Claude Monet Camille Sitting on the Beach at Trouville 1870-71
No, no, no, what a missed opportunity! They should have shut down the military instead for a day, or the CIA. And preferably longer than one day. But Bush had nothing to do with the markets.
• US Markets To Close On Wednesday In Honor Of George H.W. Bush
Major U.S. markets will be closed on Wednesday in honor of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will both close on Wednesday in observance of the National Day of Mourning after Bush’s death Saturday at the age of 94. Both the NYSE and Nasdaq will also observe a moment of silence at 9:20 a.m. ET on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday ordered the federal government to close on Wednesday out of respect for Bush. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify on Wednesday on the economic outlook before the congressional Joint Economic Committee. A spokesman for the committee did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday about whether the hearing would be rescheduled.
How predictable would you like it?
• US, China Agree To Trade War Ceasefire, More Talks (AFP)
US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to suspend any new tariffs in the escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies, even if huge existing duties will remain in place. Following more than two hours of dinner talks between the two leaders, the White House said an increase of tariffs from 10 to 25 percent due to kick in on January 1 would now be put on hold, providing room for intense negotiations. The agreement, hashed out over steak in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, lowers the temperature in a conflict that has spooked world markets. The two leaders, who were in Buenos Aires for a summit of the G20 countries, called it “a highly successful meeting,” the White House said.
“The principal agreement has effectively prevented further expansion of economic friction between the two countries and has opened up new space for win-win cooperation,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Under the agreement, Trump is shelving a plan to raise existing tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent from the start of next year. However, the truce is only partial. Some $50 billion worth of Chinese imports already face 25 percent tariffs while the 10 percent tariffs, which target a massive $200 billion in goods, will also remain in effect. Meanwhile, China has targeted $110 billion worth of US imports for tariffs. If there is any further retaliation, Trump has warned, he will slap punitive duties on the remaining $267 billion in Chinese goods coming to the United States.
And Saturday’s truce also contained an ultimatum. The White House made clear that the 10 percent tariffs would still leap up to 25 percent if China doesn’t meet US demands in 90 days. These include China stopping a host of trade barriers, intellectual property theft and other actions that Washington say make fair trade impossible. Tough negotiations lie ahead, but Trump was upbeat. “This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” he said in a statement.
From Twitter: “Martial Law prohibits the diffusion of military movements in #Ukraine therefore won’t post the Armed Forces movements but I can safely say that #Odessa is being heavily prepared for war.”
Look, “sailors and ships?” They were armed navy vessels with soldiers, not fishing boats with civilians.
• Putin Refuses To Release Ukrainian Sailors And Ships (G.)
Vladimir Putin has said it is “too early” to return Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels seized by Russia in the Sea of Azov, accusing the Ukrainian government of provoking an incident as a distraction from domestic problems. Putin was speaking to reporters after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, where Donald Trump cancelled a meeting with the Russian leader because of Moscow’s refusal to release the 24 Ukrainians. The Russian president said it was necessary to detain the captives while a legal case was put together to demonstrate that the three Ukrainian naval vessels violated Russia’s territorial waters. He said the ships’ logs would show that their attempt to cross the Kerch strait from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov – enclosed by Russia, the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine – was a deliberate provocation.
Asked if he might consider exchanging the captive sailors for Russians in Ukrainian detention, Putin said: “We are not considering a swap and Ukraine did not raise this issue, and it’s too early to talk about that. They are still being investigated. “We need to establish the fact that this was a provocation by the Ukrainian government and we need to put all these things on paper,” he added, arguing that the incident was part of a wider pattern of Ukrainian provocation. “The current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this at all,” Putin said. “As long as they stay in power, war will continue. Why? Because when you have provocations, such hostilities like what just happened in the Black Sea … you can always use war to justify your economic failures.”
Putin has finally put his foot down. Has he taken too long? if he’d done it earlier, would Ukraine try such stunts?
• Putin Briefs Trump Over Ukraine As EU Leaders Up Pressure (AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday he briefed his US counterpart Donald Trump on the Ukraine crisis as he came under pressure over Moscow’s robust foreign policy at the G20 summit in Argentina. Putin said he explained Moscow’s position to Trump when the leaders met briefly at a summit dinner Friday. “We spoke standing up. I replied to his questions about the incident in the Black Sea,” Putin told reporters at the end of the summit. Putin strode into the summit under a cloud, having drawn outrage from Europe over last week’s incident in which his navy detained three Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors – causing Trump to abruptly cancel their scheduled meeting. Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko kept up the pressure from Kiev, saying Putin had refused to take his calls since the crisis started.
[..] Away from the summit, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Moscow had shown “brazen contempt” for a deal “that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage.” Putin – who has praised his navy for defending Russian territory – “provided exhaustive explanations on this incident in the Black Sea, explaining everything in detail, in exactly the same manner as yesterday during his meeting with the French president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax. Far from offering comforting words, Putin said at a post-summit press conference he saw no end in sight to the four-year conflict in eastern Ukraine “as long as the current Ukrainian authorities remain in power.” “The current Ukrainian authorities have no interest in resolving the conflict, especially by peaceful means,” he said.
