Jan 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Happy News Cafe, “restaurant for the unemployed”, Washington, DC 1937

 

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)
UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)
GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)
Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)
Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)
The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)
2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)
No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)
Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)
Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

 

 

Numbers growing by the hour.

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41 from 26 a day earlier as the Lunar New Year got off to a gloomy start, with authorities curbing travel and cancelling public gatherings. More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with a virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Health authorities around the world are scrambling to prevent a pandemic. State-run China Global Television Network reported in a tweet on Saturday that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus. It was not immediately clear if his death was already counted in the official toll of 41, of which 39 were in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.

U.S. coffee chain Starbucks said on Saturday that it was closing all its outlets in Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five Hubei cities. Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has been in virtual lockdown since Thursday, with nearly all flights at the airport canceled and checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town. Authorities have since imposed transport restrictions on nearly all of Hubei province, which has a population of 59 million. In Beijing on Saturday, workers in white protective suits checked temperatures of passengers entering the subway at the central railway station, while some train services in eastern China’s Yangtze River Delta region were suspended, the local railway operator said.


The number of confirmed cases in China stands at 1,287, the National Health Commission said on Saturday. The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the United States and Australia. Australia on Saturday announced its first case of coronavirus, a Chinese national in his 50s, who had been in Wuhan and arrived from China on Jan. 19 on a flight from Guangzhou. He is in stable condition in a Melbourne hospital.


Fibonacci

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Very informative on contagion. We’ll see in 10 days if he is right.

UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)

When it comes to estimating the human capital and potential fallout from a highly contagious epidemic, arguably the most important variable is the R0 (“R-naught”) value of the disease, which represents the average number of secondary cases arising from an average primary case in a entirely susceptible population. That’s the technical definition, a simpler one is that the R0, or basic reproductive number, of a contagious disease is the number of cases that a case of the disease generates over the course of its infectious period in a susceptible population. The higher this number, the more dangerous the disease, the more lethal the outcome.

Some indicative R0s are 0.9 – 2.1 for the common flu while the 1918-1919 pandemic-causing Spanish flu was estimated to have ranged from 1.4 – 2.8, with a mean of 2. Some other notable R0s are shown below, and note that SARS was between 2 and 5:

So what about the R0 of 2019-nCoV, also known as the coronavirus that has claimed over three dozen lives in China and infected (at least) 1,000 people? Naturally, since the disease is most active in China which is notoriously opaque especially when it comes to matters that can cause a mass panic, the best one can do is guess, and that’s what the World Health Organization did yesterday when it issued a statement on the coronavirus epidemic with the following projection:

Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.

Needless to say, while 2.5 is quite high, and in line with that of the Spanish flu epidemic which infected about half a billion people back in 1918, killing as many as 100 million before it eventually fizzled out, the real coronavirus R0 number may end up being far higher. That is the working hypothesis of Jonathan Read, a UK expert on the transmission and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, who has published a paper with four colleagues that estimates transmission parameters for the Wuhan coronavirus, calculates that the R0 of 2019-nCoV to be between 3.6-4.0 or roughly the same as SARS, and reaches a conclusion about spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is frankly terrifying.

In “Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV: early estimation of epidemiological parameters and epidemic predictions“, Reed et al, write that with an R0 of between 3.6 and 4.0, roughly 72-75% of transmissions “must be prevented by control measures for infections to stop increasing.”

This is a major problem because Reed estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24), “indicating a large number of infections in the community, and also reflecting the difficulty in detecting cases of this new disease.” Furthermore, since all of this is happening in China which is not known for making the most socially-beneficial decisions under pressure, there is an ominous possibility that Reed is actually overly optimistic.

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Sounds desperate. But this is not new for Schiff, making stuff up.

GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)

Senate Republicans said lead impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff insulted them during the trial by repeating an anonymously sourced report that the White House had threatened to punish Republicans who voted against President Donald Trump. Schiff, who delivered closing arguments for the prosecution, was holding Republican senators rapt as he called for removing Trump from office for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Doing anything else, he argued, would be to let the president bully Senate Republicans into ignoring his pressure on Ukraine for political help. “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff said.

After that remark, the generally respectful mood in the Senate immediately changed. Republicans across their side of the chamber groaned, gasped and said, “That’s not true.” One of those key moderate Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, looked directly at Schiff, shook her head and said, “Not true.” “Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line,” Collins said in a statement, “but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration.” [..] “That’s when he lost me,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican moderate, said about Schiff’s remark, according to her spokeswoman. She denied having been told what the network reported about the White House. Schiff’s invocation of it, she added, ”was unnecessary.”

Collins, another moderate who is up for reelection this year, is one of the few Republican senators who has expressed an openness to calling witnesses in the impeachment trial. She had been listening intently to Schiff’s presentation and writing down some of his points. When he made the “pike” comment, she looked directly at Schiff and slowly and repeatedly shook her head back and forth. When he finished his speech and the trial adjourned, GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming made a beeline for her seat. Collins again shook her head and said, “No.”

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Schiff the neocon warmonger. Hard to deny by now.

Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)

All the usual suspects are praising Adam Schiff’s marathon two-and-a-half-hour Senate speech on Wednesday to the skies. Neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin calls it “a grand slam” in the Washington Post. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin describes it as “dazzling” on CNN. New York Times columnist Gail Collins says it was “a great job” and that Schiff is “a rock star” for pulling it off. But in fact it was the opposite – a fear-mongering, sword-rattling harangue that will not only raise tensions with Russia for no good reason, but sends a chilling message to dissidents at home that if they deviate from Russiagate orthodoxy by one iota, they’ll be driven from the fold.

What is that orthodoxy? It’s that Russia invaded poor innocent Ukraine in 2014, that it interfered in the US presidential election in 2016 in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and propel Donald Trump into the White House, and that it’s now trying to smear Joe Biden merely because he had allowed his son to take a high-paying job with a notorious Ukrainian oligarch at a time when he was supposedly heading up the Ukrainian anti-corruption effort.

[..] Schiff’s emergence as leader of the Democratic impeachment drive means that the party is re-grouping along the most retrograde Cold War lines. As reckless and appalling as Trump’s behavior is in the Persian Gulf, the emerging Democratic worldview is shaping up as no less extreme. Because it sees Russia as mounting a multi-pronged offensive, the clear implication is that the US must respond in kind. This means more troops deployments, more forces mobilized to counter Russian threats from Venezuela to the Middle East, more TV talking heads going on and on about this or that Kremlin conspiracy, and more labelling of people like Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein as Russian assets.

Remember, this is the Los Angeles neocon who backed the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and Saudi Arabia’s unprovoked war against Yemen, an assault that, since March 2015, has cost 100,000 lives and brought half the country to the brink of starvation. He supported Obama’s war in Libya and called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria and relies on arms manufacturers and military contractors for major financial support. But while Bernie supporters may have thought that Democrats were edging away from such views, they’re plainly in the wrong. Schiff’s new-found prominence shows that the neocons are back in the saddle. Impeachment advocates should be careful of what they wish for because the anti-Trump forces are turning out to be no less dangerous than those helping him to remain.

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Bob Mueller couldn’t lay Russiagate to rest.

Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)

Tucker Carlson said the Democrats’ impetus for impeaching President Trump can be distilled to a policy disagreement since the president has inflamed permanent Washington by pledging to execute a foreign policy countering what the government’s “neocons” have done for the past several decades. “By now you may be wondering, ‘How is this the impeachment we were promised? Wasn’t it supposed to be the abuse of power, the contempt of Congress?” the host asked his “Tucker Carlson Tonight” audience. “The genesis of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it turns out, wasn’t the now-famous Ukraine phone call or even his victory three years ago — It actually began February 13th, 2016. That’s the day that Trump debated Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz [and others] … in South Carolina,” he said.

“Trump said things that, until then, no major Republican candidate had been willing to say out loud – he said America should reach an agreement with Russia rather than fighting proxy wars against them. He called the trillions of dollars we spent in the Middle East a waste. At the time, it seemed like Trump was asked attacking Republican orthodoxy, but now it’s clear, and this impeachment makes it crystal clear, that Trump was attacking the consensus of both parties in Washington. It’s a neoconservative consensus. ” In that way, Trump also politically enraged Schiff, who spent much of this week making his case for removing Trump from office while speaking on the Senate floor.

