Aug 182020
 


Bettmann/Getty Minimum Wage 1963

 

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)
Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)
They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)
Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)
Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)
Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)
Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)
Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)
China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)
Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)
Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)
US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)
The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)
The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)
And in the End (Rolling Stone)

 

 

No, I didn’t watch the Dem convention. Never perform invasive surgery on myself either, for pretty much the same reason. But I did pick up a few tidbits. It all leaves a very elitist impression. Deplorables.

 

 

New global cases below 200,000, new deaths at 4,297. Not bad. Or is that just because it was Monday?

Several European countries are spiking in what is perhaps a second wave. Pretty lousy controls, which will lead to all kinds of renewed lockdowns. Unnecessary.

 

 

New cases only just above 40,000 in the US, it was 70,000 not long ago, with new deaths at “only” 589.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sounds just plain dumb.

Coronavirus Clusters Erupt At US Universities As Semester Begins (AP)

From the dorms at North Carolina to the halls of Notre Dame, officials at universities around the US scrambled on Monday to deal with new Covid-19 clusters at the start of the fall semester, some of them linked to off-campus parties and packed clubs. North Carolina’s flagship university cancelled in-person classes for undergraduates just a week into the fall semester Monday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it will switch to remote learning on Wednesday and make arrangements for students who want to leave campus housing. “We have emphasised that if we were faced with the need to change plans – take an off-ramp – we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly,” it said in a statement after reporting 130 confirmed infections among students and five among employees over the past week.


UNC said the clusters were discovered in dorms, a fraternity house and other student housing. Before the decision came down, the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, ran an editorial headlined “UNC has a clusterf*** on its hands”. The paper said that the parties that took place over the weekend were no surprise and that administrators should have begun the semester with online-only instruction at the university, which has 19,000 undergraduates. “We all saw this coming,” the editorial said. Outbreaks earlier this summer at fraternities in Washington state, California and Mississippi provided a glimpse of the challenges school officials face in keeping the virus from spreading on campuses where young people eat, live, study – and party – in close quarters.

Read more …

The DNC pushed Bernie aside until he complied with the Biden “plan”. They do the same with AOC et al, without whom they may never have had control of the House. Instead, they have Republicans and billionaires speaking, along with has-beens like the Obamas and Clintons….

Sixty Seconds to Self-Sabotage (Cut)

When the Democratic National Committee released its schedule for its big socially distanced convention this week, we learned that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, inarguably among the party’s most dynamic figures, would have just sixty seconds to address the nation. [..] the relegation of Ocasio-Cortez, who electrifies multiple parts of a Democratic base, to one meager minute, a segment that—unlike speeches by some other presenters—will be pre-recorded, isn’t just a snub. The failure of a major political party to showcase one of its most talented politicians, a young person whose communicative reach and facility positions her to be among its leaders deep into our future, is self-sabotage.

[..] Why will this convention not show off more of the historic number of women who enabled their party to retake the House in 2018? Most of them won’t be prominently featured, but former Ohio Republican governor John Kasich, who ran for governor as a Tea Partier and signed eleven laws (comprising 21 restrictions) on abortion, including a 20 week ban and the prohibition of rape crisis centers advising survivors about the option of abortion, will be. He also worked to rob Ohio’s public workers of the right to bargain collectively (voters later overturned this measure). Not only is Kasich getting a plum spot on Monday, he’s used his time in the Democratic sun to diss Ocasio-Cortez, telling Buzzfeed that just because she “gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it.”

So John Kasich, Republican, feels that Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat, gets outsized attention, even as he–along with his fellow Republicans Susan Molinari (Remember her? No? Weird) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO Meg Whitman–will get more featured airtime than she at her party’s convention. But this convention seems driven to thumb its nose not only at individual politicians, but at the social movements that have transformed civic participation and changed public opinion across the nation during the course of the Trump administration. Remember those women who retook the House in 2018? A bunch of them were first time candidates who were open about how their entrance into politics was grounded in their fury about the ubiquity and pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the #metoo movement.

But the party that profited from their electoral success has offered prime speaking spots to two multiply-accused harassers: former president Bill Clinton and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. That Bloomberg’s presidential campaign met its lethal end at the hands of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, who in a February primary debate detailed his history of workplace harassment, red lining, and support of stop-and-frisk policing, all in her allotted sixty seconds (she only had a minute; an eternity was in it) makes his featured presence an insult to Warren, and the many Democrats who were far more inspired by her campaign than by his. And listen, I get it, and assume everyone else does too: Bloomberg is speaking to the Democratic convention because the Democrats need his money (he shifted $18 million from his campaign to the Democratic National Committee in March).

But if organizers had been paying attention these past two years, they might have learned that that’s actually part of the structural thing about harassment and those who get away with it: too often, you need their money.


Matt Taibbi’s drinking game bingo card for the DNC

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…and that attitude of trampling over the left leads to this… If you think BLM, Antifa, #MeToo are the only angry ones, you are mistaken.

They’re Angry, Not Stupid: Why Trump is Likely to Win Again (Greene)

The candidate Barack Obama spoke to blue-collar America. He campaigned on change that would rejuvenate careers and restore dignity. Working Americans in the swing states doubted that Hillary Clinton even knew they existed. They saw Obama as a last hope and supported him enthusiastically in the 2008 primaries and later in the general election, but he soon proved to be a disappointment. He, too, fell in love with Silicon Valley and Wall Street and neglected the people who needed him most. And they punished him: he won fewer states in 2012 than he had in 2008. People like the alternate me felt cheated by a guy who rocked a Brooks Brothers suit and talked a great game, then gave the Tech and Finance sectors everything they wanted and more.

Educated people from the best schools trusted Big Tech outfits because educated people from the best schools ran them. Elites imagine each other to be virtuous because they imagine themselves that way. Technology giants were understood not as hardy sprouts but would be treated instead with princess-and-the-pea levels of delicacy, thanks to a superstitious fear that it might all be brought to grief by, say, forcing companies with hundreds of billions in share value to tolerate an employees’ union, offer a minimum wage adequate for a decent life, or pay tax proportional to their reliance on public goods.

No one bears greater responsibility for the lack of empathy toward Old-Economy workers that led to Donald Trump’s victory than big-name Tech darlings and the New Democrats who coddled them, then openly ridiculed their own voter base: the people Hillary foolishly nicknamed “Deplorables;” that is, the millions of disappointed Obama voters who would happily have voted blue if they’d had confidence that the party would respect them, welcome them, and acknowledge their needs. But the New Economy is a gated community, shut firmly to them, whose most strenuous boosters have been the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations. Old-school, working-class Democrats are unwelcome in the party they built. No one wants them tracking mud through the salon.

Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the swing states the same way Barack Obama had: by characterizing her as disdainful toward blue-collar Americans. It was a potent message among those who once had seen decent wages in return for honest work, lately reduced to Walmart greeters and Uber drivers. Humiliated by a labor market in which they had nothing to trade, the former working class understood that they also had nothing to lose. Liberal democracy and its supporting institutions shed their veneer of sanctity when dead-end employees can aspire only to dead-end management gigs. Call them “associates” and “technicians” all you want; they know who they’ve become and what others think of them. They are why Trump won in the swing states; he was propelled to victory by disillusioned Obama voters.

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I would have expected so much more from Bernie. Folds for the DNC twice in a row, and doesn’t volunteer to return any donations.

Can someone check how many times he said the same in 2016?! “Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.”

Sanders: ‘The Future Of Our Planet Is At Stake’ In 2020 Election (JTN)

Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters Monday to vote for nominee Joe Biden, imploring that the “future of our planet is at stake” and that the “price of failure” for not electing Biden would be “just too great to imagine.” “The future of our democracy is at stake. The future of our economy is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake,” Sanders said on opening night of the Democratic National Convention. “We must come together, defeat Donald Trump and elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next president and vice president. My friends, the price of failure is just too great to imagine.” Sanders called the 2020 election the most important in the modern history of the U.S.

“We need an unprecedented response, a movement, like never before of people who are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and decency,” said Sanders, a democratic-socialist who finished second in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. “Our campaign ended several months ago but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day. Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered radical are now mainstream but let us be clear, if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy,” he also [said].

Sanders named areas where Biden has moved the progressive agenda forward, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making it easier for workers to join unions,” creating 12 weeks of paid family leave and funding universal pre-K for 3 and 4-year olds. “Joe will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and fight the threat of climate change by transitioning us to 100 percent clean electricity over the next 15 years. These initiatives will create millions of good paying jobs all across the country,” Sanders said. “We are the only industrialized nation not to guarantee health care for all people. While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, he has a plan that will greatly expand health care and cut the cost of prescription drugs. Further, he will lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60,” added Sanders, who worked with Biden on his final campaign platform.

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Bernie campaigner David Sirota has at least a little backbone.

Democrats Seem All Too Willing to Surrender on Health Care Reform (Jac.)

On the eve of a Democratic National Convention taking place as millions lose health care coverage, the health care industry is launching a new ad campaign pressing Democrats to back off from the party’s already compromised health care promises. That pressure seems to be having its intended effect on Capitol Hill, as congressional aides say the party will not push the initiative if Joe Biden wins the presidency. The signs of retreat come as health care industry profits are skyrocketing and the industry’s campaign cash has flooded into Democratic coffers. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) — a front group created by health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbying groups to oppose “Medicare for All” — announced on Friday that it is launching a new national ad campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon their plans to create a public health insurance plan.

The group said it will run ads during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week. PAHCF is led by a former Hillary Clinton aide and run out of the offices of a DC lobbying firm led by former top Democratic congressional aides. A substantial “public option” plan — which polls show is wildly popular — was the centerpiece of recent policy negotiations between supporters of former vice president Joe Biden and progressive Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who had been pushing for a more expansive Medicare for All program. A draft of the party platform, approved by DNC members late last month, includes a pledge to pass a public option, or a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Within twenty-four hours of the launch of the industry’s new ads, however, anonymous Democratic congressional sources were telling the Hill that Democrats likely won’t bother with the public option fight next year if Biden wins the election. Instead, they said, the party will work to tweak its 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has done little to limit insurance or hospital costs and has failed to ensure universal coverage. To justify the preemptive retreat, Democratic congressional aides told the newspaper that the party’s moderate crop of 2020 Senate challenger candidates could make it harder to pass a public option. That assertion comes even though every single one of those candidates is currently campaigning in support of a public option, according to a TMI review of campaign statements.

The situation echoes the Democratic promises and subsequent surrender on a public option that marked the debate over health care more than a decade ago — only this time around, the health care crisis is an even more acute emergency. While most developed countries have managed to contain COVID-19, the pandemic is spiraling out of control in the United States, and an estimated 27 million people have lost their employer-based health insurance plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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And also recorded before Trump lost his brother?! Or wouldn’t she have cared? She did remember last night that she said it, right? Class? Grace? Where? We go low?

.. by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair …

Michelle Obama Speech Recorded Before Joe Biden Selected Kamala Harris (NYP)

There was one glaring omission from Michelle Obama’s 20-minute Democratic National Convention speech Monday night — Kamala Harris. That’s because the former first lady recorded her rousing speech before Joe Biden selected Sen. Harris of California as his running mate. The speech was delivered remotely like all others at the DNC because of the coronavirus pandemic, and The Associated Press reports it was filmed before Harris was named last week as Biden’s VP candidate, indicating the choice was so close to the vest and down to the wire that even the Obamas were not in the loop. In her speech, Michelle Obama eloquently praised Biden and emotionally denounced Trump’s policies.

“Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us,” she said. “It is what it is,” Obama added, quoting Trump’s recent remark on coronavirus deaths. “Right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another,” Obama said. “They watch in horror as children are torn from their families and thrown into cages, and pepper spray and rubber bullets are used on peaceful protesters for a photo-op.”

She said that by contrast, “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents. Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own. His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.”

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The issue is not nearly as simple as some people would let you believe.

Trump vs. Dems On Mail-in Voting (Chaffetz)

With less than three months until the 2020 election and no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, a new debate over mail-in voting has begun. Swirling and sudden concerns about the United States Postal Service (USPS) have arisen from Democrats who are wildly accusing President Trump of cheating and manipulating the Postal Service in his favor. Conveniently they forget to mention the president is more than an arms-length away from how we vote, and the Postal Service is not under the thumb of his control. Senate Democrats joined Republicans to unanimously install postal leadership — of which, one is an Obama appointee.

No doubt President Trump has expressed deep concerns about the validity of the ballots, and rightfully so. Sending out millions of ballots without authenticating the inbound ballots is ripe for massive fraud. Democrats have desperately been seeking to legalize “ballot harvesting” (the collection and submission of ballots by someone other than the voter and without authentication) and other nefarious activities. It must be noted elections in the United States are administered by counties and certified by states. In other words, per the United States Constitution, elections are run locally and not by the executive branch of the federal government. The president has simply sought fair elections.

Ironically, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 1 that seeks to federalize elections and give the president power he doesn’t currently have now. Her solution would create the problem she inaccurately blames Trump for today. [..] The president of the United States does not control the operations of the Postal Service nor does he select or appoint the Postmaster General. The Board of Governors does both of these things. The Postal Regulatory Commission sets rates, service levels and decides on postal closings, not the president. The governors are appointed by a president and confirmed by the United States Senate. No more than five of the nine governors may be from the same political party.

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Clickbait fodder.

Trump Teases Upcoming Pardon For ‘Very Important’ Person (RT)

US President Donald Trump said he would soon hand out a pardon to a “very important” person. While the details were left shrouded in mystery, he ruled out both his former advisor Michael Flynn and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “Doing a pardon tomorrow on someone who is very, very important,” Trump told reporters on board Air Force One on Monday, offering little elaboration other than to say it would not be Flynn – his first National Security Advisor – nor the famed whistleblower. Despite repeatedly calling Snowden a “traitor” over the years, Trump has hinted at giving the whistleblower a reprieve on more than one occasion in the last week, saying he may have been treated “unfairly” and that he would “look at” allowing him to return home.


With the president explicitly ruling him out for Tuesday’s pardon, however, it appears Snowden will have to remain in Moscow for some time longer, where he was given asylum after leaking a massive cache of purloined documents from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing Washington’s sweeping domestic and global spying apparatus.

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They’re starting a new competition.

China’s Anti-Trump Election Meddling Raises New Alarm (Fox)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News that China poses “a greater national security threat” to the United States “than any other nation,” detailing a web of threats that includes “election influence and interference.” Intelligence officials say they are increasingly concerned about interference in the U.S. election by China, adding to existing concerns about meddling by Russia that have been around since 2016, as well as the threat of meddling from Iran. “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation – economically, militarily and technologically. That includes threats of election influence and interference,” Ratcliffe told Fox News in a statement.

While Russia was widely seen as favoring now-President Trump and generally seeking to sow chaos in America during the 2016 election, the difference with China is it is seen to be seeking a Trump loss in November. Yet congressional Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who ever since 2016 have issued dire warnings about Russian meddling, have not been quite so vocal about China’s potential to interfere in the 2020 election. Pelosi, D-Calif., last week said the threats of interference from Russia and China are “not equivalent,” while urging the intelligence community to put out more information about Russian efforts, saying Moscow is “actively 24/7 interfering in our election.”

Ratcliffe said the threat from China is actually significant, and he is “committing the IC resources needed to fully understand the threat posed by China and provide U.S. policymakers with the best intelligence to counter China’s broad and deep malign activities.” “China is concerned that President Trump’s reelection would lead to a continuation of policies that they perceive to be ‘anti-China,’” Ratcliffe explained, noting that the intelligence community has briefed “hundreds of members of Congress” to raise their concerns about China “and its increased efforts to impact the U.S. policy climate in its favor.” “Fair and free elections are a bedrock of American democracy, and the IC remains vigilant against the various activities by China, as well as other threat countries and actors, which seek to affect our electoral process,” Ratcliffe said.

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Great fundraiser, they said.

Kamala Harris Reportedly Owes $1M In Bills From Failed Presidential Run (NYP)

Kamala Harris, named Tuesday to be Joe Biden’s running mate, still has more than $1 million in unpaid bills left over from her failed 2020 presidential bid, according to a report. The California senator raised about $39 million for her White House bid in 2019 and spent about $40 million, leaving her campaign with just $116,380 in the bank at the end of June, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing Federal Election Commission filings. Harris ended her campaign last December amid falling poll numbers and a lack of fundraising.


International law firm Perkins Coie LLP was still owed $523,883 at the end of June, while TorchStone Global LLC, a corporate and private security company, was owed $160,702, the report said. California political consulting firm SCRB Strategies had $92,4087 in outstanding invoices. Donors have contributed slightly more than $48,000 to her campaign this year. The report noted that the campaign can’t be shuttered until all debts are paid under federal law. And while Biden raised $26 million in a day after announcing her selection, his campaign can do little to retire Harris’ campaign debt. It can donate $2,000 and the Democratic National Committee can contribute $5,000. But Biden can ask his donors to send funds to Harris’ campaign.

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Feel free to call this a failed society.

Twelve US Billionaires Have a Combined $1 Trillion (Ineq.org)

For the first time in US history, the top twelve U.S. billionaires surpassed a combined wealth of $1 trillion. On Thursday August 13th, these 12 had a combined $1.015 trillion. This is a disturbing milestone in the US history of concentrated wealth and power. This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Twelve or a Despotic Dozen. The Oligarchic Dozen are Jeff Bezos ($189.4b), Bill Gates ($114b), Mark Zuckerberg ($95.5b), Warren Buffett ($80b), Elon Musk ($73b), Steve Ballmer ($71b), Larry Ellison ($70.9b), Larry Page ($67.4b), Sergey Brin ($65.6b), Alice Walton ($62.5b), Jim Walton ($62.3b) and Rob Walton ($62b).

Since March 18th, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent. Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18th to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent. Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.4 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18th. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18th.

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The Sacklers took out many billions, then declared bankruptcy. Now they’re “willing” to contribute more to a settlement than the entire company is worth. Sick.

US States Seek $2.2 Trillion From OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma (R.)

U.S. states claimed they are owed $2.2 trillion to address harm from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP’s alleged role in America’s opioid epidemic, accusing the drugmaker in new filings of pushing prescription painkillers on doctors and patients while playing down the risks of abuse and overdose. In filings made as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings that were disclosed on Monday, the states said Purdue, backed by the wealthy Sackler family, contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people since 1999 and caused strains on healthcare and criminal justice systems. The filings cited more than 200,000 deaths in the U.S. tied directly to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016.

In large states such as California and New York, claims alone totaled more than $192 billion and $165 billion, respectively. Forty-nine U.S. states, Washington, D.C. and various territories are making the claims. Oklahoma settled litigation with Purdue last year. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019 under pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits brought by cities, counties, states, Native American tribes, hospitals and others. The lawsuits said the company, and in some cases the Sacklers, used deceptive marketing and took other improper steps to flood communities with prescription opioids. The company and family have denied the allegations and pledged to help combat the opioid epidemic, including by providing addiction treatment drugs and overdose reversal medications under development.

[..] Purdue is only worth a bit more than $2 billion if liquidated. The company values a proposal to settle litigation, which includes providing addiction treatment and overdose-reversing drugs, at more than $10 billion. The Sacklers would contribute $3 billion and cede control of Purdue, with the company becoming a trust run on behalf of plaintiffs.

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These well-meaning people are mightily confused about growth:

“In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth..”

I think that means to want to return there.

“..the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.”

More growth? Isn’t growth itself the problem then? Never mind, anyone who talks about sustainable growth is not a serious person in my book.

The Need for Debt-for-Climate Swaps (PS)

In the absence of new forms of liquidity support and major debt relief, the world economy cannot possibly return to pre-pandemic levels of growth without risking severe climate distress and social unrest.Climate scientists tell us that in order to meet the targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, global net carbon-dioxide emissions must fall by about 45% by 2030, and by 100% by 2050. Given that the effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, countries urgently need to scale up their investments in climate adaptation and mitigation. But that will not be possible if governments are bogged down in a debt crisis. If anything, debt-service requirements will push countries to pursue export revenues at any cost, including by cutting corners on climate-resilient infrastructure and stepping up their own fossil-fuel use and extraction of resources.

This course of events would further depress commodity prices, creating a doom loop for producer countries. In light of these concerns, the G20 has called on the IMF “to explore additional tools that could serve its members’ needs as the crisis evolves, drawing on relevant experiences from previous crises.” One such tool that should be considered is a “debt-for-climate swap” facility. In the 1980s and 1990s, developing countries and their creditors engaged in “debt-for-nature swaps,” whereby debt relief was linked to investments in reforestation, biodiversity, and protections for indigenous people. This concept should now be expanded to include people-centered investments that address both climate change and inequality.

Developing countries will need additional resources if they are to have any chance of leaving fossil fuels in the ground, investing sufficiently in climate adaptation, and creating opportunities for twenty-first-century jobs. One source for such resources is debt relief conditioned on such investments. A policy tool of this type would not only put us on the path to recovery, but also could help to prevent future debt-sustainability problems that might emerge as more fossil-fuel holdings and non-resilient infrastructure become “stranded assets.” Moreover, the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy represents an opportunity for a big investment push in zero-carbon energy infrastructure, which itself would help to redress energy poverty and unsustainable growth.

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I should read Stephanie Kelton’s book, right?!

The Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Theory (Steve Keen)

One Mathematical Model of Modern Monetary Operations

I confess immediately that I chose the title and subtitle for this post because their acronyms are palindromes. The subtitle is more accurate than the title, because this model considers only the monetary aspects of MMT: the Job Guarantee and inflation management components are not yet incorporated. But the monetary assertions of MMT remain in dispute in economic and political circles, so it is worth putting these into a mathematical model where their veracity can be tested. The primary stimulus for developing the model was the publication of Stephanie Kelton’s The Deficit Myth. Stephanie has written the book for non-technical readers, and she’s done a very good job: it’s a very easy read that explains why many conventional wisdoms about government spending are wrong.

But MMT is facing heavy resistance in political and economic circles, with my favourite to date being a motion before the US Congress, posted by Representative Kevin Hern, to resolve: “That the House of Representatives (1) realizes that deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous; and (2) recognizes— (A) that the implementation of Modern Monetary Theory would lead to higher deficits and higher inflation; and (B) the duty of the House of Representatives to condemn Modern Monetary Theory.”

The objective of this series of posts is to allow the assessment of the first part of this motion—the assertion that “deficits are unsustainable, irresponsible, and dangerous”. The models in this post are built in the Open Source system dynamics program Minsky, whose unique feature is the capacity to build models of financial flows using what are called Godley Tables (in honour of Wynne Godley, the pioneer of stock-flow-consistent-modelling). These tables enforce the “law of accounting” that (see Figure 1, A blank Godley Table).

Once an account is flagged as an “Asset” for one entity, Minsky knows that it has to also be shown as a “Liability” for another entity. This makes it possible to take an integrated look at the financial system, which allows us to assess Hern’s motion from the perspective of the entire monetary system, and not just the Government’s view of it.

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50 years later: ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!’

And in the End (Rolling Stone)

It’s a miserable Monday morning in January 1969, and the Beatles are trying to get back to where they once belonged. The Get Back project sounded like a perfect idea: just the four lads and their instruments, ready to hit the studio, return to their roots, conjure up some great songs out of thin air. Just like they used to. John, Paul, George, and Ringo have booked a TV concert special for January 18th — their first live show in years. They’ll rehearse for a couple of weeks, eyeball to eyeball, summon up genius on the spur of the moment. They’ve done it many times before. They’ve never not done it. The good news: Paul showed up today, and so did Ringo. So did the camera crew — these sessions are being filmed, so the Beatles can show a half-hour clip of rehearsal footage before their TV performance.

So here they are on Monday morning, ready to dazzle the world with a blast of spontaneous Beatles brilliance. Or at least Paul and Ringo are. Hey, has anyone heard from John and Yoko? Or George? With George, there’s a slight complication: He quit the band. On Friday, with the cameras rolling, he was trying to teach them a new song, “All Things Must Pass.” John, strung out on his new heroin habit, sneered at George with open contempt. George finally stormed out, muttering, “See you around the clubs.” John doesn’t take this seriously. “I think if George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play in it,” he says. “The point is, if George leaves, do we want to carry on the Beatles? I do. We should just get other members and carry on.” But now it’s Monday and still no George. No John and Yoko. (No Clapton, for that matter.) Paul and Ringo kill time jamming on a current radio hit, “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

But everyone gathers to discuss the crisis, complaining bitterly about Yoko’s constant presence. Surprisingly, the one who sticks up for her is Paul. He’s a sucker for a love story — he’s Paul McCartney, for God’s sake. But he also knows how much this romance means to his oldest, closest mate, his most troubled and cruel and impossible friend. “It’s not that bad,” he insists. “They want to stay together, those two. So it’s all right. Let the young lovers be together.” Paul has to chuckle, thinking about how future generations will look back at this — the Beatles, the greatest of all rock & roll bands, the world’s most legendary creative team, falling apart over such a trivial spat. Even on a winter morning as gloomy as this one, Paul breaks into a laugh. “It’s gonna be such an incredible sort of comical thing, like in 50 years’ time, you know. ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp!'”

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Aug 042020
 


Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud, Brussels 1873

 

Yale Doctor Battles CNN Anchor Over Effectiveness Of HCQ (Fox)
COVID19 Survivors Show Increased Rate Of Psychiatric Disorders (G.)
New Heart Problems Seen In Recovered COVID-19 Patients (R.)
Italy Survey Suggests Coronavirus 6x More Prevalent Than Official Data (R.)
Mutation May Have Made Virus More Vulnerable To Vaccines (R.)
Less Than Third Of Canadians Willing To Travel Without COVID19 Vaccine (CBC)
Manhattan DA Probing Trump Over More Than ‘Hush-Money’ Payments (R.)
Trump Considering Executive Action To Suspend Evictions, Payroll Tax (Hill)
Trump Calls To ‘Re-Run’ New York House Race Over Discarded Mail-In Ballots (F.)
How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests (Tracey)
Debunking The Coup d’Trump (Turley)
‘The Money Story’ Told By A Father Of MMT (Kohler)
Papers Leaked Before UK Election In Suspected Russian Operation Were Hacked (R.)
A Glimpse Towards November (Kunstler)
Biden Says He Can’t Wait To Find Out Who He Picked For VP (Babylon Bee)

 

 

Some encouraging looking numbers. Cases and deaths decrease both globally and in the US. Europe doesn’t look so good, though, and neither does Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taleb – How to Handle a Pandemic

Yaneer COVID growth rates Europe Africa

 

 

1) I’ve noted before that the first HCQ criticism was all about you could die from it. That’s gone, now it’s merely ineffective. Why? What happened?

