one if he can’t find any of the actual crimes that he was appointed for to find. Cue: Rahm Emanuel.

 

Meantime my pal in arms Jim Kunstler thinks Michael Flynn is laying low as Mueller whoops his ass because he can, only to hit back at Mueller as soon as he’s freed from what are at best shaky allegations. Talking to a Russian is not a crime, not even, or even especially, when you’re the security adviser to the next president.

Michael Flynn’s real suspicious job was advising Turkey on security issues, but then that’s not what Mueller targeted him for. So yeah, let Flynn rise. And once again, don’t let’s forget that he said when the whole circus began, that he saw no way he could defend himself against anything Mueller might have thrown at him, that his entire family was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“But you talked to a Russian!” say the news media. Cue mushroom clouds in the remote background. But don’t you see, Trump is a criminal with decades of crimes under his belt, and all of his family are too! Look, I don’t know these people, and I’m fine not knowing them, not my cup of tea, but how much time did any of them spend behind bars so far?

And now they would have to go to jail just because Donald was elected president and the DOJ appointed a friendly ex-FBI head special counsel on the basis of a dossier paid for by his political opponents? To what extent does that spell justice to you? Yes, feel free to cue Rahm Emanuel again.

See, if certain people can be sent to jail because they rise too high in certain circles that don’t want them to disturb the power inherent in their sphere, while other operatives from the exact same mold though perhaps another political affiliation, are nominated to lofty and lucrative careers and positions, isn’t there something awry?

Are any of them perfectly innocent? Hell no, but then if they were, they wouldn’t be in the positions they’re in, the very positions that allow Robert Mueller to target them. From that point of view, it obvious it’s just a little power game played out in front of your eyes, you who have nothing to do with it but think you’re supposed to have an opinion on it.

Is Donald Trump a worse and bigger criminal than George H.W. Bush was? One half of America can answer that in no time flat. The other is thinking they wouldn’t be so sure. How many people has the Donald condemned to death so far? And he’s already about half way through the time Bush41 spent in the White House.

Perhaps it’s not about who’s a criminal, but about who’s the prosecutor. And with Mueller’s role in the sordid Whitey Bulger tale, and his even more sordid testimony in the Iraq WMD fantasies that led to millions of legalized murders celebrated as victory by both Washington and the US media, which kettle is blaming which pot here?

 

But hey, I’m ready to be corrected. And it’s by no means just the US that feels twisted these days, either. How about French president Emmanuel Macron, who hadn’t addressed his people live for 10-12 days as the Yellow Vests protests just got worse and more violent by the day, and then yesterday decided to make his long awaited response to them through a pre-recorded video? Honestly, how far removed from reality can one be?

The only answer Macron has to the thousands of people who want him out, and who have been willing to express that opinion in 4 consecutive weekends, is money. He thinks if he gives them €100 a month extra, and some tax breaks, they’ll let them continue on his little Napoleon trip. Well, if they do, we’ll know who they are. But are they? I don’t think Macron counts on that.

And then, as Macron increasingly retreats into his little palace(s), cue Marie Antoinette, only to communicate with the unwashed masses who want him gone through pre-scripted and recorded promises of crumbs off his table in exchange for no power at all, British PM Theresa May reacts to her latest and ostensibly worst -though it’s hard to keep track- defeat by … fleeing the country.

That’s how its ‘leaders’ rule Europe these days. Angela Merkel says she’s gone, though she wants to be Chancellor until 2021 (that way no-one can hold her responsible for anything), Theresa May hops on a plane to Europe to grovel some hopelessly more in her already defeated stance.

And Macron has his servants shove crumbs off his table, a gesture that still costs him more than everything Salvini and Di Maio wanted to do in Italy which got them whistled down by Brussels. C’mon, who still believes in the EU? Everyone’s running away from it.

If Macron must hide from his own French people, how can he reform the EU? If May must flee the UK and go to the EU to get a Brexit deal, what’s her authority back home where 50% voted against that same EU?

And if Merkel can only remain in charge by relinquishing her power, who exactly’s going to run Europe? It’s kind of like the same question as for the US. Who’s going to run it? Not Trump, if Mueller and the Democrats have any say although they lost the election. Not Hillary, says about everyone else.