“[Schiff] went on like this all day long — voice rising, eyes bulging — and over time he began to sound less like a congressman from Burbank and more like a character from a Tom Clancy novel,” Carlson said. “The greatest threat to America, Schiff said, is not Russia’s First Guard’s tank army, it’s the president of United States who quite possibly could be the first nonvoting member of the Politburo.” Carlson recalled that Schiff claimed Friday that Trump had been “manipulated to disbelieve his own intelligence agencies” and “accept the propaganda of the Kremlin” as fact. He warned that Schiff appears to want to continue in what he characterized as the problematic customs of the past — “keep[ing] America overextended abroad, stuck in quagmires across the world that [have killed] our finest young men.”

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“.. to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice..”

The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump might mercifully spell the end of the Master Narrative the Democrats have been confabulating since 2016: that Donald Trump invited the wicked Vlad Putin to checkmate Hillary Clinton and thereby crushed the hopes and dreams of those wishing to make Ukraine the 51st state… or something like that. Because according to Mr. Schiff, there is no nation on this planet as dear to the interests of America than darling Ukraine, with its radioactive forests, decrepitating Soviet infrastructure, and dedication to liberty. Those who were only puzzling over Nancy Pelosi’s motives in bringing this case, and assigning it to the two sketchiest characters in her charge, Schiff & Nadler, must finally be convinced that she is no longer sound of mind.

What was she thinking? Did she really want to set up the voters to lose faith in the basic electoral process by preemptively delegitimizing the 2020 election? (“Trump can only win if he cheats!”) Is she that desperate to flip the Senate to prevent anymore judicial appointments? Could be. Or is the impeachment spectacle a different kind of set-up: to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice for a three-year campaign of perfidious sedition by some of the highest officials in the land? Anyway, after another day of this boresome torment, the Senate will get to hear Mr. Trump’s defense in a full-throated way — really for the first time since the whole nasty business began, and in a conspicuous venue where it can’t be ignored anymore.

If nothing else, it will probably be more interesting and certainly more dignified than the idiotic vaudeville put on by Schiff & Nadler. Even if the President’s managers move to dismiss the case out-of-hand for its utter lack of merit and the legal errors in its construction by two House committees, I doubt they will miss the opportunity to use the time allotted to lay out the story of what actually happened the past three years — a crime spree of government against itself. The temptation to call witnesses must be anguishing, though, from a legal standpoint the Houses’s case deserves to be thrown out summarily just to reestablish the principle that impeachment is not a frivolity. But the nation would miss the chance for Mr. Schiff to have to explain exactly what happened around the “whistleblower” episode and, of course, there would be no more possible excuses for producing the “whistleblower” him-or-herself in the witness dock. I think we would discover what an absolutely shady operation that was.

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“Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”

2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)

In an exclusive report, Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham revealed that the New York Times last May quashed a story about a White House meeting in January of 2016 between Obama administration officials—including the so-called whistleblower—and Ukrainian officials that addressed Hunter Biden’s problematic position at Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Ingraham said she obtained a chain of State Department emails between NYT journalist Ken Vogel and State Department official Kate Schilling centering on the reporter’s request for comment on the story. [..] Democrats say the president withheld military aid from Ukraine until he could get a guarantee from the Ukrainian President Zelensky that the Bidens would be investigated.

However, a document unearthed last October shows that Ukrainian officials had actually opened a new probe into Burisma months before President Trump’s July 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president. Some Republicans have called for Hunter Biden to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. Ken Vogel is the reporter who wrote the oft-cited January 2017 piece in Politico titled: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire. Subtitled: “Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.” Media reports referring to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election did not become controversial until Biden announced his candidacy for president in April of 2019.

Then, as President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducted his very public investigation into the matter throughout 2019, Democrats and their allies in the media started characterizing the claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election as a “conspiracy theory.” In Vogel’s May 1, 2019 email to Schilling about the Obama White House meeting, the reporter reportedly mentioned the name of the CIA analyst widely believed to be the anti-Trump whistleblower, whose complaint against the president sparked the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Ingraham did not reveal his name because Fox News hosts are banned from doing so until the identity is confirmed, but she was likely was referring to Eric Ciaramella, who has been outed in conservative media as the whistleblower.

In the email, Vogel wrote, “We are going to report that (State Department official) Elizabeth Zentos attended a meeting at the White House on 1/19/2016 with Ukrainian prosecutors and embassy officials as well as … [redacted] from the NSC … the subjects discussed included efforts within the United State government to support prosecutions, in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, of Burisma Holdings … and concerns that Hunter Biden’s position with the company could complicate such efforts.”

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We all know many people have suggested just that. So why repeat that line all the time?

No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)

We have previously discussed the denials of former Vice President Joe Biden that his son did anything wrong in Ukraine. As I have written, not only did Hunter Biden clearly enter into a corrupt (but arguably lawful) contract but Joe Biden did not do enough to confirm that his son was not engaging in influence peddling. Nevertheless, this week, Joe Biden continued this indefensible position and declared bizarrely that “no one has suggested my son did anything wrong.” According to the Washington Post, Joe Biden declared on the campaign trail that “There’s nobody that’s indicated there’s a single solitary thing that he did that was inappropriate, wrong … or anything other than the appearance. It looked bad that he was there.”

He then curiously added “He acknowledges that he in fact made a mistake going on the board.” So, in other words, he did nothing wrong but he apologized for it. Joe Biden continues to maintain that “no one” has accused his son of wrongdoing when there is a chorus of such allegations. He seems to be drawing a distinction between what is criminal and what is not — as if the criminal code is the only measure of wrongdoing or unethical conduct. Hunter Biden not only clearly engaged in influence peddling but he is clearly a relevant witness. Ukraine was a virtual gold rush for Washington’s elite and Hunter Biden was one of the first in line to cash in. Biden’s quest for a Ukrainian windfall took him to one of Ukraine’s most controversial and corrupt associates, Mykola Zlochevsky, who leveraged his post as minister of ecology and natural resources to build a fortune.

Before fleeing Ukraine, Zlochevsky paid Hunter Biden and several other Americans to be directors of his energy company, Burisma Holdings. Hunter Biden had no experience in the field — but he did have a notable connection to the vice president, who publicly has bragged about making clear to the Ukrainians that he alone controlled U.S. aid to the country. A stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry also was asked to serve as a director but reportedly declined and warned Hunter Biden not to do it; Biden didn’t listen. He later told The New Yorker that “the decisions that I made were the right decisions for my family and for me.” His decisions certainly were profitable, but they were not “right” as an ethical matter for himself or his father.

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Woke education.

Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)

Diversity in hiring is the top priority of most colleges and universities. However, the effort to hire more women, minorities, and LGBT individuals notably lacks one group: ideological diversity. It is well-known that most faculty are composed of an overwhelming majority of liberal and democratic members. However, this view, while generally accepted, is largely anecdotal. Now a new study by Heterodox Academy Director of Research Sean Stevens and Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert claims to have put hard numbers on that lack of diversity. In reviewing records with the Federal Election Commission, they say that they found that professors gave to Democrats over Republicans by a 95:1 ratio.


The researchers looked at 2,301 political donations and found that 2,081 went to Democrats while just 22 went to Republicans. Only nine professors gave to both parties. An earlier study found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a 10:4 ratio. Business Management Associate Professor Mitchell Langbert reviewed the party affiliations of 8,688 professors at 51 of the top 60 liberal arts colleges listed in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 rankings. [..] A recent study at Harvard found that only 35 percent of conservative students felt free to share their views on campuses. That chilling effect is the result of not just open hostility to conservative voices on campus but a striking lack of diversity among academics in terms of ideology.

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Ausralia panders to China on just about any other topic.

Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

Four Australian MPs and chairs of parliamentary committees have launched an unprecedented combined intervention into Britain’s Huawei debate, urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow Australia’s ban. But their calls came amid further signs Johnson is likely to rebuff pleas from Australia and the United States and allow the Chinese telecommunications manufacturer to supply some parts of the country’s 5G network. Reuters, citing two sources, reported British officials had given the green light to Huawei involvement – the same position taken when Theresa May was prime minister but failed to resolve the issue after it split her National Security Council (NSC).