2) Dr. Risch says the studies look at the wrong people (low risk). Do we know, however, how HCQ is administered? Is it given to early onset patients, and combined with zinq?

3) Zelenko explains in great detail how he works, and why. But he’s completely ignored and shunned by corporate media. Doesn’t look like truth finding to me.

Yale Doctor Battles CNN Anchor Over Effectiveness Of Hydroxychloroquine (Fox)

Yale epidemiology professor Dr. Harvey Risch and CNN host John Berman bickered over hydroxychloroquine on Monday during a heated discussion about the polarizing drug, which the president has hailed as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Risch recently wrote an op-ed in support of hydroxychloroquine, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and other experts have dismissed the anti-malarial drug being used to combat coronavirus. Risch cited various studies that backed up his pro-hydroxychloroquine stance, but the host of CNN’s “New Day” disagreed. “None of those studies that you just cited are random placebo-controlled trials, what Dr. Fauci refers to as the gold standard,” Berman said, as the CNN on-screen chyron stated “Growing body of evidence shows hydroxychloroquine is ineffective.”

Risch responded: “That’s not actually correct. The problem with those randomized controlled trials, is they were trials done on the wrong people. They were trials done on low-risk people with low risks of hospitalization and mortality. You don’t do a study of prostate cancer with women… because nobody is gonna get the outcome.” Risch said the studies were conducted on “very low-risk people who are not going to get hospitalized or die” from coronavirus. “We don’t treat those people. We treat high-risk people,” Risch said. Berman then accused Risch of being inconsistent compared to the op-ed, but the Yale epidemiologist disagreed and the interview grew contentious.


“You’re misstating what I said, I said it had to be in high-risk people,” Risch said. “As I’ve said, you have to treat the right people. You have to study the right people. Those studies did not study the right people, period. That’s the bottom line.”

Read more …

55% of them.

COVID19 Survivors Show Increased Rate Of Psychiatric Disorders (G.)

More than half of people who received hospital treatment for Covid-19 were found to be suffering from a psychiatric disorder a month later, a study has found. Out of 402 patients monitored after being treated for the virus, 55% were found to have at least one psychiatric disorder, experts from San Raffaele hospital in Milan found. The results, based on clinical interviews and self-assessment questionnaires, showed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 28% of cases, depression in 31% and anxiety in 42%. Additionally, 40% of patients had insomnia and 20% had obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptoms. The findings will increase concerns about the psychological effects of the virus.

The paper, published on Monday in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, says: “PTSD, major depression, and anxiety are all high-burden non-communicable conditions associated with years of life lived with disability. “Considering the alarming impact of Covid-19 infection on mental health, the current insights on inflammation in psychiatry, and the present observation of worse inflammation leading to worse depression, we recommend to assess psychopathology of Covid-19 survivors and to deepen research on inflammatory biomarkers, in order to diagnose and treat emergent psychiatric conditions.” The study of 265 men and 137 women found that women – who are less likely to die from Covid than men – suffered more than men psychologically.

Patients with positive previous psychiatric diagnoses suffered more than those without a history of psychiatric disorder. The researchers, led by Dr Mario Gennaro Mazza, said these results were consistent with previous epidemiological studies. They said psychiatric effects could be caused “by the immune response to the virus itself, or by psychological stressors such as social isolation, psychological impact of a novel severe and potentially fatal illness, concerns about infecting others, and stigma.” Outpatients showed increased anxiety and sleep disturbances, while – perhaps surprisingly – the duration of hospitalisation inversely correlated with symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and OC.

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“Among 100 patients ages 45 to 53, “a considerable majority” – 78 – had inflammation in the heart muscle and lining…”

New Heart Problems Seen In Recovered COVID-19 Patients (R.)

More than three-quarters of recently recovered COVID-19 patients had heart muscle problems show up during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests, German doctors reported on Monday in JAMA Cardiology. In some patients, the heart may be “in serious trouble as a part of COVID-19 disease,” Dr. Valentina Puntmann of University Hospital Frankfurt told Reuters. Among 100 patients ages 45 to 53, “a considerable majority” – 78 – had inflammation in the heart muscle and lining. Sixty-seven had recovered at home while 33 had required hospitalization. Half of the former patients were more than two months out since their diagnosis at the time of the MRI.


Thirty-six patients reported ongoing shortness of breath and general exhaustion, and 71 had blood markers of heart muscle damage. Compared with similar people who had not had COVID-19, the recently recovered patients’ hearts pumped more weakly and displayed other risk factors for heart failure. Puntmann suspects the abnormalities are signs of permanent problems. “While we do not have direct evidence for late consequences yet, such as the development of heart failure … it is quite possible that in a few years, this burden will be enormous based on what we have learned from other viral conditions that similarly affect the heart,” she said.

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It’s still just 2.5% that have antibodies. Not 60%. Even in Lombardy no more than 7.5%.

Italy Survey Suggests Coronavirus 6x More Prevalent Than Official Data (R.)

Almost 1.5 million people in Italy or 2.5% of the population have developed coronavirus antibodies, a figure six times more than official numbers reported, according to a survey from statistics agency Istat on Monday. The survey by Istat and the health ministry, was based on antibody tests conducted on 64,660 people. Official figures show 248,229 confirmed cases of COVID-19 patients in Italy, with 35,166 deaths. The survey found marked local differences with the northern region of Lombardy, where the epidemic first broke out in February, showing 7.5% of the population had tested positive for coronavirus antibodies compared to just 0.3% in the southern region of Sicily. The survey found almost 30% of people with antibodies were asymptomatic, pointing to the risk of the illness being spread by people unaware they were carriers.

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Easy to say when there is no vaccine.

Mutation May Have Made Virus More Vulnerable To Vaccines (R.)

A genetic mutation that made the new coronavirus more infectious may also make it more vulnerable to vaccines, researchers believe. The mutation, designated D614G, increases the number of “spikes” on the surface of the virus and makes them more stable, allowing the virus to more efficiently break into and infect cells. The mutation will not pose problems for vaccines now in clinical trials, however, because the extra spikes retain the targets for the “neutralizing antibodies” the vaccines are designed to induce.


Those targets, called receptor-binding domains, or RBDs, are the places where the spike attaches itself to the cells it infects. With more spikes, there are more RBDs for the antibodies to bind to in order to neutralize the virus. “The gain in infectivity provided by D614G came at the cost of making the virus more vulnerable to neutralizing antibodies,” the researchers wrote in a paper posted on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review.

Read more …

Tourism in Greece is at a very low level still. People stay home this year.

Less Than Third Of Canadians Willing To Travel Without COVID19 Vaccine (CBC)

Most Canadians and Americans aren’t rushing to travel anywhere, even within their own countries, before a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, according to a new online survey. Fewer than a third of Canadians are willing to take a flight anywhere right now whether it’s to another continent, to another province, or within their own province, according to the poll by Research Co., a Vancouver-based polling firm. Only 17 per cent of Canadian respondents were willing to take a plane to the United States. Thirty-five per cent of Americans say they are willing to take a flight within the U.S., but only 28 per cent would fly to Canada.


“The appetite for travel before a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available is low in Canada and the United States,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., in a written release. “North American residents aged 55 and over, who are usually ready to explore and spend, are particularly reticent about all journeys unless inoculation is a reality.” The online poll, conducted July 1-5, surveyed representative samples of 1,000 Canadians and 1,200 Americans. It asked them their willingness to travel by five different modes of transportation: by train, by plane, by bus, by cruise ship and by ferry.

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We couldn’t have too long a period without some public investigation against Trump, could we? Got to cover the entire 4+ years. Election tampering?

Manhattan DA Probing Trump Over More Than ‘Hush-Money’ Payments (R.)

Manhattan’s district attorney on Monday suggested a grand jury subpoena for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax returns was part of an investigation of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including alleged insurance and bank fraud. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance raised the scope of the probe in court papers filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday. He is seeking to dismiss Trump’s latest challenge to the subpoena for eight years of personal and corporate tax records. Asked about the investigation at a coronavirus press briefing on Monday, Trump repeated that he believed he is the victim of a political “witch hunt,” which he said was “Democrats’ stuff” and started “even before I got in” to office.

“There is nothing that I know even about it,” he added. Trump is scheduled to respond to Vance’s motion to dismiss by Aug. 10. In a court filing last week, Trump’s lawyers argued the subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in “bad faith.” Vance noted in the court papers that when the subpoena was issued last August, there were “public allegations of possible criminal activity” at the Trump Organization dating back a decade. He said public reports show a basis for each category and timeframe of documents sought from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. Trump’s argument that the subpoena is overbroad “rests on the false premise that the grand jury’s investigation is limited to so-called ‘hush-money’ payments made by Michael Cohen” on Trump’s behalf in 2016, Vance said.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign violations tied to the payments to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies. In a footnote to Monday’s filing, Vance cited media reports on Trump’s alleged role in the hush-money scheme and on the “unorthodox strategies” he used to expand his real estate empire.

Read more …

Do unemployment benefits too.

Trump Considering Executive Action To Suspend Evictions, Payroll Tax (Hill)

President Trump said Monday that he is considering taking executive action to halt evictions and suspend payroll tax collection as coronavirus relief talks see slow progress on Capitol Hill. “I could do that if I want, and I want to do that. I don’t want people to be evicted,” Trump told reporters at a press conference Monday evening when asked about his suggestion earlier in the day that he could act unilaterally to suspend evictions. Trump noted that individuals who are evicted often go to shelters, where the coronavirus can spread easily because of crowding. “They’re thrown out viciously. It’s not their fault. It’s not their fault. It’s China’s fault,” Trump said, continuing to blame China, where the virus originated, for the pain inflicted on Americans.

Trump also asserted that he had unilateral authority to suspend the payroll tax. “I can do that also through executive order, so we’ll be talking about that,” Trump said. Trump’s admission came after conservatives Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Trump to declare a national economic emergency and to direct the IRS to suspend collection of payroll taxes. They argued that Trump could defer payroll tax payments using the same section of the tax code used by Treasury earlier this year to postpone the 2019 tax filing deadline until mid-July. The move would amount to a deferral, though the two argued that Trump could pledge to sign a bill in the future to forgive the repayments.

[..] Trump’s remarks make clear the White House is considering unilateral actions as the administration and Congress struggle to reach a consensus on the next coronavirus relief bill. Congress in March enacted a federal moratorium on evictions through the CARES Act, though that expired roughly a week ago. Expanded unemployment insurance benefits enacted under the same bill officially expired last week. The White House has pushed for both measures to be extended quickly in a short-term deal as negotiators hammer out the details of the relief package, but Democrats have resisted a short-term measure.

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Mail-in may run reasonably well in Colorado, but here’s your first mess.

Trump Calls To ‘Re-Run’ New York House Race Over Discarded Mail-In Ballots (F.)

At a White House press conference on Monday, President Trump called to “re-run” the Democratic primary in New York’s 12th Congressional District, a race in which one candidate has refused to concede citing a large number of discarded and unreceived mail-in ballots. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) led progressive challenger Suraj Patel by just 648 votes– or 1.6%–in the Manhattan and Queens district on election night, but expanded her lead to 4 points after mail-in ballots were finished being counted in late July. Patel has refused to concede, citing reports that 9,000 of the more than 47,000 mail-in ballots sent in were invalidated for a variety of reasons and that many voters didn’t receive their mail-in ballots in time for the election.


Trump has pointed to the district, which contains Trump Tower, as a prime example of the flaws of mail-in voting, against which he has waged a fierce campaign in recent months, telling reporters on Friday, “They’re never going to have the result of that election, never the correct result.” Trump doubled-down on his criticism of the 12th District’s primary on Monday, calling it a “total disaster” and saying “nobody knows what’s happening with the ballots and the lost ballots and the fraudulent ballots I guess.” “I think I can say right here and now you have to re-run that race, because it’s a mess,” Trump added. Ultimately it would be up to New York State, not the federal government, to decide whether to re-run a race–as was the case in North Carolina’s 9th district in 2019.

Read more …

Michael Tracey spent a lot of time on the ground.

How White Radicals Hijacked Portland’s Protests (Tracey)

The overwhelmingly white, anarchist activists who populate the ongoing protests in Portland, Oregon should not be underestimated for their strategic savvy. In seizing the mantle of “Black Lives Matter”, they’ve discovered a work-around to arrogate moral cover for whatever insurrectionary upheaval they would have been ideologically committed to fomenting anyway. The Left/liberal political and media class is deeply invested in preserving the untouchable sanctity of “BLM”. So by fusing themselves in the public mind with this ambiguously-defined protest movement, or even putting themselves at the vanguard, the anarchist whites insulate themselves from the type of scrutiny that might ordinarily be prompted by activists whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of the state — and who are happy to engage in what they call “a diversity of tactics” (up to and including violence) to achieve this.

It makes for a bizarre dynamic, as Democratic Party pundits and politicians routinely describe avowed insurrectionists as nothing more than benign “peaceful protesters”. And since the protests came to be arrayed against the federal forces dispatched to Portland by Donald Trump, more conventional elements of the Left/liberal “Resistance” have made common cause with these revolutionary anarchists who regard the very essence of the US political system — not just Trump — as innately fascist and “white supremacist”. On a recent evening, for instance, an older white couple in a pair of matching “Resistance”-branded T-shirts could be spotted in attendance among the radical activists, as well as a man sporting the slogan “Ridin’ with Biden”.

To characterise what’s gone on in Portland as a traditional “protest” is a misnomer, however. Pay a visit to the area around the Federal Courthouse in Downtown after midnight and you are greeted by brigades of black-clad “Antifa” foot soldiers — geared up in full body armour, complete with industrial-grade gas masks, shields and even customised radio systems. Being overwhelmingly white, they are strategic about public presentation: the speakers appointed to address the nightly “rallies” are almost exclusively black, as “amplifying black voices” to whom whites must dutifully “listen” is a central tenet of the Summer 2020 protest ethos.

Read more …

Turley often tries to be overly correct.

Debunking The Coup d’Trump (Turley)

This week, American democracy either died or it didn’t, but you couldn’t tell from the news coverage. Some commentators and members of Congress warned that we are looking at “nothing less than a coup.” Others called for organized protests, proclaiming it is now clear that President Trump’s “anti-democratic intent was blood-chillingly real.” One leading academic called for Trump’s immediate impeachment as a fascist out to destroy our constitutional system. We have not seen such rhetoric since Aaron Burr tried to peel off the entire southwestern territory of the United States. The cause this time was an 11-word Twitter question from President Trump. Returning to his favorite subject of denouncing mail-in voting as a disaster in the making, he ended his July 30 tweet by asking, “Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”

As I said at the time, the tweet was reckless and repugnant. However, cries of some Twitter-based coup d’état were equally unconnected to reality. I have written repeatedly about this conspiracy theory that Trump will never allow an election to occur in 2020, which has raged on liberal websites and cable news since soon after his inauguration. Trump does not have the authority to delay the election. Even if he could persuade Congress to change the date, with the implausible assistance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Constitution still stipulates that his term ends at noon on Jan. 20. In the interim, not only do citizens have to vote, but electors have to cast ballots in the Electoral College, and those votes must be certified and counted by Congress.

It is not much of a coup when you do not extend your time in office. It does not matter what Trump would like; it is what the Constitution will allow. A demand to delay the election has the same impact as Trump declaring he will change his name to “Joe Biden” if needed to claim victory, or that he will adopt Neptune’s calendar to extend his four-year term to 660 years. That is why this conspiracy theory has been so maddening. Indeed, in a column in April, I criticized former Vice President Joe Biden when he took up the theory, triggering another round of panic; Biden added a second theory to this baseless fear, suggesting that Trump’s opposition to funding the U.S. Postal Service was part of a plan to steal the election. (I later wrote an equally caustic criticism of Jared Kushner when he equivocated about Election Day.)

While I portrayed Biden back then as a virtual nut for raising this conspiracy theory, many now have proclaimed him a virtual Nostradamus following Trump’s tweet. Biden was not right — any more than Trump is today. It is no surprise — and no sign of a conspiracy — that Trump might suggest something outrageous, such as a delayed election, on Twitter. Such behavior is an established fact that occupies many of us on a daily basis. The “conspiracy theory” is to suggest that Trump could actually halt or delay the election. In fairness to Trump, he has not stated that he can unilaterally delay the election but rather has asked if we should do so.

Read more …

We have to discuss MMT, just like we have to talk about UBI. The bottom is falling out.

‘The Money Story’ Told By A Father Of MMT (Kohler)

Warren Mosler is one of but possibly the originator of modern monetary theory, but he did collaborate with Bill Mitchell of The University of Newcastle, who I interviewed in March, among other people. Warren is talking to us from The Virgin Islands where he lives on the Island of Saint Croix. But the difference with Warren Mosley is he’s not an academic, he is a fund manager, started off with a big bankers trust or a group of other banks, eventually had his own hedge fund trading bonds and essentially, put into practice his ideas that became known as modern monetary theory. I suppose the key insight is here, that what he’s talking about is actual operations of money, not theory. He’s an operational guy and the way he approaches it is in the way the monetary system actually works. He’s really clear, really worth listening to and it’s long but really worthwhile.

Warren, it occurred to me that maybe a good place to start would be the insights you started to have in the 70s, when you were a fairly young bond trader – I can’t remember who with but at some stage, BT, and I think you moved around a bit… I mean, those were the peak times of what we call monetarism and Friedmanism and so on, and I think you started then saying that the Emperor had no clothes. What exactly did you identify as the problem? “I can only remember bits and pieces from back then. I remember being a bankers trust and the Fed had raised reserve requirements and the trading managers, Allan Rogers – and he talked without moving his mouth like this, and he said, “Why I hope the Fed doesn’t just give them the money. The money supply is too high, they need to take the $10 billion or whatever it is out of the economy.”

And I remember saying – I was a fairly new trader there, I was 27 years’ old – I go, “Allan, you can’t do that, you can’t just – you know, it’s just a spreadsheet, you can’t take the money out, they have to add the money. They always add the money because otherwise it’s, in the first instance, the reserve requirements are debit and so then they either have an overdraft which is a reserve-add or you have to buy securities as a reserve-add. Since the overdraft would cause the Fed funds rate to go up 100 basis points, they don’t want that to happen, they have to just do repos or add to reserves.” He goes, “Well, they could bring back those Euro dollars, there’s 300 billion Euro dollars sloshing around.”

I go, “No there aren’t. There’s a spreadsheet over there with assets and liabilities, there’s nothing sloshing around, you can’t bring those back, that’s just empty rhetoric…” He didn’t really want to hear that. One of my clients was Cliff Viner at Phoenix Mutual, who later became my partner, and he directed my attention to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Eric Heineman, “The money supply is too high, I hope the Fed doesn’t just give them the money but takes it out.” I explain it to him and he was a client of Morgan Stanley so he called them with my answer and he calls me back with their double-talk answer and I straightened that up. He calls them back and then he calls me back and he says, “They’ve retracted their statement. They agree that you have to add the reserves.” So, I don’t know, maybe that was part of the pieces of the puzzle.

Read more …

Reuters started this. They say “suspected” Russians, which means it might have also been Martians. Their info is MI6- sourced. The UK press turns it into Russians for sure., with one report linking them to state based operations. Now suspected Russians have become Russian intelligence. Who, having gone through the trouble of hacking into a US-UK trade deal, don’t keep it for themselves to use later, but know nothing better to do with it than hand it to antisemite Jeremy Corbyn to wave around.

The British DO NOT like that Russia doesn’t find them interesting anymore. They DO like that they can sweep all their failures unnder the RussiaRussia carpet.

Papers Leaked Before UK Election In Suspected Russian Operation Were Hacked (R.)

Classified U.S.-UK trade documents leaked ahead of Britain’s 2019 election were stolen from the email account of former trade minister Liam Fox by suspected Russian hackers, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a law enforcement investigation is underway, said the hackers accessed the account multiple times between July 12 and Oct. 21 last year. They declined to name which Russian group or organisation they believed was responsible, but said the attack bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation. Among the stolen information were six tranches of documents detailing British trade negotiations with the United States, which Reuters first reported last year were leaked and disseminated online by a Russian disinformation campaign.


British foreign minister Dominic Raab confirmed that report last month, saying that “Russian actors” had sought to interfere in the election “through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked Government documents”. Reuters was not able to determine which of Fox’s email accounts was hacked and when it was first compromised. It is not clear if Fox, who is still a member of parliament but stood down as trade minister on July 24 last year in a cabinet reshuffle, was a minister at the time. A British government spokeswoman said: “There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.” She added that the government had “very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.”

Read more …

“..if ever there was a Lady Macbeth moment for wickedness to prevail, this is it.”

A Glimpse Towards November (Kunstler)

The New York Times and its media co-seditionists insist that massive mail-in voting will do just fine despite plenty of evidence that it’s already a demonstrable fiasco — for instance in the recent New York primary where two congressional district contests remain undecided months later due to ballot irregularities. The boards of election “had operational issues,” as Governor Cuomo put it, “and we have to learn from them” — another teachable moment in the Democratic Party’s valiant struggle to morally improve America strictly on its own terms. Over in Nevada, the state legislature passed a mail-in vote scheme that will send ballots out to everybody and his-or-her uncle, with no ID required, and a feature that permits ballots to be filled-out by someone other than the addressed voter.

Nice! A “ballot-harvesting” model for other states. In California, where anybody with a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote via the 2015 “New Motor Voter Act,” ballots will go out to 600,000 un-documented non-citizens who were granted licenses under a separate act (AB-60) the same year. Do you suppose all of them will conscientiously toss their ballots in the trash while California’s mighty Democratic Party machine importunes them to vote early-and-often? There’s your set-up for a 2020 election that can’t possibly be resolved, and a recipe for a Hieronymus Bosch style orgy of Lawfare litigation that would deliberately seek to confound the Federal Election Commission’s best efforts to untangle the mess — just as Lawfare is doing in the mess of a case against General Flynn — and effectively end 232 years of continuous, orderly four-year election cycles. Is that what you want?

The other index of the Democratic Party’s desperation is the ongoing emperor’s-new-clothes charade posing the effigy of Joe Biden as a serious candidate for a rather important position in government. Everybody knows that they know — and we know that they know that we all know — that Mr. Biden is sailing into a fog-bank of senility, and more measurably each day! His every staged performance is an obvious embarrassment of fumbled phrases and things forgotten. They are going to have to find a replacement. It really comes down to two figures: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. What a predicament!

[..] Hillary still owns the DNC — literally. Nobody knows how much of the Clinton Foundation’s ill-gotten moolah still underwrites the party’s national operations. The arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, with new allegations about Bill Clinton’s capers on Epstein’s Pedo Island, is a strange twist with mystifying implications — especially the timing and the motives of those in the DOJ’s Southern District who stage-managed it. With the Clintons, intrigues always abound. But if ever there was a Lady Macbeth moment for wickedness to prevail, this is it. For now, the old warhorse is laying low on her yoga mat somewhere in the Chappaqua woods.

Read more …

“What Joe was trying to say is that he’s chosen a well-qualified candidate who will run the country ..”

Biden Says He Can’t Wait To Find Out Who He Picked For VP (Babylon Bee)

According to sources in the Biden campaign, the presidential candidate is on pins and needles waiting to see who it is he picked to run for vice president on his ticket. Campaign aides say it’s been Biden’s most anticipated event since he found out he was running for president a few weeks ago. A reporter asked Biden if he could hint about his VP pick during a brief interlude from his stay in the basement, where he was allowed to come upstairs to get some snacks. “Oh boy — I hope it’s a real classy broad,” he said as he drank straight from the milk jug. “I bet I picked somebody good and smart. A chick with class and style.


You know, in my day, dames were dames and guys were guys. None of this ‘guys becoming dolls’ and ‘dolls becoming guys’ stuff. We would go down to the hop and do the mashed potato. You know, there’s lots of good nnnn– nutrients and stuff in potatoes. Potato is a funny word.” “Po – ta – to.” “OK, Joe, let’s go,” said an aide, shoving him down into the basement. “What Joe was trying to say is that he’s chosen a well-qualified candidate who will run the country — err, I mean, help him run the country — with excellence.”

Read more …

 

 

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Aug 032020
 


W. Eugene Smith Orson Welles 1941

 

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)
Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)
How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)
White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)
The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)
Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)
Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)
America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)
White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)
Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)
How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

 

 

Every single thing about the US will from now on in evolve around party politics. But not in any way that you’ve ever seen.

 

 

Sunday numbers were quite low. But not every state and country reports anymore in the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Hunt Sweden

 

 

They would like that, but debates are a solid tradition. So they’ll try for just the one debate, they’ll try for a format that includes a teleprompter, they’ll try for factcheckers that can interrupt Trump all the time in the same way the House did with Bill Barr.

This piece even implies that Trump beat Hillary only because he was telling lies all the time.

Supporters Urge Joe Biden Not to Debate Trump (NW)

Democratic strategists and supporters of Vice President Joe Biden are urging him not to debate President Donald Trump in the lead-up to Election Day, citing Trump’s publicity stunts and disregard for the rules in 2016. Meanwhile Biden backers, including some conservatives, applauded the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan for cancelling their scheduled debates over COVID-19 concerns. Former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart joined several Democratic Party strategists in bluntly advising Biden, “whatever you do, don’t debate Trump.” Speaking on CNN Saturday, Lockhart said Trump shouldn’t be given another platform which will enable him to “repeat lies,” which he said occurred in the 2016 debates against Hillary Clinton.