Oh, let’s see the evidence or shut up. And stop mucking around in Russia and Ukraine while you’re at it.
• Mattis Says Russia Tried To ‘Muck Around’ US Vote, Again (AFP)
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that Russia tried to meddle in the US midterm elections last month – just as it did in the 2016 vote that brought President Donald Trump to power. The already strained ties between Washington and Moscow have “no doubt” worsened over Russian’s continued attempts to interfere in the US voting process, Mattis said at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California. Russian President Vladimir Putin “tried again to muck around in our elections this last month, and we are seeing a continued effort along those lines,” the Pentagon chief said. Putin has “continued efforts to try to subvert democratic processes that must be defended,” Mattis said, stressing he was unsure whether there were growing threats from Russia.
“We’ll do whatever is necessary to defend them.” Mattis spoke as President Donald Trump suddenly scrapped a planned meeting with Putin at the G20 summit of world leaders in Buenos Aires, Argentina, citing a Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ahead of last month’s vote, Twitter and Facebook shut down thousands of Russian-controlled accounts, while 14 people from Russia’s notorious troll farm, the Internet Research Agency, were indicted. And US law enforcement agencies warned that “Americans should be aware that foreign actors – and Russia in particular – continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord.”
Robert Mueller comes with a long history. That’s why he was picked.
• Mueller’s RussiaGate Probe: Conflicts and Special Interests (Adam Carter)
Robert Mueller was the director of the FBI between 2001 and 2013, spanning both Bush and Obama administrations. He was appointed as special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 United States general election on May 17, 2017. Since his appointment, Mueller has been promoted as a champion of justice and a pursuer of truth by the mainstream press. He has been hailed as incorruptible by some and “America’s straightest arrow” by others. However, history shows us that Mueller investigating anything may, inherently, come with disadvantages when it comes to the pursuit of truth. According to whistleblowers, under Mueller’s leadership, crimes and scandals involving both government officials and the private-sector were ignored or covered-up by the FBI, and there are questions about further cover-ups before he became the agency director.
In July 2017, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley wrote an article titled “No, Robert Mueller And James Comey Aren’t Heroes” in which the author details the not-so-perfect history of both Mueller and Comey, suggesting that those lionizing the pair may be suffering from amnesia. Rowley explains that Mueller and Comey presided over post-9/11 cover-ups, secret abuses against the Constitution, enabled Bush/Cheney fabrications used as the pretext for waging war and demonstrated incompetence. The article also references Mueller’s attempts to mislead everyone following 9/11 and Rowley’s efforts to challenge Mueller on his silence about what he knew.
Going further, Rowley covers Mueller’s bungled Amerithrax investigation that targeted an innocent man, violations of privacy, infiltration of non-violent anti-war groups and also references Mueller’s history before being director of the FBI: “Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI operated) Bulger gang.”
Earlier this year, Republican congressman Louie Gohmert also highlighted various issues in a report titled “Robert Mueller Unmasked” that opened with a bold assertion: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence. He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”
This will easily lead into January and the Democratic Congress. Let the courts decide.
• Trump To Notify Congress In ‘Near Future’ He Will Terminate NAFTA (R.)
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will give formal notice to the U.S. Congress in the near future to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), giving six months for lawmakers to approve a new trade deal signed on Friday. “I will be formally terminating NAFTA shortly,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his way home from Argentina. “Just so you understand, when I do that – if for any reason we’re unable to make a deal because of Congress then Congress will have a choice” of the new deal or returning to trade rules from before 1994 when NAFTA took effect, he said. Trump told reporters the trade rules before NAFTA “work very well.” NAFTA allows any country to formally withdraw with six months notice.
Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed a new trade agreement on Friday known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Trump’s decision to set in motion a possible end to largely free trade in North America comes amid some skepticism from Democrats about the new trade deal. The U.S. landscape will shift significantly in January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, after winning mid-term elections in November. Presumptive incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described the deal as a “work in progress” that lacks worker and environment protections.
“This is not something where we have a piece of paper we can say yes or no to,” she said at a news conference on Friday, noting that Mexico had yet to pass a law on wages and working conditions. Other Democrats, backed by unions that oppose the pact, have called for stronger enforcement provisions for new labor and environmental standards, arguing that USMCA’s state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism is too weak. A 2016 congressional research report said there is a debate over whether a president can withdraw from a trade deal without the consent of Congress, and there is no historical precedent for the unilateral withdrawal from an free trade deal by a president that had been approved by Congress. The issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. courts.
From Australia, for the entire western world.