The NSC is expected to back Chinese involvement when it meets next week. The council’s decision will be announced in Parliament, prompting the last-ditch intervention from the quartet of Australian MPs. Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson, James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching all issued statements to The Times of London explaining why Liberal and Labor Australian governments had banned the company from building the national broadband network and supplying the 5G rollout. Hastie, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, said it was about “digital sovereignty” and urged solidarity among the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, comprising Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

“Our membership of the Five Eyes community is central to our defence and security strategy,” he said. “In a time of growing strategic uncertainty, Australia values that membership more than ever.” Senator James Paterson, who chairs the Joint Corporations and Financial Services Committee, said the ban had been uncontroversial when imposed in Australia. “Successive Australian governments from both sides of politics banned Huawei from our broadband and 5G networks with very little controversy,” he said. “No one in the Australian political system regrets those decisions today.”

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Jan 262019
 


Giuseppe Arcimboldo Four elements – Water 1566

 

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)
Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)
Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)
Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)
In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)
EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)
Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)
China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)
China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)
UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

 

 

Glenn Greenwald says the FBI didn’t tell CNN about the raid, they figured it out due to intense grand jury activity. Be that as it may, Stone was never a flight risk that warranted a very early morning raid by dozens of heavily armed agents. Certainly not if he was going to walk free within hours regardless.

What strikes me is that it’s all still based on Mueller’s indictment of anonymous Russians, and of Assange, none of whom can defend themselves; he can say what he wants and will never be taken to task. Key person in this is Guccifer 2, portrayed as a Russian asset, something that’s been discredited as much as the Russians and Assange indictment was by Aaron Maté and Adam Carter.

And there is zero proof of Stone’s contacts with WikiLeaks, that is all just wishful thinking. Also on his part, true, but how many times does WikiLeaks have to deny unproven accusations?

Roger Stone’s Indictment Proves No Contacts With Assange – WikiLeaks (RT)

The indictment of Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump, who was arrested by the FBI, has revealed more evidence that Trump’s campaign had no “back channel” with WikiLeaks, the whistleblower organization said. Stone was arrested early on Friday at his home during a massive FBI raid in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While the arrest came as a part of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Stone stands accused of a bunch of process crimes. He faces one count of obstruction of proceedings, one count of witness tampering, and five counts of false statements. Stone has pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail later on Friday.

The indictment has shed more light on the lack of any link between WikiLeaks and Trump’s associates, the whistleblower website said in a tweet, dismissing the earlier claims as “braggadocio.” WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange himself, have repeatedly denied having any connection to Stone. During Trump’s elections campaign, Stone repeatedly boasted about having links to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, yet later backtracked on such statements. He claimed instead that it was actually a sort of “back channel,” facilitated by New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico (named “Person 2” in the indictment). Credico has firmly denied the claim.

The indictment shows a text message from Credico, dating back to December 2017, where he urges Stone to be “honest” with the FBI, stating that “there was no back channel.” Stone, in his turn, replied “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.” Stone apparently lived by his own advice and refused to testify about WikiLeaks and the whole ‘Russiagate’ affair, invoking the Fifth Amendment constitutional protection against self-incrimination last December.

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A view from the other side.

Roger Stone Indictment Packed With Details That May Make Trump Sweat (G.)

The criminal indictment of Roger Stone is packed with the kind of colourful details one might expect from the flamboyant rogue, who has been dealing in dirty tricks for more than 40 years. Between threatening an associate’s therapy dog and quoting his political hero Richard Nixon, the indictment also described Stone urging a witness to “do a Frank Pentangeli” – the mobster who lied to Congress in The Godfather Part II. But it is the dry prose of Robert Mueller’s 12th paragraph that is most likely to have Donald Trump sweating on Friday, after his government’s FBI agents arrested his longtime friend and adviser in a dramatic pre-dawn raid in Florida with guns drawn.

It states that after WikiLeaks had begun releasing hacked Democratic emails, “a senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the Clinton campaign”. This direction was given to the senior Trump campaign official after 22 July 2016 – more than a month after it was reported that it was Russian government hackers who had broken into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems. Several questions naturally follow: who was the senior campaign official? Who gave the order? And could it have been candidate Trump himself?

Mueller’s primary task as special counsel was to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” on the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election campaign. Since then, Trump has repeatedly said there was “no collusion”. His loyalists have worked to raise the bar in the public’s mind, so that anything short of Mueller finding a secret deal with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will clear Trump of wrongdoing. But running through Mueller’s indictment of Stone and his charges against Russian hackers last July is the makings of a case that there was, in fact, coordination.

In short, Mueller said on Friday, Trump, or his most senior aides, ordered a trusted associate to bring them into the loop on the fruits of what they knew to be a Russian government hack of American victims – and on the schedule for its publication. Trump’s team could then shape their campaign tactics around this calendar. And last July, Mueller hinted at evidence of coordination in the other direction. His indictment of the Russian hackers said they attempted “for the first time” to break into email accounts used by Clinton’s personal office “after hours” on 27 July 2016. That day, at an event in Florida, Trump urged Russia to search for the approximately 30,000 emails that Clinton was found to have deleted from her private server on the grounds that they were not related to government work.

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Everyone on CNN drools.

Congress Clears Stopgap Bill To End Shutdown, Trump Sends Warning (ZH)

Update 7 (1942ET): As expected Congress easily advanced the three-week funding bill, and is is now headed to Trump’s desk where he is expected to sign it later Friday. However, President Trump had the last word before he signs the bill, lashing out at those who claim he folded:

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Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Iran-Contra, 2002 Venezuela coup, hands dripping with blood, this guys is worse than Bolton. Founding member of the Project for a New American Century.

Elliott Abrams, Prominent DC Neocon, Named Special Envoy For Venezuela (Pol.)

Elliott Abrams, a controversial neoconservative figure who was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair, has been named as a Trump administration special envoy overseeing policy toward Venezuela, which has been rocked by a leadership crisis. Abrams’ appointment, announced Friday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is something of a surprise — President Donald Trump nixed his 2017 bid to be deputy secretary of State after learning that Abrams had criticized him. [..] Abrams, who served in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in U.S. foreign policy circles.

He has often expressed hawkish views and is fiercely pro-Israel, but he also has written and spoken eloquently about the need to support human rights around the world. Abrams was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration and was instrumental in Middle East policy at the time, including supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There were also allegations that he supported a military coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002, damaging the U.S. relationship with the government there after the plot ultimately failed. Abrams held multiple positions at the State Department under President Ronald Reagan, including assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

He was one of the Reagan administration’s fiercest advocates of armed support for Nicaraguan rebels and thus becae caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal. In 1991, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about secret efforts to aid the rebels. President George H.W. Bush pardoned him the next year. Abrams is one of very few people who were critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign and yet have been allowed to join the Republican administration. Another, James Jeffrey, is a special envoy dealing with Syria policy. Pompeo on Friday spoke warmly of Abrams, saying he “will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country.”

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“The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.”

In the Deep Mid-Winter (Kunstler)

The Democratic Party should have been tossed into the rubber room two years ago, but it’s still out there shrieking in its straight-jacket of bad faith. Kamala, Liz, and Kirsten will mud-wrestle for dominance, but so far, the only cards they can show are the race-and-gender jokers in the deck. Meanwhile, the government shutdown standoff may not be the “winner” move that Nancy Pelosi thought it would be. Why do you suppose she thought that the voters would only blame the Golden Golem of Greatness? She could be gone as Speaker when we’re back in shirtsleeve weather.

Also in the background: the likely shocking reversal of the long, dreary, RussiaGate affair as about twenty-odd former officials of the FBI, Department of Justice, CIA, State Department, and other dark corners of the Deep State answer charges of sedition in federal court. Many of them are connected, one way or another, to Hillary Clinton, who may be targeted herself. Robert Mueller is also liable to be smacked with a malicious prosecution charge in the matter of General Michael Flynn when he withdraws his guilty plea in March. A significant moment will be when Dean Baquet is fired as editor of The New York Times, after years of running the “newspaper of record” as an exercise in nonstop PMS.