The Trump campaign has pushed the other way and urged the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which officially oversees the events, to hold even more debates. “We saw in the debates in 2016 Hillary Clinton showed a mastery of the issues, every point she made was more honest and bested Trump,” Lockhart told CNN. “But Trump came out of the debates doing better I think because he just kept repeating the same old lies: ‘we’re going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,’ ‘we’re going to keep all those Mexican rapists out of the country,’ and ‘we’re going to make great trade deals’ — none of these things have come to pass.” “Giving him that national forum to continue to spout — get him to 21,000 or 22,000 lies — I think just isn’t worth it for the Democrats or for Biden,” Lockhart continued.

Several opinion columns published in recent months have called for an outright cancellation of the debates, describing them — alongside the party conventions — as outdated political rituals designed purely for TV ratings. Longtime Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Zac Petkanas agreed with calls for Biden to back out of any and all debates with Trump in the coming months. As it stands currently, there are three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled between September 29 and October 22. “Biden shouldn’t feel obligated to throw Trump a lifeline by granting him any debates at all. This is not a normal presidential election and Trump is not a legitimate candidate,” Petkanas tweeted last week, expressing his “opinion that no one asked for.”

Mussolini

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“The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

Thomas Frank published What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004. His new book is The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism.

Kansas Should Go F— Itself (Matt Taibbi)

The new conception of populism, as popularized by historians like Richard Hofstadter, pitted the common run of voters against a growing class of elite-educated managerial professionals, philosopher-kings who set correct policy for the ignorant masses. The model of enlightened government for this new “technocratic” class of “consensus thinkers” was John Kennedy’s “Camelot” cabinet of Experts in Shirtsleeves, with Robert McNamara’s corporatized Pentagon their Shining Bureaucracy on a Hill. This vision of ideal democracy has dominated mainstream press discourse for almost seventy years.

Since the establishment of this template, Frank notes, “virtually everyone who writes on the subject agrees that populism is ‘anti-pluralist,’ by which they mean that it is racist or sexist or discriminatory in some way… Populism’s hatred for ‘the elite,’ meanwhile, is thought to be merely a fig leaf for this ugly intolerance.” Trump and Bernie Sanders both got hit with every cliché described in Frank’s book. Both were depicted as xenophobic, bigoted, emotion-laden, resistant to modernity, susceptible to foreign influence, and captured by “unrealistic” ideas they lacked the expertise to implement. At the conclusion of The People, No, Frank sums up the book’s obvious subtext, seeming almost to apologize for its implications:

“My point here is not to suggest that Trump is a “very stable genius,” as he likes to say, or that he led a genuine populist insurgency; in my opinion, he isn’t and he didn’t. What I mean to show is that the message of anti-populism is the same as ever: the lower orders, it insists, are driven by irrationality, bigotry, authoritarianism, and hate; democracy is a problem because it gives such people a voice. The difference today is that enlightened liberals are the ones mouthing this age-old anti-populist catechism.”

[..] The book’s concept also reflects the Sovietish reality of post-Trump media, which is now dotted with so many perilous taboos that it sometimes seems there’s no way to get audiences to see certain truths except indirectly, or via metaphor. The average blue-state media consumer by 2020 has ingested so much propaganda about Trump (and Sanders, for that matter) that he or she will be almost immune to the damning narratives in this book. Protesting, “But Trump is a racist,” they won’t see the real point – that these furious propaganda campaigns that have been repeated almost word for word dating back to the 1890s are aimed at voters, not politicians.

In the eighties and nineties, TV producers and newspaper editors established the ironclad rule of never showing audiences pictures of urban poverty, unless it was being chased by cops. In the 2010s the press began to cartoonize the “white working class” in a distantly similar way. This began before Trump. As Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone after the 2016 election, when the small-town American saw himself or herself on TV, it was always “a caricature. Some idiot. Or maybe some criminal, some white working-class guy who has just stabbed three people.”

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But there’s still only one war party, which sits its fat ass across the aisles.

“Glenn Greenwald gave an hour-long lecture on how America’s billionaires control the U.S. Government..”

How Congress Maintains Endless War (Zuesse)

The Intercept, 9 July 2020 – 2:45: There is “this huge cleavage between how members of Congress present themselves, their imagery and rhetoric and branding, what they present to the voters, on the one hand, and the reality of what they do in the bowels of Congress and the underbelly of Congressional proceedings, on the other. Most of the constituents back in their home districts have no idea what it is that the people they’ve voted for have been doing, and this gap between belief and reality is enormous.” Four crucial military-budget amendments were debated in the House just now, as follows: • to block Trump from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. • to block Trump from withdrawing 10,000 troops from Germany • to limit U.S. assistance to the Sauds’ bombing of Yemen • to require Trump to explain why he wants to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty

On all four issues, the pro-imperialist position prevailed in nearly unanimous votes — overwhelming in both Parties. Dick Cheney’s daughter, Republican Liz Cheney, dominated the debates, though the House of Representatives is now led by Democrats, not Republicans. Greenwald (citing other investigators) documents that the U.S. news-media are in the business of deceiving the voters to believe that there are fundamental differences between the Parties. “The extent to which they clash is wildly exaggerated” by the press (in order to pump up the percentages of Americans who vote, so as to maintain, both domestically and internationally, the lie that America is a democracy — actually represents the interests of the voters).

16:00: The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — which writes the nearly $750B annual Pentagon budget — is the veteran (23 years) House Democrat Adam Smith of Boeing’s Washington State. “The majority of his district are people of color.” He’s “clearly a pro-war hawk” a consistent neoconservative, voted to invade Iraq and all the rest. “This is whom Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have chosen to head the House Armed Services Committee — someone with this record.” He is “the single most influential member of Congress when it comes to shaping military spending.” He was primaried by a progressive Democrat, and the “defense industry opened up their coffers” and enabled Adam Smith to defeat the challenger.

That’s the opening. Greenwald went on, after that, to discuss other key appointees by Nancy Pelosi who are almost as important as Adam Smith is, in shaping the Government’s military budget. They’re all corrupt. And then he went, at further length, to describe the methods of deceiving the voters, such as how these very same Democrats who are actually agents of the billionaires who own the ‘defense’ contractors and the ‘news’ media etc., campaign for Democrats’ votes by emphasizing how evil the Republican Party is on the issues that Democratic Party voters care far more about than they do about America’s destructions of Iraq and Syria and Libya and Honduras and Ukraine, and imposing crushing economic blockades (sanctions) against the residents in Iran, Venezuela and many other lands.

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We saw this coming from miles away: no better opportunity for both sides to blame the other. Screw the people, it’s about power.

White House Says Not Optimistic On Near-Term Deal For COVID Relief Bill (R.)

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Sunday he was not optimistic on reaching agreement soon on a deal for the next round of legislation to provide relief to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term,” Meadows said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” as staff members from both sides were meeting to try to iron out differences over the bill. Democrats were standing in the way of a separate agreement to extend some federal unemployment benefits in the short-term while negotiations continue on an overall relief package, he said. “We continue to see really a stonewalling of any piecemeal type of legislation that happens on Capitol Hill,” Meadows said. “Hopefully that will change in the coming days.”


Lawmakers and the White House have been unable to reach an accord for a next round of economic relief from a pandemic that has killed more than 150,000 Americans and triggered the sharpest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Both sides said on Saturday they had their most positive talks yet. But there was no sign of movement on the biggest sticking point – $600 per week in extra federal unemployment benefits for Americans that has been a lifeline for millions of jobless Americans and expired on Friday. Asked about efforts to renew the expired emergency federal jobless benefits, Pelosi said, referring to Trump: “He’s the one standing in the way of that.”

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Because we badly need central bakers to interfere in politics. How far away are we from MMT here?

The Fed Is Planning To Send Money Directly To Americans In Next Crisis (ZH)

Over the past decade, the one common theme despite the political upheaval and growing social and geopolitical instability, was that the market would keep marching higher and the Fed would continue injecting liquidity into the system. The second common theme is that despite sparking unprecedented asset price inflation, price as measured across the broader economy (at least using the flawed CPI metric) would remain subdued (as a reminder, the Fed is desperate to ignite broad inflation as that is the only way the countless trillions of excess debt can be eliminated and yet it has so far failed to do so).

The Fed’s failure to reach its inflation target has sparked broad criticism from the economic establishment, even though as we showed in June, deflation is now a direct function of the Fed’s unconventional monetary policies as the lower yields slide, the lower the propensity to spend. In other words, the harder the Fed fights to stimulate inflation, the more deflation and more saving it spurs as a result (incidentally this is not the first time this “discovery” was made, in December we wrote “One Bank Makes A Stunning Discovery – The Fed’s Rate Cuts Are Now Deflationary”). In short, ever since the Fed launched QE and NIRP, it has been making the situation it has been trying to “fix” even worse, all the while blowing a massive asset price bubble.


And having recently accepted that its preferred stimulus pathway has failed to boost the broader economy, the blame has fallen on how monetary policy is intermediated, specifically the way the Fed creates excess reserves which end up at commercial banks instead of “tricking down” all the way to the consumer level. To be in the aftermath of the covid pandemic shutdowns the Fed has tried to short-circuit this process, and in conjunction with the Treasury it has launched “helicopter money” which has resulted in a direct transfer of funds to US corporations via PPP loans, as well as to end consumers via the emergency $600 weekly unemployment benefits which however are set to expire unless renewed by Congress as explained last week, as Democrats and Republicans feud over which fiscal stimulus will be implemented next.

And yet, the lament is that even as the economy was desperately in need of a massive liquidity tsunami, the funds created by the Fed and Treasury (now that the US operates under a quasi-MMT regime) did not make their way to those who need them the most: end consumers. Which is why we read with great interest a Bloomberg interview published on Saturday with two former central bank officials: Simon Potter, who led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s markets group i.e., he was the head of the Fed’s Plunge Protection Team for years, and Julia Coronado, who spent eight years as an economist for the Fed’s Board of Governors, who are among the innovators brainstorming solutions to what has emerged as the most crucial and difficult problem facing the Fed: get money swiftly to people who need it most in a crisis.


The response was striking: they two propose creating a monetary tool that they call recession insurance bonds, which draw on some of the advances in digital payments, which will be wired instantly to Americans. As Coronado explains the details, Congress would grant the Federal Reserve an additional tool for providing support—say, a percent of GDP [in a lump sum that would be divided equally and distributed] to households in a recession.

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And while we’re at it, let the Fed regulate the lockdowns too. Such monetary wizards must be good at everything.

Fed’s Kashkari Suggests 4-6 Week Shutdown (R.)

The U.S. economy could benefit if the nation were to “lock down really hard” for four to six weeks, a top Federal Reserve official said on Sunday, adding that Congress can well afford large sums for coronavirus relief efforts. The economy, which in the second quarter suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression, would be able to mount a robust recovery, but only if the virus were brought under control, Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “If we don’t do that and we just have this raging virus spreading throughout the country with flare-ups and local lockdowns for the next year or two, which is entirely possible, we’re going to see many, many more business bankruptcies,” Kashkari said.


“That’s going to be a much slower recovery for all of us.” He said Congress is positioned to spend big on coronavirus relief efforts because the nation’s budget gap can be financed without relying on foreign borrowing, given how much Americans are saving. “Those of us who are fortunate enough to still have our jobs, we’re saving a lot more money because we’re not going to restaurants or movie theaters or vacations,” Kashkari said. “That actually means that we have a lot more resources as a country to support those who have been laid off,” he said.

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When you let this continue, you’re not trying to let the economy recover.

Tech Stock Buybacks Are Surging (ZH)

Two months ago, we showed that contrary to conventional wisdom and corporate reps and warrants that buybacks had effectively been put on hold for the duration of the covid pandemic, not only were companies still repurchasing their shares but it was the tech names – those who have stormed higher since the March lows – that were the biggest culprits. Now, two months after we first revealed Wall Street’s worst kept secret, the Financial Times has also noticed that Corporate America is finding it hard to kick the share buyback habit, even after the US slipped into its worst recession in decades.

While total buybacks are indeed expected to drop this year as the downturn caused by coronavirus saps corporate profits, companies in the S&P 500 that have reported second-quarter earnings so far have reduced the number of their outstanding shares by an average of 0.3 per cent from the previous quarter, according to calculations from Credit Suisse. Furthermore, updates showed that some of the largest US multinationals continued to buy back their own stock or even accelerated stock repurchases and nowhere more so than the tech names we first highlighted at the end of May. Take Google’s parent company Alphabet, which spent $6.9bn on buybacks for the quarter, up 92% from a year prior, the company revealed in its earnings results last Thursday.

Microsoft, the second-largest listed US company, purchased $5.8bn of its own stock in the period, up 25% from a year earlier, and likely among the chief reasons for the stock’s amazing surge. Elsewhere, Biogen spent $2.8bn on buybacks for the period, up 17% from last year, WR Berkley, an insurer, did not buy any of its shares in the second quarter last year, but spent $97m on its stock in the period this year, and Celanese increased its planned buybacks for the year by $500m to $1.5bn in July, after selling its stake in a Japanese joint venture. Of course, the biggest source of buybacks was once again Apple, which repurchased $16BN in the second quarter, down 6% on the period last year, though by far the biggest stock repurchaser among S&P 500 companies in recent years.

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Preventing monopolies was once one of Washington’s main preoccupations.

America’s Monopoly Problem Goes Way Beyond the Tech Giants (Dayen)

The truth is that, even if Congress somehow decreed the breakup of all four tech giants, the U.S. would still have an astounding number of industries controlled by a tiny number of firms. That’s because the structure of modern capitalism favors companies that operate at once-unimaginable scale, in the absence of a government will to prevent monopolies from forming. Lawmakers and the public should be concerned about the surveillance networks by which Facebook and Google—which dominate the digital-advertising market—track users, build data profiles on them, and serve them customized ads. But millions of rural Americans cannot access the internet to begin with, in part because telecom companies harass, fight, and induce state legislatures to pass laws restricting municipal broadband.

Across America, people send their kids to Starbucks parking lots to piggyback on the wifi and complete their homework. Amazon’s rapidly expanding e-commerce empire—and the potential consequences for Main Streets and municipal tax bases across the country—is definitely worth worrying about. But among the other forces squeezing out small retailers are dollar stores, a market segment dominated by two firms that together have about six times more outlets in America than Walmart. Last summer in Marlinton, West Virginia, I saw a Dollar General right next door to a Family Dollar. Despite the pandemic, Dollar General still plans to open 1,000 new stores in 2020. Software developers who want to sell apps to iPhone users must do so through Apple’s App Store, which spells out rules that they must follow and collects up to 30 percent of sales.

This is little different from the situation of small farmers, who must raise livestock to the exacting specifications of the meatpacking giants and can lose their livelihoods on those companies’ whims. And just as Amazon sometimes undercuts the smaller third-party sellers that use its platform, Big Agriculture competes directly with smaller suppliers; the top four hog firms, which control around two-thirds of the market, typically own farms, slaughterhouses, warehouses, and distribution trucks, every step from the pig trough to the dinner table. Whether you are shopping for pacemakers, sanitary napkins, or wholesale office supplies, you will find very few sellers. You think you have choices in grocery aisles or at car-rental counters, but the majority of consumer products come from a handful of companies.

Competition is hardly stiff when even many store brands are just renamed versions of market-leading products; at Costco, the batteries come from Duracell and the coffee from Starbucks. To focus the discussion of monopoly on the tech sector is to minimize the scope of a problem long in the making. Forty years ago, the government essentially stopped policing industry concentration. The conservative legal theorist Robert Bork—later a failed Supreme Court nominee—and his allies in the law-and-economics movement argued that any merger making businesses more efficient must be approved, and that a larger scale generally increases efficiency. Bork’s analysis gained enormous power in the courts and the Reagan administration. The lawyers and the bankers who handled mergers and acquisitions loved it.

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Pelosi and Schumer agree.

White House Puts Chinese Apps On Notice (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump will take action against TikTok, WeChat and “countless” Chinese software companies that pose a national security threat to America, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday, apparently widening the scope of attention the US government is paying to online tech platforms developed in China. “These Chinese software companies doing business with the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat, there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party their national security apparatus,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview. “It could be their facial recognition pattern, it could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends who they’re connected to.”

“Those are the issues President Trump’s made clear we’re going to take care of,” Pompeo said. “He will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party.” Focusing on TikTok specifically, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department is overseeing a national security review of the company, said on Sunday that the company will need to be blocked in the US or sold to another company. Pompeo’s warning to Chinese software companies came as Trump agreed to give the Chinese internet giant ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of the popular short-video app to Microsoft, according three people familiar with matter, Reuters reported.

[..] The mobile platform, which lets users create and share 15 second videos with custom music clips, has built a huge user base in the US, particularly within younger age brackets. Mnuchin added that he had spoken with Chuck Schumer, the most senior Democrat in the Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat, about the issue and that they all agree that a sale or a block on the site would be necessary, using the authority of International Emergency Economic Powers Act, if needed. Responding to the drumbeat of comments about TikTok over the past week, the company’s general manager for US operations, Vanessa Pappas, told users on Saturday that the company was working to give them “the safest app” and that “We’re not planning on going anywhere”.

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Too much repetition makes people look away.

Humanity Likely Faces Rapid ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ – Study (NYP)

It’s not the news you want to hear during a global health crisis. In a new theoretical study appearing in Nature Scientific Reports, a pair of statistical researchers have warned that rampant human consumption has sent us on a tailspin towards a rapid “catastrophic collapse” — which could happen in the next two to four decades. Forest density, or the current lack thereof, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine, according to the report. By comparing the rate of deforestation against humanity’s rate of consumption, study authors Mauro Bologna and Gerardo Aquino have determined there’s a 90% chance our species will collapse within decades — calling this estimate an “optimistic” measure.

“Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low probability, less than 10% in most optimistic estimate, to survive without facing a catastrophic collapse,” they wrote. While much attention has been paid to the ways in which greenhouse gases have contributed to the demise of our species, Aquino focused mathematical models on the “undeniable fact” of human-driven deforestation. “Before the development of human civilizations, our planet was covered by 60 million square kilometers [37 million square miles] of forest,” according to the article. “As a result of deforestation, less than 40 million square kilometers [25 million square miles] currently remain.”

The researchers set out to “evaluate the probability of avoiding the self-destruction of our civilization” based on numerical simulations — charts and graphs that don’t look like much to us laymen, but for two theoretical physicists, they amount to disaster. They also call into play “Fermi’s paradox,” which refers to the theoretical discussion of extraterrestrial life from Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who once asked, “Where is everybody?” One aspect of the discourse is the idea that self-destruction caused by unsustainable environmental exploitation may be an inevitability of intelligent life — and thus a potential reason why we have not yet had the opportunity to meet our galactic neighbors.

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From February, but highly relevant today.

How The Guardian and New York Times ‘Set Up’ Julian Assange (M.)

[..] as the War Logs’ mutually-agreed publication deadline loomed, both the Times and Guardian grew increasingly anxious about being associated with the material. His film, shot just prior to the release, documents this transformation in real-time — in one highly illuminating segment, Assange informs Gavin MacFayden, then-director of the University of London’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, the New York Times has requested WikiLeaks ‘scoop’ them by publishing analysis of the Afghan War Logs first. The ‘naivety’ Davis referenced is palpably on display — “they want to report on our reporting, so they can claim they’re not involved!” Assange splutters bemusedly, in evident disbelief a newspaper would be actively resistant to publishing a seismic exclusive.

As Davis attested, the footage makes for thoroughly “chilling” viewing in the present day, given Assange is “now in jail as a result of that subterfuge”. Simultaneously, Assange himself was also growing increasingly anxious, in his case about the identities of informants and other individuals featured in the logs being revealed — no effort had been made by Guardian journalists to remove a single one, and despite repeated requests he wasn’t provided with staff or technical support to redact them. As a result, the WikiLeaks chief took up the “moral responsibility” for the files — his requests for publication to be delayed in order to give him enough time to adequately “cleanse” the documents were ignored, so he was compelled to “literally work all night” to redact around 10,000 names, Davis said.

In a perverse irony, the documentarian also exposed how despite Assange ultimately acquiescing to publishing the Logs Sunday 25th July 2010 in order to allow The Guardian and Times to ‘report’ on the story the next day, the plan was disrupted by technical issues with the WikiLeaks website. As Assange struggled to get the content online, Davis said he was inundated with “panicked, hysterical calls” from The Times and Guardian, which grew more frenzied as the day wore on — the two outlets were literally on the verge of ‘stopping the presses’, as the front-page splashes on the Afghan War Logs were entirely predicated on the notion WikiLeaks had published the documents the day prior.

It would take several days for WikiLeaks to publish the War Logs — The Guardian and Times nevertheless ran their scheduled stories on 26th July 2010, reporting on the release of the logs, despite the fact they hadn’t actually appeared on the WikiLeaks website. “Julian was their fall guy. They printed a lie. These two high priests of journalistic integrity very happily colluded, reporting on something that hadn’t happened. The entire searchable Afghan War Logs interface was the sole creation of The Guardian, they promoted it on their website and in the paper, but then they turned round and said ‘we didn’t publish this, Julian did’. They set him up from the start. They should be in jail too,” Davis concluded.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

A 1968 cartoon.

 

 

Easily Tweet of the day. Hands down.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 012020
 
 July 1, 2020  Posted by at 11:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  33 Responses »


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Portrait of Vincent van Gogh 1887

 

US Has “Way Too Much Virus” To Contain Outbreak (Axios)
Fauci Warns Of 100,000 US Cases Per Day (BBC)
US Buys Almost Entire World’s Supply Of Coronavirus Drug (Ind.)
People In Their 20s Largest Age Group Of New COVID-19 Cases In Minnesota (MPR)
The Biggest Myths About The National Deficit (Alt.)

 

 

Only yesterday I wrote “..at this point it is entirely unclear how countries like the US and Brazil will ever be able to get rid of the virus.” Dr. Fauci, also yesterday, said “We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around..”

Turn around? How? CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat said the US has “way too much virus” to contain the outbreak.” Scott Gottlieb has even more dire numbers:

 

 

Things are not looking good at all. But there’s more. The nationwide protests are perceived, presented, played as anti-Trump manifestations. By both political sides, for political gain. And by the media for financial gain. That makes them de facto election rallies. And the pro-Trump side will not accept any more restrictions on their own rallies, which they (will) argue are just as legitimate. Because they have an election to contest.

If the BLM protests can continue, despite virus warnings and limited numbers at gatherings, then the conservatives will gather too, in comparable numbers. And they don’t “believe” in distancing or face masks, they claim they don’t reduce their risks, they reduce their freedom.

“Perfect storm” is an often abused term. But it does come to mind here and now.

And you thought the first half of 2020 was hard.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I would think it’s obvious by now.

US Has “Way Too Much Virus” To Contain Outbreak (Axios)

The novel coronavirus is spreading too widely and quickly to contain, CDC principal deputy director Anne Schuchat told The Journal of the American Medical Association Monday, warning she expects “this virus to continue to circulate.” Per Schuchat, “This is really the beginning, and what we hope is that we can take it seriously and slow the transmission.” Her comments are in contrast to those of senior members of the Trump administration — notably Vice President Mike Pence, who said on Friday “we have made truly remarkable progress.” COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S., prompting states including Texas, Arizona and New Jersey to pause plans to reopen their economies in recent days.


What else she’s saying: “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging,” Schuchat said in her interview with the Journal’s Howard Bauchner. She said there was “a lot of wishful thinking around the country” that the pandemic would be over by the summer. “We are not even beginning to be over this,” Schuchat said. “There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.” “We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea, where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control.”

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If this is a war, as many have labeled it, the US is losing it.

Fauci Warns Of 100,000 US Cases Per Day (BBC)

Top disease researcher Dr Anthony Fauci has told the US Senate that he “would not be surprised” if new virus cases in the country reach 100,000 per day. “Clearly we are not in control right now,” he testified, warning that not enough Americans are wearing masks or social distancing. During the hearing, he said about half of all new cases come from four states. Earlier, the New York governor said nearly half of all Americans must self-quarantine if they visit the state. On Tuesday, cases rose by more than 40,000 in one day for the fourth time in the past five days. The surge – which is occurring particularly strongly in southern and western states – has forced at least 16 states to pause or reverse their reopening plans, according to CNN.

Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are the four states referenced by Dr Fauci as being most heavily hit currently. For some the new measures come over a month after they first began to reopen their economies. [..] Testifying to a Senate committee on the effort to reopen schools and businesses, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases criticised states for “skipping over” benchmarks required for reopening, and said cases will rise as a result. “I can’t make an accurate prediction, but it is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that,” he told Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Because when you have an outbreak in one part of the country even though in other parts of the country they’re doing well, they are vulnerable.”

“We can’t just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk,” he added. Dr Fauci also called on the US government to produce face masks to be distributed for free to all Americans, and condemned the “all or none phenomenon” of some people who have completely disregarded social distancing measures.

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As someone said today: late-stage capitalism. Meanwhile, the UK wants to restart its HCQ testing program.

US Buys Almost Entire World’s Supply Of Coronavirus Drug (Ind.)

The US has effectively secured the world’s supply of one of only two drugs proven to help treat coronavirus. Remdesivir, which has previously been used to fight Ebola but has now been found to reduce recovery times among Covid-19 patients, is exclusively manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) has announced it has bought up more than 500,000 doses of the drug. The figure equates to Gilead’s entire production for July, as well as 90 per cent of its production in both August and September. The US’s decision to stockpile the drug means there will likely be little supply in the rest of the world for several months.


HSS secretary Alex Azar, hailed the move, saying president Donald Trump had struck an “amazing deal”. “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it,” Mr Azar added. “The Trump Administration is doing everything in our power to learn more about life-saving therapeutics for Covid-19 and secure access to these options for the American people.”