 

We all tend to think that these things are normal and eternal. Just politics. But all the usual suspects appear to be under siege. In Europe, France, UK, Germany are shaking heavily. Italy’s already overboard. That’s the biggest 4 EU members. That’s the EU. No certainties, no future, though the EU itself will never admit it, and instead just push for more EU.

And what’s certain politically in the US anymore? Trump has eviscerated the entire GOP, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The Democrats killed off Bernie Sanders to allow Hillary to continue her dead before arrival power grab. She came she saw she lost.

My point, I think, is that political strongholds are being defeated everywhere at the same time. And when that happens, there’s always a reason for it. I think that reason can be found in the fact that the global economy is rumbling and crumbling as we speak, with politics and economics acting as precursors for one and other.

Like, Macron can only save his political ass by violating the EU budget terms he just chided Italy for. Merkel can only save her legacy by creating a situation she’s no longer responsible for. And Theresa May would be well advised, now that she’s on the continent, to simply stay there and let Britain figure things out without her.

The US won’t and can’t be so lucky. We’re still up for much more, marathon more, of Trump vs Mueller, and there will be many more courts and judges who have to speak on all of it before there’s anything even remotely resembling a conclusion. Because the whole Mueller circus -reluctantly- threatens to open up a Pandora swamp that’s been DC’s lifeblood forever.

Yeah, you got your Flynn and Manafort, but you also got your Podesta brothers. Yeah, there’s the Trump Foundation, but there’s also the Clinton Foundation, and Uranium One. Who’s worse? Good one!

Both things should be investigated, it shouldn’t just be Trump and Mueller, Hillary and the DNC and Comey etc etc also must be under the microscope. Or America will forever lose its faith in democracy. Not that there’s much of it left, mind you, but hey, at the very least it’s the thought that counts.

Bottom line: it all appears to be about local, domestic, national politics, but don’t be deceived: the global economy is tanking, and all of the political mayhem on all these levels is just a derivative of that. The dinosaurs want to live another day.

None of which is going to make your situation any better, but who knows, you just might feel better about it for a bit. Until you don’t.

 

 

Dec 072018
 


Paul Almasy Paris 1950

 

The concept of the EU might have worked, but still only might have, if a neverending economic boom could have been manufactured to guide it on its way. But there was never going to be such a boom. Or perhaps if the spoils that were available in boom times and bust had been spread out among nations rich and poor and citizens rich and poor a little more equally, that concept might still have carried the days.

Then again, its demise was obvious from well before the Union was ever signed into existence, in the philosophies, deliberations and meetings that paved its way in the era after a second world war in two score years fought largely on the European continent.

In hindsight, it is hard to comprehend how it’s possible that those who met and deliberated to found the Union, in and of itself a beneficial task at least on the surface in the wake of the blood of so many millions shed, were not wiser, smarter, less greedy, less driven by sociopath design and methods. It was never the goal that missed its own target or went awry, it was the execution.

Still, no matter how much we may dream, how much some of the well-meaning ‘founding fathers’ of the Union may have dreamt, without that everlasting economic boom it never stood a chance. The Union was only ever going to be tolerated, accepted, embraced by its citizens if they could feel and see tangible benefits in their daily lives of surrendering parts of their own decision making powers, and the sovereignty of their nations.

There are 28 countries in the Union at this point, and one of them is already preparing to leave. There are 28 different cultures too, and almost as many languages. It was always going to be an uphill struggle, a hill far too steep for mere greed to master and conquer. History soaked Europe in far too much diversity through the ages for that. To unify all the thousands of years of beauty and darkness, of creativity and annihilation, of love and hatred, passed on through the generations, a lot more than a naked and bland lust for wealth, power and shiny objects was needed.

And sure, maybe it just happened on the way, in the moments when everyone was making new friends and not watching their backs for a moment. But they all still should have seen it coming, because of those same thousands of years that culminated in where they found themselves. The European Union is like a wedding and marriage without a prenup, where partners are too afraid to offend each other to do what would make them not regret the ceremony later.

 

Today, there are far too few of the 28 EU countries that have been lifted out of their poverty and other conditions that made them want to join the Union. And within many of the countries, there are way too many people who are, and feel, left behind. While Brussels has become a bastion of power that none of the disadvantaged feel they can properly address with their grievances.