Financial crack-up and RussiaGate reversal will leave both major parties gasping in the mud as the tide goes out. And just in time for the Yellow Vest movement to cross the ocean and bring out the street mobs to slug it out on the National Mall in lovely weather. Finally, a protest you can believe in! By June, it will be clear that the old order is being swept away. The fight over the new order struggling to be born will be even harsher and deadlier. But we may not be as confused about what’s at stake.

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As I said two weeks ago in Europe is Burning.

EU Elections In May Could Oust Those ‘Who Really Believe In Europe’ (CNBC)

There are concerns at the heart of Brussels that upcoming elections could radically change the make-up of the EU. Amid a wave of anti-EU sentiment across many of the 28 member states, it’s expected that the upcoming elections in May — which elects representatives to the European Parliament — will see support for parties that have railed against the institution. “We might be the last (European) Commission that really is made up of people, who really believe in Europe,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the European commissioner for trade, said at a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Thursday. “Yes, I am very worried,” Malmstrom added. The European Parliament, once formed, has a say on who will be the next president of the Commission and what their team will look like. Thus, the next Commission will be a reflection of what happens in the election.

[..] Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the leader of the anti-immigration party Lega, has been looking for support to form a Euroskeptic alliance. Salvini traveled to Poland earlier this month to speak with the Polish prime minister about joining forces ahead of the vote. In October, Salvini met French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, saying the EU elections would signal “a common sense of revolution” across the member states. “For the very first time we are going to see real political elections … For the first time it is not just a repeat of the political balances in Europe,” Enzo Milanesi, Italy’s foreign affairs minister, said at the same panel in Davos. Milanesi, who declares himself as an independent, added that the election “could change the face of things.”

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As Varoufakis said, Macron is a spent force.

Protests in France and Venezuela – Spot the Difference (Clark)

The ‘Yellow Vest’ anti-government protests in France have received limited coverage in Western media and what coverage there has been has been quite hostile to the protestors. In Venezuela though it’s a very different story. Here the street demonstrations are a major news event, despite the country being thousands of miles away. Furthermore, the coverage is very sympathetic to the protestors and extremely hostile to the government. Why are angry street protestors in France bad, but in Venezuela very good? The answer has to do with the stances and international alliances of the respective governments. It’s inaccurate to call President Emmanuel Macron of France the President of the rich. He is, as his predecessor Francois Hollande admitted on French television, the President of the very rich.

Macron is an unashamed globalist, committed to carrying out neoliberal reforms at home, and following a ‘liberal interventionist’ ie imperalist foreign policy abroad, which means keeping French forces —illegally- in Syria. No wonder the elites are mad about the boy. The toppling of Macron, in a French Revolution 2.0, would be a huge blow to the most powerful people in the world. It cannot be allowed to happen. The French authorities have responded to the street protests with force; one activist was even sentenced to prison for six months — but this has largely been ignored by Western ‘liberals’ who would be so quick to denounce similar actions in other countries, whose government they don’t approve of. Instead, the message is ‘law and order must be maintained’.

[..] It’s a crowded field, but the prize for the biggest hypocrite of all goes to Emmanuel Macron. The man who has been clamping down on legitimate street protests at home, and whose approval rating slumped to just 21% earlier this month, published a tweet in which he praised ‘ the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are marching for their liberty”. For the Yellow Vests protestors, and indeed for anyone else who genuinely supports liberty, that really is one sick joke.

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Does Beijing have the space for a new Deal?

China Can No Longer Rely On Real Estate For Growth, Infrastructure Next (CNBC)

Chinese authorities face an ever-growing list of challenges — be it an ongoing trade fight with the U.S. or headwinds in domestic demand — and it appears they don’t have many tools left to spur the economy amid a slowdown. The real estate market in China has traditionally played a major role in it’s economic development, household wealth and public sentiment and was used by Beijing to stimulate growth during previous downturns, including one just three years ago. But along with a Chinese penchant for investing in houses, persistent expectations of government support sent prices and the household debt burden soaring. That’s created a delicate situation, one which analysts expect Beijing will not touch this time around, except to keep prices steady.


Moody’s

Junheng Li, founder of China-focused equity research firm JL Warren Capital, estimates 61 percent of Chinese urban households live in homes less than 10 years old. She also notes there are many older units that are still in good condition. “(Some) simple math shows that continuously building new homes to stimulate investments and meanwhile create the false impression of wealth effect coming with home price appreciation is about to hit the wall,” she said in a January report. “Chinese policy makers are fully aware and highly alert not to send the wrong signal to the home buyers that home prices will continue to hike.” As Beijing tries to shift its economy to one that’s driven by consumption, the worry is that consumers will not have the means, or the enthusiasm, to spend. Already, retail sales growth has slowed significantly amid uncertainty about U.S.-China trade tensions and the impact on economic growth.

Economists at Moody’s Analytics pointed out in December that Chinese disposable income has grown at an average annual rate of 10 percent for the last six years, while household debt — of which the majority is tied to housing — has grown at an average rate of 20 percent a year. In the past year, the average rate of household debt growth climbed to 26 percent, the report said.

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Don’t forget local governments and their debts to shadow banks.

China’s Slowing Economy Makes It Harder For Companies To Pay Debts (CNBC)

Even as Beijing pushes out new measures to stimulate its economy, China’s growth slowdown will make it harder for the country’s companies to pay their debts this year, ratings agencies say. The Chinese government on Monday announced official GDP figures for last year that showed the world’s second-largest economy expanded at its slowest pace in nearly three decades. And while an annual growth rate of 6.6 percent is a figure most countries could only dream of, it marked a continued slide for Asia’s largest economy. Slower growth can mean weaker profitability for indebted companies and increased risk for those holding their bonds.

“The economic chill in China is spreading, threatening to weaken profitability across nearly all sectors in corporate China,” S&P Global Ratings said in a report Monday. S&P added that it “believes debt-servicing capabilities will decline as demand cools and profit margins contract,” while Beijing’s ongoing efforts to reduce debt levels in the country may pause — or even reverse. “While policymakers have intentionally steered the country toward a lower and more sustainable growth path, the broadness of the decline in recent months is raising concerns,” the report said, adding that S&P expects corporate default rates to “rise modestly” this year.

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Austerity Theresa May style. Who do you think rules that country if crime is not prosecuted?

UK Justice System In ‘Crisis’ As Only 8% Of Crimes Prosecuted (Ind.)

Tens of thousands more crimes are not being prosecuted amid warnings of a worsening “crisis” in Britain’s criminal justice system. Almost 92 per cent of offences do not result in perpetrators being charged or summonsed in England and Wales, with the number of offences taken to court dropping by almost 30,000 in a year. Lawyers, police officers and victim support workers interviewed by The Independent blamed a perfect storm of police cuts, rising crime, rows over disclosure, falling confidence and the backlash to a series of collapsed rape cases. Figures published by the Home Office show in the year ending September 2018 only 8.2 per cent of 5 million recorded crimes were prosecuted, down from 9.5 per cent the previous year.

The proportion of offences charged fell across all categories – from violence to drugs, robbery, weapons possession and theft. The lowest figures were for sexual offences (4 per cent), with only 1.9 per cent of recorded rapes prosecuted – down from 2.4 per cent the previous year. Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow solicitor general, said the statistics made “very worrying reading”. “This is, sadly, no surprise given the swingeing government cuts to both police and Crown Prosecution Service budgets,” he added. “The government has to step up to the plate and provide the resources needed to properly support victims and ensure that no stone is left unturned in bringing people to justice.”

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Jul 302018
 
 July 30, 2018  Posted by at 1:48 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Family of Saltimbanques 1905

 

Why did Britain vote Yes in the Brexit vote Cameron called? To a large degree to protest policies he himself imposed. For many it’s still a mystery ‘mechanism’, but not for all. People like Steve Bannon understand it very well. That is, austerity and mass migration make voters turn to the political right. Even if they are initiated by the right. When Britain’s Tories under David Cameron and George Osborne began ripping apart much of the country’s institutions and infrastructure, they knew that their austerity measures would only make their party stronger.