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It took about a month?!

People In Their 20s Largest Age Group Of New COVID-19 Cases In Minnesota (MPR)

More than 100 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among Minnesotans in their 20s in the Mankato area who said they went to bars on June 12 and 13 — the first weekend bars and restaurants were allowed to serve indoors. Two Mankato bars — Rounders and The 507 — were the focal points of that young adult outbreak, Ehresmann said Friday. Officials were also following up on a cluster of 30 cases at two Minneapolis bars — Cowboy Jack’s and Kollege Klub. Social media from those bars shows they were crowded, with no room for social distancing, and people who were standing and not masked, so not following the state guidance, Ehresmann said.


“It’s not that you can’t socialize. It’s not that you can’t have fun,” she said. “But you need to do in a manner that’s safe for you and the people around you.” Friday’s Health Department data showed that Minnesotans in their 20s now make up the largest age group of confirmed cases in Minnesota — 7,045 people infected, with two deaths. While those young people may be less likely to suffer complications from COVID-19, officials say the concern is that they may be unknowingly spreading the disease to grandparents or other potentially vulnerable populations.The median age of confirmed cases in Minnesota has been dipping and is now just under 40 years old.

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Stephanie Kelton is on an MMT mission. It’s not an easy one. It goes against everything we think we know about economics.

The Biggest Myths About The National Deficit (Alt.)

What drives the biggest misunderstandings about government debt in our national conversation? Stephanie Kelton: Everything is wrong. The way we talk about federal government debt is, from my perspective, we say things like we’re borrowing from China and foreigners. Hillary Clinton said when she was secretary of State that it’s a national security threat. People talk about it representing a liability to all of us, so we hear people talk about “your share [of the national debt],” a burden on future generations, that it ultimately has to be paid back, that it’s going to require higher taxes in the future. I could keep going.

So what connects all these misunderstandings? Are we thinking of the government too much like a household or a business? Yes, of course. We think that the government has borrowed, and we think that this is real debt. And neither of those things is correct. I say in the book that if I walk into a bank and borrow money, I’m borrowing money because I don’t have it. Right? That’s why I got to the bank to take out a loan. The federal government is not borrowing money because it needs money. It’s not borrowing because it doesn’t have the capacity to finance whatever it wants to spend money on. It has the fiscal capacity; it can just spend. And not only that, the government sells the bonds.

And by the time the government sells the bonds, the spending has already taken place. So the bonds cannot possibly be the tool with which the government raises money in order to spend. It’s selling the bonds after the spending had already taken place. Why does it do that? It doesn’t need to borrow, it has already financed the spending. So we don’t really understand — the public and most economists get this wrong — we don’t even understand what the purpose of selling bonds is. We treat it as a borrowing operation. It’s not. The purpose of selling the bonds is to drain off the reserves, the dollars, to remove some of the dollars the government has spent into the economy and replace them with treasuries. It’s a subsidy to the rich, is what it is.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

Henry David Thoreau:

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 122020
 


Helen Levitt New York 1939

 

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)
Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)
California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)
Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)
New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)
EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)
China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)
USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)
UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)
Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)
Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)
Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)
Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)
Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)
East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)
Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

 

 

US records 1,920 deaths related to the #coronavirus over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30 pm Saturday (0030 GMT Sunday)

 

 

Cases (+ 1,790,573 from yesterday’s 1,710,152)

Deaths 109,654 (+ 6,148 from yesterday’s 103,506)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

A number of graphs from FT for your viewing ‘pleasure’:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one extra, which focuses on Belgium.

 

 

 

 

The Pope may close the Vatican, but not my little church. Two week quarantines for all.

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)

The Justice Department signaled Saturday night it may intervene against local governments that are cracking down on religious ceremonies during the pandemic, warning that action could come as early as next week. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec used her Twitter account on the eve of Easter to announce that Attorney General William Barr was monitoring efforts to stop Easter religious ceremonies. “During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services,” Kupec tweeted. “While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!”


The statement comes as numerous municipalities across the country have been reportedly taking actions to stop churchgoers from celebrating Easter together, including in Louisville where the mayor threatened to track license plates and fine anyone who attends a public ceremony. A federal judge Saturday actually blocked Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer from enforcing his ban on drive-in church services on Easter, calling it unconstitutional. “An American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” U.S. District Judge Justin Walker wrote while issuing a temporary restraining order. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion. ”The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional,” the judge added.

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Odd friends: Trump and Gavin Newsom.

Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)

President Trump says he hopes to be able to begin reopening the nation’s shuttered economy on May 1. But ultimately, nervous governors, mayors, school boards and families across the country will determine when to resume normal life. With more Americans out of work than at any time since the Depression in the 1930s, Trump is eager to ease the stay-at-home guidance he issued on March 16 and later extended through April 30 in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The president and his top economic advisors have floated plans to restart economic activity in phases, with some regions given greater leeway than others. Privately, White House officials concede the approach will have little effect on the larger economy, but hope to at least let some small businesses begin bringing back employees.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said he would consider the advice of his public health advisors, who have urged caution in lifting restrictions too quickly. Outside public health experts say another month or more may be necessary to keep the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus under 100,000. “I’m going to have to make a decision, and I hope to God it’s the right decision,” Trump said Friday. “I would say without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.” Asked what metrics he would use in deciding, Trump pointed to his head. Trump also said he would probably include governors from both parties in a council to advise him on the issue and hinted that California Gov. Gavin Newsom may be among them.

The president wields tremendous influence over the national response to the pandemic, and many local and state leaders, especially fellow Republicans, would weigh his advisories heavily in deciding their own policy. Although Trump asserted Friday that he has “absolute authority” to order the country open, the guidelines are not mandatory but recommendations. Governors, mayors and business owners have the ultimate power. Many issued their own guidance before Trump did, and some already have announced plans to restrict commerce and public gatherings beyond May 1 no matter what Trump recommends.

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Newsom is starting to shine a bit in his own right. Not exactly Trump’s best friend before this started.

California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom is offering strong words of praise for President Trump, stating that the president, through his administration’s effort to help fight the coronavirus in that state, has met “every single direct request that he was capable of meeting.” Newsom made the laudatory remarks in an interview Friday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I have to be complimentary, otherwise I would be simply lying to you,” he said of the Trump administration’s relief measures. California has had one of the more significant coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, logging over 22,000 infections and 630 deaths as of Saturday night. Newsom put his state under an extended, near-total lockdown last month.


The Trump administration dispatched the Naval hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles last month in order to provide overflow hospital beds to assist with the state’s expected surge of coronavirus patients. Newsom said the ship was sent to the city “because of [the president’s] direct intervention.” The governor also noted the administration’s deployment of 2,000 federal medical stations to the state. Remarking on his praise of Trump, Newsom told Cooper that it is “a wonderful thing to be able to say, and I hope that continues.”

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Including 300 at just one plant.

Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)

There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases at meat plants in the U.S., with hundreds of reported infections in just the last week. That’s adding to questions over the fragility of the food-supply chain and raising concerns about worker safety. As many as 50 people at a JBS SA beef facility in Colorado’s Weld County tested positive, adding to more than 160 cases at a Cargill Inc. meat-packaging plant in Pennsylvania, union officials said Friday. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday reported 190 cases at a Smithfield Foods Inc. pork facility, the Associated Press said. The Cargill and Smithfield plants are being closed, while JBS said it will continue operations. Workers are also starting to die. Two more deaths were reported by union officials on Friday, one at the Greeley, Colo., meat plant and one in Pennsylvania.

Both those facilities are owned by JBS SA, the world’s top meat producer, which didn’t confirm the deaths. “As our communities and our country collectively face the coronavirus challenge, JBS USA has had team members impacted by COVID-19,” the American unit of the Brazilian meatpacker said in an emailed statement. “We are offering support to those team members and their families. Out of respect for the families, we are not releasing further information.” WH Group Ltd. acquired Virginia-based Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, in 2013 for $6.95 billion. As Smithfield can’t export sausage, ham and bacon from its U.S. factories because China prohibits imports of processed meat, WH Group opened a $116-million factory in Zhengzhou that will produce 30,000 metric tons of those meats when it reaches full capacity next year.

While it’s unclear whether the deaths and other cases have anything to do with the workplaces, the news exposes the vulnerability of global supply chains that are needed to keep grocery stores stocked after panic buying left shelves empty. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both addressed the sudden jump in cases at meat plants when speaking to reporters on Friday. Pence said as many as 300 people have been “impacted” by the coronavirus at the Colorado meat plant. It’s unclear what that figure was referring to, whether it was people who have been quarantined, or possible cases. Trump also referred to the outbreak at Colorado meat plants on Friday. Neither Pence nor Trump specified which plant they were talking about. Greeley is about 65 miles northeast of Denver.

“We’re looking at this graph where everything’s looking beautiful and is coming down and then you’ve got this one spike. I said, ‘What happened to Denver?’” Trump said. “And many people, very quickly.” [..] The deaths reported Friday bring the total reported for JBS employees to three. On Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents thousands of poultry workers, said two of its members working at a Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Camilla, Ga., died from the virus.

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So in your headline you say “Experimental Treatment”, and then in your article you say it was already used when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox. That’s one way of doing it, I guess.

New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)

The Albany Medical Center in New York has become one of the first hospitals in America to gain Federal Drug Administration approval to conduct a new method of treating COVID-19, using antibodies from surviving patients. If a recovered patient has been diagnosed with the coronavirus then the hope is that that patient may be able to donate their blood plasma to help create immunity for others who are more critically ill, officials said. “As the region’s only academic medical center, Albany Med participates in many cutting-edge clinical research trials.

We are honored to have the ability to administer this experimental therapy as we fight this global pandemic and hope that it can provide the life-saving treatment these patients inflicted with COVID-19 so desperately need,” Dennis P. McKenna, the hospital’s president and CEO, said. The so-called convalescent blood plasma therapy is not a novel idea. It was not only used during the 1918 flu pandemic but as far back as when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox during the Revolutionary War. It also was used as recently as 2014’s ebola outbreak.

Convalescent plasma therapy is simple. Patients become inflicted with COVID-19 and then recover completely and that immunity enables them to donate their plasma to another critically infected patient. Albany Medical Center is serving as a center for other COVID-19 patients who will donate their plasmas. A donor must be fully recovered and have no symptoms for at least 14 days. Convalescent plasma has been used effectively during earlier recent virus outbreaks: the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) under George W. Bush’s administration and during the H1N1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome under the Obama administration.

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Irony: US cases primarily came from Europe.

EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)

Europe’s Schengen zone may keep its borders shut until September, to defend itself against the threat of COVID-19 from U.S. and other travelers. French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly raised the possibility of the usually border-free countries staying shut to most foreigners for six more months. During a videoconference last Friday with trade unions, Macron said the idea is being considered by Schengen members, according to French media reports. The reason he gave was the fact that the pandemic is evolving at a different pace around the world, and “did not affect all countries at the same time” BFMTV reported. So the implication is that Europe needs to protect itself from the threat posed by travelers coming from high-risk countries.


According to the TV station, “Emmanuel Macron notably cited the example of the United States, where the coronavirus crisis is delayed by several weeks and which will therefore reach its peak later. But also that of Africa, where the situation is developing differently. In Asia, a second peak may occur.” Macron’s comments came two days after the Élysée Palace confirmed the French lockdown, in place since March 17, will continue beyond April 15. They also came on the heels of a call by European Union officials for member states to extend the border closure for another month at least, until mid-May. The EU says it needs more time to battle the health crisis, of which Europe is the global epicentre. Despite seeing “encouraging first results”, it wants to extend the closure of its external borders until May 15.

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Merkel won’t like the press getting involved in this.

China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)

Chinese representatives tried to influence German government officials to give positive comments about Beijing’s management of the coronavirus outbreak, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper reported Sunday. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and Beijing has been criticised by some — most notably US President Donald Trump — over its initial handling of the crisis. Senior officials and staff at German government ministries were invited “to speak in positive terms about China’s management of the coronavirus,” Die Welt said, citing a confidential foreign ministry document.


The foreign ministry recommended that all German governmental departments reject such approaches, the newspaper added. The ministry has declined to confirm or deny the report. However a German intelligence source told Die Welt that “Chinese officials are pursuing an intensified information and propaganda policy with regard to the coronavirus”. Beijing has sought to counter the narrative that the outbreak began in China and highlighted its assistance to Western countries “in order to present the People’s Republic as a trustworthy partner,” Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said.

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From Greece with love.

USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)

Over 200 policymakers in the US Congress, the White House, State Department and other thought leaders and officials in Washington, DC were briefed about Greece’s impressive, world-leading response to the COVID-19 pandemic., announced Manatos & Manatos, a lobbying firm in DC. “Once again, in times of tremendous difficulty and challenge, little Greece has become a role model for the rest of the world. This speaks to the legacy Greece has shaped over centuries – a legacy of courage, creativity and perseverance,” said Andy Manatos and Mike Manatos, the two Greek American executives of the lobbying firm who spoke to the officials.

Furthermore, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffey Pyatt in a message to the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce also praised the Greek Government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for realising the gravity of the situation and his realistic approach in containing the virus. He also highlighted the compliance of the Greek people to the strict measures imposed. Indeed, major newspapers and news websites have praised Greece for the way it is dealing with the deadly virus and the low figures of cases and deaths recorded. Much more so because the country is now only shyly emerging from a crippling 10-year-long economic crisis that caused cutting of healthcare resources by 75 percent.

Characteristically, on April 10 Bloomberg ran an op-ed with the title “Greece Shows How to Handle the Crisis”. The article notes the immediate and bold response of the Greek government to the coronavirus threat: “Athens closed down all non-essential shops only four days after reporting its first Covid-19 death. In contrast, Italy and Spain did so after 18 and 30 days, respectively. A ban on non-essential movement in Greece came only a week afterwards — faster than in either of the other two countries.” Compared to the two Mediterranean countries, Greece’s difference in the horrifying figures is staggering: Greece currently counts 2,011 cases and 91 deaths, while Italy reports 147,577 cases and 18,849 deaths and Spain counts 158,273 cases and 16,081 deaths.

One would argue that Greece’s population is 10.74 million while Spain’s is 46.75 million and Italy’s population is 60.3 million, but proportionately Greece’s figures are hugely lower. Compared to countries with populations similar to Greece, still, the difference remains large. Netherlands with 17.1 million population reports 23,249 cases and 2,511 deaths; Belgium with 11.4 million population counts 26,667 cases and 3,019 deaths; Portugal with 10.2 population reports 15,472 cases and 435 deaths; Switzerland with 8.57 million population counts 24,551 cases and 1,002 deaths. On April 5, a New York Times story titled “The Rising Heroes of the Coronavirus Era – Nations’ Top Scientists” also praised Greece’s Chief Scientific Coordinator of Medical Response, Professor Sotirios Tsiodras:

“In Greece, which has so far been spared a major outbreak, everyone tunes in when Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras, a slender-framed, gray-haired man, addresses the nation every day at 6 p.m. His delivery is flat, and he relies heavily on his notes as he updates the country on the latest figures of those confirmed sick, hospitalized or deceased….The head of the Greek government’s medical response to the coronavirus and a churchgoing father of seven with a long career studying infectious diseases at Harvard, M.I.T. and elsewhere, Professor Tsiodras is not one for embellishment.”

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Note: the UN, not the EU.

UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)

The UN High Commission for Refugees has issued a call for hotels and ships that can be leased to house vulnerable groups of asylum-seekers on the Greek islands, who might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The move was approved by the Migration & Asylum Ministry, it said, and would be funded by the European Union. Hotels are being sought for asylum applicants and refugees on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros and those of Rhodes and Crete. Availability must be immediate and the lease a three-month one. Ships must be able to accomodate 300 passengers and tie at the docks of Lesvos, Chios and Samos or 100 people and tie at Kos and Leros. They must include cleaning services, supply cabins with electricity and provide a meal three times a day. Leases must go into effect on Monday, April 13 and cover 15 days, with the option of extending it to two months.

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Primarily about different testing methods, thereby explaining their deficiencies.

Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)

RNA viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, make a lot of mistakes when replicating their genomes, and sometimes these mistakes result in viral genomes containing fatal mistakes, or mutations, that render a critical viral gene non-functional – meaning they won’t infect people who come into contact with them. (In fact, these kinds of mistakes are why plants, animals, bugs, people – basically anything more complicated than these viruses – store genetic information in DNA instead, because far fewer mistakes are made when DNA replicates.) But when you run a qRT-PCR test, those viral genes with mistakes are indistinguishable from the ones that aren’t. And either way, the cellular machinery that makes more viruses will package up both functional and non-functional RNA. The RNA inside these packages, called virions, is what the qRT-PCR test is looking for.

For reasons that are not fully understood, patients that have recovered from a viral infection have cells that can continue to produce viral RNA without actually making infectious virus particles. That means it is not only possible but common to detect viral RNA without there being any infectious virus present. Virologists use other tests to detect infectious viruses – the ones we need to worry about actually making people sick. The most classical of these, plaque assays and 50% tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50) assays, are based on the ability of viruses to kill infected cells in culture. These methods are much better for assessing how much potentially transmissible virus would be “shed” from recovered patients or in the environment. (“Shed” is a bit of a jargon term virologists use – but it’s a good metaphor for thinking of viruses moving out of you and into the environment when you cough or sneeze.)

So why don’t we use these tests all the time? The problem with them is that they are also more time-consuming to perform and require specialized biocontainment. So they’re not practical for performing clinical diagnostic testing or broad surveillance. qRT-PCR can be performed in hours in standard laboratory conditions (biosafety level 2, or BSL-2), while plaque and TCID50 assays for SARS-CoV-2 take several days and must be performed in BSL-3 containment. Working in BSL-3 containment labs requires specialized training, and many clinical sites are not near a BSL-3 lab. So, most of the studies you read in the news about viral shedding and environmental contamination is just measuring the amount of viral RNA – but they’re not necessarily saying much about whether the virus is still contagious.

Fortunately, two studies have investigated the ability of virus to remain infectious on different materials in the environment. Although the length of time that virus on a surface remains infectious is dependent on environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, no virus remained infectious on surfaces for anywhere near 17 days. Furthermore, in both studies, the amount of infectious virus was greatly reduced after several days. This suggests that risk of infection from virus on objects or surfaces in the environment can be minimized by diligent cleaning and disinfection practices.

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Two versions, short and long.

Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth talks about the correlation to the great depression and today in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

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The full version of the interview above.

Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

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But not MbS.

Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)


A Turkish court on Saturday accepted an indictment on the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The 117-page indictment prepared by Istanbul prosecutors accusing 20 Saudi nationals of involvement in the gruesome premeditated murder was accepted by Istanbul’s Heavy Penal Court No. 11. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. His body was never recovered. Khashoggi, according to reports by the U.N. and other independent organizations, was very likely killed on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS).

The indictment states that suspect Mansour Othman M. Abbahussain, working as a major general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia, was tasked in the office of MBS and was instructed by Ahmed Bin Mohammed al-Asiri to bring Khashoggi back to the country and to kill him if he resisted. It added that Abbahussain assembled a 15-man hit squad, including himself, for the murder.

He also distributed tasks among the squad, separating them into three groups: intelligence, logistics, and negotiation. Abbahussain also determined the place to meet Khashoggi as the working office at the Istanbul consulate and made plans for all contingencies before, during, and after the deed. The indictment accuses al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani of incitement to deliberate killing through torture and seeks aggravated life sentences for both. It also accuses 18 other Saudi nationals and recommends aggravated life sentences for each. These accused individuals were in consensus over killing Khashoggi if he refused to return to Saudi Arabia and acted mutually to commit the crime, according to the indictment.

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Too long for me to properly summarize here. But it should be obvious that MMT and UBI get attention in today’s world, if only because the Fed’s rapacious “stimulus” policies.

America is fast on its way to new breadlines, and there is no excuse for that.

Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)

Money is debt. Government money creation for public purposes – to pay for employment and output – spurs prosperity. But in its present form, private-sector debt creation has become largely extractive, and thus leads to the opposite effect: debt deflation. Governments can pay public debt without defaulting, as long as this debt is denominated in their own domestic currency, because the governments can always print the money to pay. To the extent that public debt results from spending that supports output, employment and growth, this process is not inflationary. The government gives value to money by accepting it in payment of taxes. So the monetary system is inherently bound up with fiscal policy. The classical premise of such policy has been to minimize the economy’s cost structure by taxing mainly unearned income (economic rents), not wages and profits in the production-and-consumption sector.


The problem nowadays is private debt. Most such debt is created by banks. This bank credit – debts owed by bank customers – tends to increase faster than the ability of debtors to earn enough income to pay it. The reason is that most of private debt is not used for productive, income-generating purposes, but to finance the transfer property ownership (affecting asset prices in proportion to the rate of credit growth for such purposes). That use of credit – not associated with the production-and-consumption economy – leads to debt deflation. Instead of providing the economy with purchasing power (as in running government budget deficits), private debt works over time to extract interest and amortization from the economy, along with servicing fees.

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The bigger threat.

East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)

A locust plague up to 20 times larger than a wave two months earlier is threatening to devastate parts of East Africa. January and February saw the worst locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years, with crops and farmland ravaged across much of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. But now, amid a global coronavirus pandemic, a second, much bigger round of the voracious insects is arriving. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains. Millions of already vulnerable people are at risk. And as they gather to try to combat the locusts, often in vain, they risk spreading Covid-19 – a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas.

It is the locusts that “everyone is talking about”, said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda. “Once they land in your garden they do total destruction. Some people will even tell you that the locusts are more destructive than the coronavirus. There are even some who don’t believe that the virus will reach here.” Some farmers in Mr Abokat’s village near the Kenyan border bang metal pans, whistle or throw stones to try to drive the locusts away. But mostly they watch in frustration, largely barred by a coronavirus lockdown from gathering outside their homes.

A failed garden of cassava, a local staple, means hunger. Such worries in the village of some 600 people are reflected across a large part of East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The locust swarms also have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and Congo. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called the locust outbreak, caused in part by climate change, “an unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. Its officials have called this new wave some 20 times the size of the first.

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How does she explain to her kids later why their father was murdered by the government?

Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

Julian Assange secretly fathered two sons while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Gabriel, aged two, and his one-year-old brother Max were conceived while their father was hiding out to avoid extradition to America, where he faces espionage charges over the leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents. At the time, Assange, 48, was also wanted in Sweden where he was accused of rape. He has always denied the sex allegations, which have now been dropped. The boys’ mother is 37-year-old South African-born lawyer Stella Morris, who fell in love with the controversial WikiLeaks founder five years ago while visiting him to work on a legal bid to halt the extraditions. The couple have been engaged since 2017. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge.

[..] At the time that Gabriel was conceived in 2016, Assange had been inside the embassy, close to Harrods, for four years and was believed to be under constant surveillance by American security services. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge. [..] She is pleading for her fiance to be released under Government plans to free thousands of prisoners to quell the spread of the deadly virus between bars. Miss Morris says Assange is doubly vulnerable because he suffers from a chronic lung condition exacerbated by his years inside the embassy and has mental health issues which become more severe as a result of isolation. She said last night: ‘I love Julian deeply and I am looking forward to marrying him.


‘Over the past five years I have discovered that love makes the most intolerable circumstances seem bearable but this is different – I am now terrified I will not see him alive again. ‘Julian has been fiercely protective of me and has done his best to shield me from the nightmares of his life. ‘I have lived quietly and privately, raising Gabriel and Max on my own and longing for the day we could be together as a family. ‘Now I have to speak out because I can see that his life is on the brink. ‘Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus. ‘Mentally, I do not think he will survive further enforced isolation either. ‘He is effectively in solitary confinement, in a cell for up for 23 and a half hours a day with no access to us, his family, or the psychiatric help he needs.’

[..] Miss Morris had an international upbringing with her theatre director mother and urban planner father. The family spent time in Sweden meaning she was a fluent Swedish speaker, able to help defend Assange against the allegations, which were rescinded last year. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker, a skill which would become equally critical when Assange sought asylum in a South American embassy the following year. She has a degree in law and politics from London’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies and took her MSc at Oxford where she was a noted scholar. She became a member of Assange’s inner circle in the embassy, officially changing her name from Sara Gonzalez Devant to Stella Morris so she could maintain a lower profile while researching and drafting legal documents for WikiLeaks.

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https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1248738266851016704

 

 

 

 

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Aug 082019
 


Piet Mondriaan New York City I 1942

 

Globalization As We Know It Will Not Survive Trump (G.)
The Technological Revolution Devours its Children (Dmitry Orlov)
Donald Trump More Popular Today Than In 2016 (Raw)
New York Times Stock Price Has Soared During Trump’s Presidency (R.)
MMT May Be Democrats’ Economic Cure, But Only Trump Got The Memo (R.)
New Rebel Bid To Halt No-Deal Brexit Amid Fury At PM’s Enforcer (G.)
Deal Or No Deal? It’s Not Really Up To Dominic Cummings (G.)
The Super-Rich Have Made Britain Into A Nation Of Losers (G.)
Airlines Complain Boeing’s Production Standards ‘Way Below Acceptable’ (BI)
An Open Invitation to Tyranny (PCR)
Chelsea Manning Jailed For a YEAR For Refusing To Testify Against Assange (RT)
Tightening Nickel Supply Threatens Electric Vehicle Boom (SH)
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut (G.)
Explosion of Toxic Pesticide Use Causes Insect Apocalypse in US (CD)

 

 

“And That’s A Good Thing..”

Globalization As We Know It Will Not Survive Trump (G.)

The significance of the trade war between China and the US goes well beyond the impact of tit-for-tat tariffs, or which of two self-styled strongmen wins the bragging rights. As was the case in the 1930s, the seemingly inexorable drift towards protectionism is part of a deeper crisis of the international status quo. When Beijing this week accused the US of “deliberately destroying the international order”, it was really saying that US hegemony will no longer go unchallenged. Globalisation as we have known it is coming to an end and that’s by no means unwelcome.