The main fault of the EU is that the biggest party at the table always in the end, when things get serious, gets its way. The 80 million or so people of Germany de facto rule the 500 million of the Union, or you know, the three handfuls that rule Germany. No important decision can or will ever be taken that Berlin does not agree with. Angela Merkel has been the CEO of Europe Inc. since November 22 2005, gathering more power as time went by. That was never going to work unless she made everyone richer. Ask the Greeks about that one.

Merkel was the leader of both Germany and of Europe, and when things got precarious, she chose to let German interests prevail above Italian or Greek ones. That’s the fundamental flaw and failure of the Union in a nutshell. All other things, the Greek crisis, Salvini, Macron, Brexit, are mere consequences of that flaw. In absence of a forever economic boom, there is nothing left to fall back on.

 

Traditional right/left parties have been destroyed all across Europe in recent national elections. And it’s those traditional parties that still largely hold power in Brussels. As much as anyone except Germany and perhaps the European Commission hold any power at all. The shifts that happened in the political spectrum of many countries is not yet reflected in the European Parliament. But there are European elections in less than 6 months, May 23-26 2019.

About a quarter of the votes in the last such election, in 2014, went to euroskeptic parties. It’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination to presume that they’ll get half of the votes this time. Then we’ll have half or more of representatives speaking for people who don’t have faith in what they represent.

And on the other hand you have the Brussels elite, who continue to propagate the notion that Europe’s problems can best, nay only, be solved with more Europe. Of that elite Emmanuel Macron is the most recent, and arguable most enthusiastic from the get-go, high priest. Which can’t be seen apart from his domestic nose-diving approval rating, and most certainly not from the yellow vest protests and riots.

Macron won his presidency last year solely because he ran against Marine Le Pen in the second round of the elections, and a vast majority on the French will never vote for her; they’ll literally vote for anyone else instead. In the first round, when it wasn’t one on one, Macron got less than 25% of the votes. And now France wants him to leave. That is the essence of the protests. His presidency appears already over.

 

Among the 28 EU countries, the UK is a very clear euroskeptic example. It’s supposed to leave on March 2019, but that’s by no means a given. Then there’s Italy, where the last election put a strongly euroskeptic government in charge. There are the four Visegrad countries, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. No love lost for Brussels there. In Belgium yesterday, PM Michel’s government ally New Flemish Alliance voted against the UN Global Compact on Migration.

Spain’s Mariana Rajoy was supported by the EU against Catalonia, and subsequently voted out. The next government is left-wing and pro EU, but given the recent right wing victory in Andalusia it’s clear there’s nothing stable there. Austria has a rightwing anti-immigration PM. Germany’s CDU party today elected a successor for Merkel (in the first such vote since 1971!), but they’ve lost bigly in last year’s elections, and their CSU partner has too, pushing both towards the right wing anti-immigrant AfD.

And with Macron gone or going, France can’t be counted on to support Brussels either. So what is left, quo vadis Europa? Well, there’s the European elections. In which national parties, often as members of a ‘voting alliance’, pick their prospective candidates for the European Parliament, then become part of a larger European alliance, and finally often of an even larger alliance. You guessed right, turnout numbers for European elections are very very low.

 

Of course Brussels is deaf to all the issues besieging it. The largest alliances of parties, the EPP (people’s party) and the “socialists”, have chosen their crown prince ‘spitzenkandidat’ to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, and they expect for things to continue more or less as usual. The two main contenders are Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans, convinced eurocrats. How that will work out with 50% or more of parliamentarians being euroskeptic, you tell me. How about they form their own alliance?

The Union appears fatally wounded, and that’s even before the next financial crisis has materialized. Speaking of which, the Fed has been hiking rates and can lower them again a little if it wants, but much of Europe ‘works’ on negative rates already. That next crisis could be a doozy.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First thing on the menu is Macron tomorrow, and the yellow vests in the streets of Paris and many other French cities -and rural areas. He has called for 90,000 policemen on the streets, but they’ll come face to face with their peers who are firemen, ambulance personnel, you name it, lots of folks who also work for the government. Will they open fire?

Can Macron allow for French people to be killed in the streets? Almost certainly not. There’ll be pitchforks and guillotines. The only way out for him, the only way to calm things down, may be to announce his resignation. The French don’t fool around when they protest. And who’s going to be left to drive the reform of Europe then? Not Merkel, she’s gone, even if she wants to be German Chancellor for three more years. But then who? I’m trying to think of someone, honest, but I can’t.

It’ll be quite the day Saturday in Paris.