The incompetence of Theresa May and her ministers on Brexit will lead to an almighty backlash, and soon, but then Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg, far to the right of May, will take over. Labour under Corbyn doesn’t stand a chance. The same pattern repeats itself everywhere, and nobody knows how to stop it. How could they if and when they don’t understand it?

For the right, this is a ‘can’t lose’, and they’re not done. That’s why Steve Bannon is touring Europe. It’s easy pickings: a rightwing government that imposes austerity measures will be rewarded for it with more voters. If it also lets in large numbers of migrants, even more votes. Can’t lose. The migration streams in Europe are supported by the right, because they know that subsequently opposing them will keep them in power.

Under political systems as we once knew them, you’d expect people to turn left instead of right, but there is no left left to vote for. What’s left of what was once left, has become an indistinguishable part of a big shapeless blob in the center -or even center-right- of our political systems. Or perhaps we should say: the systems as we once knew them. And it’s indeed just what’s left of the left, which in most cases is very little. In many countries, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, formerly left parties have been all but extinguished, former ‘glory’ brought to its knees.

Spain is an exception, but leftwing PM Pablo Sanchez seems to have landed his job primarily by playing a better game of chess -or poker- than his opponents when he forced then-PM Mariano Rajoy out. But just wait till you see what happens when refugees and migrants begin flooding into Spain, instead of Greece and Italy, for real. That development has already started. Italy closed its borders, Spain opened them. It will lead to a rightwing government in Madrid, too.

This is not about opinion. it’s simply what happens. When there is no left to turn to to halt austerity, let alone temper migration numbers, people will turn to the only alternative available to them. Right. The same right that is more than ready to magnify the problems, whether it’s migration or increasing levels of poverty. They win either way.

 

In Germany, the leftwing SDP hardly exists anymore. Center-right Angela Merkel, Queen of Europe, opened the doors of the nation and whaddaya know, parties to her right started growing. If I can insert one bit of opinion here, I’d say letting one million migrants into your country in one year is asking for trouble. Migration must always take place in moderation, especially when the difference in wealth between an existing population and new arrivals is very large. It’s different in Turkey or Lebanon, where wealth disparities are much smaller.

And those countries are already largely Muslim, whereas allowing many people into your country who have completely different religions and worldviews is a whole different game. Canada does this -relatively- well: new arrivals are Canadian first, and Muslim or Syrian after. European countries have never mastered that model; that’s why they have ghetto’s and assorted other problems. Migration and assimilation must be two sides of the same coin, or you have not immigration but an invasion.

The right can do what it wants and still win and get bigger, while privatizing everything in sight and robbing the public of all they once owed. And then that same public will vote for them again. It’s neoliberal and neocon and there’s nobody left to explain, let alone fight it. And if there were, there’s a formidable propaganda machine waiting in the wings, and they’ve been at it for a while now. The -formerly- left has no such machine. The best they can do is blame Russia. But they themselves are to blame, not Moscow.

 

So the people vote against their own best interests, and it’s not even very hard to get them to do that anymore. All you need to do is deprive them of all other options. Once the left wing becomes part of the center, whether it’s in the US or any of many European countries, rien ne va plus. The die has been cast.

The left must turn against neoliberalism, but it has no economists to explain the reason why, and no leaders who understand economics. So they have become neoliberalists themselves. They’re all stuck in the austerity model, and nobody gets how damaging it is to take a meat cleaver to an already suffering economy. The people of Greece can explain that one.

Economies function -or not- because of money flowing through them. You can cut away some of the fat in lean times, but you can’t cut away the arteries. Austerity is deadly to an economy, but the irony is that it makes people vote for those who first, initiate it, and second, promote more austerity.

I don’t want to insert any political opinions, but I do think that for a society, and an economy, to properly function there needs to be a balance, between left and right, between rich and poor, between owners and workers. We’re far away from any such balance wherever I look. And as I’ve said before, that’s why we have Trump.

To reveal what has so far remained hidden: everything done under the guise of ‘left’ that was merely more neoliberalism. To allow people who don’t agree with him to form an opinion and an identity, something they thought was not necessary under neoliberals like Obama or Tony Blair or Merkel. I don’t see any of that happening though, and that means many more years of Trump and other rightwing dominance.

If the answer to austerity is to vote for more austerity, what will be the answer to collapsing stock- and housing markets? I have an idea. And it doesn’t include Jeremy Corbyn. Or Bernie Sanders.

 

 

Jul 242016
 
 July 24, 2016  Posted by at 9:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Milton Greene “Actress Marilyn Monroe in bed” 1955

China’s Growth Sucks In More Debt Bucks For Less Bang (R.)
G20 Will Use ‘All Policy Tools’ To Protect Growth As Brexit Looms (R.)
OECD’s Gurria Says No Other EU Country Will Consider Exit After Brexit (CNBC)
EU Considers Migration ‘Emergency Brake’ For UK For Up To 7 Years (O.)
Mortgages Issued By Greek Banks Declined 99% In Past Decade (Kath.)
5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win (Michael Moore)
Trump Policy Will Unravel Traditional Neocons – Michael Hudson (RNN)
WikiLeaks Trove Plunges Democrats Into Crisis On Eve Of Convention (SMH)
DNC Chair Won’t Speak At Dem Convention Following WikiLeaks Fallout (CNN)
Imagine How The Land Feels (G.)

 

 

Reuters says: “..this year it has taken six yuan for every yuan of growth,[..] twice even the level in the United States during the debt-fueled housing bubble..”

That’s questionable. ZH in 2013: “..over the past five years in the developed world, it took $18 dollars of debt (of which 28% was provided by central banks) to generate $1 of growth..”

China’s Growth Sucks In More Debt Bucks For Less Bang (R.)

As China’s economy notches up another quarter of steady growth, the pace of credit creation grows ever more frantic for every extra unit of production, as inefficient state firms swallow an increasing share of lending. The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.7% in the first half of the year, unchanged from the first quarter, testament to policymakers’ determination to regulate the pace of slowdown after 25 years of breakneck expansion. Analysts say that determination has come at the cost of a damngerous rise in debt, which is six times less effective at generating growth than a few years ago. “The amount of debt that China has taken in the last 5-7 years is unprecedented,” said Morgan Stanley’s head of emerging markets, Ruchir Sharma, at a book launch in Singapore.

“No developing country in history has taken on as much debt as China has taken on on a marginal basis.” While Beijing can take comfort that loose money and more deficit spending are averting a more painful slowdown, the rapidly diminishing returns from such stimulus policies, coupled with rising defaults and non-performing loans, are creating what Sharma calls “fertile (ground) for some accident to happen”. From 2003 to 2008, when annual growth averaged more than 11%, it took just one yuan of extra credit to generate one yuan of GDP growth, according to Morgan Stanley calculations. It took two for one from 2009-2010, when Beijing embarked on a massive stimulus program to ward off the effects of the global financial crisis.

The ratio had doubled again to four for one in 2015, and this year it has taken six yuan for every yuan of growth, Morgan Stanley said, twice even the level in the United States during the debt-fueled housing bubble that triggered the global crisis. Total bond debt in China is up over 50% in the past 18 months to 57 trillion yuan ($8.5 trillion), equal to around 80% of GDP, and new total social financing, the widest measure of credit provided by China’s central bank, rose 10.9% in the first half of 2016 to 9.75 trillion yuan. China’s money supply has increased in tandem with new lending, and at 149 trillion yuan is now 73% higher than in the US, an economy about 60% larger. “China is the largest money printer in the world – they have been for some time. The balance is really extreme,” says Kevin Smith, CEO of U.S.-based Crescat Capital.

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Ionesco and Samuel Beckett were ahead of their time, but we’re catching up with them. Words lose ever more meaning. Example are this article, but also this WSJ headline: “Hillary Clinton Introduces Tim Kaine as ‘a Progressive Who Likes to Get Things Done'”. That may have sounded lofty even just 20 years ago, but today it’s just meaningless, if not outright repulsive.

G20 Will Use ‘All Policy Tools’ To Protect Growth As Brexit Looms (R.)