Hailed as the ultimate in human progress, a model based on loosening the controls on capital and the construction of global supply chains has spawned recurrent financial crises, fostered corrosive inequality and worsened the climate emergency. True, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the past 25 years, but most of them live in a country – China – that has kept the market at arm’s-length. The world’s stock markets see things differently. They tremble every time Donald Trump tweets a paean to protectionism. Likewise, multinational corporations fret about the possible damage that trade barriers might cause to global supply chains. It is clear that those who have done best out of globalisation tend to be the rich and powerful, and they are not going to give up their privileges without a fight. Nothing in this is new.

Throughout history there have been successive waves of globalisation followed by a backlash when the model over-reached itself. This is one of those occasions and all the ingredients are in place for a struggle between the defenders of the status quo and those who say that recent trends in politics, technology and the climate point to the need for a new world order focused more on local solutions, stronger nation states and a reformed international system. It’s quite a stretch to imagine that Trump has this in mind when he is bashing China, but the economic crisis of the 1930s – of which protectionism was one part – led eventually, albeit after the war, to reforms that made the world a sounder and safer place.


Illustration: Thomas Pullin

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“..once your savings are depleted and your debts are maxed out, you are cast out into the howling wilderness roamed by various troglodytes—those the information revolution has already eaten as well as those who were never on the menu.”

The Technological Revolution Devours its Children (Dmitry Orlov)

As the famous movie quote goes, “If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker” (From John Dahl’s 1988 film Rounders). Another famous quote, all the way back from the French Revolution, is “The revolution, like Saturn, devours its own children” (said by Danton at his trial). If you can’t spot the resource for your next technological revolution, then you are the resource. Look at all the previous technological revolutions. In each case, a new technology opened up for exploitation a new, superabundant resource: agriculture—arable land; mechanical spinning and weaving—water power; steam engine and steelmaking—coal; internal combustion engine—oil; artificial intelligence-based robonanobiotronics—still oil?

Sorry, that’s no longer overabundant by any stretch of the imagination. (If you said “renewable energy” then think again: wind turbines, solar panels and battery banks can’t be made or maintained without oil and natural gas.) Technology without a superabundant resource it can tap into is as useful as a spoon if your bowl is empty. The logic is simple: spot the resource; if you can’t, it’s probably you. Let’s focus on what’s supposed to be the main pillar of the next technological revolution: information technology. Most of us have smartphones, laptops, store our data in the cloud and make use of abundant and free information resources—all the free apps you want, free blogging, free Youtube videos, etc. But what new resource has all this technology opened up for you, the user?

The hardware costs you money (the average iPhone now costs around 800 USD) and the time you spend fiddling around with it is subtracted from all the other, potentially useful and gainful activities. You could try arguing that having an iPhone makes you more efficient because you have all the information and communications technology you could possibly need right at your fingertips. That point is hard to deny. I recently recorded a radio interview for a radio station in upstate New York while strolling about among the potato blossoms on my field in the Novgorod region of Russia via the internet and a 4G connection via a tower in the neighboring village. That’s nothing short of miraculous, and it’s certainly efficient (my smartphone is 7 years old, fully amortized a long time ago and still as good as new now that I’ve replaced every single mechanical component, sometimes twice). But is it effective?

The smartphones are generally effective in making their users spend money that they may or may not have on things they may or may not need. All of the free access to information is paid for by collecting data on users (spying, basically) and using it to create targeted ads that turn users into online shoppers. Everything is highly customized: women look at pictures of shoes; men look at pictures of power tools. Both the shoes and the power tools, if purchased, will be used a few times a year at most, but the money will be gone forever. The limiting factor here, of course, is the resource, which is you: once your savings are depleted and your debts are maxed out, you are cast out into the howling wilderness roamed by various troglodytes—those the information revolution has already eaten as well as those who were never on the menu.

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Depends on who you ask.

Donald Trump More Popular Today Than In 2016 (Raw)

President Donald Trump’s administration has been mired in controversy after controversy, from his racist remarks to the Mueller report–which stopped short of clearing him of obstruction of justice. His policies, such as child separation at the border and his trade wars with China, are divisive. Yet, new numbers seem to show that he’s actually more popular today than he was in 2016, according to polling expert Nate Cohn. “The share of Americans who say they have a favorable view of him has increased significantly since the 2016 election,” Cohn writes. “And over the last few months, some of the highest-quality public opinion polls, though not all, showed the president’s job approval rating — a different measure from personal favorability — had inched up to essentially match the highest level of his term.”

This doesn’t guarantee Trump re-election. “The increase in his support since 2016, and the possibility that it continues to move higher, does not necessarily make him a favorite to win re-election. His job approval ratings remain well beneath 50 percent, and have never eclipsed it.” It should be noted that Cohn is relying on two polls, Gallup and YouGov, which show that he is more popular today than in 2016. And according to the website fivethirtyeight.com, which aggregates polling data, only 42.2 percent of Americans polled approve of Donald Trump, while 53.1 disapprove.

But, Trump’s surge in popularity since 2016 is clearly something his democratic challengers need to keep in mind. Of course, Democrats might benefit from a more popular candidate than they had in 2016,” Cohn writes. “Hillary Clinton was an unusually unpopular candidate, surpassed only by Mr. Trump in this regard in the modern era of polling. But an analysis that freezes the president’s standing in 2016 but assumes an improvement for the Democratic nominee would be misleading.”

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Cui bono. Inventing Russiagate out of thin air has paid off handsomely.

New York Times Stock Price Has Soared During Trump’s Presidency (R.)

Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore concludes his “Apocalypse Now” soliloquy about the smell of napalm in the morning wistfully: “Someday this war’s gonna end.” The remark suggests the officer played by Robert Duvall is enjoying the conflict in Vietnam. Despite some recent friendly fire, New York Times commander-in-chief Mark Thompson could be forgiven for feeling similarly about his newspaper’s combat with U.S. President Donald Trump. Few companies have so directly benefitted from Trump’s tumultuous first term in office as the Times. Thanks to a boom in digital-subscription sales linked to the paper’s aggressive coverage of the administration’s many foibles, its shares have outperformed those of nearly every company investors pegged as those likely to suffer or benefit from a Trump presidency.

From around $11 at the time of his election, Times stock has soared to more than $35. That trumped the runup in Wall Street firms, such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, whose bottom lines were fattened by tax cuts. Times shares even dusted those of Facebook, the bête noire of all traditional publishers. As of Tuesday, the Manhattan-based company’s $5 billion market value was greater than the combined worth of America’s two biggest for-profit prison operators, whose fortunes were meant to soar under a law-and-order presidency. This background helps in interpreting a set of lousy second-quarter results, and a kerfuffle this week over a poorly conceived front-page headline. The Times added 197,000 net new digital-only subscriptions – bringing total subscribers to 4.7 million, nearly halfway to its 2025 goal of 10 million.

A shortfall in revenue, though, and a warning of greater challenges ahead, took nearly 20% off the Times share price on Wednesday. That came days after amending a headline related to the president’s response to two mass shootings over the weekend failed to stop a barrage of criticism, much of it from Trump’s Democratic opponents, and calls on social media to cancel subscriptions. The top-line miss had nothing to do with the headline skirmish, whose impact would appear in this quarter. But they are not unrelated. The risk for the Times is that any whiff of normalizing its coverage of the president might damage the brand that has fueled its subscription drive since 2016. One dopey headline is survivable, so long as the war shows no sign of ending.

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MMT is not going to go away.

MMT May Be Democrats’ Economic Cure, But Only Trump Got The Memo (R.)

From her home overlooking Setauket Harbor on Long Island’s North Shore, a motorboat bobbing at the dock, Stephanie Kelton hopes to revolutionize how the U.S. government manages the economy. It isn’t always a pleasant task. A key figure in the “Modern Monetary Theory” economic camp, her assertions that the federal government could spend freely for things like a jobs guarantee or Green New Deal without risking runaway inflation, a debt default or a clubbing by global creditors have been Twitter-bombed by mainstream economists as left-wing free lunchism. Proponents of MMT have been called fanciful for the notion that the U.S. Congress, which typically struggles to pass an annual budget, could with smart budgeting and regulation take over the Federal Reserve’s job of controlling inflation.


And even Kelton, an economics professor at Stony Brook University in New York and an adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, is a bit thrown by the fact that the person who appears closest to accepting her argument is President Donald Trump, whose Republican Party has traditionally touted an adherence to fiscal discipline. Trump and Republicans in Congress, she said, “did not allow perceived budget constraints to stand in their way” of a $1.5 trillion tax cut package which was passed in late 2017 and pushed the federal debt beyond $22 trillion. Democrats now seem ready to get in the game. Lawmakers from both parties recently reached a federal spending deal that is expected to raise the federal deficit by $2 trillion over the next two years, and Democrats lining up to run against Trump in 2020 have largely avoided talk of fiscal restraint so far in the campaign.

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Told ya: “One Conservative insider said that Cummings had in effect demanded control over Johnson’s operation as his price for entering government..”

New Rebel Bid To Halt No-Deal Brexit Amid Fury At PM’s Enforcer (G.)

Rebel MPs are working on a plan to thwart Boris Johnson pursuing a no-deal Brexit on 31 October that involves forcing parliament to sit through the autumn recess, amid growing outrage about the power and influence of his controversial aide, Dominic Cummings. The cross-party group of MPs is looking at legislative options with mounting urgency because of the hardline tactics of Cummings, who one Conservative insider described as running a “reign of terror” in No 10 aimed at achieving Brexit on 31 October at any cost. Three MPs have told the Guardian that one method under discussion is for members to amend the motion needed for parliament to break for party conferences in mid-September.

This could give MPs another three weeks of sitting time to stop a no-deal and potentially open the door for days to be set aside for rebels to control parliamentary business. The ultimate aim would be to pass a bill forcing the government to request an extension to article 50 from Brussels. Since joining Johnson’s administration, Cummings has told government advisers that No 10 stands ready to do whatever is necessary to bring about Brexit on 31 October – deal or no deal. This could include proroguing parliament, or ignoring the result of any no-confidence vote in Johnson and calling a “people v politicians” general election – to be held after the UK had left the EU.

However, it is understood that alarm is mounting within No 10, among some special advisers and Tory MPs about the scale of Cummings’ influence and willingness to defy parliament. One Conservative insider said that Cummings had in effect demanded control over Johnson’s operation as his price for entering government and proceeded to sideline more moderate advisers, such as ex-City Hall stalwart Sir Eddie Lister, while installing a team of “true believers” in hard Brexit largely from the former Vote Leave campaign.

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Are you sure?

Deal Or No Deal? It’s Not Really Up To Dominic Cummings (G.)

Yet it would be as much of a mistake to dismiss Cummings as to exaggerate his mastery. He has certainly brought two weeks of focus to the Johnson government by making the Halloween deadline a non-negotiable centrepiece. He has changed the political conversation from Brexit or people’s vote to deal or no deal. Depending on events in the early autumn, he is clearly gearing up for a possible general election shortly afterwards. But Cummings does not control events. He is not Prospero, able to conjure up a tempest that delivers his enemies into his hands. He is having a good run, but he is helped by the most irresponsible parliamentary summer recess of modern times.

Even now MPs should be aiming to get back to Westminster and hold the government to account before the planned return on 3 September. They should scrap this year’s party conferences too. Cummings is also only one player. The idea that he pulls all the strings is lazy and wrong. The Brexit outcome depends on a tangled web of interests and influences beyond his control. These include everything from the role of the Queen to the hoarding of toilet rolls. In particular, it depends on events in the real economy, in parliament, in the courts, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the Irish Republic, in the EU and in Johnson’s own head.

Those who take a Cummings-fixated view of the options find it is easier to forget this. They say the government’s aim is to crash out with no deal on 31 October and nothing will stand in the way. But that is not quite what Johnson and some of his ministers say. They say, still, that a deal is one possibility, perhaps a remote one, and that the UK government is even now looking for a deal with the EU in the next 12 weeks.

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“..people whose incomes sit a few zeroes above their value to society.”

The Super-Rich Have Made Britain Into A Nation Of Losers (G.)

Think of a football stadium. Not one of the vast caverns like Old Trafford or Wembley, but somewhere rather smaller and more bijou. Somewhere like Fulham’s Craven Cottage, which, once its new stand is completed, will pack in only about 30,000 fans. Now imagine this stadium of 30,000 souls rising up into the air and hovering unnoticed over central London. Thirty thousand men in late middle-age living the high life with the capital at their feet – and there, stuck way below on terra firma are their 66 million fellow Britons, tearing lumps out of each other. Congratulations: you’ve just pictured the central problem stalking the UK today. Not Brexit. Not the breakdown in civil debate. Not the dark money contaminating Westminster.

These are urgent and vitally important, but there is one big factor that forms a large part of the backdrop to all of them. It can be summed up by that gulf between a mid-sized football stadium of super-rich men in their 50s, and the rest of us spread out across our suburbs, our towns, our unpretty stretches of urban sprawl. That football stadium represents the top 0.1% of earners in the UK. To join their ranks, numbering just 31,000, you’d need a taxable income of at least £650,000 a year – £12,500 per week. In less than a fortnight, you would easily pull in more than the average Briton makes as taxable income over a whole year. But then, those drudges are the earthbound while you, as the old song out of Mary Poppins puts it, live in an entirely different realm: “Up to the highest height! … Up through the atmosphere! / Up where the air is clear!”

The stratospherically rich are among the subjects of a new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. An analysis of the tax returns of the highest earning Britons, it shows in uncompromising detail just how our money has ended up in fewer and fewer hands based in less and less of the country. Almost half the super-rich live in London and nearly 90% of them are men. What’s more, they often end up paying a lower tax rate than the pay-as-you-earn mugs like you and me. The generous breaks given by politicians to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and risk-taking are instead exploited by partners in City law firms and big accountancies and at hedge funds – people whose incomes sit a few zeroes above their value to society.

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It’s not just the 737 MAX. It’s Boeing itself.

Airlines Complain Boeing’s Production Standards ‘Way Below Acceptable’ (BI)

Airlines flying Boeing’s 787-10 Dreamliner have complained to the plane maker about “unacceptable” production mistakes and inconsistent quality. The problems center around Dreamliners built at Boeing’s North Charleston, South Carolina, factory, according to a report from The Post and Courier. Issues at the North Charleston plant were reported in April in a comprehensive New York Times investigation, which found evidence of shoddy production, poor oversight, and a culture that “made speed a priority over safety.” The report came a month after Boeing’s 737 Max jet was grounded worldwide after the second fatal crash in five months. The Department of Justice expanded an inquiry into the 737 Max to include issues at the North Charleston factory in June.


The new report surfaced complaints from a global cadre of airlines that fly the jet and have received orders from the South Carolina plant, one of two locations where the Dreamliner is assembled — other orders are built at Boeing’s Everett, Washington, factory. While the issues are not limited to either the South Carolina plant or the 787 — similar problems have been raised in Everett with both 787s and military tankers — the complaints surfaced by The Post and Courier focus on recent deliveries of Boeing’s newest and largest variant of the Dreamliner, the 787-10. It was not immediately clear whether the airlines made similar complaints about other variants of the plane, including the 787-8 and 787-9.

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Paul Craig Roberts on an FBI document that talks about “official” and “prevailing” explanations of events.

“What the FBI report does, intentionally or unintentionally, is to define a conspiracist as a person who doubts official explanations.”

An Open Invitation to Tyranny (PCR)

The FBI document says that conspiracy theories “are usually at odds with official or prevailing explanations of events.” Note the use of “official” and “prevailing.” Official explanations are explanations provided by governments. Prevailing explanations are the explanations that the media repeats. Examples of official and prevailing explanations are: Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Iranian nukes, Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the official explanation by the US government for the destruction of Libya. If a person doubts official explanations such as these, that person is a “conspiracy theorist.”

Official and prevailing explanations do not have to be consistent with facts. It is enough that they are official and prevailing. Whether or not they are true is irrelevant. Therefore, a person who stands up for the truth can be labeled a conspiracy theorist, monitored, and perhaps pre-emptively arrested. [..] Consider Russiagate. Here we have an alleged conspiracy between Trump and Russia that was the official prevailing explanation. Yet, to believe in the Russiagate conspiracy did not make one a conspiracy theorist as this conspiracy was the official prevailing explanation. But to doubt the Russiagate conspiracy did make one a conspiracy theorist.

What the FBI report does, intentionally or unintentionally, is to define a conspiracist as a person who doubts official explanations. In other words, it is a way of preventing any accountability of government. Whatever the government says, no matter how obvious a lie, will have to be accepted as fact or we will be put on a list to be monitored for preemptive arrest. In effect, the FBI’s document reduces the First Amendment, that is, free speech, to the right to repeat official and prevailing explanations. Any other speech is a conspiratorial belief that can lead to the commission of a crime.

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The judge says she can pay the fines, but he’s the only one who thinks that.

Chelsea Manning Jailed For a YEAR For Refusing To Testify Against Assange (RT)

Refusal to testify against WikiLeaks is costing whistleblower Chelsea Manning over $400,000 in fines and another year in jail, after a federal judge ruled that she must pay for what he called contempt of court. Manning was jailed for refusing the subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury seeking additional charges against WikiLeaks and its co-founder Julian Assange, currently imprisoned in the UK. To compel testimony, the government also fined the whistleblower $500 a day, going up to $1000 after 60 days. Judge Anthony Trenga of the federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia shot down Manning’s motion to reconsider sanctions on Monday, the final chance to contest the steep fines.

After a review of “a substantial number of financial records documenting her assets, liabilities, and current and future earnings,” the court found “that Ms. Manning has the ability to comply with the Court’s financial sanctions,” Trenga wrote in his ruling. Though Manning is now deeply in debt and unable to work while in jail, the judge nonetheless concluded the fines were payable and therefore amounted to “coercive” sanctions allowed to compel cooperation or testimony, rather than being a purely punitive measure. “I am disappointed but not at all surprised. The government and the judge must know by now that this doesn’t change my position one bit,” Manning said in response.

She insisted that the fines were in fact punitive, because her inability and unwillingness to pay rendered any “coercive” aspect moot. She has already spent 147 days behind bars and owes $38,000 in fines as of August 7. If she remains jailed for another year, Manning could end up owing $441,000 to the government.

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Not everything scales up.

Tightening Nickel Supply Threatens Electric Vehicle Boom (SH)

For Tesla and its chief competitors in the race for global domination of electric vehicle sales, it ain’t all about lithium ion. There are other valuable metals needed to make the battery packs do what’s asked of them, with nickel being essential. Tesla and its battery producer partners, and other automakers and their suppliers, are worried about the longer-term supply of nickel according to a new study by BloombergNEF. The study predicts that EV makers will be driving demand for nickel about 16 times to 1.8 million tons in the next years. Class-one nickel, a high-purity material used in batteries, is expected to see demand greatly outstrip supply in the next few years. That will be fueled by meeting the large Chinese EV market, and other global markets where demand is expected to grow.


That need for class-one nickel will outstrip supply within five years, according to the study. One problem has been a lack of real investment in new mines for materials including nickel, Tesla’s global supply manager of battery metals, Sarah Maryssael, said at a Washington meeting in May. That could drive up prices as battery demand increases greatly. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is concerned about having enough economically viable — and available — metal to continue meeting its growing electric car demand. That will take off even more as the company taps into China’s booming markets. “They are getting ready to have the new factory in China, and are at full capacity in North America,’’ Peter Bradford, chief executive officer of nickel producer Independence Group NL, said. “They recognize the biggest risk from a strategic supply point of view is nickel.’’

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Kind of mad that this didn’t stop America from sending its young people to be killed and maimed in more jungles and deserts.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut (G.)

‘Someday this war’s gonna end,” is the sage comment from surf-crazed Wagner enthusiast Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore, brusquely played by Robert Duvall. In fact, when Francis Ford Coppola’s grandiose epic masterpiece Apocalypse Now was first unveiled in 1979, the Vietnam war had only ended four years previously, and the succeeding Cambodian-Vietnamese war (where the film’s climax is set) was in full swing. Coppola’s bad trip into south-east Asia was co-written by John Milius with narration written by Michael Herr. It was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, Herr’s own Vietnam reportage-memoir Dispatches and maybe at one further remove by Rudyard Kipling’s lines about the US taking up the white man’s imperial burden.


It was famously an ordeal for all concerned. The production involved a filming expedition in the Philippines that felt hardly less colossal and traumatic to the participants than the actual war, though it became commonplace in Hollywood’s Vietnam for the anguish of American soldiers, not that of the Vietnamese people themselves, to be seen as important. (The nearest that Vietnamese people get to actual importance in Apocalypse Now is the four South Vietnamese intelligence officers, executed by ColKurtz as Communist spies, whose ID cards we briefly see.) Like Lawrence of Arabia, moreover, this is a film without women – or mostly.


Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. Photograph: Allstar/United Artists

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“The study found that American agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to insects over the past 25 years and pinned 92 percent of the toxicity increase on neonicotinoids..”

Explosion of Toxic Pesticide Use Causes Insect Apocalypse in US (CD)

The rapid and dangerous decline of the insect population in the United States—often called an “insect apocalypse” by scientists—has largely been driven by an increase in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture caused by the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One. The study found that American agriculture has become 48 times more toxic to insects over the past 25 years and pinned 92 percent of the toxicity increase on neonicotinoids, which were banned by the European Union last year due to the threat they pose to bees and other pollinators. Kendra Klein, Ph.D., study co-author and senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, said the United States must follow Europe’s lead and ban the toxic pesticides before it is too late.


“It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades,” Klein said in a statement. “We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.” “Congress must pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act to ban neonicotinoids,” Klein added. “In addition, we need to rapidly shift our food system away from dependence on harmful pesticides and toward organic farming methods that work with nature rather than against it.” According to National Geographic, neonics “are used on over 140 different agricultural crops in more than 120 countries. They attack the central nervous system of insects, causing overstimulation of their nerve cells, paralysis, and death.” With insect populations declining due to neonic use, “the numbers of insect-eating birds have plummeted in recent decades,” National Geographic reported. “There’s also been a widespread decline in nearly all bird species.”

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Amazon: ~2,700,000 sq mi (7,000,000 km2)

Contiguous US: ~3,100,000 sq mi (8,000,000 km2)

 

 

 

 

 

May 032019
 


Paul Klee In angel’s care (In Engelshut) 1931

 

Day of the Long Knives (Kassam)
Is The Media Driving America Insane? (LN)
How The News Took Over Reality (G.)
Assange or Khashoggi: Whither Journalistic Standards? (Aziz)
Democrats Rage At Empty Chair As Barr Misses Mueller Hearing (ZH)
How President Trump’s Legal Team Outfoxed Mueller (Chamberlain)
Ukrainian Embassy Confirms DNC Contractor Solicited Trump Dirt In 2016 (Hill)
April US Auto Sales Crash 6.1%, Worst Slide In 8 Years (ZH)
Global Foreign Direct Investment Flows Collapse (DQ)
Hippie-Punching MMT (Edward Harrison)

 

 

“If all these peoples’ ideas were not relevant, or popular, they would not need to be banned.”

It’s World Press Freedom Day today. Painfully ironic. We can’t let Facebook police our world. Or, rather, be police, judge and henchman all in one. We need laws for this and we need to apply them.

I don’t do Facebook anymore since they froze our account, what is it, 3 years ago?! I see Paul Joseph Watson every now and then on Twitter and though I don’t see myself becoming his best friend, he is an intelligent and articulate guy who has never violated Facebook’s regulations. Other than he has a link to Alex Jones. It’s easy to say Good Riddance, but you are next.

Day of the Long Knives (Kassam)

Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer and Milo Yiannopoulos have been unpersonned by the digital tech giant Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram. They’re coming for you, next. Or more likely, for us. Human Events stands shoulder-to-shoulder with those being routinely targeted by the would-be ‘Masters of the Universe’, no matter if we agree with them or not. Also banned was Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the repugnant Nation of Islam group. But Farrakhan, like the others, should not have his fate decided by some little nerd in Silicon Valley who has decided his or her feelings are hurt. His fate should be decided in the court of public opinion, with sunlight acting as the greatest disinfectant.

Unfortunately, recent precedent has informed Big Tech that its methods to some extent work. The removal of people like Laura Loomer, Milo, and Tommy Robinson has directly impacted their livelihoods, their work, and their fundamental freedoms. And while Farrakhan is far from someone we would be seen dead around, it is only intellectually consistent if the rules apply both ways. For the psychopaths of Silicon Valley however, intellectual considerations come a distinct last to power, profit, and pandering. The likelihood is Farrakhan’s inclusion on the list is simply a sop to make the decision seem less of a one way street. If I were him, I’d be especially pissed off at being the fall guy in this regard.

But Jones, Loomer, Milo, and Watson have a claim to massive anger too, given they are being lumped in with a man who has said “white people deserve to die”, and who has said to Jewish people, “…don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Tommy now struggles to gain traction – albeit with a smile on his face – and a plan to drive a bus around the country with a big screen on it, to highlight the censorship he faces. Milo – and he will probably hate me for saying this – faces total financial ruin. Alex Jones has had a massive business ripped out from under him. And Laura Loomer has been relegated to staging protests on the front lawns of those who needlessly aggress her.

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If they can make a buck from it, they certainly will.

Is The Media Driving America Insane? (LN)

Now that more of us are consuming news media more often than ever, a higher number of Americans are being fed a steady mental diet of outrage, fear, and hostility wrapped in clickbait headlines designed to make us even more contemptuous of those whose political beliefs clash with our own. Many media outlets have transformed emotionally charged, but ultimately irrelevant, stories into their bread and butter, manipulating their audiences into giving them their precious clicks in exchange for a dose of anger and panic. Otherwise unimportant stories are catapulted into the mainstream simply because the press knows Americans will tune in and boost their ratings.