• Property Investors Can’t Expand As Lending Rules Toughen Up (NewsCorp)
Property investors wanting to expand their holdings are finding doors slamming in their faces as new lending restrictions bite hard. Harsher income tests, tighter rules for interest-only loans, tax changes and tougher assessments of rents and repayments have put the brakes on, and lending specialists believe more squeezing is likely. Almost one-third of the nation’s 2.1 million residential real estate investors own more than one property, according to Australian Taxation Office data, and many see it as their ticket to retirement wealth instead of the struggling share market. However, expanding beyond one investment property has become much tougher this year amid factors including:
• Investors’ ability to repay is now being based on interest rates between 7.25 and 8 per cent, rather than the 4 per cent many are currently charged. • Lenders only count 70 per cent of a property’s rental income. • Interest-only loans, popular among investors, are harder to come by and harder to continue, resulting is higher repayments when they switch to principal-and-interest. The result is that potential investment loans are assessed as unaffordable even if the investor has no problems paying it back.
Yet another analysis of how the left abandoned its voters. Meanwhile, gilets jaunes are now active in Belgium and Holland. If they can organize well enough, they’re here to stay for a while.
• France Is Deeply Fractured. Gilets Jaunes Are Just A Symptom (Guilluy)
From the 1980s onwards, it was clear there was a price to be paid for western societies adapting to a new economic model and that price was sacrificing the European and American working class. No one thought the fallout would hit the bedrock of the lower-middle class, too. It’s obvious now, however, that the new model not only weakened the fringes of the proletariat but society as a whole. The paradox is this is not a result of the failure of the globalised economic model but of its success. In recent decades, the French economy, like the European and US economies, has continued to create wealth. We are thus, on average, richer. The problem is at the same time unemployment, insecurity and poverty have also increased.
The central question, therefore, is not whether a globalised economy is efficient, but what to do with this model when it fails to create and nurture a coherent society? In France, as in all western countries, we have gone in a few decades from a system that economically, politically and culturally integrates the majority into an unequal society that, by creating ever more wealth, benefits only the already wealthy. The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic.
But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock. It is in this France périphérique that the gilets jaunes movement was born. It is also in these peripheral regions that the western populist wave has its source. Peripheral America brought Trump to the White House. Peripheral Italy – mezzogiorno, rural areas and small northern industrial towns – is the source of its populist wave. This protest is carried out by the classes who, in days gone by, were once the key reference point for a political and intellectual world that has forgotten them.
May digging her hole ever deeper. As if people have no right to know what’s coming.
• Theresa May Faces Fresh Battle Over Publishing Brexit Legal Advice (BBC)
Opposition parties plan to join forces in a bid to force the government to publish the full legal advice it received ahead of the Brexit agreement. “All parties” would press for contempt of Parliament proceedings if MPs are not shown the advice, Labour’s Brexit spokesman Sir Keir Starmer has said. Theresa May has promised MPs only a summary of the legal position. Some MPs believe the advice given suggests the Northern Ireland “backstop” would continue indefinitely. [..] on Monday Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who wrote the advice, will offer only a limited summary of the legal advice given to government, during a statement to Parliament.
Ministers insist it is a long-standing convention that legal advice to the cabinet is kept confidential, and that government would otherwise be unable to function. The prime minister’s refusal to release the full advice prompted Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government since the general election in 2017 – to accuse her of having “something to hide”. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “If the full legal advice is not forthcoming, we will have no alternative but to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament – and we will work with all parties to take this forward. “The full legal implications of this deal clearly need to be known and debated in full by our Parliament.”
Austerity truly is death by a thousand cuts.
• How Greece’s Financial Crisis Led To A Baby Bust (WaPo)
During the country’s deep and prolonged crash, which began in late 2009 and worsened in 2011 and beyond, an already-low birthrate ticked down further, as happened throughout the troubled economies of Southern Europe. Greece was also hit by a second factor, with half a million people fleeing the country, many of them young potential parents. Although Greece has been on the front lines of the migrant wave from the Middle East and North Africa, the majority of new arrivals have moved on to other parts of Europe, and the newcomers don’t make up for the losses. As a result, the country’s recession has helped produce postwar Greece’s smallest generation — a group of young children who are now reaching elementary age, some arriving at schools wearing secondhand shoes and backpacks, and who are only at the earliest stages of grasping the daunting era they’ve been born into.
“The kids don’t know we used to be better off,” said Sotiria Papigioti, the mother of a first- and a second-grader at Kalpaki. “But when they ask for things, I tell them, ‘We’re not in the position to afford this.’ ” Greece’s fertility rate, of about 1.35 births per woman, is among the lowest in Europe, and well below the rate of 2.1 needed for a stable population, not accounting for immigration. The fertility rate in Greece had been on the upswing before the crisis, hitting 1.5 births per woman in 2008. That progress has since been erased, and the birthrate has plummeted back toward the depths seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Some countries, in the aftermath of economic crises, have seen a quick recovery in their fertility rates. But that is unlikely to happen in Greece, said Byron Kotzamanis, a demographer at the University of Thessaly, because even before the crisis the average woman in Greece wasn’t having children until age 31. Some women who postponed pregnancy during the recession have lost out on their chance entirely. As a result, Kotzamanis said, the recession has permanently reduced the size of the newest Greek generation — and has reduced the pool of parents in years to come. “We’ll have fewer and fewer births in Greece over the next decades,” Kotzamanis said.