Leaders from the world’s biggest economies are poised on Sunday to renew their commitments to support global growth and better coordinate actions in the face of uncertainty over Britain’s decision to leave the EU and growing protectionism. The meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 major economies in China’s southwestern city of Chengdu is the first of its kind since last month’s Brexit vote and a debut for Britain’s new finance minister. Philip Hammond faced questions about how quickly the UK planned to move ahead with formal negotiations to leave the EU. “We are taking actions to foster confidence and support growth,” a draft statement by the policymakers seen by Reuters said.

“In light of recent developments, we reiterate our determination to use all policy tools – monetary, fiscal and structural – individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable and balanced growth,” it said. The IMF this week cut its global growth forecasts because of the Brexit vote. Data on Friday seemed to bear out fears, with a British business activity index posting its biggest drop in its 20-year history. The draft communique, expected to be issued at the end of the meeting on Sunday afternoon, said Brexit added to uncertainty in the global economy but G20 members were “well positioned to proactively address the potential economic and financial consequences”.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Saturday it was important for G20 countries to boost shared growth using all policy tools, including monetary and fiscal policies as well as structural reforms, to boost efficiency. “This is a time when it is important for all of us to redouble our efforts to use all of the policy tools that we have to boost shared growth,” Lew told reporters.

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He’ll find out yet.

OECD’s Gurria Says No Other EU Country Will Consider Exit After Brexit (CNBC)

Countries in the European Union are unlikely to consider an exit from the bloc once they realize how complicated, costly and disruptive the process will be for the United Kingdom, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) told CNBC on Saturday. “Nobody in their right mind will even attempt or even think of leaving the European Union because they will understand that it is not in their best interest,” Angel Gurria told CNBC before the start of the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Chengdu, China.

Gurria had recommended against the Brexit vote, but says the next step should be helping the U.K. and its partners through the proceedings in the least costly and least disruptive way. On the Italian banking crisis and whether the EU should rescue the country’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Gurria said that “national, regional and EU intervention is necessary”. However, the challenge is to define who is going to be doing what, he added. Rome is bracing for the results of critical bank stress tests that are due on July 29 and is hoping to find a solution for the battered bank ahead of that.

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Mere days after everyone said there could be no pre-Brexit discussions with the UK, of course there’s things like this anyway.

EU Considers Migration ‘Emergency Brake’ For UK For Up To 7 Years (O.)

Plans to allow the United Kingdom an exemption from EU rules on freedom of movement for up to seven years while retaining access to the single market are being considered in European capitals as part of a potential deal on Brexit. Senior British and EU sources have confirmed that despite strong initial resistance from French president François Hollande in talks with prime minister Theresa May last week, the idea of an emergency brake on the free movement of people that would go far further than the one David Cameron negotiated before the Brexit referendum is being examined.

If such an agreement were struck, and a strict time limit imposed, diplomats believe it could go a long way towards addressing concerns of the British people over immigration from EU states, while allowing the UK full trade access to the European market. While the plan will prove highly controversial in many member states, including France, Poland and other central and eastern European nations, the attraction is that it would limit the economic shock to the EU economy from Brexit by keeping the UK in the single market, and lessen the political damage to the European project that would result from complete divorce.

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Sales only to those with deep pockets. The rest of the world buys up Greece.

Mortgages Issued By Greek Banks Declined 99% In Past Decade (Kath.)

Cash was the preferred from of payment for the few people who decided to purchase real estate in the first half of the year in Greece, bank officials have suggested. Converging estimates by bank officials contacted by Kathimerini show that eight out of 10 property buyers opted for the transfer of cash between deposit accounts instead of a loan, a trend that started with the imposition of capital controls by the government just over a year ago and continues to date. The same trend is also dominant in consumer credit.

According to data compiled by Kathimerini, the new loans issued in H1 came to €75 million in mortgage credit across the banking system and to €150 million in consumer credit. This sum constitutes a historic low for the last few decades at least. Comparisons with a decade ago are staggering: The number of mortgages issued in January-June 2016 – also affected by the lawyers’ strike – came to just 800, against about 80,000 in the same period in 2006. A Bank of Greece analysis recently said that the course of loans to households is mainly determined by demand, and in the last couple of years the drop in house prices has played a decisive role in the reduction of loan issues.

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Well argued. But as Moore himself also argues, that’s a problem, not a winner.

5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win (Michael Moore)

Friends: I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.” Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now. I can see what you’re doing right now. You’re shaking your head wildly – “No, Mike, this won’t happen!”

Unfortunately, you are living in a bubble that comes with an adjoining echo chamber where you and your friends are convinced the American people are not going to elect an idiot for president. You alternate between being appalled at him and laughing at him because of his latest crazy comment or his embarrassingly narcissistic stance on everything because everything is about him. And then you listen to Hillary and you behold our very first female president, someone the world respects, someone who is whip-smart and cares about kids, who will continue the Obama legacy because that is what the American people clearly want! Yes! Four more years of this! You need to exit that bubble right now. You need to stop living in denial and face the truth which you know deep down is very, very real.

Trying to soothe yourself with the facts – “77% of the electorate are women, people of color, young adults under 35 and Trump cant win a majority of any of them!” – or logic – “people aren’t going to vote for a buffoon or against their own best interests!” – is your brain’s way of trying to protect you from trauma. Like when you hear a loud noise on the street and you think, “oh, a tire just blew out,” or, “wow, who’s playing with firecrackers?” because you don’t want to think you just heard someone being shot with a gun. It’s the same reason why all the initial news and eyewitness reports on 9/11 said “a small plane accidentally flew into the World Trade Center.” We want to – we need to – hope for the best because, frankly, life is already a shit show and it’s hard enough struggling to get by from paycheck to paycheck. We can’t handle much more bad news. So our mental state goes to default when something scary is actually, truly happening.

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The attempts to link Trump to Russia have become a sort of hilarious boomerang.

Trump Policy Will Unravel Traditional Neocons – Michael Hudson (RNN)

On Friday, just after the RNC wrapped up with its presidential candidate, Donald Trump, Paul Krugman of the New York Times penned an article titled “Donald Trump: The Siberian Candidate.” He said in it, if elected, would Donald Trump be Vladimir Putin’s man in the White House? Krugman himself is worried as ludicrous and outrageous as the question sounds, the Trump campaign’s recent behavior has quite a few foreign policy experts wondering, he says, just what kind of hold Mr. Putin has over the Republican nominee, and whether that influence will continue if he wins. Well, let’s unravel that statement with Michael Hudson. [..] So let’s take a look at this article by Paul Krugman. Where is he going with this analysis about the Siberian candidate?

HUDSON: Well, Krugman has joined the ranks of the neocons, as well as the neoliberals, and they’re terrified that they’re losing control of the Republican Party. For the last half-century the Republican Party has been pro-Cold War, corporatist. And Trump has actually, is reversing that. Reversing the whole traditional platform. And that really worries the neocons. Until his speech, the whole Republican Convention, every speaker had avoided dealing with economic policy issues. No one referred to the party platform, which isn’t very good. And it was mostly an attack on Hillary. Chants of “lock her up.” And Trump children, aimed to try to humanize him and make him look like a loving man.

But finally came Trump’s speech, and this was for the first time, policy was there. And he’s making a left run around Hillary. He appealed twice to Bernie Sanders supporters, and the two major policies that he outlined in the speech broke radically from the Republican traditional right-wing stance. And that is called destroying the party by the right wing, and Trump said he’s not destroying the party, he’s building it up and appealing to labor, and appealing to the rational interest that otherwise had been backing Bernie Sanders.

So in terms of national security, he wanted to roll back NATO spending. And he made it clear, roll back military spending. We can spend it on infrastructure, we can spend it on employing American labor. And in the speech, he said, look, we don’t need foreign military bases and foreign spending to defend our allies. We can defend them from the United States, because in today’s world, the only kind of war we’re going to have is atomic war. Nobody’s going to invade another country. We’re not going to send American troops to invade Russia, if it were to attack. So nobody’s even talking about that. So let’s be realistic.

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Well, I said a long time ago that Clinton would not be electable. There’ll be much more of this released while the convention takes place.