The Covington kids fiasco is a prime example. What should have been a local matter was morphed into an issue of national importance by a left-wing media apparatus that wanted to further their “MAGA Hat-wearing white people are the spawn of Satan” narrative. In the end, what is accomplished? For the press, it is higher ratings and more clicks. But for the American public, it is a heightened sense of fear, hatred, and stress – a toxic brew rending the social fabric. It is no wonder that many are predicting another civil war. It would be easy to dismiss such claims as pure alarmism, but given how the Fourth Estate wields their influence, this reality is not hard to imagine. Is it possible to reverse course? Sure, but it won’t be easy. The media is in this game for two reasons: To earn a profit, and to achieve their political objectives. They have no incentive to inform rather than persuade. If the trend persists, things are sure to get uglier before they get better.

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Such a piece coming from the Guardian is pretty priceless. Even if it makes some valid points, it’s publications like that which seek to alter reality. Don’t report the news, but manufacture it.

How The News Took Over Reality (G.)

In recent years, there has been enormous concern about the time we spend on our web-connected devices and what that might be doing to our brains. But a related psychological shift has gone largely unremarked: the way that, for a certain segment of the population, the news has come to fill up more and more time – and, more subtly, to occupy centre stage in our subjective sense of reality, so that the world of national politics and international crises can feel more important, even more truly real, than the concrete immediacy of our families, neighbourhoods and workplaces. It’s not simply that we spend too many hours glued to screens. It’s that for some of us, at least, they have altered our way of being in the world such that the news is no longer one aspect of the backdrop to our lives, but the main drama. The way that journalists and television producers have always experienced the news is now the way millions of others experience it, too.


From a British or American standpoint, the overwhelmingly dominant features of this changed mental landscape are Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump. But the sheer outrageousness of them both risks blinding us to how strange and recent a phenomenon it is for the news – any news – to assume such a central position in people’s daily lives. In a now familiar refrain, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof bemoans his social circle’s “addiction to Trump” – “at cocktail parties, on cable television, at the dinner table, at the water cooler, all we talk about these days is Trump.” But Trump’s eclipse of all other news is not the only precondition for this addiction. The other is the eclipse of the rest of life by the dramas of the news.

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Excellent point. But there’s more: how does Assange’s freedom relate to that of the people who got banned from Facebook yesterday? Most of us will initially react to that question with something about what and who we like, but that’s not good enough.

Assange or Khashoggi: Whither Journalistic Standards? (Aziz)

Did international media and free press advocates who once celebrated Assange, utilized his revelations and heaped awards on Wikileaks, collectively agreed to abandon their erstwhile hero? And why the turnaround? (It’s not easy to explain although one observer suggests former associates actually conspired to depose him.) Increased silence from within Assange’s refuge presaged his recent ‘capture’. Then, when he suddenly appeared, subdued by dozens of guards, how shamelessly international media rushed to cheer his arrest. They seemed to delight in highlighting scant, salacious details of his condition at the time of his arrest. Reprehensible. Dismaying. Will those gloating journalists care what his captors do to Assange in detention?


This for the man whose political analyses and Wikileaks revelations had been daily headlines not long ago. This for a journalist and publisher who introduced a profound strategy to expose a government’s sinister diplomatic schemes, excesses and crimes documented by their own internal reports. This for an organization gathering evidence of government wrongdoing at a critical time, starting in 2006 when U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being reevaluated by a sobering public. Rumors of military crimes, cover-ups, torture, black-site prisons, etc. had gradually, although belatedly, gained credibility and, following the Abu Graib Prison revelations, Wikileaks provided irrefutable evidence of how U.S.A. and its allies conducted their wars.

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From the WSJ Editorial Board yesterday: “Mr. Barr has since released the full Mueller report with minor redactions, as he promised, and with the “context” intact. Keep in mind Mr. Barr was under no legal obligation to release anything at all. Mr. Mueller reports only to Mr. Barr, not to the country or Congress.

Mr. Barr has also made nearly all of the redactions in the report available to senior Members of Congress to inspect at Justice. Yet as of this writing, only three Members have bothered—Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and ranking House Republican on Judiciary Doug Collins. Not one Democrat howling about Mr. Barr’s lack of transparency has examined the outrages they claim are hidden.”

Doug Collins’ tirade is a good listen. No need to agree with him.

Democrats Rage At Empty Chair As Barr Misses Mueller Hearing (ZH)

Refusing to allow the fact that AG Barr chose not to attend today’s Mueller Report hearing, angry Democrats took full advantage of the photo-op to conjure images of a terrified attorney general cowering from the truth and protecting a clearly guilty-of-something president. Despite Barr’s decision last night not to attend, because he objected to Democratic demands that their staff counsel be able to question him, Democrats went forward with the theater of the hearing anyway, setting up an empty chair for the absent attorney general. As The Hill reports, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to the morning event, and accused Barr of being a coward after it ended. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) tore into Barr, accusing him of failing to check President Trump’s “worst instincts” and misrepresenting Mueller’s findings.

“He has failed the men and women of the Department by placing the needs of the President over the fair administration of justice,” Nadler said. “He has even failed to show up today.” Republicans did not take it lying down with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) noted vociferously that “Judiciary Democrats say AG Barr is “terrified.” Yesterday he testified for over five hours in an open hearing. Today, they cut off my microphone.” And, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) accused Nadler of staging a “circus political stunt” and said the Democratic chairman wanted the hearing to look like an impeachment hearing. “That is the reason. The reason Bill Barr is not here today is because the Democrats decided they didn’t want him here today. That’s the reason he’s not here,” Collins said. “Not hearing from him is a travesty to this committee today.”

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Excellent read. Mueller wanted to make Trump’s firing of Comey to be obstruction. But that would have taken some hoops to jump through.

How President Trump’s Legal Team Outfoxed Mueller (Chamberlain)

When the Mueller Report was released on April 18th, most commentators focused on the “explosive” factual allegations. But other than the shocking revelation that the President once used an expletive in private, very few of those facts were novel; most were leaked long ago. At the end of Volume II of the Mueller Report, however, there were 20 pages of genuinely new material. There, the former FBI director turned Special Counsel Robert Mueller defended his “Application of Obstruction-Of-Justice Statutes To The President.” These overlooked 20 pages were dedicated to defending Mueller’s interpretation of a single subsection of a single obstruction-of-justice statute: 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2).

That’s quite strange, but you know what’s stranger still? In June 2018, Bill Barr, then in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis, wrote a detailed legal memorandum to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. This memo came to light in December, when Barr was nominated for Attorney General. The subject was Mueller’s interpretation of the aforementioned 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2). [..] Reading Barr’s June 2018 memo alongside the last twenty pages of the Mueller Report is a curious experience. Together, they read like dueling legal briefs on the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2); the type of material one would expect to see from adversarial appellate litigators.

So-why did Robert Mueller dedicate 20 pages of his report to a seemingly obscure question of statutory interpretation? Why did Bill Barr write a detailed legal memorandum to Rod Rosenstein about that very same statute? And how, exactly, did Bill Barr know that that § 1512(c)(2) was central to Mueller’s obstruction theory – in June 2018, when he was still in private practice at Kirkland? [..] why, exactly, was the interpretation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) so contested? Let’s start by looking the statute, excerpted here: (c) Whoever corruptly— (1) alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding; or (2) otherwise obstructs, influences or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so [is guilty of the crime of obstruction].

Why was this so important to Mueller? Because most of the obstruction statutes couldn’t possibly apply to President Trump’s behavior, as they require that a defendant obstruct a “pending proceeding” before an agency or tribunal. It is settled law that an FBI investigation does not constitute such a proceeding. But § 1512(c) applies to acts of obstruction done with the intent of impairing evidence for a future, potential proceeding. That made it potentially usable against the President.

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Ukraine is central. Even without Biden.

Ukrainian Embassy Confirms DNC Contractor Solicited Trump Dirt In 2016 (Hill)

The boomerang from the Democratic Party’s failed attempt to connect Donald Trump to Russia’s 2016 election meddling is picking up speed, and its flight path crosses right through Moscow’s pesky neighbor, Ukraine. That is where there is growing evidence a foreign power was asked, and in some cases tried, to help Hillary Clinton. In its most detailed account yet, Ukraine’s embassy in Washington says a Democratic National Committee insider during the 2016 election solicited dirt on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and even tried to enlist the country’s president to help.


In written answers to questions, Ambassador Valeriy Chaly’s office says DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa sought information from the Ukrainian government on Paul Manafort’s dealings inside the country, in hopes of forcing the issue before Congress. Chalupa later tried to arrange for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to comment on Manafort’s Russian ties on a U.S. visit during the 2016 campaign, the ambassador said. Chaly says that, at the time of the contacts in 2016, the embassy knew Chalupa primarily as a Ukrainian-American activist, and learned only later of her ties to the DNC. He says the embassy considered her requests an inappropriate solicitation of interference in the U.S. election.

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Am I still the only one who thinks this is good news?

April US Auto Sales Crash 6.1%, Worst Slide In 8 Years (ZH)

It was yet another dismal month for US auto sales in April, continuing a recessionary trend that has been in place not only in the US, but globally, for the better part of the last 12 months and certainly since the beginning of 2019. The nonsense-excuse-du jour for this month’s disappointing numbers is being placed on the weather on seasonality on rising car prices, which easily pushed away an overextended, broke and debt-laden U.S. consumer. In a nutshell, US auto sales in April tumbled by 6.1% – the biggest monthly drop since May 2011 – to just 16.4 million units, the lowest since October 2014.

Aside for an incentive-boost driven rebound in March, every month of 2019 has seen a decline in the number of annualized auto sales. Furthermore, as David Rosenberg notes, the -4.3% Y/Y trend is the weakest it has been for the past 8 years. Adding “fuel to the fire”, the average price of a new car in April came in at $36,720, the highest ASP so far this year, according to The Detroit News. It comes at a time where interest rates remain above 6% on average, further pressuring sales.

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Mostly US funds flowing back home.

Global Foreign Direct Investment Flows Collapse (DQ)

Global foreign direct investment flows plunged by another 27% in 2018 — after having already plunged 16% in 2017 — to just $1.1 trillion, the equivalent of 1.3% of global GDP, the lowest ratio since 1999, according to new data released by the OECD. It was the third consecutive annual plunge in global FDI flows, as more and more companies either choose not to invest in businesses or assets in other countries or are prevented from doing so. At the peak in 2015, before the trade wars began, before the Brexit vote happened, and before China began cracking down on the capital outflows that had fueled big-ticket purchases of strategic companies across the globe as well as surging asset prices in multiple jurisdictions, global FDI flows totaled $1.92 trillion and represented around 2.5% of global GDP. FDI has since collapsed by 43%.

The OECD apportions much of the blame for the latest fall in FDI flows on the US tax reform in 2017, which prompted many US companies to repatriate large amounts of earnings held with foreign affiliates in countries such as Ireland and Switzerland, which both suffered a massive reduction in inward foreign investment last year. The U.S. is traditionally the world’s biggest source of FDI, but last year it recorded negative outflows for the first time since 2005, as the movement of funds from U.S. investors into global businesses and assets reversed and flowed back toward the U.S., at least on paper. The total sum of outflows last year was -$48 billion, compared to $316 billion in 2017.

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Time to reserve some space for MMT. Harrison has some valid views.

Hippie-Punching MMT (Edward Harrison)

A lot of people like to argue that the central bank and the central government are independent and autonomous powers. And the argument goes that because of this autonomy, central governments like the US aren’t really all-powerful because the central bank can simply refuse to create more IOUs. I think this is a ridiculous argument, though. The central bank is the central government’s agent. And it exists only as a vehicle for executing banking and monetary policies in the government’s interest. The independence it enjoys is entirely at the central government’s discretion – mostly to create the appearance of non-politically motivated policy which would create inflation and debase the currency. If push came to shove, the central government would do whatever it took to issue IOUs to promise to pay the bearer of its money the required sum of fiat currency.

Notice, though, that Euro Zone governments don’t have the same power because they cannot create euros. Sure, they can enforce tax in euros with the coercive power of the penalty of prison as an incentive. But, when their euro taxes fall short, they can’t create euros to make up the shortfall. The euro is not their IOU. They are just like any other debtor in the eurozone. And the MMT crowd were onto this right from the start. In fact, one of the MMT forefathers, Wynne Godley, predicted the European Sovereign Debt Crisis when the euro was first conceived in 1992. On the other hand, most mainstream economists were caught flat-footed by the crisis. They were operating under the assumption that the bond vigilantes had the same power over all debtors including sovereigns.

They said the bond vigilantes just gave sovereigns more leeway. And that’s still their position today despite all evidence to the contrary. How do you trade that? For me, I trade that by saying Germany is the de facto ‘sovereign’ in the euro zone because of its size and fiscal rectitude. The euro would have to cease to exist before German sovereign debt came under attack from bond vigilantes. Now, if Deutsche Bank went bankrupt and Germany bailed it out at great cost and went on a deficit binge to boot and government debt to GDP ended up ballooning to 120% of GDP, things would be different.

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Mar 212019
 


Pablo Picasso Bathers with ball 3 1928

 

Why The Fed Keeps Propping Up The Market (Colombo)
Fed’s New Balance Sheet Plan: Get Rid of MBS (WS)
EU Will Only Back Short Brexit Delay If May’s Deal Passes First (G.)
Remain Would Win Second Brexit Referendum Clearly, Poll Indicates (Ind.)
Theresa May: Don’t Blame Me For Brexit Crisis, Blame MPs (G.)
MPs Furious After May Blames Them For Crisis (Ind.)
New Zealand Bans All Assault Weapons Immediately (AP)
Stagnant Capitalism (Varoufakis)
Exposing the Myth of MMT (Rickards)
Australia Construction Slowdown A Major Threat To The Economy (ABC.au)
As Russia Collusion Fades, Ukrainian Plot To Help Clinton Emerges (Solomon)
Sucking Liberals into a New Cold War (William Blum)
Loneliness Estimated To Shorten A Person’s Life By 15 Years (SciAm)
Kale Is Now One Of The Most Pesticide-Contaminated Vegetables (CNBC)

 

 

Yeah, no, more Fed crap and comments about markets and I’ve had enough. A market should be recognized as an action, a process, not as a thing or an object. And the action is price discovery. If that is not taking place you don’t have a market. Anything the Fed props up is not a market. One necessary aspect of price discovery is honesty, people must believe they’re not being tricked. With the way people talk about this now, the language they use risks losing all meaning. Enough already, and that goes for Jesse Colombo too. Who also posted this one on Twitter, which is a lot more relevant than his article. But that’s just me.

 

 

Why The Fed Keeps Propping Up The Market (Colombo)

The bull market of the past decade since the Great Recession has been an unusual one: despite all of the economic damage that occurred during the global financial crisis and rising risks (including global debt rising by $75 trillion), it has been the longest bull market in history. The explanation for this paradox is simple: it’s not an organic bull market because the Fed and other central banks keep stepping in to prop up the market every time it stumbles. Though the Fed has two official mandates (maintaining stable consumer prices and maximizing employment), it has taken on the unofficial third mandate of supporting and boosting the stock market since the Great Recession.

The chart below, which was inspired by market strategist Sven Henrich, shows how the Fed or other central banks have stepped in with more monetary stimulus (quantitative easing, promises to keep interest rates low, etc.) every time the S&P 500 has stumbled over the past decade:

An economy that is growing at 2%, inflation near zero, and Central banks globally required to continue dumping trillions of dollars into the financial system just to keep it afloat is not an economy we should be aspiring to. But despite commentary the financial system has been ‘put back together again,’ then why are Central Banks acting?

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Get rid of them or they’ll blow up America.

Fed’s New Balance Sheet Plan: Get Rid of MBS (WS)

The Fed has a new plan for what to do with its balance sheet and today announced several major components of it:

• Begin tapering the “runoff” of Treasury securities in May. • End the runoff of Treasury securities on September 30. • Continue shedding mortgage-backed securities (MBS) at the current maximum of $20 billion a month, essentially until their gone. • After September, reinvest MBS principal payments into Treasury securities. • Chair Jerome Powell said during the press conference that the balance sheet will by then be “a bit above $3.5 trillion.” • The balance sheet will remain at this level even as the economy grows, thus slowly shrinking in relationship to GDP. • The Fed may sell MBS outright to speed up the process of getting rid of them. • No decision has been made on the delicate issue of the maturity composition of the balance sheet – which would require buying short-term bills for the first time in years to replace longer-term notes and bonds.

The stated balance-sheet doctrine now is that the Fed wants to have sufficient reserves (money that banks deposit at the Fed) to conduct monetary policy efficiently. The interest it pays the banks on those reserves is one of its major tools to manage short-term interest rates.

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It’s not even the main trump card the EU has.

EU Will Only Back Short Brexit Delay If May’s Deal Passes First (G.)

Donald Tusk has put a no-deal Brexit back on the table by saying EU leaders will only agree to a short delay if MPs back Theresa May’s deal next week, on a day of high drama in Brussels and London. After belatedly receiving the prime minister’s formal letter requesting a three-month extension of article 50, and taking a late afternoon phone call with her, the European council president admitted that success appeared “frail, even illusory” on the eve of Thursday’s summit. The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted: “The letter from Theresa May has not solved any problem yet. If the European council [summit of leaders] is to decide on an extension of the deadline for Britain, we would like to know what is the concrete purpose.”

But Tusk said the EU would seek until the very last moment to avoid the UK crashing out without a deal and show “patience and goodwill” despite the “Brexit fatigue” in the capitals. The EU27’s heads of state or government would be likely to agree in principle at the summit on Thursday to an extension up to 23 May or 30 June, and sign it off without needing to meet next week should May be able to find a majority in the Commons at the third time of asking, he said. The European commission is insisting that an extension beyond the date of the European elections on 23 May would require British MEPs to be elected, although others believe there is little risk as long as the UK has left by 1 July when the parliament formally convenes.

“In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days I believe that a short extension will be possible but to be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk said. “A question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of the 30 June, which has its merits, creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature. Leaders will discuss this tomorrow.”

The frustration and “tension”, as one senior EU diplomat described it, was made clear by the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who told the French parliament on Wednesday afternoon that Paris was willing to block an extension. He said there were only two ways to leave the EU: ratify the withdrawal agreement or a no-deal exit. If parliament did not ratify the withdrawal agreement “the central scenario is a no-deal exit”, he said, adding: “We’re ready.” He stated that if May could not present “sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy” that would lead to the extension being refused and a no-deal exit.

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But it would be undemocratic?!

Remain Would Win Second Brexit Referendum Clearly, Poll Indicates (Ind.)

Nearly two-thirds of people would vote to remain in the EU rather than for Theresa May’s deal if a referendum offering those options were called, a snap poll by YouGov has found. Sixty-one per cent of the population would vote to remain while 39 per cent would opt for the existing deal, However, if people were asked in a public vote whether they would prefer to remain in the EU or leave with no deal in place, Remain would still win, though by the smaller margin of 57-43 per cent. It shows a 22-point lead for Remain over Ms May’s deal, or a 14-point lead for Remain over no deal at all.

The poll, carried out on behalf of the Put it to the People campaign, comes as second referendum expectations have risen. [..] A march in support of a Final Say second referendum takes place on in central London on Saturday and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of protesters. Meanwhile a “Leave means Leave” protest, also known as the “Brexit betrayal march”, is underway with Brexit supporters walking for two weeks from Sunderland to London demanding the UK leaves the EU on 29 March.

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Carefully crafted utter panic.

Theresa May: Don’t Blame Me For Brexit Crisis, Blame MPs (G.)

Theresa May is facing a furious backlash from her own backbenchers and calls for her resignation after she blamed squabbling MPs for delaying Brexit. In a defiant statement on Wednesday night she told the British public: “I am on your side,” and now hopes to force her deal through parliament next week at the third time of asking. Less than an hour earlier, she had been warned in a private meeting with Conservative MPs that her bid to delay leaving could end up losing her even more votes from her own party.

“She is going into an ever narrower cul-de-sac,” said one former minister. Speaking in Downing Street in a televised address, May said the three-month Brexit delay she had earlier in the day formally requested from EU27 leaders was “a matter of great personal regret for me” – and she would not countenance a longer extension of article 50. With just nine days to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, she laid the blame for the crisis squarely at the door of parliament.

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“Of this I am absolutely sure: you the public have had enough.”

What she missed is that it’s her they’re tired of.

MPs Furious After May Blames Them For Crisis (Ind.)

MPs have called Theresa May “irresponsible”, “disgraceful” and “toxic” after she blamed them for for the UK’s impending failure to leave the EU on 29 March. Labour’s Wes Streeting accused the prime minister of putting MPs’ lives in danger with an “incendiary” address. Ms May used a Downing Street speech to criticise the very people she needs to get her Brexit deal through the Commons at the third time of asking, telling voters that she was “sure” that “you, the public, have had enough” of political games. She said: “You’re tired of the infighting, you’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime. “You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side.”

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It can be done. Just not in the US, too many guns there already.

New Zealand Bans All Assault Weapons Immediately (AP)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is immediately banning sales of military style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines like the weapons used in last Friday’s attacks on two Christchurch mosques. Ardern announced the ban Thursday and said it would be followed by legislation to be introduced next month. She said the man arrested in the attacks had purchased his weapons legally and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase.” [..] The New Zealand government is asking all owners of assault weapons or now-banned attachments to report them to the government in the next two days before turning them in.

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I think manipulation by central banks is a much bigger problem than stagnation.

Stagnant Capitalism (Varoufakis)

When the Great Depression followed the 1929 stock-market crash, almost everyone acknowledged that capitalism was unstable, unreliable, and prone to stagnation. In the decades that followed, however, that perception changed. Capitalism’s postwar revival, and especially the post-Cold War rush to financialized globalization, resurrected faith in markets’ self-regulating abilities. Today, a long decade after the 2008 global financial crisis, this touching faith once again lies in tatters as capitalism’s natural tendency toward stagnation reasserts itself. The rise of the racist right, the fragmentation of the political center, and mounting geopolitical tensions are mere symptoms of capitalism’s miasma.

A balanced capitalist economy requires a magic number, in the form of the prevailing real (inflation-adjusted) interest rate. It is magic because it must kill two very different birds, flying in two very different skies, with a single stone. First, it must balance employers’ demand for waged labor with the available labor supply. Second, it must equalize savings and investment. If the prevailing real interest rate fails to balance the labor market, we end up with unemployment, precariousness, wasted human potential, and poverty. If it fails to bring investment up to the level of savings, deflation sets in and feeds back into even lower investment.

It takes a heroic disposition to assume that this magic number exists or that, even if it does, our collective endeavors will result in an actual real interest rate close to it. How do free marketeers convince themselves that there exists a single real interest rate (say, 2%) that would inspire investors to funnel all existing savings into productive investments and spur employers to hire everyone who wishes to work at the prevailing wage?

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I’ve kept my distance from the discussion, but this is nice.

Exposing the Myth of MMT (Rickards)

When critics hear that a Green New Deal could potentially cost something like $97 trillion, or proposals for Medicare for all, free tuition, free child care or guaranteed basic income, they say, “That all sounds nice, but we just can’t afford it.” That’s their main argument — that no matter how desirable these programs might be in theory, we just can’t afford them. Most criticism of MMT falls along those lines. Even the Keynesians like those I mentioned earlier, who generally favor large amounts of government spending to stimulate the economy, have come out against MMT. Besides that claim that we can’t afford it, even the Keynesians say MMT would be highly inflationary. If you printed that much money and start handing it out to people, demand would outstrip the output capacity of the economy and you’d get high inflation.

But the MMT advocates have an answer to these objections. They’re not the least bit intimidated by critics who say we can’t afford it. They say, “Yes, we can, and Modern Monetary Theory proves it. Just print the money and monetize the debt. Japanese debt is 2.5 times the United States’ debt, and China’s is higher than ours.” They haven’t collapsed, so we can take on far more debt than we have today. Furthermore, QE did not create much inflation. In fact, the Fed would like to see more inflation than it has. It still can’t produce a sustained 2% inflation rate after all these years. You might think the argument is ridiculous. After all, do we really want to become Japan? But in important ways, the MMT crowd has the upper hand in the debate.

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After 27 years, Australia is finally hitting a recession.

Australia Construction Slowdown A Major Threat To The Economy (ABC.au)

The property market upheaval brings billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s oft-quoted piece of wisdom to mind: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” We are witnessing more naked developers as half-finished projects dot the landscape of our major cities. As the year progresses, many more operators who’ve pushed the boundaries will join them. “Areas of oversupply will see a bit more chaos in the next six to twelve months,” Scott Gray-Spencer, local head of capital markets at the global real estate firm CBRE, told ABC’s The Business. Mr Gray-Spencer sees areas more than 10 kilometres from the city centres of Sydney and Melbourne, and parts of Queensland, as the most vulnerable.

Property investors, who were major targets of the crackdown, accounted for almost 50 per cent of mortgages two to three years ago. They have largely left the market and political uncertainty may keep them on the sidelines for longer as they await the outcome of the looming federal election. Should Labor win, it’s likely investors will wait to see how its plans to curb the negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions pan out. Even though Labor’s proposed negative gearing changes will not affect new housing, investors may still be worried about price growth because the next buyer is unable to negatively gear. So it could be some time before developers see an important group of buyers return in force. If the banks don’t stop them, the less generous tax laws might.


A half-finished apartment block in Cronulla sits idle while it waits for a buyer. (ABC News: John Gunn)

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At first sight it looked like a parody.