WikiLeaks Trove Plunges Democrats Into Crisis On Eve Of Convention (SMH)

On the eve of the convention at which Hillary Clinton is to be confirmed as presidential candidate, the Democratic Party has been plunged into crisis – the US media is brimful of ugly and embarrassing stories from within the party’s head office, all based on 20,000 emails dropped on Friday evening by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The correspondence seems to confirm allegations by the campaign of defeated Senator Bernie Sanders that the Democratic National Committee was actively rooting for Mrs Clinton to win, a revelation that will most likely serve as a wedge between the two camps and make it even more difficult for her to persuade Sanders voters to support her.

The emails also reveal plotting within the DNC to embarrass Republican candidate Donald Trump, including drafting a fake ad to recruit “hot women” to work for him. Bad as this trove of emails is, it could presage something much worse. A brief introduction to the emails, that were released on Twitter with a link to a webpage, described them as “part one of our new Hillary Leaks series”. Naming key DNC officials, the introduction says how many of the emails came from each, including communications director Luis Miranda (10,770 emails), national finance director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails), and finance chief of staff Scott Comer. The emails are dated through the five months to May 25, 2016.

Several of the emails address efforts to embarrass or to wrong-foot the Sanders campaign, which began almost as a non-event but surged with young voter support in particular to become a serious and determined challenger to Mrs Clinton. One email suggests that Senator Sanders be questioned on his faith, in the hope of revealing him as an atheist. It reads: “Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

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“She’s been quarantined..” She should be under investigation.

DNC Chair Won’t Speak At Dem Convention Following WikiLeaks Fallout (CNN)

The head of the Democratic National Committee will not speak at the party’s convention next week, a decision reached by party officials Saturday after emails surfaced that raised questions about the committee’s impartiality during the Democratic primary. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose stewardship of the DNC has been under fire through most of the presidential primary process, will not have a major speaking role in an effort “to keep the peace” in the party, a Democrat familiar with the decision said. The revelation comes following the release of nearly 20,000 emails.

One email appears to show DNC staffers asking how they can reference Bernie Sanders’ faith to weaken him in the eyes of Southern voters. Another seems to depict an attorney advising the committee on how to defend Hillary Clinton against an accusation by the Sanders campaign of not living up to a joint fundraising agreement. Wasserman Schultz is expected to gavel the convention in and out, but not speak in the wake of the controversy surrounding the leaked emails, a top Democrat said. “She’s been quarantined,” another top Democrat said, following a meeting Saturday night.

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Love it. Not so much the part of how to get nature into a novel, but the idea itself. The world is alive. These fierce looking hunters singing to the land, the forest. And the land singing back:

“The place itself, in which their people had lived for millennia, was not an inanimate “environment”, a mere backdrop for human activity. It was part of that activity. It was a great being, and to live as part of it was to be in a constant exchange with it. And so they sang to it; sometimes, it sang back.”

Imagine How The Land Feels (G.)

We had climbed, slowly, to a high mountain ridge. We were two young Englishmen who were not supposed to be here – journalism was forbidden – and four local guides, members of the Lani tribe. Our guides were moving us around the highlands of West Papua, taking us to meet people who could tell us about their suffering at the hands of the occupying Indonesian army. The mountain ridge was covered in deep, old rainforest, as was the rest of the area we had walked through. This forest, to the Lani, was home. In the forest they hunted, gathered food, built their homes, lived. It was not a recreation or a resource: there was nothing romantic about it, nothing to debate. It was just life.

Now, as we reached the top of the ridge, a break in the trees opened up and we saw miles of unbroken green mountains rolling away before us to the horizon. It was a breathtaking sight. As I watched, our four guides lined up along the ridge and, facing the mountains, they sang. They sang a song to the forest whose words I didn’t understand, but whose meaning was clear enough. It was a song of thanks; of belonging. To the Lani, I learned later, the forest lived. This was no metaphor. The place itself, in which their people had lived for millennia, was not an inanimate “environment”, a mere backdrop for human activity. It was part of that activity. It was a great being, and to live as part of it was to be in a constant exchange with it. And so they sang to it; sometimes, it sang back.

When European minds experience this kind of thing, they are never quite sure what to do with it. It’s been so long since we had a sense that we dwelled in a living landscape that we don’t have the words to frame what we see. Too often, we go in one of two directions, either sentimentalising the experience or dismissing it as superstition. To us, the wild places around us (if there are any left) are “resources” to be utilised. We argue constantly about how best to use them – should we log this forest, or turn it into a national park? – but only the bravest or the most foolish would suggest that this might not be our decision to make.

To modern people, the world we walk through is not an animal, a being, a living presence; it is a machine, and our task is to learn how it works, the better to use it for our own ends. The notion that the non-human world is largely inanimate is often represented as scientific or rational, but it is really more like a modern superstition. “It is just like Man’s vanity and impertinence,” wrote Mark Twain, “to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” We might say the same about a forest; and science, interestingly, might turn out to be on our side.

Read more …

Mar 062015
 
 March 6, 2015  Posted by at 4:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Harris&Ewing US Weather Bureau kiosque, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 1921

See, by now you would think that anyone who reads that all 31 US banks that were tested have passed the Fed stress test, knows this says absolutely nothing about the banks, but all the more about the test. You would think. But the media try – and succeed – to cram it down the public’s throat as a success story anyway.

There’s simply a very strong feeling, if not conviction, in the western media, that they’ve won the propaganda battle. They have no adversary other than the blogosphere, and since they reach a thousand times more people, who are to a (wo)man more complacent and gullible than any of your typical interwebs readers, Bob’s their uncle.

But come on guys, are we really going to let this happen without raising our voices or even batting as much as one of our eyes? We’re drowning in nonsense here, and we’re prepared to just die without even trying to swim?

Look, I find real fun in reading that the UK House of Lords issues a report that claims 150,000 jobs will be created by 2050 in the ‘drone industry’, and at the same time clamors for a ‘personal drone registry’. I mean, these guys are way too old to even know how to spell ‘drone’. But that’s just mindless ‘journalism’, and to a point innocent.

What is not is the two portraits of US girl power in Ukraine from the Guardian and Bloomberg that appeared over the past two days. That’s not innocent, that’s vile and bastardly lies. Victoria Nuland and Natalie Jaresko should not be praised by the western media, they should be taken apart bone by bone, because the roles they play are far too shady to stand up to our alleged democratic principles.

Bloomberg is, well, Bloomberg, but why the Guardian gets involved in this sort of apologetic feel-good ‘reporting’ is beyond me. Other than: how much does it pay?! I mean, who needs a brain when you have a keyboard? Nuland and her hubby Robert Kagan – and don’t you even try and make me picture them in bed together plotting fresh invasions – are the flashing neon signs for everything neocon in America today.

She has – more or less voluntarily – admitted to staging the year-old Kiev coup and installing US puppet Yatsenyuk as Ukraine PM, as well as pushing $5 billion in US taxpayer funds to various Ukraine ‘charities’ to make it happen.

And then the Guardian has the gall to present her as your average American girl next door? Nuland creates wars, and misery, and bloodshed, and she does so fully convinced she’s serving some deity’s purpose. She should have long since been removed from any and all offices, but she’s still in place, which paints a damning enough picture of US politics all by itself.

Yeah, sure, let’s make Victoria look normal, right, Guardian?

Victoria Nuland: Russia’s Actions In Ukraine Conflict An ‘Invasion’

Assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland has admitted the US considers Russia’s actions in Ukraine “an invasion”, in what may be the first time a senior American official has used the term to describe a conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people. Speaking before the House committee on foreign affairs, Nuland was asked by representative Brian Higgins about Russia’s support of rebels in eastern Ukraine, through weapons, heavy armor, money and soldiers: “In practical terms does that constitute an invasion?”

Nuland at first replied that “we have made clear that Russia is responsible for fielding this war,” until pressed by Higgins to answer “yes or no” whether it constitutes an invasion. “We have used that word in the past, yes,” Nuland said, apparently marking the first time a senior official has allowed the term in reference to Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine, and not simply its continued occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

Obama administration officials across departments have strenuously avoided calling the conflict an invasion for months, instead performing verbal contortions to describe an “incursion”, “violation of territorial sovereignty” and an “escalation of aggression”. In November Vice-President Joe Biden, who has acted as one of Obama’s primary liaisons with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, rapidly corrected himself after breaking from the White House’s careful language on CNN, saying “When the Russians invaded – crossed the border – into Ukraine, it was, ‘My god. It’s over.’”

But that’s nothing compared to today’s Bloomberg portrait of Natalie Jaresko, the US stooge installed late last year to run Ukraine’s economy into the ground as finance minister. This is something else altogether. The first thing that comes to mind is: ‘have you no shame?’, but then you realize it’s Bloomberg. The subtitle is: Why Natalie Jaresko Is As Important As The Country’s Generals. I kid you not. In days of old, the CIA would have had to look through the Yellow Pages, but this time around I’m pretty sure they used Facebook to find Americans with Ukie blood ties. They then pumped her full of dollars, 100s of millions of them, and then she was ready to go. Mind you, she was picked way ahead of the regime change a year ago. The whole thing was planned well in advance. 10 years or so in advance.

C’mon, the first paragraph alone should be profoundly sickening to any functioning neuron:

The American Woman Who Stands Between Putin and Ukraine

Ukraine is a nation at war, which is why Natalie Jaresko, the minister of finance, has traveled 20 miles from Kiev to the town of Irpin, a settlement of 40,000 on the edge of a pine forest. She’s here to visit a rearguard army hospital and to console convalescing veterans of recent battles against Russian forces and their proxies in the Ukrainian east. “Where did you serve?” she asks, moving slowly from room to room. “How were you wounded?” She may be from Chicago’s West Side, but she speaks Ukrainian fluently, and if anyone notices her American accent, no one seems to care. Jaresko tells the soldiers they’re heroes, the country’s national accountant handling a job for generals. The crisis has thrust people into unlikely roles.

Three months ago, Jaresko, 49, left the private equity firm that she co-founded in Ukraine in 2006 to join the government of Petro Poroshenko. At the time, Jaresko didn’t even have Ukrainian citizenship. Now, as the country’s top economic official, she’s Ukraine’s liaison to the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Tax reform is hers. So is the treasury.

The country’s bankrupt. So much so that no amount of IMF funding can change that. Besides, a substantial amount of whatever funding will be made available, will need to go to what is still called an army, lest Kiev loses out completely against the rebels it has tried to annihilate for a year now. But it can get worse, just read this bit:

[..].. whether Ukraine succeeds as an independent democratic nation arguably depends as much on the efforts of Jaresko and her colleagues as it does on the military battles. Together they must rebuild a shattered economy and restore international confidence in Ukraine while confronting the corruption and cronyism that have haunted the country since the fall of communism. And they must somehow do so as state-owned banks teeter on the brink of collapse, the national treasury counts its last foreign notes, and inflation is at 28% and rising. The longer the war carries on and reforms are delayed, the more hostile Ukrainians will become to their government and its Western supporters, leaving the country even more vulnerable to Vladimir Putin.

Uh-uh. The people will turn against the US and EU, but they don’t really know what’s good for them do they? Even if they hate the heebees out of us, we must still protect them from Vlad the Impaler. Sorry, it’s for your own good…

Jaresko, 5 feet 6 inches tall, wears her dark hair at chin length. As she continues through the Irpin hospital, she’s solemn, respectful. More soldiers receive her, cramped two and three to closetlike rooms, jammed into beds sized for children. They discuss their lack of firepower in the field: Why don’t we have modern weapons? How does the enemy know where we are all the time? Jaresko listens. She knows better than any general that Ukraine doesn’t have the funds to better arm itself. She asks the soldiers what they plan to do once they’ve recovered. To a man, they say they’ll return to the front lines.

Ex-f##king-cuse me, but since I know anywhere between half a million to over a full million men have fled the country just to escape serving in the Kiev army, I’m wondering what lengths Bloomberg’s Brett Forrest and his new-found Mother Teresa went through to find a hospital where defeated soldiers, to a man no less, claimed they’d go back if only they could. Who believes this shit? And who needs it to begin with?

Yada yada, Jaresko life story, Ellis Island, Chicago, yada yada, and then this:

In the mid-1990s, Ukraine endured hyperinflation of 10,000%. A few years later came the shock waves of Russia’s financial crisis. The Ukrainian economy showed its first signs of growth only in 2000, after almost a decade of decline. Then, in 2004, came the Orange Revolution. While the country entered a new period of uncertainty, international institutional investors began to arrive. Two years later, Jaresko and three partners opened investment management firm Horizon Capital. It managed the Western NIS Enterprise Fund and eventually raised two more. When she left last December, it had roughly $600 million of Ukrainian investments under management.

I don’t think that’s Ukrainian investments, I’m thinking it’s western investments in Ukraine. Jaresko was set up very well, financially. From the $5 billion VIctoria Nuland admitted the US had spent to change the regime. She’s a well paid stooge. You do have to wonder what’s left of Jaresko’s riches now that Kiev’s as broke as a wino in the dead of winter.

Last year’s regime change, Jaresko says, represented a real turning point—a chance to finally end kleptocratic rule. “Anyone close to Ukraine understood that this was an incredible moment to take Ukraine forward in a way that it hadn’t gone quickly enough over the past 22 years,” she says. “That there had been a radical change in civil society, and that civil society’s expectations could no longer be put on the back burner by anyone.”

‘Forward’ in this case apparently means into war and bankruptcy, that’s all that’s been accomplished. Yeah, sure, Nuland’s neocons understood that ‘this was an incredible moment to take Ukraine forward in a way that it hadn’t gone quickly enough over the past 22 years..’ Just read that sentence again knowing it comes from that woman, and knowing she’s helped bring down the entire nation. It gives it a whole other meaning.

Yada yada, headhunting firm happenstanced upon an American CEO in Kiev (there’s so many of them it’s hard to keep track ;-)). “They played hard on my patriotism..” “I sometimes wonder what my father would think..” Please hand me a bucket!

Then some to and fro about how the state is too weak to fight Russia – which they’re not, they’re fighting their own citizens -, and paragraphs of financial blubber and outright lies, culminating in:

…economics minister Abromavicius saying his office projects a 5.5% reduction in the economy this year. That doesn’t take into account Putin’s future actions in the east. We work under the assumption that there will be peace very soon, he says. This conflict is misguided. The Russian leadership is misguided about Ukraine in general. They just don’t understand Ukraine. This country wants to be left alone. This country wants to make its own decisions.

‘This country wants to make its own decisions?’ Well, you should have made sure you didn’t go broke then. Because from here on in, you’ll never again make any decision you can call your own, and that includes choosing the color of toilet paper in your government offices. The US will do that for you. That’s why Jaresko is where she is. Ukraine had a lot more freedom before Maidan.

As the young government’s leaders and supporters tirelessly point out, the war with Russia has so far been contained to less than 10% of Ukraine’s territory.

First, there is no war with Russia, only with Ukrainian citizens. And if it’s less than 10% of the territory, that’s only because the rebels have no claim on anything but their own land. They don’t want Kiev, they just want Kiev to leave them alone and stop killing their women and children. But if it won’t, the rebels will take more territory, just so Kiev can’t use it to attack them anymore.

But it must be convenient to be able to hang an entire country’s demise on one person, no matter what happens. I just read that US House Speaker Boehner sent a letter to Obama claiming that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are a ‘grotesque violation of international law’. If that is so, what does that say about America’s actions in Ukraine?

The US must withdraw Nuland and Jaresko from their respective positions starting yesterday morning. But they won’t, they have achieved exactly what they were aiming for: a nation so shattered it’s dependent on US and IMF money just to survive, just to pay for the ink needed to draw its borders on a map.

From here on, it’s just a matter of waiting for Putin to get so sick of all this he decides he can’t let Kiev go down any further, lest all that’s left is neonazis and neocons, and they start aiming their US and/or UAE supplied ‘lethal defensive’ weapons eastward. And then they’ll get what they’ve wanted all along, Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko and Nuland and Jaresko: They’ll get War. But it won’t come the way they envisioned it. Putin’s way too smart for that.

Anyway, what a shameless depiction of Ukraine we get here. It’s all-out propaganda, no prisoners taken. I’m getting tired of getting angry about it, but someone has to.