As Russia Collusion Fades, Ukrainian Plot To Help Clinton Emerges (Solomon)

After nearly three years and millions of tax dollars, the Trump-Russia collusion probe is about to be resolved. Emerging in its place is newly unearthed evidence suggesting another foreign effort to influence the 2016 election — this time, in favor of the Democrats. Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

The leak of the so-called “black ledger” files to U.S. media prompted Manafort’s resignation from the Trump campaign and gave rise to one of the key allegations in the Russia collusion probe that has dogged Trump for the last two and a half years. Ukraine Prosecutor General Yurii Lutsenko’s probe was prompted by a Ukrainian parliamentarian’s release of a tape recording purporting to quote a top law enforcement official as saying his agency leaked the Manafort financial records to help Clinton’s campaign. The parliamentarian also secured a court ruling that the leak amounted to “an illegal intrusion into the American election campaign,” Lutsenko told me.

Lutsenko said the tape recording is a serious enough allegation to warrant opening a probe, and one of his concerns is that the Ukrainian law enforcement agency involved had frequent contact with the Obama administration’s U.S. embassy in Kiev at the time. “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this and we will give legal assessment of this information,” Lutsenko told me.

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A memorial service was held on Sunday in Washington for William Blum, a former State Department official whose disillusionment with the Vietnam War turned him into a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy. Blum educated a generation of Americans about the rapacious aims of the U.S. abroad, debunking the myth of Washington’s good intentions for the peoples of the world. Blum died on December 9, 2018.

Sucking Liberals into a New Cold War (William Blum)

Cold War Number One: 70 years of daily national stupidity. Cold War Number Two: Still in its youth, but just as stupid. “He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.” – President Trump re Russian President Vladimir Putin after their meeting in Vietnam. [Washington Post, Nov.e 12, 2017] Putin later added that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. “They can do what they want, looking for some sensation. But there are no sensations.” Numerous U.S. intelligence agencies have said otherwise. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, responded to Trump’s remarks by declaring: “The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election.”

As we’ll see below, there isn’t too much of the “clear and indisputable” stuff. And this of course is the same James Clapper who made an admittedly false statement to Congress in March 2013, when he responded, “No, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Lies don’t usually come in any size larger than that. Virtually every member of Congress who has publicly stated a position on the issue has criticized Russia for interfering in the 2016 American presidential election. And it would be very difficult to find a member of the mainstream media who has questioned this thesis. What is the poor consumer of news to make of these gross contradictions?

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Time to rephrase ‘social media’. Man evolved living in groups, it’s simple.

Loneliness Estimated To Shorten A Person’s Life By 15 Years (SciAm)

Thanks to remarkable new technologies and the widespread use of social media, we are more “connected” than ever before. Yet as a nation, we are also more lonely. In fact, a recent study found that a staggering 47 percent of Americans often feel alone, left out and lacking meaningful connection with others. This is true for all ages, from teenagers to older adults. The number of people who perceive themselves to be alone, isolated or distant from others has reached epidemic levels both in the United States and in other parts of the world. Indeed, almost two decades ago, the book Bowling Alone pointed to the increasing isolation of Americans and our consequent loss of “social capital.” In Japan, for example, an estimated half million (known as hikikomori) shut themselves away for months on end.

In the United Kingdom, four in 10 citizens report feelings of chronic, profound loneliness, prompting the creation of a new cabinet-level position (the Minister for Loneliness) to combat the problem. While this “epidemic” of loneliness is increasingly recognized as a social issue, what’s less well recognized is the role loneliness plays as a critical determinant of health. Loneliness can be deadly: this according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, among others, who has stressed the significant health threat. Loneliness has been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A recent study revealed a surprising association between loneliness and cancer mortality risk, pointing to the role loneliness plays in cancer’s course, including responsiveness to treatments.

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Wasn’t kale supposed to not need any?

Kale Is Now One Of The Most Pesticide-Contaminated Vegetables (CNBC)

Often touted for being highly nutritious, kale has joined the list of 11 other fruits and vegetables known to be “dirty,” according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group. The watchdog group publishes its “Dirty Dozen” list annually, in which it ranks the 12 produce items that contain the highest amount of pesticide residues. The group analyzes data from the Department of Agriculture’s regular produce testing to determine the list. Ranked alongside kale on the list are strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.

The last time kale was included in the USDA’s produce tests was 2009 and it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen list. “We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin in a release. More than 92 percent of kale had residue from at least two pesticides after washing and peeling the appropriate vegetables, according to the report. Some had up to 18. Almost 60 percent of the kale samples showed residual Dacthal, a pesticide that is known as a possible human carcinogen. The group releases its “Clean Fifteen” list as well, highlighting the 15 produce items with the least amount of pesticide residue detected. It includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew melons.

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Jan 242018
 


Horacio Coppola Florida, Buenos Aires 1936

 

Rising Rates and Decelerating Deficits Spell Doom For US Housing -Again (CH)
Global Pension Ponzi – Carillion Collapse One Of Many To Come (GCore)
South Korea Bans Anonymous Cryptocurrency Trading (BI)
South Korea Is Banning All Foreigners From Trading Cryptocurrency (F.)
Mueller Wants To Question Trump On Comey, Flynn Firings (ZH)
Sessions, Comey Questioned By Mueller In Russia Probe (ZH)
Evidence Suggests A Massive Scandal Is Brewing At The FBI (NYPost)
Behind the Money Curtain: Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory (CP)
Turkey Lodges Third Extradition Request For Eight Servicemen in Greece (K.)
German Politicians Decry Arms Sales To Turkey Amid Attack On Syrian Kurds (RT)
Nearly Half Of Children In London, Birmingham Live In Poverty (Ind.)
UK Opposes Strong EU Recycling Targets Despite Plastics Pledge (G.)
Monsanto Faces A Fight For Soy Market (R.)
Number Of New Antibiotics Has Fallen Sharply Since 2000 (G.)

 

 

Chris Hamilton tends to get stuck in a multitude of data and graphs. Bit of a shame. Sometimes it’s about what you leave out.

But point taken: Demographics, Housing and Debt.

Rising Rates and Decelerating Deficits Spell Doom For US Housing -Again (CH)

I recently wrote an article explaining why a 30% to 50% decline in household net worth is imminent (HERE). No shocker that the primary asset for most in figuring household net worth is real estate, particularly primary residences. This article details why US housing starts and job creation are set to decelerate and a recession will almost surely follow… sending home prices tumbling (and likely equity and bond prices, to boot) severely negatively impacting US households net worth’s. First, the year over year change in housing starts (one unit variety) is highly indicative of the subsequent change (in 12 to 18 months) of full time employees (chart below…year over year change in full time employees blue shaded area) vs. YoY change in housing starts (red line)). As goes housing, so goes subsequent jobs creation.

[..] If you think interest rate changes and housing creation look interdependent…you’re right (chart below).

Again, total annual total population growth, 0-65yr/old population growth, housing starts (1-unit)…but this time including annual change in full time employees.

I believe the interest rate hikes and decelerating deficits will slow housing and jobs creation…but even if I’m wrong, there is still trouble dead ahead as the US is simply running out of employable persons as the percentage of employed 15-64yr/olds is nearing all time highs (also known as potential homebuyers).

Read more …

Pensions problems are literally everywhere. But they come to light only when companies themselves collapse first.

Global Pension Ponzi – Carillion Collapse One Of Many To Come (GCore)

The looming pension crisis has been signalled in the collapse of Carillion. The deficit of latest private sector dead-on-arrival Carillion is officially £580 million. However, private reports suggest it could be as high as £2.6 BILLION. According to a Sky News investigation: ‘the £2.6 billion figure relates to the cost to Carillion of paying an insurance company to guarantee all of its pension liabilities, and is significant because it is likely to be the sum claimed on behalf of the pension schemes as part of the liquidation process.’ Nearly 30,000 UK workers’ pensions are at risk thanks to Carillion management’s total mismanagement of a company that has seen its share price collapse 94% in the last 12 months. Carillion’s 27,500-member pension scheme was placed on an ‘at risk list’ in autumn 2017. Arguably, it like many other pension funds should have been there many months ago.

Sadly, Carillion is just the latest in a very long string of serious company collapses that have highlighted the major pension crisis in the UK and around the Western world. It also likely signals that we may be on the verge of many, many more very large corporate bankruptcies in the UK due to massive debt levels and unfunded liabilities. This is not a situation unique to the private sector. It will be repeated in the years ahead – both in the public and the private sector. In November 2017, the OECD warned that the UK’s defined benefit workplace pension plans (final salary schemes) as ‘persistently underfunded’ and the state pension as seriously lacking. Everyone is exposed by this and it emphasises the importance of saving for retirement and ensuring your pension is both funded and properly diversified. These ongoing disasters in the UK’s pension pots are also a threat to the efforts of prudent individuals who have worked hard to set aside enough for their hard-earned retirements.

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This will be copied across the world.

South Korea Bans Anonymous Cryptocurrency Trading (BI)

South Korea has made moves to ban anonymous cryptocurrency accounts from being used for financial transactions. Financial authorities have already banned banks from offering virtual accounts that are needed to buy or sell cryptocurrency. New regulations set for next week will further the ban already in place by introducing a system to verify a person’s identity before they can make a transaction. Planned regulation also prevents foreigners and underage investors from opening cryptocurrency accounts in South Korea, Yonhap reported, citing financial officials. South Korea’s senior financial regulator Kim Yong-beom told reporters that six South Korean banks will begin issuing new trading accounts next week after the system is implemented. Those banks include Shinhan Bank, NH Bank and the Industrial Bank of Korea.

Existing crypto bank accounts not linked to verified users will be banned on the same day, Kim said. Officials also announced on Sunday that cryptocurrency traders would be required to share user data with the banks, according to Yonhap. Newly proposed regulations would require banks to check whether cryptocurrency exchanges comply with the new transparency measures. The government will also be able to access users’ transaction data through compliant banks, according to officials, which may point to the government looking to enforce taxes on cryptocurrency transactions. Stricter trading regulations are part of a government system to curb speculative investment into virtual money, as many fear that the cryptocurrency bubble may soon burst. The government also hopes to prevent the use of cryptocurrency in illegal activity.

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“Kang noted a loophole. In the new system, foreigners and minors can’t possibly make investments as it operates on a bank’s real-name account, but they could potentially use corporate accounts to make additional investments. “There’s no limit to that for now. We haven’t come up with measures to ban that as there is no actual way to do so,” he said.”

South Korea Is Banning All Foreigners From Trading Cryptocurrency (F.)

The system aims to tackle money laundering and related crimes, along with speculation-driven overheating in the market, Kang Young-soo, head of the FSC’s cryptocurrency response team, said by phone on Tuesday after the announcement. “The government is concerned about manipulation of market conditions and injection of illegal funds while market funds are leaked into speculative investments,” he added. “We view that foreigners’ and minors’ investments contribute to our areas of concern.” All foreigners, including residents, nonresidents and “kyopo” ethnic Koreans with foreign citizenship, will be banned from trading cryptocurrencies in Korea, the FSC’s foreign media department said by email. Minors are banned after Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon earlier claim the cryptocurrency craze could lead the youth toward crime.

The government first suggested last month to ban minors and nonresident foreigners. But the final decision nets all foreigners regardless of resident status. “If they’re not Korean citizens, then they can invest in exchanges provided in their countries. Why do they have to invest in ours?” Kang quipped. [..] “The government is creating boundaries for instances of foreigners injecting in coins into the country and a phenomenon of more Bitcoins and other cryptocurrency circulating within the Korean market,” says Kim Jin-hwa, corepresentative of the Korea Blockchain Association, which has about 30 member companies including several exchanges. “With the current conditions of our market, higher supply would equate to higher speculation.”

The targets of the latest regulation, says blockchain startup BlockchainOS Choi Yong-kwan, are Chinese investors who have flooded the cryptocurrency market since their country banned cryptocurrency trade last year. Digital coins from China enter Korean exchanges, then are illegally changed into foreign currencies, which are sent back to China, he explained. “These cases are surprisingly high, and difficult to track or identify. This measure can be viewed as a response to ban these illegal activities,” he said by phone, but suggested the ban would have little effect on existing investors. “The biggest problem lies on Chinese cryptocurrency investors, so this matter is an important focus.”

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Trump can simply say NO. But he probably won’t.

Mueller Wants To Question Trump On Comey, Flynn Firings (ZH)

Following the news earlier this month that special counsel Mueller is seeking to question President Trump – and following today’s NYT report that Mueller had interviewed AG Jeff Sessions – moments ago the Washington Post reported that Mueller wants to question Trump over his decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey and the departure of former national security adviser Michael Flynn from the White House. According to two WaPo sources, Trump’s legal team could present conditions for Trump to interview with Mueller’s investigators as soon as next week. The Post also adds that Trump’s lawyers hope to have Trump answer some of Mueller’s questions in an in-person interview and some in writing.

Within the past two weeks, the special counsel’s office has indicated to the White House that the two central subjects that investigators wish to discuss with the president are the departures of Flynn and Comey and the events surrounding their firings. Mueller has also reportedly expressed interest in Trump’s efforts to remove Jeff Sessions as attorney general or pressure him into quitting, “according to a person familiar with the probe who said the special counsel was seeking to determine whether there was a “pattern” of behavior by the president.” Earlier this month, Trump declined to say whether he would grant an interview to Mueller and his team, deflecting questions on the topic by saying there had been “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said when asked directly about meeting with the special counsel. While Trump has told has allegedly told his lawyers that he is not worried about a face to face meeting with the special counsel, some of Trump’s close advisers and friends fear a face-to-face interview with Mueller could put the president in legal jeopardy. A central worry, they say, is Trump’s lack of precision in his speech and his penchant for hyperbole. Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to Trump, said he should try to avoid an interview at all costs, saying agreeing to such a session would be a “suicide mission.” “I find it to be a death wish. Why would you walk into a perjury trap?” Stone said. “The president would be very poorly advised to give Mueller an interview”, Stone said.

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I googled Sessions. All articles on this are from WaPo, NYT, CNN etc. Where is the balance?

Sessions, Comey Questioned By Mueller In Russia Probe (ZH)

The leaks from the special counsel’s office just keep coming. After reporting earlier today that AG Jeff Sessions sat for an interview with Mueller last week, the paper is now reporting that Mueller interviewed former FBI Director James Comey last year. The interview with Comey focused on the infamous memo he wrote where he alleged that Trump had asked him to take it easy on Michael Flynn. Many of the special counsel’s critics have warned that Mueller should recuse himself from all dealings with Comey, who is believed to be a key witness in the probe. Comey and Mueller have a long history of working together, and also share a personal friendship, having vacationed together. A spokeswoman for Sessions confirmed that he had appeared before the committee. Circling back to Sessions, the NYT pointed out that Sessions is perhaps one of the most important witnesses to be interviewed by Mueller.

For Mr. Mueller, Mr. Sessions is a key witness to two of the major issues he is investigating: the campaign’s possible ties to the Russians and whether the president tried to obstruct the Russia investigation. Mr. Mueller can question Mr. Sessions about his role as the head of the campaign’s foreign policy team. Mr. Sessions was involved in developing Mr. Trump’s position toward Russia and met with Russian officials, including the ambassador. Along with Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions led a March 2016 meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where one of the campaign’s foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, pitched the idea of a personal meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Papadopoulos plead guilty in October to lying to federal authorities about the nature of his contacts with the Russians and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office.

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The FBI is confident it won’t be investigated. There’s no-one to do it.

Evidence Suggests A Massive Scandal Is Brewing At The FBI (NYPost)

During the financial crisis, the federal government bailed out banks it declared “too big to fail.” Fearing their bankruptcy might trigger economic Armageddon, the feds propped them up with taxpayer cash. Something similar is happening now at the FBI, with the Washington wagons circling the agency to protect it from charges of corruption. This time, the appropriate tag line is “too big to believe.” Yet each day brings credible reports suggesting there is a massive scandal involving the top ranks of America’s premier law enforcement agency. The reports, which feature talk among agents of a “secret society” and suddenly missing text messages, point to the existence both of a cabal dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in 2016 and of a plan to let Hillary Clinton skate free in the classified email probe.

If either one is true -and I believe both probably are- it would mean FBI leaders betrayed the nation by abusing their powers in a bid to pick the president. More support for this view involves the FBI’s use of the Russian dossier on Trump that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. It is almost certain that the FBI used the dossier to get FISA court warrants to spy on Trump associates, meaning it used the opposition research of the party in power to convince a court to let it spy on the candidate of the other party – likely without telling the court of the dossier’s political link. Even worse, there is growing reason to believe someone in President Barack Obama’s administration turned over classified information about Trump to the Clinton campaign. As one former federal prosecutor put it, “It doesn’t get worse than that.” Joseph diGenova, believes Trump was correct when he claimed Obama aides wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower.

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Quite literally nobody seems to understand that governments are not households.

Behind the Money Curtain: Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory (CP)

Taxes do not fund government spending. That’s a core insight of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) whose radical implications have not been understood very well by the left. Indeed, it’s not well understood at all, and most people who have heard or read it somewhere breeze right past it, and fall back to the taxes-for-spending paradigm that is the sticky common wisdom of the left and right. This, despite the fact that the truth of the proposition is obvious if you think through just a few steps about the process of money-creation. What makes it hard to see is the dense knot of conventional theory and discourse in which we are entangled, and which seems impossible to cut as cleanly as MMT suggests.

But the discussion around the newly-enacted Republican tax bill has brought the issue of tax policy to the forefront again, and it’s time for the left to realize how fundamentally wrong that common wisdom is, and how continuing to argue within the phony terms of the taxes-for-revenue paradigm occludes and reproduces a persistent reactionary fiction regarding what taxes are for. The argument of the common-wisdom economic paradigm is that the government must collect taxes (or borrow money—we’ll get to that) to spend on whatever programs it wants to fund. In this paradigm, the government extracts money from an external, economically prior source, and uses it to pay for government programs. For both the left and the right in this paradigm, taxes are for funding government spending: money first flows into the government through taxes collected, and is then spent into economy in various programs and purchases.

The arguments that ensue are over how much money to collect in taxes, from which sources, and which government programs to fund with the money collected. Most leftists take their stance within this paradigm. Bernie Sanders, for instance, says his Medicare-for-all plan would “raise revenue” from various taxes such as income and capital gains, and from limiting “deductions for the rich.” Dean Baker suggests a 4% increase in payroll taxes to “fully fund” Social Security and Medicare. These kinds of analyses, typical of the left, make points that are helpful in immediate political fights, and they’re also grounded in the conventional paradigm about, money, taxes, and government spending. That paradigm not only informs most thinking—whether conservative, liberal, or left-radical—about money in our society, it also informs the legal and institutional policy framework. It’s the paradigm of the household.

We’re comfortable with the household paradigm because it reflects everyday reality. The household has to get money from somewhere to spend it. It’s obvious. But, also obvious, the household (or business or state) does not create money. That teensy little huge fact makes the household-government finance analogy wrong and wildly misleading. Unless we take that fact as of no significance—And how could we?—we need another paradigm. Analyses and critiques—no matter how radical—of government financing as if it worked like household financing are based on false premises, and false premises lead down meandering dead-end paths to wrong conclusions. We have to reject the household analogy whenever it comes up from any source, including our own minds, where it will sneak in. Most leftists, I’m afraid, do end up assuming it, and ignoring the huge little fact that it cannot be right.

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Governments rejecting Supreme Court decisions. Well, perhaps in Turkey that’s the rule.

Turkey Lodges Third Extradition Request For Eight Servicemen in Greece (K.)

Ankara on Tuesday lodged a third request for the extradition of the eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece in July 2016 following a failed coup in the neighboring country, sources said. The request by Ankara was lodged just a few hours after Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis received in Athens a delegation from the Turkish Justice Ministry where, according to sources, the Turkish officials underlined Turkey’s insistence on the return of the eight men who are accused of treason. The same sources indicate that Ankara has included new claims about the servicemen in its third request for their extradition.

Speaking after a meeting with Turkey’s Deputy Justice Minister Bilal Ucar in Athens, Kontonis said that the eight could not be send back given that the country’s Supreme Court has rejected the original extradition request. Kontonis said the ruling was “fully respected by everyone and the Greek government.” However, he said, a proposal to try them in Athens was still on the table, adding that it would be up to Ankara “to take the appropriate legal steps.”

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German weapons fight US allies.

German Politicians Decry Arms Sales To Turkey Amid Attack On Syrian Kurds (RT)

German politicians have widely opposed plans to provide Turkey with tank modernization upgrades after Leopard 2 combat vehicles were spotted taking part in the military operation against the Kurds in Syria’s Afrin. Amid rumors of potential resumption of arms sales to Turkey, German opposition parties, the Greens and the Left, urged the government to reconsider such deals with Ankara, pointing out that German weapons are now killing innocent people in Syria. “An immediate halt to all arms exports to Turkey is long overdue,” Agnieszka Brugger, a Greens lawmaker told the Heilbronner Stimme newspaper. “This intense situation should be a wake-up call for the German government.”

Since the 1980s Germany has sold Turkey some 751 Leopard tanks, including 354 modern Leopard 2 type, which has been previously used by Turkey an a cross border operation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and US-supported Kurdish militias in Syria. Throughout its military campaign in the neighboring country, Turkey lost a number of 60-ton Leopard 2 tanks, built by Bavaria’s Krauss-Maffei, due to mine explosions. Ankara has recently pressed Berlin and German arms companies to retrofit the hardware to offer better protection against enemy mines. The tanks used by Turkey come from decommissioned stocks of the Bundeswehr. The frontal armor on the hull and turret on the Leopard 2 is much thicker than on the sides and rear of the tracked vehicle.

[..] The massive outcry from the German politicians was caused by the publication of pictures which allegedly showed German tanks used against the Kurds in Syria. An expert from the Bundeswehr confirmed to the German Press Agency in Berlin on Monday that pictures, distributed by the state-owned Anadolu Turkish news agency, showed Leopard 2 A4 tanks of German production. [..] “Angela Merkel must explain her Turkey policy,” said Jan Korte, an MP from the Left. He noted that German soldiers are directly involved in the war of aggression against the Kurds by flying Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) aircraft missions and not doing anything to stop the bloodshed on the ground.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) MP Graf Alexander Lambsdorff also expressed sharp criticism of the Turkish action against the Kurds in Syria. “This invasion is not legitimized by international law. There is no mandate from the United Nations and it is not self-defense. All states should call on Turkey to end the campaign and ask them to work on a political solution instead.”

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When seeing stats like this, one must fear for what is yet to come in Britain.

Nearly Half Of Children In London, Birmingham Live In Poverty (Ind.)

Almost half of all children in some UK cities are estimated to be living in poverty, new figures reveal, amid warnings that welfare reforms are leading to an “emerging child poverty crisis”. An analysis of data indicates the most deprived areas in the country have experienced the biggest increases in child poverty over the past two years, with parts of London and Birmingham seeing levels rise by 10 percentage points to above half of all children. The “shocking” figures have been attributed to the benefit freeze – which has been in place since 2015 and leaves children’s benefits frozen until the end of the decade – as well as the high cost of credit for low income families, leaving many “spiralling into debt”.

A report by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) last month found that Britain’s record on tackling poverty had reached a turning point and was at risk of unravelling, with nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners living in poverty than five years ago. The JRF stated that while poverty levels fell in the years to 2011-12, changes to welfare policy – especially since the 2015 Budget – saw the numbers creep up again. Their report showed a total of 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty – more than one in five of the population.

Now the latest figures, collated by the End Child Poverty coalition through analysis of tax credit data and national trends in worklessness, estimate that child poverty in Manchester and Birmingham stands at 44% and 43% respectively. In the London borough of Tower Hamlets this reaches 53%. [..] A child is said to live in poverty if they are in a family living on less than 60 per cent of median household income. According to the latest official statistics, 60 per cent of median income, after housing costs, was around £248 per week.

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EU targets are for 2035. Ergo, they are not ‘strong’. They’re just as bad and weak as the UK 2042 targets. Don’t be fooled.

UK Opposes Strong EU Recycling Targets Despite Plastics Pledge (G.)

The UK government is opposing strong new recycling targets across the EU despite its recent pledge to develop “ambitious new future targets and milestones”, confidential documents have revealed. A 25-year environment plan was launched earlier in January by the prime minister, Theresa May, who particularly focused on cutting plastic pollution. The plan, aimed partly at wooing younger voters, says “recycling plastics is critical”. A target to recycle 65% of urban waste by 2035 was agreed by the European council and parliament in December and now awaits a vote of approval by member states. But the UK’s opposition is revealed in a record of a subsequent briefing for EU ambassadors, obtained by Greenpeace’s Unearthed team and seen by the Guardian. “The UK cannot support a binding target of 65% for 2035,” said the record, compiled by officials from one member state and confirmed by others. Furthermore, the UK said its opposition meant it would not support the overall waste agreement.

The recycling target had already been watered down from the 70% by 2030 initially sought by the European parliament. The UK’s own environment officials estimated that meeting ambitious recycling targets would bring benefits totalling billions of pounds, according to a July 2017 internal presentation, also obtained by Greenpeace. It suggested a 65% target by 2030 would save almost £10bn over a decade in waste sector, greenhouse gas and social costs. “This Conservative government must be judged on what they do, not on what they say,” said Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary. “It comes as no surprise that the government are trying to scupper progress on recycling behind the scenes. “Recycling rates have stagnated on this government’s watch and we are way behind meeting our national targets. [Environment secretary] Michael Gove needs to clarify the government’s position on this matter without delay.”

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Fighting GMO resistance with more GMO. A road to nowhere but mass starvation.

Monsanto Faces A Fight For Soy Market (R.)

Monsanto is facing major threats to its historic dominance of seed and herbicide technology for the $40 billion U.S. soybean market. Rivals BASF and DowDuPont are preparing to push their own varieties of genetically modified soybeans. At stake is control over seed supply for the next generation of farmers producing the most valuable U.S. agricultural export. The market has opened up as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready line of seeds – engineered to tolerate the weed killer glyphosate – has lost effectiveness as weeds develop their own tolerance to the chemical. Compounding the firm’s troubles is a national scandal over crop damage linked to its new soybean and herbicide pairing – Roundup Ready 2 Xtend seeds, engineered to resist the chemical dicamba.

The newly competitive sector has sown confusion across the U.S. farm belt, particularly among smaller firms that produce and sell seeds with technology licensed from the agrichemical giants. Many of these sellers told Reuters they are amassing a surplus of seeds with engineered traits from multiple developers – at substantial extra cost – because they can only guess which product farmers will buy. “Our job is to meet our customers’ needs, and we don’t know what those are going to be,” said Carl Peterson at Peterson Farms Seed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this.” Monsanto has much to lose. Soybeans are the key ingredient in feed used to fatten the world’s cattle, pigs, chickens and fish. Net sales of Monsanto’s soybean seeds and traits totaled almost $2.7 billion in fiscal 2017, or about a fifth of its total net sales. Gross profits from soybean products climbed 35% over 2016, beating 15% growth of its bigger corn seed franchise.

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No, the solution is not more and new antibiotics. The solution is to stop using the present ones the way we do. It can be legislated by tomorrow morning.

Number Of New Antibiotics Has Fallen Sharply Since 2000 (G.)

The number of new antibiotics being developed has fallen sharply since 2000 and drugmakers need to do much more to tackle the rise of superbugs, according to a report. Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, and its US rival Johnson & Johnson are leading efforts to combat antibiotic resistance, according to the report, which was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation assessed 30 of the world’s biggest drugmakers, including pharma companies, biotech firms and generic drugmakers, and produced the first independent report on the industry’s efforts to address drug-resistant infections.

Overprescription of antibiotics, along with their overuse in animals, has caused growing drug resistance in humans with serious health implications – leading to the rise of superbugs such as MRSA that cannot be treated with existing antibiotics. England’s chief medical officer has repeatedly warned that antibiotic resistance could spell the “end of modern medicine”. Caesarean sections and cancer treatments would become very risky without the drugs used to fight infection. In Europe, an estimated 25,000 people a year die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the US, at least 2m illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year can be attributed to antibiotic resistance, according to the foundation’s report.

New antibiotics are urgently needed but there is little incentive for drugmakers to develop them as they will be tightly controlled once they reach the market to limit the risk of resistance emerging. The number of new antibacterial drugs approved in the US dropped from 33 between 1985 and 1999 to 13 between 2000 and 2014. Jayasree Iyer, the head of the foundation, said: “If we don’t use antibiotics in the right doses or for the right bugs, we risk giving bacteria a chance to adapt and strengthen their defences, which will make it harder to kill them the next time. The threat that once-deadly infections could again become life-threatening is intensifying. “Pharmaceutical companies have a critical contribution to make to the effort to tackle superbugs.”

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Nov 082017
 
 November 8, 2017  Posted by at 9:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Henri Cartier Bresson Nehru Announces Gandhi’s Death, Birla House, Delhi, India Jan 30, 1948

 

700 Years of Data Forewarn of Rapid Reversal From Low Interest Rates (BBG)
Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge (R.)
Saudi Crackdown to Confiscate Up to $800 Billion in Assets (WSJ)
Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination In Lebanon (ZH)
Lebanon – The Next Front In The Great Gas War (Golem XIV)
UK Sales Of Bombs And Missiles To Saudi Arabia Increase By Almost 500% (Ind.)
May to Lose Second Top Minister in One Week Over Secret Israel Meetings (BBG)
Those Who Broke The Economy Cannot Fix It (Ann Pettifor)
German ‘Wise Men’ Sound Alarm Over ‘Overheating’ Economy (R.)
Bean Counters: Lost in Paradise (Ren.)
British Mainstream Media Spreading Dangerous MMT Ideas (Bilbo)
Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown Sinks Property Prices (WS)
Catalan Secessionist Parties Fail To Agree On Unity Ticket For Vote (R.)
1 in 200 British, 1 in 60 Londoners Are Homeless (G.)

 

 

Long term is always better.

700 Years of Data Forewarn of Rapid Reversal From Low Interest Rates (BBG)

Forget secular stagnation. One historian says the world is actually in its ninth “real rate depression” and 700 years of data show that – when it comes – the turnaround could be sudden. In research published on the Bank of England’s staff blog, Harvard University’s Paul Schmelzing says most work pointing to a period of permanently lower equilibrium real interest rates is too short term. Instead, he tracked the risk-free rate since 1311 by identifying the dominant asset of each period – starting with sovereign rates in the Italian city states in the 14th and 15th centuries and moving to long-term rates in Spain, then the Province of Holland, the U.K., Germany, and finally the U.S. Real rates, or the benchmark interest rates minus inflation, have averaged 4.78% while the 200-year real-rate average is 2.6%.

That makes the current market environment “severely depressed,” Schmelzing wrote. However, it’s simply following a five-century downward trend, in which there have been nine periods of secular decline followed by reversals. The current period – since the 1980s – is the second-longest recorded and its closest historical analogy is the global “Long Depression” of the 1880s and 1890s which saw low productivity growth, deflationary price dynamics, and the rise of global populism and protectionism. This spell seems to have ended without a push from policy makers. That could be good news for those struggling to find a fix for the current low-rate environment. “There is strong evidence suggesting that the last ‘secular stagnation cycle’ started fading relatively autonomously after just over two decades following the key financial shock, not requiring the aid of decisive fiscal or monetary stimulus.”

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There’ll be more.

Saudi Banks Freeze More Than 1,200 Bank Accounts in Anti-Corruption Purge (R.)

Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the kingdom as part of the government’s anti-corruption purge, bankers and lawyers said on Tuesday. They added that the number is continuing to rise. Dozens of royal family members, officials and business executives have been detained in the crackdown and are facing allegations of money laundering, bribery, extorting officials and taking advantage of public office for personal gain. Since Sunday, the central bank has been expanding the list of accounts it is requiring lenders to freeze on an almost hourly basis, one regional banker said, declining to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media.

The banker did not name the companies affected but said they included listed and unlisted firms across many sectors. He added that if the freezes stayed in place for long, they could start to hurt day-to-day business activities such as paying staff and creditors or making other transactions. A second banker said, however, that most of the frozen accounts belonged to individuals rather than companies, and that banks were being allowed by the regulator to continue to fund existing commitments. Among top business executives detained in the probe are billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding; Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, founder of Al Tayyar Travel; and Amr al-Dabbagh, chairman of builder Red Sea International.

The stocks of all three companies, which have issued statements saying they continue to operate as normal, plunged between 9 and 10% on Tuesday. One of the bankers speaking to Reuters said the central bank had met with some foreign banks this week to reassure them that the freezing of accounts targeted individuals, and that firms linked to those people would not be damaged.

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WSJ has gone full paywall.

Saudi Crackdown to Confiscate Up to $800 Billion in Assets (WSJ)

The Saudi government is aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite, according to people familiar with the matter. Several prominent businessmen are among those who have been arrested in the days since Saudi authorities launched the crackdown on Saturday, by detaining more than 60 princes, officials and other prominent Saudis, according to those people and others. The country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.”

The purge is the most extensive of the kingdom’s elite in recent history. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman, was named heir to the throne in June and has moved to consolidate power. He has said that tackling corruption at the highest level is necessary to overhaul what has long been an oil-dependent economy. The crackdown could also help replenish state coffers. The government has said that assets accumulated through corruption will become state property, and people familiar with the matter say the government estimates the value of assets it can reclaim at up to 3 trillion Saudi riyal, or $800 billion.

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Strange bedfellows.

Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination In Lebanon (ZH)

Early this morning, Israeli Channel 10 news published a leaked diplomatic cable which had been sent to all Israeli ambassadors throughout the world concerning the chaotic events that unfolded over the weekend in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, which began with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unexpected resignation after he was summoned to Riyadh by his Saudi-backers, and led to the Saudis announcing that Lebanon had “declared war” against the kingdom. The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, constitutes the first formal evidence proving that the Saudis and Israelis are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East. The explosive classified Israeli cable reveals the following:

• On Sunday, just after Lebanese PM Hariri’s shocking resignation, Israel sent a cable to all of its embassies with the request that its diplomats do everything possible to ramp up diplomatic pressure against Hezbollah and Iran.
• The cable urged support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
• The cable stressed that Iran was engaged in “regional subversion”.
• Israeli diplomats were urged to appeal to the “highest officials” within their host countries to attempt to expel Hezbollah from Lebanese government and politics.

As is already well-known, the Saudi and Israeli common cause against perceived Iranian influence and expansion in places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq of late has led the historic bitter enemies down a pragmatic path of unspoken cooperation as both seem to have placed the break up of the so-called “Shia crescent” as their primary policy goal in the region. For Israel, Hezbollah has long been its greatest foe, which Israeli leaders see as an extension of Iran’s territorial presence right up against the Jewish state’s northern border.

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“Having failed to liberate the Syrians, Saudi, the West, its Sunni Gulf allies and Israel will now see if they can succeed in blocking any Iranian gas ambitions by liberating the Lebanese from their own government.”

Lebanon – The Next Front In The Great Gas War (Golem XIV)

The Great Gas War has already two distinct fronts: The now relatively quiet Northern Front in Ukraine and the Southern Front in Syria in which the Western empire has been losing. It looks to me that Lebanon is being targeted as the next front, where the West hopes its loses might be recouped. Yesterday, November 6th, Reuters reported, “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi‘ite group Hezbollah.” This comes after Israel, Saudi’s long time though largely un-offical best friend in the region, has been very publicly preparing to renew its own war with Lebanon – or more accurately with Hezbollah. As the American news journal Newsweek put it recently, “ISRAEL PREPARES FOR ANOTHER WAR WITH HEZBOLLAH AS IDF PRACTICES LEBANON INVASION.”

Why now and why Lebanon? Well the rulers of Saudi, a Sunni dominated country, will tell us that it is because Hezbollah is a Shia terrorist organisation. “Hezbollah” literally means the “Party of Allah” or “Party of God”. Saudi Gulf affairs minister Thamer al-Sabhan yesterday pointedly referred to Hezbollah as, “the Lebanese Party of the Devil”. Saudi is not alone of course, Hezbollah has also been listed as a terrorist organisation by America, Israel, the Arab League, the UK and the EU. It is also, however, part of the popular government of Lebanon having seats in its parliament. I suggest, however, a powerful reason that a new war with Hezbollah may be in the offing is because Lebanon is the next link in any gas pipeline that could potentially bring Iranian Gas to Europe.

That was the reason the West decided to “liberate” the Syrian people and it will be why they decide to enforce the same salvation upon the people of Lebanon. Having failed to liberate the Syrians, Saudi, the West, its Sunni Gulf allies and Israel will now see if they can succeed in blocking any Iranian gas ambitions by liberating the Lebanese from their own government. I would not be surprised to hear quite soon from opposition groups vocally denouncing the government or at least Hezbollah. I expect spokes people from those groups to suddenly get a global platform along-side American and regional supporters such as Saudi.

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How to spell insanity.

UK Sales Of Bombs And Missiles To Saudi Arabia Increase By Almost 500% (Ind.)

The number of British-made bombs and missiles sold to Saudi Arabia since the start of its bloody campaign in Yemen has risen by almost 500%, The Independent can reveal. More than £4.6bn of arms were sold in the first two years of bombings, with the Government grant increasing numbers of export licences despite mounting evidence of war crimes and massacres at hospitals, schools and weddings. The United Nations says air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are the main cause of almost 5,295 civilian deaths and 8,873 casualties confirmed so far, warning that the real figure is “likely to be far higher”. It has condemned the “entirely man-made catastrophe” leaving millions more on the brink of famine and sparking the world’s worst cholera epidemic, while blacklisting Saudi Arabia for killing and maiming children.

There is also fresh concern over the Kingdom’s attempt to shut all air, land and sea ports into Yemen, which it said was to stop the flow of weapons but will also halt aid imports. British-made bombs have been found at the scene of bombings deemed to violate international law but the UK has continued its political and material support for Riyadh’s campaign. Figures from the Department for International Trade (DIT) show that in the two years leading up to the Yemen war, £33m of ML4 licences covering bombs, missiles and countermeasures were approved. But in the two years since the start of Saudi bombing in March 2015, the figure increased by 457% to £1.9bn, according to calculations by Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Licences covering aircraft including Eurofighter jets have also risen by 70% to £2.6bn in the same period.

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Secret meetings as the Middle East is imploding. And arms sales are exploding.

May to Lose Second Top Minister in One Week Over Secret Israel Meetings (BBG)

Prime Minister Theresa May is weighing whether to fire a member of her cabinet only seven days after her defense secretary quit in a sexual harassment scandal, as the U.K. government faces fresh turmoil in the midst of Brexit talks. May is likely to dismiss her International Development Secretary Priti Patel in a row over a succession of unauthorized meetings she held with Israeli officials behind the prime minister’s back, according to reports from the BBC and The Sun Tuesday, which the U.K. government declined to deny. The premier has not yet had the chance to speak to Patel – who is on an official trip to Africa – about the latest revelations. A conversation would be expected before a decision is made about the minister’s future. If she is forced out, Patel will be the second minister to depart May’s cabinet in one week, after Michael Fallon resigned from the defense ministry amid allegations over his past behavior toward women.

For some, May’s latest headache is yet another demonstration of her weakness, which draws repeated questions over how her government can last long enough to see Brexit to the finish line. If more dominoes drop – in the shape of senior ministers – the last one to fall could ultimately be the prime minister herself. “The destabilizing effect on an already weak administration has prompted another burst of speculation that May could soon be forced to resign,” Mujtaba Rahman of Eurasia Group said in a note to clients. He thought one likely scenario is for May to be toppled if she fails to get a grip on the latest crisis and is ousted because her MPs judge that the government cannot go on like this – and is incapable of recovering the authority a prime minister needs.

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The British economy is being bled dry….

Those Who Broke The Economy Cannot Fix It (Ann Pettifor)

Make no mistake, last week’s increase in interest rates was a big deal. Painful as it might be for a good share of the population, the real point is that the Bank is signalling the end of a particular phase of monetary policy. Since 2010 the counterpart to self-defeating austerity policies has been expansionary monetary policies. These have inflated assets – enriching the already-rich, while failing to stimulate wider economic recovery. Yesterday the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee signalled an end of this dangerous game. But this technocratic realignment makes no difference to the fact that ‘the Guardians of the nation’s finances’ – Bank and Treasury economists – have failed absolutely to revive the economy.

You need look no further than the (ongoing) decline in real wages, to continuing low levels of private investment, and to the dangers of rising household debt. A small interest rate rise is hardly likely to improve these conditions. Bank and Treasury economists (aided and abetted by the OBR) are guilty of defeatism. They argue that despite their powers, THERE IS NOTHING TO BE DONE. It is assumed that somehow ‘the invisible hand’ or ‘the markets’ will, without intervention by the authorities, correct the weakness, insecurity and failures of the British economy. The prolonged and painfully weak recovery is regularly blamed on something defined as “productivity”. By shifting responsibility for economic failure on to productivity, the Bank, Treasury and OBR economists are saying that somehow economic failure is inherent to the economy – to businesses and especially to workers.

“Nothing to do with us, guv” they mutter. They add that the situation has been exacerbated by the vote to leave the EU. This is a handy way of denying that the ongoing economic failure of the British economy (and the Brexit vote) can be explained by austerity policies, and the failures of the financial system. By taking this approach, economists at the Bank have – conveniently – set the scene for endorsing further inaction by the Chancellor later this month. Yesterday the Governor of the Bank was flanked by Ben Broadbent and Dave Ramsden. Ben Broadbent, as a Goldman Sachs economist, was among the earliest to call for austerity policies. Dave Ramsden (who did not vote for the rate rise) implemented these policies as top economist at the Treasury.

But both Broadbent and Ramsden were senior figures in economic policy-making throughout the debt inflation that preceded the crisis, and (we presume) supporters of financial globalisation. It is obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense that austerity policies have hurt the most vulnerable, and damaged Britain’s economic potential, by forcing a brutal adjustment to lower quality and lower paid work. Labour has been forced to bear the brunt of the Global Financial Crisis. The weakness in productivity is just the outcome of these policies, not the cause.

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… while Germany’s needs diverge ever more from those of southern Europe.

German ‘Wise Men’ Sound Alarm Over ‘Overheating’ Economy (R.)

The German economy is at risk of overheating, according to a leaked advisory council report that follows pressure from the Bundesbank for a swifter end to the ECB’s expansive monetary policy. In their annual report, seen by Handelsblatt newspaper, the five “wise men” who advise the German government on economic policy said the economy, which they expected to expand strongly this year and next, was moving gradually into a “boom phase”. “There are clear signs that economic capacity is over-utilised,” read the report, which is due to be published on Wednesday. Germans have been among the foremost critics of the ECB’s bond-buying program, which was introduced three years ago to depress borrowing costs and reignite growth in the euro zone’s heavily indebted southern periphery.

The wise men expected Germany’s economy to expand by 2% this year and by 2.2% in 2018, Handelsblatt said. With unemployment at its lowest level since the early 1990s, Germany’s circumstances are very different from Italy’s or Spain‘s, straining the ECB’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ monetary policy. ECB President Mario Draghi last month announced a halving n the size of its 2 trillion euro bond-buying program, but this is far from the return to conventional monetary policy many Germans, including Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann, demand. Without an intervention to cool the economy, Germany’s hawks fear the buoyant economy could tip over into an inflationary cycle. Last week, a senior official from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives warned that German savers would not tolerate continued low interest rates for much longer.

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Accountants and auditors are not doing their jobs.

Bean Counters: Lost in Paradise (Ren.)

“The phrase ‘Set a thief to catch a thief’ is common parlance,” says Professor Atul K. Shah. “‘Set a global brand of professional accountants to rob society and pilfer its taxes, bleeding governments’, is not, but it should be.’ Professor Bill Black says internal controls are absolutely critical in reducing fraud by insiders in particular, but not just insiders, as the Paradise Papers have repeatedly demonstrated. Emile Woolf says there is no way to remove control fraud and dodgy accounting practices from the economy without first prosecuting the culprits. “The devils that committed this criminal negligence – with the exception of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) – have never been fined or prosecuted” he said. “What you can then do is create a ring fenced fund inside those institutions, earmarked to save them from going under. But the company has to recognise it has to be paid back.

“RBS is incapable of paying back the billions of fines it still owes for misconduct,” he says. “Where does that money come from and where does it go? Without the fines RBS would have made £100 million profit this year, but because of the reserve for fines in the USA and UK, all those fines are far too great to allow for payment of a dividend.” Of course calculating a true profit figure is difficult when a significant portion of that profit is fraudulent, because it doesn’t take into account the result of the inequities of ten years ago. “The worrying thing for all of us is if it happens again,” he says. “My hope is that three years from now, banks will be forced to recognise their loans that will never be repaid. But my worry is that this is going to be after the next financial crisis, because it’s happening again. There is no redeeming features in the present. The only difference is the next crisis is going to be bigger.”

Joel Benjamin told Renegade Inc that accounting is as much about *what* you count or don’t count as it is *how* you count it. “This is evidenced through the practice of ‘base erosion and profit shifting’ – shifting profits to offshore low or no tax jurisdictions, ” he said. In the space of 50 years, Britain’s economy has transformed from an industrial power house, to that of a finance-led extractive parasite, where the cash starved productive economy receives less than 10% of bank credit. “Until the Big Four accountancy firms are accurately viewed as enablers of corporate offshore dealing, regulatory arbitrage and ardent defenders of the neoliberal order, not the ‘reputable’ objective independent arbiters of the public interest as they claim, society will continue to be taken for a ride, and public services and social cohesion will continue their long decline,” he said.

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Bill Mitchell in a long talk with his alter ego.

British Mainstream Media Spreading Dangerous MMT Ideas (Bilbo)

Mitchell tried to tell me that governments do not spend by ‘printing money’ but rather just adjust bank accounts with numbers. But I know as anyone in the street knows that they just want to print more and more. That is at the core of MMT – they want the government to go on a spending spree and just ignore the inflationary consequences. They hide that by saying that “public spending cannot be unlimited and must be commensurate to the capacity of the economy” which is just a smokescreen that I can see through. And everybody will see through it. It is code for spend like a drunken’ sailor – throw money at lazy people who cannot be bothered finding a job. Throw money at public schools that teach socialist doctrines – you know about inequality and stuff like that.

Throw money at public hospitals so that people can receive unlimited health care without having to pay for it – that is the quickest way to encourage waste and bad behaviour. People know that they can just get sick and no matter what their income is they will get some care. Where is the incentive to stay healthy in that sort of system. The article also shows how stupid Mitchell is when it says he: “… debunks the idea that governments borrow money from international markets and with it the notion that they are hostage to the market.” Well where the hell else do they get the cash from? Does he really think we are that stupid? How come China has all those US government debt bonds or whatever they are called and the US government is spending the Chinese cash? How does he explain that obvious point?

Well he tried to claim the Chinese doesn’t issue US dollars and that only the US government issues US dollars so that it cannot possibly be funded by the Chinese. I don’t buy that, not that I understood anything he said about this – all this talk about trade surpluses accumulating financial claims in the currency that the deficit country issues, and then allowing the surplus nation to use those claims (say, US dollars in the first instance) to purchase US dollar financial assets etc ad nauseum. As if that tells us anything. How come the Chinese can loan the US government money that is what I want to know? Mitchell told the journalist that Jeremy Corbyn should not worry about international capital markets because Britain could impose capital controls if it wanted to. That gets to the nub of my worries – socialist governments stealing hard-earned cash from investors who actually have some get up and go.

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Malls don’t look like good investments.

Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown Sinks Property Prices (WS)

Commercial real estate prices soared relentlessly for years after the Financial Crisis, to such a degree that the Fed has been publicly fretting about them. Why? Because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of commercial real estate loans. But the boom in most CRE sectors is over. The Green Street Property Price Index – which measures values across five major property sectors – had soared 107% from May 2009 to the plateau that began late last year, and 27% from the peak of the totally crazy prior bubble that ended with such spectacular fireworks. But it has now turned around, dragged down by a plunge in prices for retail space. The CPPI by Green Street Advisors dropped 1.1% in October from September. In terms of points, the 1.4-point decline was the largest monthly decline since March 2009. The index is now below where it had been in June 2016:

This phenomenal bubble, as depicted by the chart above, has even worried the Fed because US financial institutions hold nearly $4 trillion of CRE loans, according to Boston Fed governor Eric Rosengren earlier this year. Of them, $1.2 trillion are held by smaller banks (less than $50 billion in assets). These smaller banks tends to have a loan book that is heavily concentrated on CRE loans, and these banks are less able to withstand shocks to collateral values. Rosengren found that among the root causes of the Financial Crisis “was a significant decline in collateral values of residential and commercial real estate.” But the CRE bubble isn’t unraveling as gently as the chart suggests. Some sectors are still surging, while others are plunging. According to the report, the index, which captures the prices at which CRE transactions are currently being negotiated and contracted, “was pushed down by falling mall valuations.”

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Puidgemont predicted to get 14-15 out of 135 seats. He won’t be the leader.

Catalan Secessionist Parties Fail To Agree On Unity Ticket For Vote (R.)

Catalan secessionist parties on Tuesday failed to agree on a united ticket to contest a December snap regional election, making it more difficult to rule the region after the vote and press ahead with their collective bid to split from Spain. Catalonia’s secessionist push has plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in four decades, triggered a business exodus, forced Madrid to cut its economic forecast and reopened old wounds from Spain’s civil war in the 1930s. Pro-independence groups have called for a general strike in the restive region on Wednesday. Catalan political parties had until midnight on Tuesday to register coalitions ahead of the Dec. 21 vote, but the two main forces which formed an alliance to rule the region for the last two years did not manage to agree on a new pact in time.

While they could still find an agreement after the vote, political analysts say the lack of a deal on a joint campaign may also trigger a leadership fight at the top of the movement. This is because center-right PdeCat (Catalan Democratic Party) of sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont is expected to be overtaken by leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) of former regional vice president Oriol Junqueras. Puigdemont and Junqueras are the two main leaders behind the current secession bid that last month led to a unilateral declaration of independence which Spain thwarted by imposing direct rule on the region. Junqueras is currently in custody pending a potential trial on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds. Puigdemont, who faces the same charges, is currently in self-imposed exile in Belgium and has said he would oppose extradition.

An opinion poll released on Sunday by Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia showed Junqueras’ ERC could garner between 45 and 46 seats in the 135-strong regional assembly while Puigdemont’s PdeCat would win between 14 and 15 seats. In order to reach the 68-seat threshold for a majority, they would then have to form a parliamentary alliance with anti-capitalist CUP, which is expected to get seven or eight seats. Such an alliance previously existed between 2015 and 2017.

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Down the drain.

1 in 200 British, 1 in 60 Londoners Are Homeless (G.)

More than 300,000 people in Britain – equivalent to one in every 200 – are officially recorded as homeless or living in inadequate homes, according to figures released by the charity Shelter. Using official government data and freedom of information returns from local authorities, it estimates that 307,000 people are sleeping rough, or accommodated in temporary housing, bed and breakfast rooms, or hostels – an increase of 13,000 over the past year. Shelter said the figures were an underestimate as they did not include people trapped in so-called “hidden homelessness”, who have nowhere to live but are not recorded as needing housing assistance, and end up “sofa surfing”. London, where one in every 59 people are homeless, remains Britain’s homelessness centre. Of the top 50 local authority homelessness “hotspots”, 18 were in Greater London, with Newham, where one in 27 residents are homeless, worst hit.

However, while London’s homeless rates have remained largely stable over the past year, the figures show the problem is becoming worse in leafier commuter areas bordering the capital, such as Broxbourne, Luton, and Chelmsford. Big regional cities have also seen substantial year-on-year increases in the rate of homelessness. In Manchester, one in 154 people are homeless (compared with one in 266 in 2016); in Birmingham one in 88 are homeless (119); in Bristol one in 170 are affected (199). Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s shocking to think that today, more than 300,000 people in Britain are waking up homeless. Some will have spent the night shivering on a cold pavement, others crammed into a dingy hostel room with their children. And what is worse, many are simply unaccounted for.

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